Interview With Eiichiro Oda from Strong World Artbook

 

 

 

 

The following is an interview with One Piece author Eiichiro Oda that was published in the official One Piece Film Strong World Artbook in December 2009. There were well over half a dozen interviews involving Oda in the months leading up to Strong Worldfs release and although many of them contain similar, if not identical, information each one has some unique piece of background information or insight to Odafs creative process. Also of note, unlike many of the other interviews, the interviewer speaks extensively throughout the conversation which might suggest that the individual worked with Oda. Please enjoy. If youfre looking to reference this English version feel free to link to this page but kindly leave this data right where you found it unless you attempt a translation yourself.

 

 

 

 ----Congratulations on all your hard work as a first-time executive producer on a film! Wefd like to ask you a variety of things today with a focus on the story, characters and outfit designs. Thank you for this opportunity!

 

Ifm looking forward to this so thank you.

 

 

----First of all, could you tell us what caused you to take on the position of the filmfs executive producer?

 

It was about two and a half years backc no more than that. It all started when Shimizu-san, the producer of One Piece at the time, came to see me. This Shimizu-san guy, hefs amazing, he always acts while thinking about the future. He said, gYou know, recently the eclose-knit circlef of everyone involved in the animation seems to be falling apart.h What he meant by that was, the show really comes to life when the staff, the actors and even the people from companies associated with the animation all come together. He came to me to discuss how recently the strength of that union might have weakened. And he was dead on, back when the animation first started airing, we were always getting together for parties and really close, but as the years passed and the staff changed again and again, the number of times we actually got together dropped off. And as for me, well, I couldnft join everyone even when they were actually together because of how busy I was; to be perfectly honest it was a period that was difficult to feel the kind of excitement we had at the start. So thatfs when he [Shimizu] said, gI want the next movie we make to bring back the stafffs morale and make it something that gives One Piece a fresh start. And for that, I need your strength.h, and thatfs how he asked for my help.

 

 

----But taking on a project while carrying the workload of the weekly serialized publication seems to be asking for trouble.

 

You donft know how true that is. I explained [to him] that my hands were full with the weekly serialization and personality-wise Ifm not dexterous enough to make headway on a number of different projects at the same time which is why at first I refused, and asked him to let me off the hook. But his enthusiasm was so greatc Eventually I opened my big mouth and promised, gAlright, Ifll just write the plot.h

 

 

----So at the start there werenft any plans for you to work on the various designs.

 

Thatfs right. And when I took on the plot I asked [them] to please use Mr. Children for the main theme. So with the anticipation of a reward to materialize at the end I took on writing the plot. And what I completed was dubbed eThe Crystal Shipfs Logf an emotional tale.

 

----Some of its eidea notesf have been published in this book.

 

When I began working on this I started thinking about what everyone expected from me. Probably something edramaticf, so thinking theyfd want to see a tear-jerker I wrote eThe Crystal Shipfs Logf. If it had become a movie just as it was I think everyone would have really enjoyed it. But when I finished it, there was just something that didnft sit well with me.

 

 

----Could you tell us exactly what that was?

 

An eemotional storyf is one that springs up from the life of your characters, but if a writer tries to force emotion as a goal when writing a story, you end up crushing the characters [under it]. Itfs the characters that have to make the story. So after I finished writing eThe Crystal Shipfs Logf thoughts started popping up like, gIs this really what you wanted to make?....h Finally, it was at a meeting for revising the scenario where I came clean to everyone and said, gI think Ifd like to drop this plot.h. Since itfs [a project] that I decided to take on myself I told them I wanted to make something brand new, something that would be sure to entertain boys and that was enough to convince them.

 

 

----And then you went on to complete the plot for eStrong Worldf.

 

I asked the staff what they enjoyed or got them excited when they were children and even added what I liked as a kid and brought it all together. Pulling together those pieces was the very first form of the present story. While rewriting I found myself having fun and getting excited. I think choosing to retool it was the right choice.

 

 

----After that you got even more deeply involved than originally planned by designing the villains, the crewfs outfits and the animals, so why did you take on all of that [responsibility]?

 

Well you know I think the biggest reason was because the work became something I wanted to make so out of that came tons of things I wanted to be particular about. I became very serious about insuring it wouldnft be a failure. First thing I declared was, gIfm doing the design for the new characters and outfits.h And originally I was going to ask the animation staff to do the animals but even then I wound up saying, gIfm going to draw all of them.h Even the head editor of Weekly JUMP told me, gEnough of this running around, concentrate on your comic.h, but after sticking my neck out that far, there was no going back; even the breaks I took from the serialization here and there were used to finish up designs [for the movie].

 

 

----Regarding the animation staff, how did you work with them while progressing?

 

Basically I got their opinions on my designs [and I used those ideas to refurbish them] upon which they developed [new designs] and I gave them my opinion on those in turn. Not only the characters, I was also particular about backgrounds and what colors to use; every time it was a cycle of me checking their work, fixing some things, sending it back and repeating. If  I wasnft totally satisfied with something I went in fisticuffs telling them exactly what I wanted and when it was necessary they allowed me to add touch-ups here and there to finalize some of the parts myself.

 

 

----All those details are the root of high quality. Now Ifd like to ask about some of the characters youfve designed for the work. First up, regarding Gold Lion Shiki, please tell us what sparked the creation of this character.

 

Shiki was someone I first planned to use in the comic in the scene where Whitebeard talks with Shanks. He was only going to be brought up in conversation but I couldnft add him at the time. Hefs a character that came from the idea of a pirate [that lived in] Roger and Whitebeardfs era that might still be around, but at that stage I didnft have a set visual or a story for him. In the film itfs like I had a new chance to give those parts of him form.

 

 

----Hefs done things like cutting off his own legs and replacing them with eprostheticf swords, we can see lots of planning reflected [in his design] but that thing in his headcis that a shipfs wheel?

 

Thatfs a shipfs wheel. And actuallyc originally itfs something I wanted to stick in Bartholomew Kuma.

 

 

----What!? The eShichibukaif Kuma?

 

Yup. I thought a setup where a shipfs wheel wound up in someonefs head would be hilarious. So I considered using it on Kuma, but a ton of guys with exactly the same design were going to appear [in the story] so it didnft work out and I gave up on it for the time being. The circumstances allowed me to use a plan that I intended to draw eventually.

 

 

----How about Shikifs henchmen, Indigo and Scarlet?

 

Forming new esilhouette charactersf is something Ifm always up for so it was a great opportunity. But this time, since they were movie characters, I wanted to incorporate new elements that normally arenft possible in comics.

 

 

----Could you give us an idea of what those [elements] might be?

 

Onefs the element of sound, something really tough to express in comics. Particularly sound effects, take Indigofs footsteps making fart noises, thatfs something you can only set up in a movie. Ifll be thrilled if the kids who see the movie get a kick out of that. And before [Indigo starts] talking, how he tries to describe things with gestures, thatfs also the result of pursuing something I couldnft do in the comic. Anyway I really wanted to shock everyone by packing the movie with things I canft normally do or that havenft been seen in the other movies.

 

 

----Having heard you talk about all of this, it seems that while watching the film wefll be able to make all sorts of new discoveries. Moving on, Ifd like to ask you about the outfits that the Straw Hat Crew wear. Their onboard clothing at the start, the adventure outfits they wear while exploring the islands and their suits from the climax bring it to three different patterns but why did you allow for such frequent changing of clothes in the two hour span [of the movie]?

 

First of all, having them change so frequently meant I could direct the appearance of the entertainment, but an even bigger reason was because I wanted the story to proceed with outfits the likes of which had never been seen in both the original and animation. As the first movie Ifve handled, itfs also something I want to serve as a model for future One Piece films. For the sake of whatfs coming from here on I wanted to stretch the limits of opportunities to the extreme for each character.

 

 

----Yes it seems that their eadventuref set of clothes have some details that are quite different from their usual look.

 

I think the biggest difference is having put glasses on Robin. I was aiming for the visual enjoyment that might come from discovering new things like, gSo he/shefd wear something like that.h, or, gOh, so theyfd wear clothes that color.h

 

 

----With each design did you include the concept or even the theme for the character?

 

Again it comes down to that when I was drawing the onboard clothing I wanted to show people the answer to, gWhat exactly do these guys do when theyfre at sea?h, which is tough to bring out in the comic or TV animation. I just kept thinking of those kinds of scenes and went along designing as I did. Usopp and Luffy playing in the pool on Sunny while Chopper who got out before them is relaxing in a robe he likescand so on. Each one of their scenarios trickled down into something visual which became the props and clothes.

 

 

----Of course therefs Franky wearing a banana-shaped hat.

 

Thatfs a new weapon hefs in the middle of developing, the Banana Bazooka. If youfre wondering why itfs a banana, well therefs really no point. The fact that therefs a lever in the back that you can pull to fire it is equally pointless. Then therefs Brook who got a cigarette from Sanji and while that isnft really important, the detail in his attempt to smoke only to have it come out his eyes, those are the small details I thought would be fun to see.

 

 

----And then regarding the climax where they appear in the suits, the design images alone are overflowing with energy.

 

To be honest thatfs the scene I was the most eager to do this time. Around when I was working on this I was into old eninkyouf [yakuza] movies. That mood, or maybe you could say the ecoolnessf, of walking alone in the snow towards a brawl is something I wanted to add to the work. And since I was looking for unique scenes, thatfs when the picture of Luffy firing a bazooka came to me. Even though Ifve drawn the crew in suits on the color spreads, Ifve never drawn a story with them fighting in suits so I really wanted to do that. Suits with bazookas, those are the two things I was after. That and the crew being split up having an adventure on an island divided into different seasons, that was also the influence of those [yakuza] movies. I saw a lot of beautiful scenes where the sights or changing of the seasons were used really well to express psychological states. So the form it took [in the film] is the result of me trying to do the same thing myself.

 

 

----So thatfs the story behind how such a powerful scene came to be. Now Ifd like to ask about the designs of the animals that inhabit the island. In the film there are dozens of different animals. Can you talk about the process of how you came up with them?

 

First I thought about the island split into four seasons and imagined what kinds of events would transpire there. After that I started jotting down names for animals I thought might show up as I flipped through animal picture books. Then I drew a mountain of rough sketches. You know, stuff like a mammoth for a snowy mountain, I think I balanced them out pretty well so that the animals were appropriate to where they were staged. Ifve always liked drawing animals and I always plaster the cover pages with them but I never even imagined I would draw that many. (laughs)

 

 

----So even for the animals that only appear for a moment in the very corner of the screen, you actually drew all of them.

 

Even when it came to matters relating to the animals, I didnft want to do a lazy job. It came down to that, if I was going to be satisfied with my work, no matter how short the screen time for a particular animal was, I had to draw it myself; I decided to do all of the designs.

 

 

----When you were designing said animals, is there something in particular that you were mindful of?

 

Ifve got no qualms with someone calling them emonstersf but theyfre entirely different from the mythological creatures of a fantasy piece. Theyfre actual creatures that have evolved so I was careful not to drift from what they really are. An octopus is still an octopus, a bear is still a bear, but since theyfre struggling to live in a world that means survival of the fittest, while I was designing them I thought about how theyfd evolve and how theyfd develop stronger weapons. gWhat would it take for an octopus to live in a forest?h, or, gIf it had to fight it would benefit from more tentacles.h, those are the kinds of things that kept going through my head as I laid down the plans.

 

 

----The forest octopus had 20 tentacles but I never would have considered that as an explanation.

 

It was mostly about eevolution to be strongerf which I feel differs in direction from eevolution to survivef in a number of ways. But like, when I was drawing the crocodile, I thought the bigger mouth would make it easier for it to bite into something and similar ideas. Like in order to catch its prey it could lie flat on the ground and then wrap itself around prey to catch it. There werenft actually many scenes of animals eating each other in the film though.

 

 

----Are there any other animals that left an impression on you or a personal favorite that you could tell us about sensei?

 

I enjoyed drawing all the animalsf designs and I turned them into something I was pleased with so itfs a bit tough to pick just one. I donft know if you could say itfs a efavoritef but the forest octopus was something I originally planned to use in the comic in the sky island arc.

 

 

----Is that so?! So youfre saying it was originally one of the creatures living above the clouds.

 

I actually used a snake instead of the octopus on sky island though. There are a lot of animals I didnft or couldnft incorporate into the comic that are in the movie. Also, insects, in particular the praying mantis, were the most difficult to draw. Theyfre bugs but I wanted them to have animal-like muscular aspects; so you could say in terms of expressing such things there was a lot of brainstorming needed for adding the details. Youfve also got people who canft psychologically handle bugs so it was necessary to deform them to take away what might unsettle some [people].

 

 

----Youfve named each of the animals yourself sensei. What was your aim in doing so?

 

Even the animals that youfll only see on the very edge of the screen are all living characters on the island. I told that to the production staff and to reinforce that image I named each of them.

 

 

----With names like eItfstha Mammothf* and such one can see that the majority of them are gags.

 

Well, thatfs because personally I think itfs more important that each animal just has a name instead of having some kind of cool well thought out name. I gave them names I felt would easily conjure up an image of them so that it might give them some personality.

 

 

----Since having drawn so many animals for this, do you think it might bring about some changes in the creation of the comic in the future?

 

Thanks to everything itfs even more fun for me to draw animals than before! It was necessary for me to pick out certain animals so there were tons I drew that I wouldnft normally choose to draw. It was an incredibly good learning experience for me. Since it included everything from fish to insects, it was a great chance to relearn how to draw so-called eliving thingsf right down to their skeletal structure, so Ifm really pleased. Ifve gained the ability to smoothly draw most kinds of animals and Ifm not afraid to put them out there anymore so I just might use them more often from now on, if I have a chance to put them in.

 

 

----Thatfs certainly something to look forward to!

 

The movie staff said to me after they saw all the beast prison guards [in the comic], gThe movie inspired you to add more animals didnft it.h, because in the magazine [JUMP] I drew Impel Down after I had finished all the animal drawings. And while that might not entirely be the reason for that, I think having gained techniques that make producing my work more fun is one of the fruits of my labor from the project.

 

 

----In conclusion, please give a few words to those reading this book and those who are eagerly awaiting the filmfs release!

 

I think the timing of this film was impeccable. Of the whole crew only Luffy has appeared in the Weekly JUMP magazine for about a year now. I can almost feel how much One Piecefs fans want to see all nine crew members together! So thatfs why Ifm confident in saying this will truly be an event that fans should eagerly await. With a theme based on eheart pounding excitementf wefve worked really hard on the film, so the same way you read comic, I think youfll be able to jump straight into the film. Furthermore, and this goes for both the comic and animation, this tale is the final adventure of a 17-year old Luffy so burn it into your memory.

 

 

----HUH!? I canft imagine what youfre trying to sayc! Please tell me more!!

 

Nah, canft say anymore than that for now. But while you look forward to whatfs coming down the line Ifd be really happy if you enjoyed this movie one hundred and twenty percent!

 

*A joke name rooted in the Japanese pronunciation of emammothf.