One Piece is the top-selling manga of all time, with over 350 million volumes sold in Japan alone. For fans of the series, it’s a no-brainer why the comic is so popular. The author/artist Eiichiro Oda is a master storyteller, turning what could have been a run-of-the-mill shonen manga into something special. One Piece often tackles deeper themesincluding racism, abuse of power, justice, moral ambiguity, and of course, big dudes with sweet powers slamming into each other.
What’s even more surprising are the readership demographics. Nine out of ten people who buy One Piece are adults, and over half of the manga’s readers are women. This might make it seem like it appeals to everyone, but apparently that is not the case. Japanese Twitter user @ykhre recently tweeted a controversial essay, making her case for why One Piece, despite its broad appeal, is sexist.
Here’s the translation of what she wrote:
“So I’ve been reading One Piece from the beginning and noticed a couple of weird things. First it started during Zoro’s flashback to his childhood, when he couldn’t beat his rival Kuina, a girl swordsman. I thought that was interesting, but then at the end of the flashback Kuina cries to Zoro that when they grow up, she’ll never be able to beat him because ‘girls can’t win against boys.’ And then she immediately diesin a stupid accident the following day. WTF Oda?
▼ Physically, maybe. But this probably isn’t the most socially acceptable scene.
“Then, when we meet Usopp and flash back to his childhood, we see a scene where his mother tells him that his father Yasopp left them to become a pirate, but she says ‘she’s proud she married him and wants Usopp to grow up and be brave like him too.’ Uh, maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think running away from your family exactly fits the definition of ‘brave.’ #YasoppPayYourChildSupport
In the world of One Piece, if ‘the pirate flag calls to you,’ then I guess you’re just supposed to leave behind your sick wife and child and that’s a totally okay and acceptable thing. So then what if Usopp had his own family when Luffy recruited him? Would he throw them away too, same as his father? That seems to be what the manga is telling us.
And after that it just keeps going. We meet the womanizer Sanji who in later chapters gives comic relief by running away screaming from a bunch of okama (male homosexuals or transsexuals). The usually strong-willed Nami breaks down in tearsand begs Luffy to help her save her village. And even Luffy becomes dangerously chauvinistic at times when he doesn’t listen to people, gives Zoro the options of ‘join me or die,’ and yet everyone still looks up to him. There’s a fine line between genius and insanity.
▼ …and Luffy just erased it with his rubber powers.
“It makes me just a little uncomfortable that the adventures of this group have sold 350 million volumes. But before you get mad at me, please understand I’m not trying to disrespect One Piece here, or turn #NotAllMen into #NotAllOnePiece or anything. In fact there are a lot of stories in the manga that I quite like. I just think that theunderlying themes of ‘women are weak,’ ‘oversexualization,’ ‘if she’s ugly it’s okay to beat her up,’ and ‘okama are creepy,’ are covered up in a nice disguise of romanticized pirates going on an adventure.
Take a look at what happened in the latest volume of One Piece when the author drew the Shichibukai (Warlords of the Sea) as what they would look like if they were the opposite gender. Aside from Hancock, the other seven were originally men, now represented as women [translations below]:
Crocodile: “I don’t trust anyone, except fortune tellers.”
Moria: “You guys do it for me please, okay?”
Hancock: “But you’ll forgive me. Because I’m so handsome.”
Teach: “What? Blackbeard? But I don’t have any facial hair.”
Donflamingo: “It’s started… the all-you-can-eat cake buffet.”
Jinbe: “I am so gratefully endowed.”
Mihawk: “You must surpass my beauty.”
Kuma: “Hey, if you could like, totally go anywhere for a vacation, where would you go?”
“What were once feared pirates in their male forms are now nothing more than silly airheads in their female forms. Crocodile is obsessed with astrology, Moria is much more polite in his demands, Donflamingo likes sweets, Mihawk favors beauty over sword skill, and Kuma’s once-terrifying speech is now stupidly annoying.
It seems like Oda feels that to make a woman character, you just subtract everything interesting from the male version of her, then add some weakness and a love of sweets. Or, at least, that’s the sense I’m getting anyway.”
Of course Japanese netizens had plenty to say about the argument that the nation’s favorite manga could be sexist:
– “Enh, One Piece jumped the shark a while ago. Who cares?”
– “All the Shichibukai acted stupid before he drew them as women too. You’re just arguing to argue.”
– “The portrayal of genders in One Piece is quite bad. I hope that when young people read it they don’t feel pressure that this is how they’re supposed to be.”
– “As long as there is any difference in how men and women are portrayed in media, someone will always be able to find fault with it.”
– “Why don’t you go read a manga where all the characters are genderless blobs instead?”
So what do you think? Is One Piece really sexist? Are Robin and Nami strong crewmembers, or little more than fan service? Does Boa Hancock hold her own with the other Shichibukai, or is her obsession with Luffy just cringe-worthy? Leave us a comment below.