Andrew Osmond has been there, done that, and bought the T-shirt.
Of the anime titles turned into T-shirts by Uniqlo, One Pieceis the biggest – the reigning king of all the anime and manga franchises, pretty much unchallenged in the 16 years since Eiichiro Oda began the manga, and 14 since Toei Animation started animating it. But perhaps Uniqlo would have turned One Piece into a line of shirts even if the saga hadn’t been a world hit. Just look at those pirate designs – brash, cartoony, uncompromising. There’s no whiff of a committee, no hint of a five-year product plan reliant on changing a heroine’s hair colour (or deepening her cleavage). It just helps that the pictures are as commercial when they move as they are when they’re a cool static graphic in a manga, or on the front of a T-shirt.
One Piece shows history repeats with a twist. Fist of the North Star – made by the same studio as One Piece, Toei Animation – was aimed at a wide demographic, including kids, in Japan, but ran into controversy when it was aimed at kids in France. “In terms of censorship, the west is much more strict than Japan, in terms of children’s programming,” said Hidenori Oyama of Toei Animation. “One Piece features a violent gang and bloodshed; censorship means it will not be chosen for children’s viewing.”
As many One Piece fans know, there was a notorious attempt to make a child-friendly American version of the show, by the company 4Kids Entertainment. As with Fist of the North Star in France, it seems the American buyers simply didn’t really look at the show before buying the licence for a “hot” property. They also didn’t consider that a show about pirates might feature guns, and blades, and bleeding, and death. (Oh, and smoking. And alcohol…)
Anyone interested in what happened is recommended to a podcast on the Anime News Network website where Mark Kirk of 4Kids Entertainment is flambéed by fans, even though One Piece didn’t happen on his watch and he can only offer a “non-official take” on events. The real meat is at 35 minutes onwards, although there’s an enlightening account of America’s censorship rules before that. It’s great fun, but as you listen to the grilling, reflect that 4Kids had to choose between outraged fans battering their keyboards, and the prospect of angry legislators and politicians. As Kirk points out, 4Kids wasn’t making its One Piece for the anime fan cognoscenti, but for kids. Along with the Fist of theNorth Star row in France, Kirk might have pointed to One Piece’s own reception in Indonesia. There, the show was lambasted by the country’s Broadcasting Commission for “violence and blood,” “sensual looking women” and close-ups of “women’s body parts.”
4Kids soon cancelled its version of One Piece as a misconceived purchase, though it’s immortalised in fan infamy. Yet that may be a sign of how standards have risen over the decades. It’s debatable if 4Kids’ One Piece is objectively any less “butchered” than, for example, Battle of the Planets (the 1970s treatment of Science Ninja Team Gatchaman) and look how that’s nostalgically remembered in Britain and America. Maybe the rehab of the 4Kids One Piece is still to come, as the years pass – though quite plausibly, Battle of the Planets just worked better in butchered form.
In any case, of course, the 4Kids One Piece is now history, as Funimation has taken over the property. The new Manga Entertainment releases of One Piece have the adventures of Monkey D. Luffy, the Straw Hat pirates and the good ship Thousand Sunny as they should be - bold, bloody and unexpurgated!
The first One Piece box is released by Manga Entertainment on 27th May.
Set Sail for One Piece! Monkey D. Luffy is a boy with big dreams. This daring rubber-man refuses to let anyone or anything stand in the way of his quest to become king of all pirates. With a course charted for the treacherous waters of the Grand Line, Luffy strikes out in search of a crew – and a boat. Along the way he’ll do battle with scallywag clowns, fishy foes, and an entire fleet of marines eager to see him walk the plank. The stakes are high, but with each adventure, Luffy adds a new friend to his gang of Straw Hat Pirates! Like his hero Gold Roger, this is one captain who’ll never drop anchor until he’s claimed the greatest treasure on Earth – the Legendary One Piece!
“Ninja or pirates?” While Naruto – representing the ninja corner, of course – has proven hugely popular, UK fans have long been unable to weigh in on the other side. With the long-awaited arrival of One Piece on DVD this May, that finally changes.
Matt Kamen finds out who’s who in the One Piece anime
Monkey D. Luffy: The founder and captain of the Straw Hats, Luffy is a carefree soul who wants to become king of the pirates. After eating the Gum-Gum Devil Fruit, he gained an elastic body, making him near-invulnerable and able to stretch but paradoxically making him unable to swim.
One-hit wonders. Every country has them. And, as PSY can most likely attest, very few musicians really want to be labelled as one. Sure, it’s all fun, games and fancy dinners when that royalty cheque floats through the letter box. The one with all the zeroes from that single from yesteryear that went massive. But what about the rest of your work? It must be somewhat unsatisfying as an artist to be known for one track, while everything else remains relatively overlooked, and expectations are high for that difficult follow up single. If you’re TOMATO CUBE, you do nothing. Ever again.
She’s once, twice, three times a lady – three times a One Piece lady! Japanese musician Maki Otsuki may have worked hard to establish herself as a female saxophonist and front-woman of J-pop group CASSIS, but to Japan’s anime fandom she will always be the One Piece songstress that began it all. Or perhaps that should be ‘finished it all’ as she had the first closing themes in three different franchise spinoffs.
Twenty years ago, the witch Bayonetta was hauled out of a deep lake, with no memory of her past, how she got there, or who might have hated her enough to put her there. She has in her possession half of an artefact known as the "Eyes of the World.” Joining forces with information broker Enzo, she sets off to find and steal the other half. But powerful forces are moving against her, forces known as the Angels.
Andrew Osmond discovers that every little helps...
Scott Pilgrim vs the World, in a supermarket. Well, that’s one way of summing up Ben-To, a wild anime comedy in which ‘ordinary’ citizens engage in Matrix-sized brawls over the holy grail of living on a budget; the bargain half-price meal.
With the animated versions of Saya’s vampire-slaying adventures now into its third incarnation in both TV and feature versions, most recently featured in the release of Blood C: The Last Dark, one feels compelled to ponder in some depth the abject failure of the 2009 live-action version one of Sony’s few key 21st century animated franchises.
The Net is vast, Major Motoko Kusanagi reflects more than once across the multiple versions of Ghost in the Shell. So, indeed, are franchises. Ghost in the Shell has been going twenty-five years, and seems capable of renewing itself for at least as long again.