Oda's Deep Thoughts
Weekly Shonen JUMP Table of Contents Comments Guide
Every week, the manga artists, authors and editors of Weekly Shonen JUMP are given a small space on the table of contents page located at the back of the volume to express a personal message. They range from trivial lamenting of poor weather to bombshell wedding announcements. Authors may also use this space to promote their work as it exists in other media such as video games, movies etc. When read individually the comments don't usually reveal compelling information, however, when one follows a thread of similar comments over time, as a collective they may reveal telling patterns of how the author works or what challenges he or she faces.
I began collecting Weekly Shonen JUMP when I moved to Japan in July 2006. At the time I didn't read the weekly comments (or 巻末コメント kanmatsu komento) on a weekly basis. Eventually I came to understand how important they are to understanding the process of manga development and started to make a point of reading One Piece author, Eiichiro Oda's weekly comments. Later I discovered that sometimes authors discuss other series via their weekly comments and so I started reading all of the authors' comments to investigate their interactions.
In Fall 2009, I came across a list of the first five years of weekly comments by Oda on the now-defunct One Piece database fansite Destination Paradise. I was startled to find comments that were both thematically and directly linked to comments Oda made years later. This inspired me to compile a translated list of the modern weekly comments so fans could have a clearer picture of Oda and his creation. I also wanted to provide something for fans that had never been successfully carried out, a complete listing of the original release dates of every One Piece chapter. This proved to be the most painstaking and time-consuming aspect of the process for reasons detailed in the guide proper. After much research, I accomplished my goal with some help from One Piece fans Jason Sackel & bandit_legend who helped fill in some blanks.
While pleased with the results, I was still missing the first five years' worth of material. Although the Destination Paradise translations existed, I felt that some translations might have been a little confusing and wanted to personally translate them myself. The problem was finding five years' worth of old JUMPs, but that was remedied when I located the Modern Manga Library in Tokyo. The library isn't much larger than a single room but the privately-owned collection itself is a massive treasure trove of manga and manga-related publications available to the public to peruse for a fee. While it would have been simple to make copies of each table of content page, with the rental of a single volume equivalent to a dollar and a copy being another dollar, with nearly 200 hundred volumes to peruse, economically it was not an option. Sifting through each volume, I transcribed every one of Oda's comments by hand. I also made certain to check for any comments related to Oda or his work by other authors.
It was during this stage of the project that I became aware of the OK! JUMP GUY section of the table of contents. No matter how many hundreds of times I had browsed the pages, I never noticed yet another corner on the very same page reserved for commentary from Shueisha's head editors. I discovered that the editors also commented on One Piece from time to time. This meant going back to square one and rechecking all of the past table of contents for the possibility of One Piece-related editors' comments.
Deep in the development history, I decided to go beyond the challenge of listing dates and also attempt to link threads of commonality between comments obvious to readers. Although I've become intimately familiar with the comments having read them dozens upon dozens of times, I doubt that readers will spend nearly as much time reading them as I did; that's why I took the liberty of creating links between commonly mentioned people, places and other topics. This way you can see how Oda has or has not changed over time without wasting precious time sifting through unrelated material.
While the most difficult part of this project is complete, the guide will remain incomplete until, naturally, One Piece itself comes to completion. To that extent, I intend to keep this guide updated at irregular intervals.