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From a Japanese American Literature Class at a German University

Fascination Anime - One Piece & Eiichiro Oda

During this summer term I attended a course called “Japanese Americans” at the University of Wuppertal, Germany. We learned a lot about the history, life and culture of Japanese people living in America. Therefore our instructor encouraged us to contribute to discovernikkei.org. So I chose to write something about my most favorite topic: Anime.

I still remember the time when my siblings and I used to wake up at 6 a.m. to watch anime before we had to go either to school or kindergarten. My brother was 6, my sister 2 and I was 4 years old. Although I am now 22 years old, I still watch and totally enjoy anime as does my whole family.

My first encounters with anime were Sailor Moon created in 1992 by Naoko Takeuchi and Captain Tsubasa (or Flash Kicker ) created in 1981 by Yōichi Takahashi. I guess everybody knows and also at some time in their life watched these two very famous and great anime. Needless to say I, being a girl, preferred watching Sailor Moon but my brother who was my senior by two years got to decide and as all boys would do, he chose Captain Tsubasa . Therefore we always ended up fighting for the remote control. But all in all we were absolutely in love with these series and tried to watch them as often as possible.

As I grew up and finally managed reading, I bullied my parents into buying me some manga, even though they thought that these were bad and would distract me from my school work. These manga were the beginnings of a life-long fascination and also were the foundation of a huge collection. Unfortunately I lost my manga when we moved houses. I believe my mother (more or less) accidentally put them in the trash bin.

I was fascinated by the bright colors and the characters in general. For a kid like me at that time the figures were like small dolls. You wanted to look like them and also to do exciting things like them. I envied them and I always ended up using my mother´s make-up to “paint” my face and funny hair clips to put up my hair in order to resemble my heroes. In the afternoons we, me and my girlfriends, dressed up and imitated the characters from our favorite manga. We sang the title songs and acted like them. But later when we were older it became embarrassing, especially when we meet now and our parents still mock us about our acting back then. Nowadays we prefer only watching anime and reading manga.

However in Germany the fascination with manga is still huge. A lot of kids and also grown-up people tend to wear costumes and meet at manga fan events. There are a lot of communities and also fan forums, which are very popular.

The beginnings for the fascination were the anime shown on TV. As anime became more popular, many more anime were shown on German TV. One of my most favorite anime, Dragon Ball created in 1984 by Akira Toriyama, started on German TV in August 1999 and since then I have favored anime that were less “girly”.

At this point I would like to introduce to you one of my favorite anime and its creator, which is One Piece created in 1997 by Eiichiro Oda.

The first manga was published in 1997 and is still not concluded. One Piece is the second-most-sold manga and also one of the most- watched anime worldwide. Straight from the first airing of One Piece on German TV in 2003 I became a huge fan.

One Piece tells the story of a 17 year- old boy named “Monkey D. Ruffy”. As a child “Ruffy” decides to find the legendary treasure “One Piece” and to become the King of the Pirates. Many of the characters have special powers, which they gain by eating “Devil Fruits”. “Ruffy” for example eats the “Gum- Gum Fruit” when he was a small boy. The fruit transformed his body to rubber and he is now able to stretch it. But eating a “Devil Fruit” unables the person to swim which is a huge problem for a pirate. “Ruffy” is not a pirate in a typical sense, he helps others who need help, and he is not as bad as other pirates. Therefore “Ruffy” and his crew have to fight other pirates and also break through dangerous obstacles. Although this manga is a rather violent one there are not many deaths but a lot of funny situations mostly caused by “Ruffy” himself.

Eiichiro Oda, the creator of this manga, was born on the 1st of January in 1975 in Kumamoto on the Kyūshū Island, Japan. Oda decided to become a manga artist when he was only four years old. He made this decision mostly because being a manga artist was not “real“ work and he could decide when to work. For him real work was wearing a suit and going to the office every morning like everyone else. Another reason was his own fascination with reading manga, especially Dragon Ball by Akira Toriyama, who also is a role model for him.

As a child he watched Vicky the Viking , which probably aroused his interest for pirate stories. When he first began drawing, he was criticized for only drawing pictures and not creating stories. But he also had some success. He created a character, “Pandaman” for the wrestler manga Kinnikuman created by Yudetamago in 1979. When he was 15, Oda started submitting some of his works and finally when he was 17, he achieved his goal. His first manga Wanted! , a collection of short stories, was published in 1992 and it also won various awards.

After studying architecture for one year at the University of Kumamoto, Oda left for Tokyo, where he got the chance to work as an assistant for some famous manga artists. First he worked with Shinobu Kaitani (Liar Game, Somurie ). Later he came to Masaya Tokuhiro (Jungle King Taa-chan, Vampire ). After that he worked for Nobuhiro Watsuki (Rurouni Kenshin ), where he only stayed six months. Although not a long time, he met there other manga artists, whom he now regards as his best friends, Hiroyuki Takei and Mikio. At that time he also learned a lot about the mangascene and manga in general.

But the time from 1994 to 1996 was not a successful one for Oda. So he decided to make a last try. In 1996 he published Romance Dawn 1 & 2 , both pirate-themed one- shot stories, with “ Monkey D. Ruffy” as the protagonist, which were thought as a prequel for One Piece . The stories celebrated a huge success, and so Oda´s career as a professional manga artist began.

In 1997 One Piece started as a weekly manga in Shueisha's Weekly Shonen Jump magazine and directly became number one in Japan, later also a world-wide famous manga.

By June 2010 58 volumes of One Piece manga have been published and 459 episodes of anime aired, also 10 movies, 7 music albums and 29 video games.

But there is still no end in sight, although Oda had planned it to be done a long time ago.

I hope I did not bore you and you will enjoy One Piece as much as I do, if I was able to evoke some interest.

Sources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eiichiro_Oda
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_Piece
www.apricot.com/~fuu/paradise3/oda/cm1098.html
www.apricot.com/~fuu/paradise3/oda/cw1xt.html
http://www.opwiki.de/wiki/Interview:Verrat%E2%80%99s_mir,_Oda-sensei
http://www.worldlingo.com/ma/enwiki/en/Eiichiro_Oda/1

© 2010 Lütfiye Bagci

anime Germany manga university of wuppertal

About this series

This series of articles come from a Japanese American Literature class in Germany. Bettina Hofmann teaches American Studies at the University of Wuppertal, Germany and contacted Discover Nikkei about her class. She asked her students to write their response to the course - to be published on Discover Nikkei.