Over thinking Japanese cartoons: Probable reasons why One Piece is the most popular Weekly Shonen Jump series (1).

So tired…Trying to stay awake so I will sleep all night… Trying not to get out of bed too much because my back feels like a giant robot stepped on it (Maybe a Gouf?). Trying to get entertainment out of the only things close to me at the moment This laptop and the One Piece Omnibus I was reading some days ago.


Thinking about about it is really interesting. I have said before that the idea of how popular One Piece is in Japan is almost, if not more so interesting to me the the series its self (Which I am actually growing to love more and more as I think about it. This may be a problem).

I think the question is just so good; “Why One Piece?”. Now there is lots of pretty easy answers to this question mostly stemming from it just being a really well written and action-packed comic/cartoon that kids and adults can easily get into. It also helps that Oda’s art is really Unique and fun, and also quite complicated if you really look at it. But those two things do play a huge part in why it is so popular.

I think at the heart of why it’s so popular is for lack of a better word; its heart. I think One Piece delivers the kind of power fantasy that everyone at one point or another can really get behind. Just hanging out with your best friends in a big endless world, paling around on your own personal pirate ship, Doing dumb and silly things but putting on a serious and proclaiming how much your friends mean to you when you have to, Getting into intense knock-down drag-out fights that you have to scrape yourself off the ground of just to get up but to always land that final punch, and always winning the day in the end no matter what the obstacle is.

Now a lot, a lot, a lot, A LOT, A LOT of shonen do some of these things, maybe one or two of them. But One Piece does it all with such gleeful abandon with a huge simile plastered on its silly face the whole time it is hard not to be infected by it and smile right along with it. If you think of the thing that was mega popular before One Piece that did pretty much the same things; it was Dragon Ball and I think there are some pretty deep running similarities there that I don’t even have the knowledge to touch. Aside from the fact that if you look at all the stuff that is super-mega mainstream anime in Japan it does not really tend to look like what people commonly associate with “anime” for example Naruto or Black Cat. The things like One Piece, Dragon Ball and even Detective Conan all kinda have this simplified almost American-but-not-really style going on for them (Heck, even look at Berserk [though not simplified in the least bit] still does not really look like “anime”). In that way I think they are very easy for kids to be able to draw and remember them, because they are so simple yet full of personality.

I also do think that the pirate theme does really have something to do with it as well, maybe not as big as some of the other reasons but it is part of it. I have a feeling kids in Japan get excited about pirates like Western kids would about ninja and Samurai. I’m not saying Japanese kids don’t flip out over those things either but I think it goes back to the power fantasy thing, the pirate crew of close friends who travel the world on a big boat is maybe more exciting and magical then a Ninja that can blow fire or make illusions.

The characters as well are also a lot more fun and kinda relatable then say Ichigo form Bleach (Or, hell, any one form Bleach). Everyone in One Piece has a fun silly side as well as a serious powerful and emotional side. It is true that they are pretty much shonen caricatures but, they are super heartfelt and relatable ones. None of them are perfect yet they all complement each other in a way that makes mixing them up a totally different dynamic. For example: In One Piece you could probably have a whole arc of say, Sanji and Chopper going to get some bread, yes it would be silly but even as you read this you can kinda see how that would play out. Stuff like that is pretty rare. If you were to take Kiba and Sasuke from Naruto and tell the same story I think it is way harder to think of how those characters would mesh or bounce off of each other aside form just being antagonistic towards one another.

I fear I might be coming off as slamming other shonen things here. That is really not what I am trying to do though. I am trying to figure out why the series in question; One Piece sells way more than any other shonen thing in Japan.

I love a lot of shonen, If someone were to put a gun to my head and ask me a dumb question like “what is your favourite kind of manga” I would answer with shonen. I love the feeling it can give when done really, really well and I think One Piece is an example of a series that hits that core shonen feeling right on the head. And that might be the biggest reason of all. Just all those crazy over the top shout at the top of your lungs shonen feeling that One Piece just exudes from its self.


PS: I remember thinking I had a lot more to say on this. I put a “(1)” up top just in case I ever remember the other things I was gonna say. I think that they were a little more interesting (I hope). I am not really the right person to write about this in any kind of authoritative manner but these are some (I think) kinda interesting Ideas that could be mauled over more later.

PSS: If you actually read this, I am sorry. I am so sorry.