Eiichiro Oda asks fans to keep reading the manga “a little longer” as series celebrates 20th anniversary.

Not too long ago, fans of anime and manga would often make reference to the “big three shonen series,” a trio of action/adventure franchises primarily aimed at young male readers which were hugely popular and eminently profitable. Ninja tale Naruto was the first to wrap up its manga, publishing its final chapter in 2014, followed by supernatural swordfighting story Bleach in 2016.

But while both Naruto and Bleach called it quits at the 15-year mark, One Piece, the remaining pillar of shonen manga, is still going strong, even as it gets ready to celebrate its 20th anniversary on July 19. Ahead of the two-decade milestone, One Piece author and artist Eiichiro Oda prepared a message of thanks to his many fans, and also took a moment to remind them that, impossible as it may be to believe, one day One Piece will end.

Oda’s message, which was leaked onto image sharing website Imgur, opens with:

“Well now, I wonder just how old you, the person reading this, are? 20 years ago, were you born yet? At that time, [One Piece protagonist] Luffy was 17, and 20 years later…he’s just now 19? Do you know that Luffy’s straw hat was actually given to him by a certain person?”

“In the beginning, Luffy set out onto the seas all by himself, with no companions. One Piece has a lot of flashback scenes, but I have a memory of my own. When I started this series, I wondered if some young readers would one day feel like the characters have become their childhood friends.”

Twenty years later, there’s no doubt that plenty of fans have formed a deep attachment to Luffy and his cohorts after following their adventures throughout their formative years. But while fans are no doubt thankful for Oda’s stories, he’s also deeply thankful to them. Later in the message, he says that the characters have been able to grow and evolve thanks to the fans’ enthusiasm, just before reminding us all of a bittersweet truth.

“One day, even the story of Luffy and his friends will end. If you’d continue on this adventure with them until then, I’d be very happy. Thank you for these 20 years, and I ask for your continued support for a little longer!!”

While he doesn’t give any hints on just what that ending may be, a while back One Piece’s editor revealed that Oda does indeed have the series’ finale mentally mapped out. If Oda sticks to that plan, the editor speculates the manga should finish sometime around 2025, but that shouldn’t be taken as set in stone, considering that Attack on Titan’s creator at one point thought his series would be ending right about now. In any case, though, while it’s sad to hear the man in charge so clearly assert that One Piece won’t be running indefinitely, it’s nice to know we’ve got, at least, “a little longer” with Luffy and his pals.

Source: Otakomu, Imgur
Top image: SoraNews24