Manga/anime legend Eiichiro Oda muses on the relationship between creators and fans.

One Piece is a kids’ series, right? The pirate story is all about the power of friendship, and it’s awash in bright, cheery colors that work perfectly with the huge amount of children’s merchandise the franchise sells.

But One Piece is also over 20 years old now, and many of its ongoing fans are old enough that’s it’s perfectly natural and healthy for them to notice that, for instance, lady pirate Nami has amazingly curvy hips and gigantic breasts.

Still, while Nami’s physical assets all but slap fans in the face, the One Piece manga still runs in the all-ages Weekly Shonen Jump, and the anime airs on regular broadcast television at 9:30 Sunday mornings. It’s not a pornographic series by any means, nor does it set out to blatantly and unabashedly titillate like many late-night anime.

This prompted one One Piece to write in to series creator Eiichiro Oda with a question, which was eventually included in a collected volume of the manga (a photo of which was posted to Imgur here).

The question reads:

Nami in the New World part of the story is so completely my type. I just love her. I have so much fun buying the Blu-rays she appears in, plus figures and other merch of her, and hope for more featuring her in the future. As an author, though, I wonder if maybe you’re not very happy about this?

Oda responded with:

So are you saying you feel guilty for looking at one of my characters in an erotic way (LOL)?

This goes for all of my characters, but I don’t have any problems at all with people doing that. My mentor taught me that ‘The World of Manga’ is a product, and if you start getting all preachy after people were kind enough to buy your stuff, it shows that you’re not a professional.

I feel the same way. Enjoy my work however you like, with whatever interpretations or fantasies you want. As long as you’re reading my manga, I’m happy.”

Granted, it’s been quite some time since Nami and the rest of the Straw Hat Pirates crossed over into the new world (the manga version of the cast reached the region in 2002, and the anime adaptation got there a year later), and the exact date of Oda’s statement is unknown. Given that super-sexy figures of Nami and other members of the female cast (or even the male-reimagined-as-female cast) remain major pillars of the One Piece merchandising empire, though, and that Oda’s superstar status means that new products are unlikely to go into production without him signing off on them, odds are he’s still OK with fans thinking that the real pirate treasure has been right underneath Nami’s collarbone the whole time.

Source: Imgur via Hachima Kiko
Top image: Weekly Shonen Jump