How did One Piece become one of the best-selling comics of all time?

Originally published at: How did One Piece become one of the best-selling comics of all time? | Boing Boing


Ehh. McDonald’s has sold over 300 billion hamburgers. Doesn’t mean I gotta pretend it’s good eatin’.


One piece is a really, really great adventure story, it’s also surprisingly emotionally deep and satisfying.
Warning: Representation of LGBT+ characters is sketchy and at points downright bad. It does get better though, but only very recently.


I think it’s representation issues can largely be attributed to both time and place. Considering it’s been in publication since the late 90s and Japan has long been behind the curve on it’s depiction of various minority groups. Like you mention however, in recent years Japan itself has started moving closer to matching the views of the more liberal western nations in regards to those groups and its citizens as a whole (including its mangaka) have become more socially aware.


excited one piece GIF by Funimation

I suspect it’s at least partially just sheer volume… how long has it been running? Like… 10 centuries now? :grimacing:


I thought the same thing until I tried One Piece. In the fandom, we actually equate One Piece to Krabby Patties, so your correlation is more apt than you realize.

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I always found this series unwatchable if only because of the art style used for the characters’ faces, which I can only assume was made deliberately ugly. Why does this one manga / anime appear to have been drawn by six-year-olds?

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It´s fun. Thats why.
I like the really weird off beat character designs, the strange ideas, that actually work in the context of that vast, bizarre world, where there is so much to discover.


The manga and the anime are entirely different experiences. Oda’s art is intentionally childish, but that’s to offset the heavier themes that the series deals in. He wanted One Piece to retain its optimistic tone even when things got bleak…and, boy, do they.

I think Oda’s art is phenomenal on the page, but Toei did a horrible job of adapting his style in the early section of the anime. They’ve gotten a lot better now. Here’s a cool scene from the current section of the anime.


It’s popular because manga has always been categorized by their demographic/psychographic genres.

In manga, there are Josei (targets women), Sienen (adults), Yuri (girl love), Gekiga (experimental art), etc. They target very specific groups of people and interests. There are those that are targeted to young kids and teens. These feature lots of spikey-haired (or bald, for some reason) dudes punching/fighting things and people. So there’s lots of pirates, ninjas and superheroes “one-punching” things. This is Shounen (focus on fighting, action and superpowers). The girl version is Shoujou (which has a focus on romance, drama and magic). Can people read outside of their target? Of course. non of these are hard barriers.

In America we tend to focus on the characters or brands, whether its Marvel or DC, Superman or Deadpool. Yes there are some comics that target specific demographics too, but the bread and butter of comics are action for the same reasons - no shortage of young kids looking to read action oriented stories…

There will never be a shortage of young boys and teens. Even if some outgrow the genre there will always be more starting to read them.

When my son asked me if I read manga I said “yes but not the kind you read” thinking I was being smug since I’m not a teen and therefore don’t read “low brow” manga. But then I realized that I read the dumpster fire manga called Domestic Kanojo. Oof that one had more bad drama than a Spanish Soap Opera…

Girls read comics too. Some even write and draw them.



It should be noted that yes, the categorization of manga by its intended demographic audiences can be useful. However, it also should be noted that the expected demographics do not always correlate to the actual audience for a given work. (For example, Bronies are a thing.)

It seems to me that adhering too closely to the outmoded, stereotypical notion of “ThEsE cOmIx ArE fOr BoYz, SiLlY!” is something that has the potential to damage the industry, as gatekeeping by gender not only drives talented creative women from participating, but also alienates a huge potential block of women readers.

It is not “pearl-clutching” to bring that up; it’s been a hotly-debated topic in the Western comic world for years (if not decades) now. It’s also simple common sense. So’s the notion that many readers care far less about demographic tomfoolery or other artificial, “smug” designations like “low-brow”; they just want a good, well-told, enjoyable story.

Apparently One Piece is one of those. I’ve never read it, but I’ll keep it in mind for later… along with my Deadpool comics, and all the other things that “demographics” say I’ve got no business liking. :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes: to demographics and gatekeeping!


I just want to point out that seinen (not sienen) manga targets adults in the sense that Playboy magazine targets adults, which is to say: probably not in the way you’re referring to.

A lot of what is classified as shounen or shoujo (not shoujou) are very much intended for adult audiences, but without being pornographic.

One Piece is fun. I like positive adventure/growth stories with spirited characters that don’t aim to shock or disturb first and foremost. Apparently so do a lot of other humans.


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