Volume 100 of “One Piece”: how Eiichiro Oda’s manga continues to renew itself

Detail of the cover of volume 100 of

One Piece has never been so popular. Almost 25 years after its creation, the manga with 490 million copies sold worldwide (including 26 in France) still seduces as much, if not more. In 2020, the first volume of the adventures of the pirate Luffy sold in France more than 78,000 copies, offering in the process a growth of more than 135% in two years. One Piece alone represents 8.3% of the manga market.

2021 had everything to become a pivotal year in the history of One Piece. With the release of chapter 1000 of the manga and episode 1000 of the animated series, Eiichiro Oda was expected around the corner. He didn’t disappoint the fans. “It is almost the consecration of their many years of loyalty to the series and to its author, especially since the latter maintains a very strong link with his audience”, rejoices Alexis Orsini, author of The Will of Oda (Pix n’ Love).

Feudal japan

Proof of this enthusiasm, volume 100, available in bookstores in France from this Wednesday, December 8, was printed in 250,000 copies – one of the most important editions of the year in comics. An astounding popularity, which is partly explained by the quality of the current narrative arc, that of the Wa country (Wano Kuni), considered one of the best and one of the most surprising of the saga.

Equivalent to feudal Japan, the Land of the Wao lives folded in on itself, under the thumb of the vile shogun Kurozomi Orochi, who terrorizes the inhabitants of this world plagued by pollution, famine and poverty. It is in this country that Luffy and his companions, the Mugiwaras, will land in order to defeat Kaido, a powerful warrior with whom the shogun is associated, and the Empress Big Mom.

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Posted in the Shonen Jump since 2018, Wano Kuni “really got into the heart of the matter at the end of 2020 / beginning of 2021”, considers Alexis Orsini. “Interest in the series logically reaches its peak when it gives pride of place to epic issues, as in the days of the arc. Marine Ford, which already united countless famous figures in a decisive battle. “

A draftsman’s dream

Long announced, in 2007, in volume 47, the arc of Wa country was expected from fans, but especially from Eiichiro Oda. “He acknowledged a few years ago that he was looking forward to drawing this bow because it would be an opportunity for readers to discover one of his passions,” says Alexis Orsini.

“It was probably referring to the rakugo (humorous Japanese literary spectacle), but the country of the Wa actually mixes all the greatest centers of interest of the author: the voluntarily theatrical dimension of the jidai geki (historical story), puns and permanent puns, a vast gallery of characters all more wacky than each other, references to Japanese mythology … “, further analyzes the specialist, before adding:

“The main achievement of Wao Country is that it embodies a kind of enchanted parenthesis for Oda, where he can tackle all his favorite themes, while remaining a crucial arc of One Piece given the progression of the characters and the issues at the heart of the plot. He is simply at his best at what he traditionally does best. “

For Oda, this arc is also a homecoming after almost a quarter of a century of adventures in exotic islands. “He can finally look at his own country, in a fictional feudal Japan where he gently mocks his compatriots while constantly referring to local folklore, sometimes in a very serious way but often in a parody spirit”, analyzes Alexis Orsini. For him, it is thus “no coincidence that Oda quotes the introductory scene of the Wa country, with the curtain rising over its capital, against a background of shamisen notes [instrument de musique traditionnel], like his favorite sequence of all One Piece“.

A designer at the height of his art

Visually, The Land of the Wa is also one of the most successful arcs of One Piece. It is rare that a series manages to remain so surprising after twenty-four years of existence. “As there is in The Land of the Wa a very clear rise in the stakes around Luffy and the emperors, it is quite normal that this is a totally hair-raising spectacle “, comments Benoît Huot, editorial director of Glénat Manga.

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Oda is shown to be of great visual inventiveness. Kaido and Big Mom, the two main antagonists of the arc, are so tall that the artist competes in tricks to maintain the gigantism of the characters. Osa delivers some of his most beautiful plates, with double pages with a very original layout, to create an atmosphere unprecedented in the history of One Piece.

“It goes through a style specific to Japanese prints (‘ukiyo-e’), whether in the shape of the waves surrounding the island, an obvious reference to Hokusaï, to that of the clouds or of certain characters”, decrypts Alexis Orsini . “Oda has even gone so far as to replace his usual onomatopoeias and replace them with sounds which, according to him, are more reminiscent of the sound of the notes of traditional Japanese instruments!”

“Oda builds its history like a gigantic journey through an amusement park, with very specific atmospheres”, indicates Benoît Huot. “Oda always tries to make each of his boxes a different box. Part of the respect for readers. Even for the flashback scenes, he always remakes the drawings.”

“Wano Kuni”, the most political arc of “One Piece”?

Without being a political work, One Piece has distilled over the years a resolutely protest, even anarchist statement. Luffy appears as a liberator of peoples oppressed by corrupt governments. He rose up against slavery, racism, xenophobia, and ecological disasters. With his critique of Japan’s isolationism and Shinzo Abe’s arms race, The Land of the Wa is the most political arc of One Piece, well that Oda, s’en défende.

“Oda believes that the themes arise freely in her story and that it is up to her readers to make their own interpretation”, specifies Alexis Orsini. “Which does not in fact prevent us from seeing in The Land of the Wa a criticism of certain excesses of Japan in the broad sense. More than remilitarization, I find that the arc mainly denounces the historical isolationism of the country and certain social inequalities. “

This isolationism evokes less that of modern Japan than that of the end of the 19th century, believes Benoît Huot for his part, for whom “this makes it possible to become aware of certain evils present in the world and in the manga” although the objective of One Piece “not to provide an answer to these evils”.

876450610001_6283176401001 “That said”, adds Alexis Orsini, “these are also two strong script elements by nature, which agree with the major themes addressed in One Piece since the beginning of the manga. How much are they really related with Japan? Would we ask ourselves the same question if Oda broached these themes in an arc set on another island, as when he criticized the ravages of war in Alabasta, for example? “

New cult characters

The arc of Wa country is full of new characters instantly striking and now inseparable from One Piece, like Yamato, Kaido and Oden. With his improbable hairstyle and his name in homage to a Japanese specialty, Oden is one of the most “Oda-esque” characters of One Piece, says Alexis Orsini. And as often, Oden manages to “move readers with a very poignant flashback, of which Oda has the secret”:

“Through his relationship with Whitebeard and Roger, and thanks to his travel diary visibly full of crucial information on the great mysteries of the plot, Oden also stands out as a crucial character in the manga. But from a point of view Purely physical, he fits in the right lineage of wacky protagonists like Gaimon, the afro-haired pirate stuck in a chest for years, whom Luffy meets at the start of his journey. “

Another prominent figure of the Wa country, Yamato also fits perfectly into the mythology built by Oda by incarnating according to Alexis Orsini “the idea, omnipresent in One Piece, that appearances are often deceptive “.

Kaido, the biggest villain of “One Piece”?

Main antagonist of Wa country, Kaido of the Hundred Beasts is the most terrifying and dangerous enemy that Luffy has encountered. “Oda had indicated that what was beyond the Grand Line was hell on Earth. The Land of Wazas is exactly that”, underlines Benoît Huot. According to Alexis Orsini, this character “a priori unbeatable” especially allows Oda to offer an unpredictable story:

“When he first makes him appear in the manga, in book 79, Oda just knows that Luffy is not strong enough to defeat such an opponent and that he will have to find a way to make him triumph over Kaido, but in a more ‘credible’ way than with a simple punch, under penalty of disappointing the fans. “

Despite his multiple defeats against Kaido, Luffy remains nonetheless heroic, recalls Benoît Huot: “When Luffy confronts Kaido for the first time and is beaten, Kaido notices that Luffy, even unconscious, has not He has lost his will to fight. He is entirely driven by his goal of becoming the Pirate King and saving the whole of Wao Country. “

The return of the Mugiwaras

But Luffy is not the only hero of this story arc, which gives pride of place to his crew and allies. Each character has their role to play and their moment of bravery – so much so that Zoro seems to be able to beat Kaido before Luffy! Richer in revelations than chapter 1000, volume 100 is “a concentrate of memorable sequences”, underlines Benoît Huot:

“Big Mom takes part in the fight. Zoro wounds Kaido with his saber. The tome ends with a big cliffhanger concerning Luffy. Oda has really worked on the narrative construction.”

The strength of Wano Kuni also lies in Oda’s ability to unite within a single story, and for the first time in years, all the Mugiwaras. In recent years, the Straw Hat team had systematically been divided into several groups, recalls Alexis Orsini:

https://www.youtube.com/embed/okSRjiv9rvU?rel=0″Au- beyond the simple pleasure of finding all the heroes together, their respective introduction into the arc is really very neat, and quite funny since each character is bends to the traditions and local surnames of the land of the Won. Luffy and Zoro even have the right to a duet release sequence, at the start of the arc, reminiscent of their beginnings together. “

And the specialist to add: “Oda himself is obviously very happy to be able to stage all his pirates at the same time, especially on Onigashima, where he signs very beautiful boards where the group strikes a pose in the midst of the ambient chaos Although, paradoxically, some fans find that the Mugiwara are too far behind in Wahland, in the sense that they remain “secondary” protagonists in the face of the red scabbards – at least at the start of the arc. “

Soon the end of “One Piece”?

Wano Kuni lifts the veil on many secrets of the manga and for this reason, according to fans, the end of One Piece would approach. “We feel, in this arc, that everything is accelerating,” agrees Alexis Orsini.

The fact that Kaido and Big Mom ally, and then Luffy and his crew find themselves confronting two Emperors at the same time is not trivial. Oda further acknowledged recently that his readers need to be prepared for the idea that the end of the manga is approaching and that the land of the Wah was just the beginnings of a major battle never seen before in the plot, which clearly sounds like a grand finale – or the introduction of the grand finale. to know how many more years it will be necessary to wait before Oda does not reach this stage … “

One Piece, volume 100, Le Fluide Royal, Eiichiro Oda (script and drawing), Djamel Rabahi & Julien Favereau (translation), Glénat, 208 pages, 6.90 euros (standard edition) or 10.75 euros (collector’s edition with sound imitation leather case).

Original article published on BFMTV.com