Having artwork that some people would think look weird was all part of the plan for the creator of one of the biggest anime/manga hits ever.
So here’s a complex question: is the artwork of Eiichiro Oda’s pirate saga One Piece particularly anime or manga-like? As one of the industry’s best-selling series ever, there’s no denying that One Piece is a very big chunk of the anime/manga that gets purchased and consumed. But at the same time, Oda’s lanky limbs and jovially jeering grins remain rather unique in the world of Japanese animation and comics, with few overt imitators.
Some might even go so far as to call Oda’s character designs unattractive, or at least unusual. That’s a criticism the artist himself, though, is totally fine with, and not because he can’t hear his detractors through all the stacks of royalty cash he has sitting around his house.
The fact is, it was always Oda’s intention for One Piece to look a little jarring, as he explains in a magazine blurb shared by Japanese Twitter user @SeamanArata.
— 荒田 新 (@SeamanArata) 2017年9月4日
“20 years ago, when I was just getting started as a manga creator, people would always say ‘Your art is really unusual.’ Even when One Piece began serialization, people kept saying things like ‘I hate the art’ or ‘Your art is weird, but the series is interesting.’”
“And I totally get what they’re saying, because I did everything I could to make something different from the manga other people were making.”
In Oda’s case, that goes for the genre as well as the visuals. 20 years ago, Oda began writing and drawing a pirate-themed manga, putting his work in a category that hasn’t traditionally been particularly popular in Japan. 20 years later, though, that gig is still ongoing, as One Piece became such a giant hit that Oda ended up expanding its roster of antagonists significantly.
Oda’s comments were made ahead of an integration of the Tezuka Award, which is given to up-and-coming manga artists and is named for “God of Manga” Osamu Tezuka. “Do something different from other people,” he advised those hoping to win the prize. “I’m looking forward to reading the strange manga that only you can draw,” which is something a lot of manga fans no doubt look forward to as well.