One of the most memorable anime-related events of 2023 was the worldwide Netflix launch of a live-action series adapting the long-running One Piece manga and anime series, by far one of the most successful and globally recognized entertainment properties of all time in any medium. As could be expected, viewers were initially cautious about just how the live action series would turn out, but, reviews and audience reactions were largely positive.
For the purposes of this site, however, what is particularly interesting is not so much the reaction of critics and fans, but, rather, whether One Piece has received any extent of attention from anime/manga scholars. And, as it turns out, the answer to this question is very much yes. In fact, with at least eight English-language publications on it so far, the way that scholars have examined One Piece since the manga first began publication in Japan in 1997, presents some very interesting, even if not yet very extensive, examples of different scholarly approaches to Japanese comics and animation!
One Piece deserves our attention not only because it is the most successful Japanese mangas of all time, but also because it reflects on dilemmas of IR in a surprisingly elaborate manner– Ákos Kopper, Pirates, justice and global order in the anime “One Piece”
- Nakamura, Konoyu. One Piece: Diversity and borderlessness.
In Marybeth Carter, & Stephen Farah (eds). The Spectre of the Other in Jungian psychoanalysis: Political, psychological, and sociological perspectives (pp. 175-184). Abingdon, UK: Routledge.
Anime constitutes prime material to be analysed and interpreted in a Jungian manner. This chapter focuses on ONE PIECE, a fantastic sea adventure. The protagonist is a 17-year-old named Luffy who journeys with his friends, called ‘the team of straw’, in search of a legendary treasure, the titular ONE PIECE. Here Konoyu Nakamura explores the idea of ‘the team of straw’ as an individual. She discusses the ‘variety and differences’ that these characters represent not only in terms of the differentiation of an individual but also in relation to the diversity represented by the cultural and national borderlessness that societies face today.
- Agkun, Buket. Mythology moe-ified: Classical witches, warriors, and monsters in Japanese manga. Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics, 11(3), 271-284.
Through a gendered close reading, using classical reception studies as a springboard, this article discusses the reception and moe-ification of the female witch, warrior, and monster figures from classical mythology in Japanese seinen and shōnen manga at the turn of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. It focuses on Flora and Schierke in Berserk (1990–); the Gorgon sisters in One Piece (1997–) and in Soul Eater (2004–2013); and Medusa in Witchcraft Works (2010–), all of whom are named and/or fashioned after Circe, the Amazons, the Gorgons, and Arachne. It points out to the intertextuality between these worldwide popular turn-of-the-century Japanese manga and classical mythology narratives. It discusses the moe-ification of these classical subversive monstrous female figures, formerly demonised and marginalised by the patriarchal discourse. It analyses how their reception in manga contributes to canonising the monstrous female. It illustrates how that offers the female readers of seinen and shōnen manga new ways of expressing and interpreting gender that liberate and restructure the female’s relationship to power.”
- Barthold, Willi Wolfgang. The swordsman as the artist: Aesthetics of fragmentation in Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece and 21st Century cultural hybridity. ImageTexT: Interdisciplinary Comics Studies, 11(2).
- Kopper Ákos, Pirates, justice and global order in the anime “One Piece”. Global Affairs, 6(4-5), 503-517,
This article studies the Japanese manga One Piece, which tells the story of the pirate Monkey D. Luffy fighting the World Government. One Piece deserves our attention not only because it is the most successful Japanese mangas of all time, but also because it reflects on dilemmas of IR in a surprisingly elaborate manner. Being a pirate story, it ties into the intertextual milieu of what pirates stand for in popular culture—symbolizing a challenge to the established order of states—and thereby encourages readers to critically reflect on problems of global order. Furthermore, the story also reflects on intriguing dilemmas of order and justice that Hedley Bull framed asking “can justice in world politics, in various senses, be achieved only by jeopardizing international order?” By overcoming the binary metaphysics typical of Western cultural products (particularly superhero stories) also enables One Piece to capture these dilemmas in a subtle manner.
- Fisher, James C. Pirates, giants and the state: Legal authority in manga and anime.
In Ashley Pearson, Thomas Giddens, & Kieran Tranter (eds). Law and justice in Japanese popular culture: From crime fighting robots to duelling Pocket Monsters (pp. 32-44). Abingdon, UK: Routledge.
This chapter analyses the legal-philosophical messages in three prominent Japanese manga and anime franchises: One Piece, Attack on Titan and Fullmetal Alchemist. Despite differences in their tones and target audiences, these three stories reflect similarly on the origins of legal authority, presenting it as the result of false consciousness specifically, popular ignorance about the origins and purposes of the existing social order. A metaphysical understanding of culture as an ineffable Platonic ideal transcending actual human conduct is uselessly unscientific, because it cannot support testable propositions of fact about Japanese law and society. The franchises on which the chapter focuses implicitly subscribe to a positivist understanding of law and legal authority. Deriving chiefly from HLA Hart’s explication of the distinctive nature of law, modern legal positivism understands law as a system of logically structured social rules.
- Skweres, Adam. Pirate as homo ludens: Analyzing the humorous outlaw in play in One Piece.
In Antonio Sanna (ed). Pirates in history and popular culture (pp. 236-246). Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co.
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Sasada, Hiroko. The otherness of heroes: The shonen as outsider and altruist in Oda Eiichiro’s One Piece. International Research in Children’s Literature, 4(2), 192-207.
The shonen hero in One Piece, a popular fantasy battle manga for boys, is described as a complete altruist although he longs to be the King of Pirates, that is, the top of ‘others’ in the social mainstream. Monkey D. Luffy and his crew, called the ‘Straw Hat Pirates’, seem to be derived from traditional Japanese heroes in period films or from the manly virtue called otoko-date in the Edo period: the outsiders who carry out ‘poetic justice’ by assisting the weak and resisting the strong, even at risk to their own lives. To be more powerful than those whose right and status is determined by birth and nature in this fictional world, others, who are usually adventurers, have a special opportunity to find and eat ‘Devil Fruit’ and thus obtain superhuman power and become others within others. Moreover, there are other means whereby Luffy may become a genuine hero, not by luck but through effort: King’s Ambition, and Conqueror’s Power. The latter can be attained by genius only, by one person in a million. In this article, the gifted shonen hero with the superhuman power of One Piece is analysed in terms of otherness and altruism.
- Zoth, Thomas. The politics of One Piece: Political critique in Oda’s ‘Water Seven’, Forum for World Literature Studies, 3(1), 107-117
One Piece is a long-running shonen manga series that deals with many political themes. Shonen manga is typically defined as manga for boys, but people of all ages and genders frequently read it. Shonen manga is therefore analyzed in terms of its key themes, identified as hard work, victory, and friendship. One Piece uses these themes in a basic formula in which the heroic pirate crew faces off against a series of increasingly powerful villains. Each member of the crew represents specific values, and the enemies represent the antithesis of these values. Combat is ideological, with the heroes victory reaffirming the primacy of the values represented by the thesis. The are Water Seven is investigated, as is its use of characters to explore the relationships between the individual and the state in terms of national security. In One Piece, it is found unacceptable to sacrifice individual rights of the innocent for a perceived improvement in the security of other people.