One Piece has a huge following not only in Japan, but also among international manga readers, with a whopping 200 million copies in print. In November 2010, volume 60 (My Brother) was the first manga to sell over 2 million copies, according to Oricon. In fact, it sold 2 million in its first week at Japanese retailers. Then it shattered its own record by selling over 3 million copies during the week of March 28-April 3.
Oda, 36, makes over 2 billion yen (approximately $24.7 million) annually. The manga earns him about 1.3 billion yen ($15.9 million) from royalties, and 750 million yen ($9.2 million) from second-party usage fees for the characters, reported Shukan Bunshun. One Piece has been serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump since August 1997.
One Piece is the story of the search for the ultimate treasure in the world, One Piece, during the grand age of pirates. In the story the men dream about and seek One Piece, which promises untold riches and fame as well as title of Pirate King.
Monkey D. Luffy, a 17-year-old boy, who gains the ability to stretch like rubber by accidently eating devil fruit, searches for One Piece with his diverse crew of corsairs, the Straw Hat Pirates, so he can become the next Pirate King.
But Luffy is not your model wicked, toothless pirate who plunders villages for pleasure. Luffy becomes a buccaneer for the pure joy of adventure and his desire to meet new people. Luffy and his friends explore the ocean for One Piece, battling powerful villains, unveiling mysteries and making engaging friends along the way.
Besides manga Luffy has starred in most of the episodes, films, and specials of the anime series One Piece, as well as many of the spin-off video games. Outside of the One Piece franchise, Luffy made an appearance in the crossover manga Cross Epoch. He has also been the subject of other satires, and has appeared at various special events and elsewhere in Japanese pop culture.
Oda’s desire to write about pirates started with the anime series Vicky the Little Viking. “I loved them (pirates) as a child,” he said in an interview with Destination Paradise.
Oda, born in Kumamoto, was also inspired to become a manga artist by the works of Akira Toriyama, a widely acclaimed Japanese manga and game artist known for creating Dragon Ball. In 1992, at the age of 17, Oda successfully submitted his first manga called Wanted! to a publisher. The cowboy manga won several awards including second place in the Osamu Tezuka Manga Awards.
Oda’s One Piece is known for being energetic and straightforward, depicting things in clear-cut ways.
“I want to say things clearly,” Oda said in the interview. “The main story is the part where Luffy wants to become Pirate King, but I want to make sure that what he wants to be and how he feels is straightforward. It kind of makes you timid to draw it so straightforward, and that’s why you usually beat around the bush and make it more appealing than it really is. But for boys, I think that achieves the opposite effect. It feels better to just say it out loud.”
Oda noted that putting embarrassing things in a straightforward manner is cool and feels good to read. “That’s what I wanted to do.” His motto is not to be embarrassed about anything.
Additionally, Oda likes to draw how Luffy and his friends relax on the ship deck more than the fighting. But of course he loves to draw fight scenes as well.
Shinichi Nakajima, a librarian in Tokyo and a One Piece fan, said, “I like One Piece because it’s a story about friendship and people that are kind, not cruel to each other, a heartwarming story. But I also like how Luffy uses his special skills to become like rubber to fight his opponents.”
Another One Piece fan said she likes the exciting adventure. “It’s like when we were children discovering things in a new world. I like it has been running for a long time, too, so I can become attached to it.”
Another fan said that the series is extremely weird at times, but amazing. “I’ve been following it for years now. The series has some awesome and touching stories in it, one better than the other. I wonder what would happen if they found One Piece.”
Many adventures are yet to come. Oda has said the series is only half finished.