Creator Eiichiro Oda wanted to incorporate Japanese elements sooner, but held himself back.

A lot of popular anime and manga draw from Japanese history and mythology. To name just a few, the ingredient lists for Demon Slayer, Inuyasha, and Rurouni Kenshin’s recipes for success all include samurai, ninja, katana, and/or yokai.

Aside from a few nods to samurai martial arts traditions surrounding swordsman Zoro, though, for the majority of its run One Piece has largely eschewed feudal Japan-era aesthetics and stuck to a Western-style pirate theme, at least until the start of the current “Wano Country” arc. But while that might at first seem like just another example of series creator Eiichiro Oda doing things his own way, it turns out he’d actually wanted to incorporate Japanese elements into One Piece for a long time, but wouldn’t let himself.

In an interview for Fuji TV variety program Arashi Tsubo that aired on August 27, Oda was asked to list his three favorite scenes from the One Piece manga. His top pick was from Chapter 909, when the story arrives in the Japan-inspired Wano Country, saying he loves Japanese historical movies and that since a long time ago he’d always wanted to draw a Japanese-style setting for a One Piece story. So why’d he wait so long? In Oda’s words:

“Honestly, I’d wanted to add samurai and ninja [to One Piece] at an earlier point in the series. But Naruto was still being serialized, so I held myself back. We’re friends, after all.”

▼ The One Piece anime’s Wano Country opening

The “friend” Oda is referring to would be Masashi Kishimoto, creator of the ninja-themed Naruto manga/anime franchise. Though both manga were serialized in the same magazine, Weekly Shonen Jump, Oda’s comment implies that it wasn’t the editorial staff telling him not t to oversaturate the anthology with samurai/ninja stories that led to Oda’s restraint, but his personal respect for Kishimoto and desire for Naruto to find all the success it could. Debuting two years after One Piece, the Naruto manga ran until 2014 and its TV anime adaptation until 2017, with the One Piece manga not entering the Wano Country arc until the following year, 2018.

It’s a touching gesture of comradery at the highest level of a very competitive industry, and exactly the sort of thing you’d expect from a creator whose signature work is all about the power of friendship.

Source: Gadget Tsuhin via Otakomu
Top image: YouTube/ONE PIECE公式YouTubeチャンネル
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