One Piece is, as you know quite well, one of the most important titles in the history of manga and anime. And while the pirate setting of Oda’s story is not original, Oda’s twists and turns are, and that is what has made this series so popular around the world. Now, if you’ve seen One Piece, you’ve probably noticed some similarities with real-life pirate stories and that is why we have decided to write this article. In it, we are going to tell you whether One Piece is based on a true story or not.
One Piece is not based on a true story. Oda was a fan of pirate stories and he wanted to write such a story of his own. The story does have a lot of real-life inspirations, especially in terms of characters and their names, but the overall idea is completely original and only draws influence from actual pirate stories, rather than copying them.
The rest of this article is going to tell you more about the history of One Piece, how it was created and what inspired Oda to create certain narrative aspects of the story. One Piece is a truly fascinating world and we wanted to share with you the interesting background story that led to its creation. The article might contain some mild spoilers.
How was One Piece created?
According to an interview with the Shonen Jump USA magazine, Eiichirō Oda attributes his passion for pirates to the anime series Vicky the King he watched as a child. For One Piece, he was inspired, among other things, by the drawing style of the US cartoon series Tom and Jerry, and the manga series Dragon Ball by artist Akira Toriyama, which served as a model for the plot structure.
Working as Nobuhiro Watsuki’s assistant, Eiichiro Oda created his first One Piece project in 1996. From there, two one-shots titled Romance Dawn were released; the title will also be used in the titles of the first chapter and the first volume of the series. These two stories notably feature the character of Luffy, as well as various other elements that will be reused in the series.
The first story was published in August 1996 in a special issue of Weekly Shōnen Jump (it is also included in the One Piece Red volume), and the second in the 41st issue of Shonen Jump, also in 1996 (then reprinted in 1998 with the collection Wanted! by Eiichirō Oda). The author originally planned to draw his manga over five years; he already knew the ending he wanted to write, but the series ultimately turned out to be longer than expected and the original schedules have ended up being obsolete – which Oda does not dislike.
The latter, nevertheless, declared in July 2010 that the end will be whatever happens as he had originally planned, regardless of the number of years necessary to achieve it. In the special fan question section of Volume 54, he also declared that the series is only halfway through and we learned that One Piece would last “another 10 years”.
Given the regular publication of the series, these two pieces of information given by the author correspond to an ending with just over 100 volumes, but that could probably still change. The manga’s narrative structure is organized around narrative cycles called “sagas”, subdivided into narrative arcs called “arcs”.
One of the focal points of the manga is the Devil Fruits. When he has to imagine a new one, Oda thinks about what could fulfill a human desire; he also adds that he prefers not to draw these fruits if it is not necessary (that is to say if they do not play any particular role such as baiting its possessor). As for the names of the attacks, they are only a kind of puns on kanji having several meanings depending on the context.
Those of Luffy, Nami, Sanji, Chopper, Robin, and Franky are also mixed with foreign languages (English, French, Spanish, Italian) and those of Zoro are neither more nor less than jokes: for example, some seem scary at first sight, but strangely relate to food when spoken aloud.
What inspired One Piece?
Although the series is an original story and not a replica of real-life events, some plot elements have been inspired or taken from actual events or other works. For example, Gold Roger’s last words shortly before his execution (“You want my treasure? You can have it! Look for him, I’ve hidden the greatest treasure in the world somewhere.”) are originally from the pirate La Buse. Sanji, for example, is based on Steve Buscemi’s character Mr. Pink from the movie Reservoir Dogs.
In some chapters of the manga and also in some episodes of the anime, the mysterious “Panda Man” appears. Eiichirō Oda almost never mentioned the panda’s presence, but it keeps popping up. Once Oda commented on him. At the time, he claimed that something else was happening to this panda. Oda left open the question of whether “Panda Man” will play a role, become a main character or a supporting character.
Oda has hinted that it’s possible that Panda Man’s inventions could make him a pirate king, although that’s unlikely. According to Eiichirō Oda, “Panda Man” has a bounty of 3,333,333 Berries, is a wrestler, and owes money to someone called the Tomato Gang, which is why he’s seen a lot. His rival is “Unforgivable Mask” who is only known to wear a mask.
Some names in the series come from real pirates who plagued the Caribbean in the 17th and 18th centuries in particular. Three characters in the series refer to the pirate Edward Teach (in the literature he is called both Edward Teach and Edward Thatch), also known as Blackbeard: namely, the pirate Marshall D. Teach aka Blackbeard, and also Edward Newgate aka Whitebeard and Thatch, former commander of the 4th Division of the Whitebeard pirate gang and murdered by Blackbeard.
Zoro’s name Roronoa derives from the French pirate Jean-David Nau, better known under his pseudonym François l’Olonnais (Jap. Furansowa Roronoa). Usoppu, the original Japanese name for Usopp, is derived from the Greek fable writer Aesop. Since Usoppu is made up of the Japanese word for lie (嘘 = uso) and the name of the writer, the sentence “Ore wa Usoppu” can be translated as “I am Usopp” or “I am a liar”.
Miss Doublefinger’s name is a New Year’s allusion: holding up both index fingers (“double finger”) looks like “1 – 1”, meaning January 1st. Some other examples are Eustass “Captain” Kid (Eustache le Moine and William Kidd), X. Drake (Francis Drake), Basil Hawkins (Basil Ringrose and John Hawkins), Capone “Gang” Bege (Al Capone and William Le Sauvage), Trafalgar D. Water Law (Edward Low), Jewelry Bonney (Anne Bonny), Urouge (Aruj “Barbarossa”), Scratchmen Apoo (Chui A-poo), Alvida (Awilda) and Bellamy (Samuel Bellamy).
Pirate Prince Cavendish is descended from Thomas Cavendish. The character of Emporio Ivankov is based on Dr. Frank N. Furter of the Rocky Horror Show and his former seiyū, Norio Imamura. The names of various female secondary characters also have a meaning as bird names in Japanese. The names Kuina (水鶏, kuina, water rail) and Tashigi (田鴫, tashigi, snipe) underline the external similarity of the two characters, but at the same time make it clear that both are fundamentally different.
Other names with a second meaning are Aissa, Hina, Kaya and Nojiko. The names of the Kuja Amazon people on Amazon Lily come from botany, such as B. Rindou (Japanese gentian), Ran (orchid), Marguerite (marguerite), Enishida (sweet clover), and Hancock (firecracker).
The names for the oceans Eastblue, Northblue or Southblue are also derived from English in Japanese manga. Other names borrowed from mythology and literature are, for example, the Greek names of the gods for the three “Ancient Weapons”: Poseidon, Uranus, Pluton. The king of the Fishman Island has the name “Neptune” of the Roman water god.
One of the enemies on Fishman Island, Van der Decken, is nicknamed the Flying Dutchman. Prometheus is a sun awakened by Charlotte Linlin, based on the Titan Prometheus. The Mysterious Triangle bears a certain resemblance to the Bermuda Triangle. The Corrida Coliseum is built like the Coliseum in Rome. But other characters also have role models, but they came from a wide variety of sources, e.g. the boxer Ideo, derived from the anime Densetsu Kyojin Ideon, depicts a childhood memory of Oda – it was the “first plastic model I [Eiichiro Oda] got as a kid”.