“One Piece” turns 25 and announces its end: Why has this manga and anime been so successful?

Since the 90s, anime has gone from being an entertainment niche, where fans satisfied their curiosity with VHS tapes, to become an industry that moves millions of dollars and that Japan has as . Among these stories there is one that began as a manga (comic book) 25 years ago and whose end is imminent. It’s “One Piece”, a pirate story.

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In Latin America, the popularity of “Dragon Ball Super” is indisputable, and as proof are the public and massive projections of 2017. But in Japan Goku beat “One Piece” only once in ratings; weekly guest of [1]. What does this adventure have to captivate millions of fans and even Netflix, which will adapt it into a live action series and which is filming as you read these lines?

What is “One Piece”?

Created by Eiichiro Oda, “One Piece” first appeared as a manga in the Japanese magazine Weekly Shonen Jump (1997) and to date it has been compiled into 102 volumes of 200 pages each, books that had already sold by April 2020 [2]. This is the story of the teenager Monkey D. Luffy, who wishes to become the King of the Pirates. For 25 years, Luffy has been getting into impossible messes that usually consist of overthrowing dictators; where he is always victorious.

Luffy has superhuman powers since he ate the Gomu Gomu no Mi, which gave him the ability to stretch like a bubble gum and which he uses in combat. He is accompanied by nine crew members, all with some kind of superhuman ability or techniques necessary to survive in the world: Zoro (swordsman), Nami (navigator), Sanji (cook), Chopper (doctor), Robin (archaeologist), Franky (carpenter) , Brook (musician) and Jinbe (helmsman).

“One Piece” is melodrama, but with action and mystery. Epic fantasy with political intrigue. Scatological comedy, but set in a detailed world with a life of its own. And since July 2022, when he turns 25 years old, his final manga saga begins.

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Promotional illustration for the latest anime arc of "one piece". Photo: Toei Animation.
Promotional illustration for the latest “One Piece” anime arc. Photo: Toei Animation.

Everything is over

On Monday, June 6, the official “One Piece” Twitter account made several announcements. First, that the author, Eiichiro Oda, will be taking a one-month break, so his work will not be published in Weekly Shonen Jump between June 27 and July 25 this year. In addition to resting, the author will visit the filming of the Netflix series in South Africa. Only after that period does the manga return with its final arc.

The words “final arc” surprised fans around the world, despite the fact that it has been known for years that the story is nearing its climax; for example, in 2015, manga editor Suguru Sugita told a radio show that the manga was 80% complete. Seven years later, this seems a reality.

As of this writing, Luffy has defeated Kaido, one of the four Emperors of the Sea; pirates of great power and influence. This particular enemy enslaved Wano Country for 20 years, turning it into a weapons factory. After this victory, the protagonists go on to climb positions among the most dangerous enemies of the world government. As heroic as Luffy and company are, pirates are never viewed favorably by the authorities.

success and influence

“’One Piece’ feels like many stories rolled into one”, tells us Sam Leach, a follower of the series and an occasional contributor to Anime News Network, the most prominent English-speaking anime portal. “And the fact that it continues to expand in size while maintaining Oda’s artistic talent is remarkable.“, Add. For his part, Kilku Terbullino, a Peruvian manga-style illustrator, considers that it is the characters that sustain this story, but not only the main ones. “Even those who are secondary, from time to time you see their growth and you feel them very close“, bill.

Beyond the author, this story also owes its success to the Japanese industry that lives by adapting manga to television, which in turn boosts the sales of the volumes. In addition, Shonen Jump magazine needs “One Piece” to sustain its sales, since in the last 10 years it lost its other two combat ships: “Bleach” and “Naruto”, which remained in publication for 15 years. By comparison, “Dragon Ball” lasted a decade.

“One Piece” is also a humor manga, so it is more popular with people who are not only interested in drama or fights. The author puts humor even in the most serious moment, and sometimes includes jokes (and other details) that take years to reveal in its true magnitude.

With 25 years of publication, Eiichiro Oda’s influence among current mangakas (manga authors) is undeniable. Both Leach and Terbullino agree that the work has directly influenced “My Hero Academia,” possibly Jump’s second most popular manga after “One Piece.” If a character from any manga cries horribly, with snot and all, it is most likely due to Oda’s influence; an expert in breaking his heroes, but also in raising them above ordinary mortals.

learn more

“One Piece” by Eiichiro Oda

You can read the “One Piece” manga for free, in English, on Shueisha’s Manga Plus app (available for iOS and Android).

Netflix has the first 195 episodes of the anime. Crunchyroll has them all.

References

[1] Video Research, a service that measures the popularity of Japanese television.

[2] Anime News Network.