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A Story to Draw the Ultimate One Frame

— article by Roy Watanabe

For the first time in a while, an author with an interesting story that can be said as something that can represent boys' manga. The author is Eiichiro Oda, who is drawing One Piece in Weekly Jump. Straightforward and energetic characters, a clear-cut story flow. He keeps the story going in order to draw cool characters. That is a thrilling charm that is shown by the root of boys' manga. This is the appearance of an authentic boys' manga that focuses on that excitement that we had when we were children and our hearts raced with the stories.

Q: Is there something you keep in mind when you draw One Piece? A motto would be fine, too.
A: I keep in mind that I want to say things clearly. The main story is the part where Luffy becomes the Pirate King, but I want to make sure that what he wants to be and how he feels is very 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. I realized that when I read Leiji Matsumoto's work a little while before I started drawing my series... (laugh) ... that I could say such embarrasing things in such a straightforward manner. And that was cool in tis own way, and it felt good to read. And that was what I wanted to do.

Q: That's true, like in Galaxy Express 999, Harlock appears out of nowhere, says whatever he wants -- like "Don't give up your dreams!" -- and then goes away.
A: Yes, it's that straightforward feeling! (laugh) I think it's great. That is why my motto is to not be embarrased about anything.

Q: Any others?
A: It has to be "excitement". That excitement you get when reading Dragon Ball. I think you need to teach the boys that feeling one more time.

Q: So you have a piece of paper with the words "an exciting production" sitting next to your desk...
A: Yes. An exciting production. That feeling where you buy Jump at a convenience store, and you just stand in the middle of the road on the way back and read it because you couldn't wait until you got home.

When I have something I want to tell my readers, I don't want to be embarrased -- I want to say it straighforwardly.
Q: But I don't think excitement is the only charm. I think why adults feel good reading your work is because there is an image that something just drops out from the work.
A: That's true. I think you're referring to a relaxing feeling. I really do want to draw more of how friends relax on the ship deck more than fighting. But if I do that, not everyone would be enjoying the work. Of course, I love to draw fight scenes as well, but I really love the meaningless stories that go inbetween. That feeling you get in the Moomin valley. That laid-back atmosphere.

Q: So your keywords are "excitement" and "relaxation"?
A: You could say that. I think it would be all right if boys didn't understand the relaxing bit. But, I'm sure that the feeling is getting across to them. It must be. That's why it's all right if it takes a little while longer before they truly realize it.

Q: Where did the pirate motif come from?
A: I love them from when I was a child. I started with Bikke the Little Viking. I think everyone likes pirates to some extent. The seemingly bad first impression, and the feeling that they might have huge dreams about their future. In real life, they really are villains, but you tend to ignore that aspect and create your own image of them in your head, right? I like that kind of stuff as well, and I wanted to use something like that, too. So, I'm drawing my series without keeping any of the actual history in mind.

Q: But still, they really are energetic villains, aren't they?
A: I have a policy that says that whoever screams wins. Even if their belief is a little off, the one who screams their feelings out is the winner. The one that gets overwhelmed loses. And that's why despite the fact that he wants to be a tremendously bad fellow, namely the Pirate King, but if he shouts it out full of energy, he wins in my head.

I became a manga artist because I wanted to draw. So, I will advance my story to draw the art I want to draw.
Q: Is there a rule inside your work?
A: They won't fly! (laugh) Because if they fly, they won't need ships anymore. Also, they'd be able to do anything... I'm really focusing on the aspect of sailing the seas. Also, I had a sorcerer in a short story once, but I won't be using that in the series. Any preposterous situations are all created by the devil fruits. That one point is rather supernatural, but everything else is normal.

Q: I was going to ask about your art style. Do you have any particular artist's style that influenced you?
A: I created my style back in elementary school. I think everyone has a period of copying someone else's work. For me, it was Kinniku-man and Fist of the North Star. But I think the effect Dragon Ball had on me was the biggest. I must say that I really drew a lot of Mr. Toriyama's art, so I think I still carry on that habit to this day.

Q: But you have your own distinct style.
A: It's a style that I created on purposed. It wasn't something that came out of me naturally. I just wanted to draw in a way that other people weren't drawing in. For instance, I had a hard time making all of the eyeballs really small. In the beginning, it was difficult, and the right eye and left eye would be shifting from one another. If I looked at Wanted! right now, I can tell it's rather shifty. It was, after all, the first manga that I drew after switching to that style. But as I drew it more and more, I liked it more and more as well. That is why I went through with it, no matter what anybody said. For that style, when the eye shifts even a few tenths of millimeters (rika's note: a millimeter is 1/25 of an inch!) it gets in the way of expressing emotions. When you want the character to see straight, you really have to draw the eyeball in a position to make them see straight. You can fudge it a lot if you have big eyes... It's fun because you can't fool anyone with eyeballs that small.

Q: So pay attention to Luffy's eyes?
A: You should pay attention, yes.

Q: You mentioned manga works that were an inspiration to you. If you have anything other than manga that inspired you, please tell us.
A: I'm not one for words, so I don't read novels. I just read books that people recommend me. Like Moeyo Ken (Burn, Sword!) and the like. Those dealing with spirits of samurais. I guess you could say they are soulful novels. (laugh)

Q: What about movies?
A: I love movies. I like westerns. There was one called Young Guns, and that just has to be the best movie for me. It's just way too cool. I think the first time I saw it was when I was in high school, but that was why I drew Wanted! right afterwards. Other than that, I like works by Quentin Tarantino. I loved Pulp Fiction. Where all the guys in Reservoir Dogs walked around in suits, too. That was just too cool.

People who want to become manga artists but can't are just lacking in their love for manga. From when I was 4 years old, the only future I could imagine for myself was one as a manga artist.
Q: Those are both movies that are good at creating a moment to show off.
A: I think he also got his influences from all sorts of places. That's why all different sorts of "cool"ness is concentrated into his films and makes them intersting, after all.

Q: Do you feel anything against being influenced by someone?
A: Not at all. Of course, you shouldn't be a copycat, but you can't help getting influenced by someone else. I think it's a matter of how you take it in and evolve it as part of your own style.

Q: When you are running a series, don't you get curious about your reaction the week after?
A: I look forward the most to the reaction when I set something up, whether it be a surprise element, or a comic element, or a frightful element. I was very confident about the first episode, too. I'm sure that people grew to like Shanks. But to tell the truth, I'm frightful about how huge his influence has become. (laugh) As for when the Usopp Pirate Fleet disbanded, I really wanted to see everyone's reactions as soon as possible. When I was reading letters that said "It was great!", I myself was touched reading the letters.

Q: Do you like touching scenes like that?
A: I thought that drawing a touching story was very awesome after seeing Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. I thought, "I want to make them cry, too!" That is why I have "how to touch people's hearts without killing people" as one of my themes. I feel that killing people off is just too easy. But, if the story is flowing towards that direction, it can't be helped. For now, I think there is a way for people to be touched without killing characters off.

Q: Parting without death seems like they are using their own will to part, and that they are turning their backs on one another. It might prove to be an awesome scene.
A: I think it's awesome. I like scenes like that.

Q: Now, for the upcoming storyline...
A: Right now, I'm doing only the prologue of what I really want to do. For now, I don't want to rush things, and take it easy... and solidify the characters one at a time. My first objective right now is for a group of characters who can all play lead to be gathered together as friends, and to see how awesome they all look when they line up next to each other. The only other thing I need is a place for them. As a major point, I'm sure I'll be able to draw almost anything after they enter the Grand Line, so I need to hurry there. My editor will be mad at me too, if I don't hurry. (laugh)

Q: So how many characters will gather in the main group?
A: I don't know! (laugh) As an ideal, I would like about 10 people. Right now, I officially have 4 people. Even 4 people are hard to handle, because they all want to do their own little things.

Q: Who is the most uncaring character in terms of doing things as they please?
A: That has to be Luffy. If I let him go wild, he gets rid of the enemies I painstakingly prepared for him in an instant! (laugh) But he's also the one that ties up all the loose ends. So, Luffy can really get in my way, or really help me out.

Q: Lastly, can you give us a comment for all the people who want to become manga artists?
A: I don't think the idea of going on with your idea of becoming a manga author is really something you do saying that you WANT to do it. Because, if you like to draw, I think you would aspire to do so naturally. If you really wanted to be a manga artist, I think you really can be one. If you couldn't, it means that you really didn't like to draw, or you didn't like to write stories. I think our industry is like that. Go with the flow, and draw if you want to draw. That's what I think.

Q: You will be drawing more, right Mr. Oda?
A: Yes, I will be drawing more.

Profile: Eiichiro Oda - born on 1/1/75 in Kumamoto. Receives the second highest honor in the 44th Tezuka Awards at age 17 with his work "WANTED!". He then heads to college majoring in architecture, but drops out because "I thought it would be hard during exams" (actual quote), and heads to Tokyo at 19 years of age. With the introductions made by the editorial staff, he starts as an assistant for Mr. Shinobu Kaitani during his run of Midoriyama Police Gang. He then assisted Mr. Masaya Tokuhiro in Jungle no Ouja Tar-chan, and learned that contrast was important in drawing lines (he had been drawing only thin lines until then) -- then learned special effects and technique while assisting Mr. Nobuhiro Watsuki with Rurouni Kenshin. He kept sending names over to the editorial staff the entire time, and though he landed a few stories in the seasonal specials, he experienced two years full of denial. There, he draws up his final treasure, the pirate story Romance Dawn that he had been saving for a serial run. This story was popular in the seasonal special, and he lands his series One Piece in Weekly Jump. He is drawing the series to this day.

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