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One Piece's Creator Has A Serious Critique Of Modern Shonen Manga

From the horrific world of "Attack on Titan" to the comedic aspects of "Spy x Family," manga offers something for every reader. While it is open to a range of themes and styles, trends also dictate what stories and genres get the biggest push at any time.

Not many titles have achieved staying power through those changing tastes like "One Piece." The manga gained legendary status as one of the most popular franchises of all time; running over twenty years, the exploits of Monkey D. Luffy have seen heartbreak, humor, and a few surprises along the way. That mix led to it reaching over 500 million copies in print, which Guinness cited as a world record for "the Comic Book Series with the Most Copies Published by a Single Author" (via The Nerd Stash).

Credit for the success of "One Piece" undoubtedly goes to its creator Eiichiro Oda. His vision for the manga, and subsequent anime, still offers something for fans and newcomers alike. As the franchise continues towards a proposed end date of 2025, Oda reflected on his work and where the industry stands for all creators. There's one aspect that is worrying this respected figure, and his critique provides an important inspection of manga's current state.

Oda realizes his style differs from other hits

Manga with an emphasis on action and adventure has hit a fever pitch in popularity, as evidenced by 2022's best-selling titles. Current stats see "Jujutsu Kaisen" and "Tokyo Revengers" topping the charts (via DualShockers). With their success comes a push to recreate their formula across other entries, something that creates a host of copycats.

Something that doesn't always translate to those tiles is Oda's character expressions. He revealed in a Weekly Shonen Jump interview the technique comes from his personal experience (via @WSJ_manga). "I drew this because I really want to have fun, and I think that it's okay if people don't like it," he said. For Oda, it's the little touches that reflect a light bulb signifying an idea. Luffy's devil fruit-inspired abilities offer an even better example by showing moments such as a character's legs wrapped in unnatural positions.

Seeing that unique straddling between dramatic elements and amusing details may be something going out of style. To Oda, it is seeing something he loves disappearing from the overall manga landscape. The creator views this move as an extension of one segment. "Battle manga has to keep getting more and more serious to keep up with readers' expectations," he added. "I honestly hate that. I definitely don't want my work to become a serious manga like that."

His approach to One Piece has some important fans

His comments may be controversial among fans of the selected genres and styles, but the creator's work still holds its own. In fact, Oda's perspective towards manga illustration has its fair share of admirers. "Detective Conan" writer and illustrator Gosho Aoyama also participated in the Weekly Shonen Jump interview with Oda. During their conversation, Oda's expressions proved to be a talking point as Aoyama addressed his counterpart's creative design (via @WSJ_manga).

For Aoyama, one sequence played on what he hoped to see from Oda's work. "I was really surprised when I saw there wasn't a scene of Luffy eating the Gomu Gomu no Mi," he relayed to Oda. The "Detective Conan" creative immediately thought about how he would have handled the event, stating that Dokkun SFX would have been put to use.

His statement also came with an admission that attempts to try Oda's style would go in vain. Aoyama spoke of his work's similar characteristics to that of Monkey D. Luffy. In "Conan," the lead character is defined by several of the morphing points Luffy experiences via devil fruit; Conan's physical transformations come from a drug instead. "I think 'ONE PIECE' expressions feel way fresher," Aoyama said.

Oda isn't free from criticism

Eiichiro Oda may be a defining figure in manga but the writer and illustrator is not immune from criticism. One of his biggest controversies to date comes from his drawing techniques for female characters (via ComicBook). The creator disclosed a shortcut for drawing women. "The women's proportions are three circles and one X. Please think and draw this way," Oda said. It's a negative connotation that many fans publicly confronted; that's outside of conflicts about story decisions and outcomes of various arcs that have created their own levels of discontent among readers.

The controversies were enough for fans to vote for Oda as one of their most disliked "One Piece" characters. While he's not a character in the manga, it can be argued that his creative decisions shape every aspect of the series. Everything comes down to his decisions, from dialogue to those fun outlets for expressions. Anime Senpai surmised his inclusion came from Oda's decision to go on past the previous end date.