Anime/manga legend Eiichro Oda’s joke about fried chicken touches a raw historical nerve.

When you create the best-selling manga franchise of all time, with close to double the sales of your closest rival, you’d think you’ve pretty much earned the clout to say whatever you want. Nevertheless, a message from One Piece creator Eiichiro Oda has prompted an official apology from publisher Shueisha.

On June 4, One Piece Volume 89 went on sale. It’s customary for collected manga volumes to include a brief comment from the author on the inside flap of the cover, usually, a light, breezy message of thanks or a silly anecdotesfrom the creator’s personal life. For Volume 89, Oda went with the following:

Under a drawing of a haggard-looking man wearing an Imperial Japanese Army cap and giving a salute, Oda wrote:

You know how sometimes, when you’re sharing a plate of karaage [fried chicken] with people, there’s that one last piece that gets left on the plate? I’ve decided to give it a name: Sergeant Yokoi.

So I’m like, ‘Sergeant Yokoi is still in the field! Somebody, end the war!’

Little kids who don’t know who I’m talking about, look him up.

It is with much embarrassment that I start Volume 89!

If Oda’s assumption that not everyone knows who “Sergeant [Shoichi] Yokoi” is applies to you, he was a Japanese infantryman who fought on Guam during World War II. However, when the U.S. military wrested control of Guam away from Japan in 1944, Yokoi avoided capture and went into hiding in the island’s jungle interior, where he remained until 1972, despite Japan surrendering, and the war ending, in 1945.

▼ Yokoi

The then 57-year-old Yokoi was eventually discovered by two locals, who subdued him after he attacked them. Upon his return to Japan, he said “It is with much embarrassment that I return,” which seems to be what Oda is referencing by saying “It is with much embarrassment that I start Volume 89!”

Yokoi (who was actually only the third-to-last Imperial Japanese soldier to surrender) passed away in 1997, at the age of 82, from a heart attack. Like many prominent figures from Japan’s militaristic past, opinions towards Yokoi can be sharply divided, with those who embrace Japan’s ostensibly pacifist modern political policies seeing him as a symbol of an ill-advised past, and others treating him as a folk hero for his determination and loyal patriotism. There’s even a Yokoi Shoichi Memorial Museum in his home prefecture of Aichi, with a reproduction of the cave in which he spent his past-war decades on Guam, and which also maintains a simple English website to promote itself to foreign visitors.

Given the complex and controversial feelings associated with Yokoi, the editors of Weekly Shonen Jump, the Shueisha manga anthology in which One Piece is serialized, decided an apology was in order for Oda’s Volume 89 comments. On June 14, a message was placed on the official Weekly Shonen Jump website, reading:

“In the author’s comment section of One Piece Volume 89, which went on sale June 4, there was an inconsiderate message. The editors, together with the author, regret our actions, In the future, we will take greater care in such matters.”

▼ Volume 89’s front cover

Shueisha has not said that it will be recalling the books, though it seems likely that Oda’s comment will be removed in any potential reprintings of the volume.

Source: Sponichi Annex via Otakomu via Anime News Network/Jennifer Sherman
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