15 Facts About 'One Piece's Wild History And Evolution

From rejection to censorship, here’s the story of how a rubber boy and his band of pirates achieved global domination in the comic world.
15 Facts About 'One Piece's Wild History And Evolution

Imagine, for a second, your time here on Earth has ended, and it turns out there is totally a good place and a bad place awaiting you. However, your morally ambiguous butt is kinda stuck between these two places, and the only way the Hereafter Gatekeepers can decide where to send your dubious little behind is to ask you the following question: Which comic is the best-selling comic of all time? If you don't know that the answer to one of pop culture's greatest questions is One Piece, then we still don't think you should be sent to the bad place where you probably don't get to read any comics and instead have to watch a demon version of nana burn them one by one. That's just cruel, but alas, we don't make the rules. 

Don't worry, though — we're here to inform all the One Piece newbs about Japan's most successful manga media franchise that started back in 1997.

The premise of One Piece is simple: In a world where humans and mythical creatures co-exist, a boy made of rubber — thanks to a special fruit he ate that gives people special powers — acquires a crew to set sail in search of the "One Piece," a treasure that will grant its finder the title of King of the Pirates. It's adorable and also quite violent at times. 

Here are 15 bits of trivia about Monkey D. Luffy, the main character of our merry band of pirates, and the evolution of one of the most popular comic franchises in the history of the world. You never know when you might need to know this ...

It All Started With Vicky the Viking

Vicky the Viking TV cartoon show

Zuiyo Eizo/Taurus Film

Like most any other child, writer and illustrator, Eiichiro Oda was obsessed with pirates when he was a wee young lad, and it was the Vicky TV show that inspired him to draw a cartoon about pirates with straw hats and incredible jaws. 

One Piece's Characters Are Based On Real Pirates

Blackbeard, One Piece

Toei Animation/Netflix

That up there is Marshall D. Teach, also literally known as Blackbeard. Creator Oda read many pirate biographies and used known characteristics to create his manga characters, with toothy guy over here based on the famous Edward Teach, a.k.a. Blackbeard.

Dragon Ball Meets The Anti-The Wizard of Oz

One Piece Dragon Ball

Toei Animation/Netflix

Dragon Ball — the other huge Japanese media franchise that’s been going since 1984 — also had an influence on Oda’s creation, and he regards Akira Toriyama’s manga series as one of his favorites. The adventure story of One Piece was also inspired by The Wizard of Oz, in that it’s not like that at all. Oda has stated that he doesn’t care for stories where the adventure itself is the treasure all along. “Adventuring that long, and having the adventure itself be the treasure, is really dissatisfying. Those kinds of stories are impossible. It feels like, 'I've gone on this long adventure, so give me the treasure!'"

The Origin Story Of One Piece

Romance Dawn, One Piece

Eiichiro Oda

In 1996, while working as an artist assistant, Oda started drawing two one-off manga stories called Romance Dawn. These stories featured One Piece’s main character Luffy with his mind set on becoming King of the Pirates. A year later, the stories became the first chapter and volume of the series.

From Manga To Anime

One Piece manga anime

Toei Animation/Netflix

It took two years for the manga series about a pirate boy who’s basically rubber to make its way from the page onto TV screens in 1999. It premiered in the U.S. for the first time in 2004 on the Fox network.

The Opening Theme Song Controversy

One Piece opening song rap

Toei Animation/Netflix

4Kids Entertainment, the American licensing company that first acquired the distribution rights, decided that the show needed an English redo of the opening theme song. The very ‘90s bop, commonly referred to as the ‘One Piece Rap’ or the ‘Gum-Gum Rap,’ produced some polarizing opinions. Listen to the original Japanese opening theme song written by Hiroshi Kitadani called “We Are!” here:

Classic anime, wholesome ‘90s vibes. Now here’s the rap 4Kids Entertainment decided best suited the show for American audiences:

Face it, that rap goes hard. It’s honestly not that the one is worse than the other. It’s just so vastly (and hilariously) different.

Not Appropriate For Children

One Piece censorship

Toei Animation/Netflix

Apparently, when 4Kids Entertainment bought the rights to One Piece, they were under the impression that it was a nice, kid-friendly cartoon and were apparently unaware of all the murder, guns, and blood. The anime has some violence to it, which led to heavy censoring and terrible editing over in the U.S. Any and all blood illustrations were removed, guns were covered up by other, more ridiculous weapons like wooden hammers with spring mechanisms, and even past deaths were retconned in the dialogue, royally screwing with story consistency.

But you know the saying: Preventing parental complaints, first; Honoring story, structure, and logic, second.

No Smoking In America

One Piece smoking

Toei Animation/Netflix

It’s pirates and also just marine men, so there were many cigars and general puffing of leaves going on in Oda's creation. Not in the U.S., where cigars were swapped for lollipops, and one specific character called Smoker, who smoked 3 cigars at once and had the power of turning into smoke, suddenly had smoke coming out of his mouth for no reason.

One Piece Smoker no smoke censor

4Kids Entertainment

The Move To Crunchyroll

One Piece Crunchyroll

Toei Animation/Netflix

In 2007, Funimation (that would later become Crunchyroll LLC) bought the license to the series and released their first uncut bilingual DVD box set in 2008. The new episodes, being on cable, featured less censorship and restrictions. So, no more characters looking like they literally didn't have any blood in their bodies.

Entering The Simulcast Era

One Piece streaming

Toei Animation/Netflix

Crunchyroll started simulcasting the series in 2013 to the Americas, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The UK and European territories were included in 2020 — the same year Netflix started streaming the show.

To The Silver Screen We Go!

One Piece Film

Toei Animation/Netflix

So far, the franchise has produced 14 films, with the 15th one, One Piece Film: Red, being released sometime later this year. 

Games, Of Course

One Piece Odyssey

BNE Entertainment

The story is about pirates who fight as they sail the seas on an adventurous treasure hunt, so of course, the franchise would have its own Wikipedia page exclusively for its long list of games.

Guinness World Record

Guinness World Record

Toei Animation/Netflix

In June of 2015, Oda and One Piece set the record for “Most copies published for the same comic book series by a single author.” At the time the record was set, the franchise had sold 320,866,000 units. One Piece also holds the record for “Most copies published for the same manga series.”


From Rejection To Global Domination

One Piece rejected

Toei Animation/Netflix

The now world-famous manga was rejected three times before editorial over at Weekly Shonen Jump decided to finally publish it in 1997. The manga magazine — currently the longest-selling and also best-selling manga magazine — ended up publishing the serialized pirate story ever since.

The End Is...Nigh?

One Piece ending

Toei Animation/Netflix

Oda said that originally he planned the manga series to only run for five years and that he had always known how it would end. Of course, it’s now the year 2022, and the series is still going strong. However, the creator has hinted that the ending might drop somewhere around 2024 and 2025. Not that many fans are buying it — Oda is known for saying a lot of things — and some speculate that it may still take a good decade for the Straw Hat Pirates to end their story. 

As for the story's ending, Oda said he would change it — he’s been set on one since college days, apparently — if fans were able to figure it out. Many theories abound, of course. We’re rooting for a fitting pirate’s end.

Thumbnail: Toei Animation/Netflix


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