In the world of anime, some series have become known as “the essentials” over the years. Although these lists usually include franchise favorites like Dragon Ball, Naruto, and Bleach, the series One Piece has been slowly amassing a huge following of dedicated fans in the anime community. Written by author Eiichiro Oda, the series has spanned over 20 years since its launch in 1997.
Covering the epic journey of Monkey D. Luffy and the crew of the Straw Hat Pirates, Oda has taken his fans on an unforgettable journey that is far from ending. To date, the manga series has over 80 volumes (and nearly 840 chapters). As for the anime, which has kept up with the lengthy span of the manga, is now at almost 800 episodes, eight TV specials and 13 theatrical films. Once you become truly invested in this series, there is no turning back.
We have collected some of the little-known facts about Oda, the series and its impact on the world of anime. Please be warned that there are major spoilers in this article. If you want to watch the series spoiler-free, we definitely advise that you stop reading now.
Otherwise, we hope you enjoy these 15 Things You Didn’t Know About One Piece.
One Piece Holds A Guinness Book of World Records Title
Fans of the anime One Piece are well aware that this story is far from over. Beginning back in 1997, each manga volume takes viewers on new epic adventures with the Straw Hat Crew. Employing epic battles, rich character development, and ever-changing locations, author Eiichiro Oda has created an addictive series for fans all around the world. In fact, the manga has been so successful that it has become the best-selling manga of all time.
The Guinness Book of World Records recognized Oda for “most copies published for the same comic book series by a single author” in 2014. At the time of the recognition, One Piece had sold 320,866,000 units between December 1997 to December 2014. To date, manga sales now exceed over 416 million copies worldwide.
Originally Supposed to Last Only 5 Years
The journey of the Straw Hat Pirates has been author Eiichiro Oda’s lifework. His commitment to creating most of the art himself has led to a very demanding schedule. According to Kotaku, Oda stated that “…Mornings… I get up at 5am, and I work until 2am. It’s normal for me to sleep from 2am to 5am.” He also does not take off for holidays or vacations. That is insane!
It’s quite a change from Oda’s initial plans for the manga. In the past, he had stated that the manga was going to conclude after five years in 2002. He even has an ending already planned out! However, as he continued to develop more characters, battles, and adventures, the story has taken on a life of his own. In fact, this year marks the 20th anniversary of the One Piece manga. Moreover, with Oda stating the current story was around maybe 70% completed back in 2015, we definitely have a long way to go to the end.
Oda Started as an Artist to Avoid Getting a “Real Job”
Many comic book and manga artists started their careers because of their passion for drawing and storytelling. Though their careers may not start in their preferred field, they eventually find their way to the occupation that they love. For author Eiichiro Oda, however, being a manga artist was his only choice in life.
According to an interview in the One Piece Blue: Grand Data File, Oda claimed to have wanted to become a manga artist at the age of 4 to avoid having to get a “real job”. That’s what we call excellent life goals!
Sticking to his dream, Oda developed his skills over the years and created various series in his late teens. His first series, Wanted!, garnered several awards and placed second in the semi-annual Tezuka Award for manga. Following this recognition, Oda landed his first job at Weekly Shōnen Jump.
Dragon Ball was a Major Inspiration for One Piece
Growing up, Oda found inspiration in many of his childhood cartoons and manga. Among his favorites was Vicky the Viking, a 1970s animated television series that piqued his interest in pirate stories. However, in terms of manga, Oda was a big fan of author Akira Toriyama and his work including Dr. Slump and the hugely popular series Dragon Ball.
Often cited as an influence for many well-known manga writers including Naruto creator Masashi Kishimoto and Bleach creator Tite Kubo, Toriyama’s Dragon Ball character Goku became an inspiration for Oda as well. Since debuting One Piece back in 1997, Oda became good friends with his idol Toriyama and even collaborated on projects together. The 2007 manga Cross Epoch became the first crossover for One Piece and portrayed the characters from its world combined with the Dragon Ball universe.
The Series Originated From Two One-Shot Stories
As Oda continued to work at Weekly Shōnen Jump, he began to further develop his skills as a manga artist. He worked as an assistant on Suizan Police Gang, Jungle King Tar-chan, and Mizu no Tomodachi Kappaman. He was also noted as a big influence while working on Rurouni Kenshin with artist Nobuhiro Watsuki.
After working on such noted projects and artists, Oda finally created the “Romance Dawn” one-shot story series. A storyline that Oda originally worked on in junior high school, the 1996 series depicted the character Monkey D. Luffy as the lead, with his signature straw hat and boisterous personality.
When Oda fully developed and published One Piece in 1997, he kept the name “Romance Dawn” an homage to the story’s roots. It serves as the title for the first chapter of the series and the first manga volume. “Romance Dawn” is also a running theme in the anime as well.
Early Character Designs and Plans
As with any developing story, certain plot elements and character changes take place in its early stages. In the case of One Piece, several characters are drawn in styles that greatly contrast their final looks. For example, the cute character of Tony Tony Chopper was originally drawn with a more realistic reindeer appearance and carrying a sword!
Comicbook.com reportedthat in an interview with Shōnen Jump, Oda revealed: “If I designed him as I initially planned, he would be covered by other characters (people couldn’t see his uniqueness), so eventually I made him smaller and cuter.”
Other characters with varied origins included a more mechanized Nami wielding a huge battle ax and “Pirate Hunter” Roronoa Zoro as a bodyguard for the Buggy Pirates. However, one of his character plans had to be changed due to an upcoming competing manga…
Conflicts with the Naruto Manga Early On
After the release of “Romance Dawn”, Oda worked to fully develop the adventures of Monkey D. Luffy and his crew. While he did retain some elements of the original story, Oda also developed new characters.
One such character was the cook known as “Black Leg” Sanji – well, that is what he was eventually named. When he was created, Sanji was actually called Naruto. However, Oda’s rival, Naruto creator Masashi Kishimoto, had just developed his series of the same name and published it in 1997. Having heard of its development, Oda decided to change his character’s name to avoid confusion.
Even with this alleged “rivalry”, the two artists greatly respected one another. When Kishimoto published his final Naruto volume, he included the Straw Hat Pirates’ symbol on Naruto’s headband on Hokage Rock in the “Chapter 700” artwork. As a response and final goodbye, Oda added tons of Naruto references in the cover of “Chapter 766” of One Piece.
These references included the symbols for Konohagakure, the Uzumaki clan. Luffy was eating ramen – Naruto’s favorite – with a (very heavily hinted) Naruto figure. His final message to his rival: “Both my friend and rival, thank you for 15 years of heartfelt serialization!! Kishimoto-san, Otsukaresama!!”
Classical Literary Inspirations
While Oda’s early inspirations came from his childhood manga and cartoons, he also found inspiration in classic literature from around the world. The design for the Marine prison Impel Down strongly mirrors the Nine Circles of Hell depicted in Dante Alighieri’s 14th-century poem Divine Comedy. Both structures depict varying degrees of torture and punishment based on the severity of the crimes of its prisoners.
The villain and former warlord Donquixote Doflamingo has connections to The Ingenious Nobleman Mister Quixote of La Mancha by Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. Oda has also taken inspiration from Greek mythology with his inclusion of Amazons and The Gorgon sisters.
In addition, Luffy and Ace’s childhood friend/brother, Sabo, wore the signature top hat and rolled-up jacket of the Artful Dodger from Charles Dickens’ classic Oliver Twist.
Historical Pirate References
The Straw Hat Pirates have encountered a variety of pirate crews during their journey. Though none of them have ever donned the clichéd eye patch, many of these characters are modeled after popular tropes and characteristics we have come to know about pirates. To add to the depth of the characters, many of them are based around real-life pirates in history.
Most notably, the story of One Piece began with the execution of infamous Pirate Gol. D. Rogers who, on the day of his execution, challenged anyone to try to discover his treasured One Piece. This declaration and execution were based on French pirate Olivier Levasseur. In a final gesture, he tossed his cryptogram necklace into the crowd and advised that the one who solved it would have his treasure.
Additional historical references included Edward Teach, aka Blackbeard (the Blackbeard character is Marshall D. Teach and his rival Whitebeard is Edward Newgate), and Bartholomew Roberts (the character is Bartholomew Kuma). Also, notable female pirates can be connected to the characters Captain Alvida (5th-century pirate Alwilda) and Captain Jewelry Bonney (Irish pirate Anne Bonny).
Pop Culture Connections
Over the years, Oda’s inspiration has come many sources outside of the world of manga too. While influenced by historical figures and literary classics, he has also managed to incorporate aspects of popular culture as well.
One of the most easily recognized homages in One Piece can be found in the character Emporio Ivankov. There is no denying that Ivankov’s looks and mannerisms are a direct reflection of Tim Curry’s Dr. Frank-N-Furter character from the cult classic Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Oda has listed Tim Burton and Quentin Tarantino among his favorite directors and The Nightmare Before Christmas as one of his favorite movies. The creepier aspects of both Burton and his work can be seen in the Thriller Bark arc. In addition, the use of zombies and “Thriller” in the title more than likely connect to the Michael Jackson video Thriller.
In fact, DeviantArt user SATOart has even compiled a list of characters he thinks Oda took his inspiration from. From musicians to world leaders, it is a pretty huge pop culture reference list!
Oda is notorious for hiding Easter eggs throughout the One Piece manga, with many of these references popping up in the anime as well. One of his most well-recognized hidden gems is his placement of Pandaman throughout the story.
Oda originally created the characters when he was a teenager and submitted his design to the Yudetamago’s wrestling manga Kinnikuman. Fortunately, the character was selected and used in the manga. Since then, Oda has been slipping the character into the pages of his manga.
Other Easter egg characters include Pandawoman, the Tomato Gang, and the Unforgivable Mask. He also included fictional brands that he has created including Criminal, Doskoi Panda, and Cyberpanda. These brand are often displayed in stores or even the clothing of the Straw Hat Pirates and other characters.
As discussed earlier, Oda enjoys a subtle “shout out” to fellow manga artists and their work in his manga. However, he does like to include himself in his work as well. Oda has included his own name and his work on random library books in the series. How many of these have you seen?
Real-Life One Piece Character Memorials
One Piece is filled with heartbreaking moments and deaths throughout the series. Two of the worst moments for fans occurred during the Marineford Arc when beloved characters Whitebeard and “Fire Fist” Ace die during Ace’s rescue mission. Their deaths sent ripples throughout the world of One Piece and its fandom. In the manga and anime, the “father” and “son” pirates were buried next to each other with their graves decorated with their personal possessions.
In 2013, Universal Studios Japan brought these iconic images to life for their annual One Piece Premier Show. As part of this show, memorable scenes and locations are recreated in real life for fans to visit. These graves were exact replicas of the ones depicted in the story and included a listening area where fans could hear the two characters speak some of their famous lines.
Armani Exchange Designed Outfits for the Characters
While anime exists as a simple form of entertainment in Western countries, it has become a way of life in Japan. Popular characters have been incorporated into commercials, advertisements and plastered all over subways, trains and other public transportation. Its global popularity also makes anime the perfect market for the world of fashion.
The characters of One Piece have been used as animated models for A|X Armani Exchange. In 2009, they joined forces to promote the 10th movie of the franchise One Piece Film: Strong World. Luffy became the first manga character to appear on the cover of the Japanese fashion magazine Men’s Non-no in its 24 years of publishing. This was also the first cover design Oda has done that was not for a manga.
In the magazine, real-models posed as the manga’s characters in nautical themed attire. The partnership returned in 2012 for the release of One Piece Film Z. This time, the characters wore outfits designed by A|X Armani Exchange that were selected by Oda himself. To expand on the cross promotion, these outfits were made available for purchase too!
Dedicated One Piece Theme Parks, Exhibits, and Restaurants
One Piece fans will be happy to know that they can experience their favorite anime beyond the manga, anime, and numerous movies. If you are willing to make the trip overseas, you can become fully immersed in the world of the Straw Hat Pirates.
In Japan, you can visit the Universal Studios Japan’s “Universal Jump Summer”event that will include attractions based on One Piece, Dragon Ball Z, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, and Gintama beginning on June 30. You can also enjoy a live One Piece show and take a ride on the life-size version of the Thousand Sunny at Laguna Ten Bosch One Piece area in Gamagori, Japan. This park also has real-life memorials for Ace and Whitebeard on display too.
However, if One Piece is your only focus, travel to Minato-ku, Tokyo, and visit the dedicated indoor theme park Tokyo One Piece Tower. The park contains sculptures, themed restaurants, and games for fans to enjoy. You can also visit replicas of the inside of their ships, full-sized recreations of iconic scenes from their journey, and take in a One Piece live show!
Luffy is An Ambassador For the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics
Since its official announcement video aired during the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics, Tokyo seems to have amazing plans for its own games in 2020. Japan’s Olympic Committee incorporated iconic characters from TV, anime, video games, and other aspects of its entertainment into its video. It was the perfect nerd’s dream come true.
To further build on the global reach of anime, one of its most profitable “exports”, Tokyo announced that several anime characters would serve as its Olympic ambassadors. With its worldwide appeal and dedicated following, One Piece had to be included in this lineup.
As reported by Anime New Network, the official ambassadors are, “Astro Boy, Sailor Moon, Shin-chan, Luffy (One Piece), Naruto, Jibanyan (Yōkai Watch), Goku (Dragon Ball Super), Cure Miracle and Cure Magical (Maho Girls Precure!)” They will be included on promotional items and merchandise for the event.
Do you have any wacky One Piecetrivia to share? Leave it in the comments!