One Piece Retrospective Pt.0: An Introduction Into the Long Running Shonen

When I was around thirteen or fourteen years old, I made a rather interesting discovery. This was around the time when I learned what anime actually was. I, as well as plenty from my generation, probably had no clue that some of the cartoons I was watching at that time were actually anime series. Pokemon. Digimon. Yu-Gi-Oh! It was weird to see my perspective of these series change once I made this magical discovery. But what really solidified this? That’s simple. One of the first series I discovered, occurred on a Saturday morning at my dad’s house one summer day as I didn’t want to go downstairs to say good morning quite yet. I had turned on the TV and saw pirates on the screen… And rather odd ones at that. Thus, my love of One Piece was born, and it has been one that has stuck with me over the course of ten years.

The plan for this retrospective of One Piece is, either monthly or bimonthly (or however Jonathan decides to schedule the articles), I’ll be covering one to two arcs of the series depending on the episode length of each arc. Not only that, but I’ll be looking at the characters and their story lines as this series progresses. However, before I get anywhere near the series, there are a few things I think we need to talk about. Primarily the original author and the rather interesting production history.

Humble Beginnings: Original Author Eiichiro Oda
Eiichiro Oda was born on January 1st, 1975 in the Kumamoto Prefecture of Japan. At a young age, Oda had already decided he wanted to be a manga artist, with Dragon Ball series author Akira Toriyama as his biggest influence. As for his interest in pirates, he recalls that it may have sparked through the popular TV series Vicky the Viking. By the age of seventeen, Oda submitted his work Wanted! and won several awards including eighth place in the coveted Tezuka Award. This managed to get him a job at Weekly Shonen Jump as an assistant to Shinobu Katani’s series Suizan Police Gang. He later moved on to work with Masaya Tokuhiro on Jungle-ing Tar-chan and Mizu no Tomodachi Kappaman, giving him an unexpected influence in his artistic style. By age 19, he began working as an assistant to Nobuhiro Watsuki on Rorouni Kenshin and was even credited by Watsuki for helping create the character of Honjo Kamatari.

Around this same time period, Oda had drawn two pirate themed one shot stories called “Romance Dawn” which were published in late 1996 for a manga artist showcase. This is the first time we see the character of Monkey D. Luffy come to life and, subsequently, these stories also came to be known as the first chapter of the One Piece manga. A year or so later, One Piece began serialization in Weekly Shonen Jump and has since become not only one of the most popular manga in Japan, but the best selling manga series of all time resulting in Oda being named as one of the artists that changed the history of manga. Though, not without some slight changes. In the early stages of the first several chapters: Boogie was changed to Buggy, Zoro went from being one of Buggy’s henchmen to a wandering swordsman and Captain Morgan’s appearance was drastically different then what it was now.

Since One Piece’s initial release, Oda has kept writing the manga week after week only ever taking breaks whenever illness took over. He also wrote the story for the tenth One Piece movie, Strong World for the 10th anniversary of the anime, the first time he wrote a script for any of the One Piece movies. Currently, Oda is married to Chiaki Inaba and has two children.

Anime Production History: The Battle of Censorship

After the odd success of the original "Romance Dawn" short series along with the release and sudden popularity of the original manga, Production I.G. caught wind of everything and approached Oda in order to create an OVA episode, released in July of 1998. As far as I am aware of, this single episode has not been previously released in the West, but it was the door that helped open up the show’s possibilities even more. Following the success of the OVA episode, Toei Animation decided to adapt the original/ongoing manga into a full fledged series. Fast forward to October of 1999 and the premiere of the first episode of One Piece in Japan. Japan’s most popular anime series had finally arrived.

What makes One Piece all the more interesting isn’t the production history of the series when it first began to air, but the production history that occurred after it. In August of 2004, 4Kids Entertainment announced they had acquired the home video rights to One Piece. It premiered on their 4Kids TV Block in September 2004, with Cartoon Network’s Toonami to follow in February 2005 and Toonami UK a couple months after. However, there soon came problems in the release of the series. In April of 2005, it was announced that One Piece along with other 4Kids series would receive an uncut DVD release. However, fast forward to September of the same year and the release of the “English TV Version” of the show, with an employee from the company also stating there would be a second formatted release… That is until North American company Viz Media, the same company that currently licenses the manga series, announced that those uncut DVDs were not happening because the company itself was not involved with the TV series.

Things than took a turn for the worse, because in November of 2005, both One Piece as well as the also popular Mew Mew Power (Tokyo Mew Mew in Japan) suddenly disappeared from their Saturday morning line up. A couple weeks later, it was announced that the series was not cancelled and was expected to return, however with no official date. Shortly before Christmas in 2005, 4Kids announced the series would return after the holiday season…. And then on January 2nd, 2006 it was announced that the series would continue on February 11th. You probably can see where this is going… Finally on March 16th, 2006, 4Kids announced they will only concentrate on producing their own shows with a fall in profit to be suspected as the main cause of this announcement. Finally on December 6th, 2006, it was announced that the company had canceled production of the One Piece dub, with the final episode count at 104 episodes out of the original 143 Japanese episodes. Shortly thereafter, 4Kids dropped the license to One Piece, with FUNimation Entertainment picking up the license in June of 2007. 

Initially, FUNimation picked up the dubbing right where 4Kids left off, the Skypeia Arc, and did follow some of the trends the old dub did have for the sake of continuity. However, they did plan on rereleasing the first 143 episodes in the original Japanese, and in an uncut format along with dubbing it themselves. But probably the most interesting part of all was that the company had wanted to license the series from the very beginning, according to an interview from AnimeOnline with one of FUNi's marketing directors. FUNimation’s dub of One Piece began airing in September of 2007 and was well received thanks to a brand new dub cast. This version also brought back the original background music as well as lighter edits due to it’s time block on Toonami. The series ran until Toonami’s unexpected end in 2009. That is until May of 2013 when Toonami was reborn in North America and added One Piece as one of it’s series, and one that is fully uncut except for the opening and ending themes as well as the next episode previews. Also, with the rise of online streaming, it only became natural for the series to receive online simulcasts, including FUNimation, Hulu (US only), Daisuki, and, more recently, Crunchyroll.

With an aim to market the series to a younger audience, 4Kids took liberties when adapting the series. But with those changes came some rather unhappy people. Because of the violent nature of the series, 4Kids took it upon themselves to take some of those violent things out. Whether it was changing guns into weird weapons, or taking out blood to make it seem less gory, it wasn’t just those small instances that people will most remember. For example, one of the more well known edits in the 4Kids dub was the change of object in Sanji’s possession. In the original Japanese, Sanji is well know as a smoker, however the 4Kids version opted for a lollipop instead. When FUNimation took over the dub for Toonami, for the sake of continuity, it was changed to Sanji having nothing at all. Nowadays, because of the now televised uncut version, FUNimation reverted back to the original cigarette for Sanji. Other changes 4Kids resorted to can include name changes, with Zoro to Zolo and Ace to Trace being the most well known, and the deaths of characters such as Belle Mere were replaced with imprisonment. Here’s the short list of some of the odder, and fairly well known, changes:
    • Marine firearms changed to either squirt guns or just colored green.
    • Dialogue altered for the sake of humor, often pun based.
      • Marines changed to Navy
      • Sanji’s attacks, original French cooking terms, changed to food based puns.
    • Skin color of some characters changed to avoid potential racial insensitivity (see above image of Buggy henchman).
    • Renaming of locations and names of characters.
      • Zoro to Zolo
      • Portgas D. Ace to Portgas D. Trace
      • Edward Newgate to Ward Newgate
      • Captain Smoker to Captain Chaser
      • Cobra to Nebra
      • Lougetown to Rougetown
    • Removal or change of religious references such as Dracule Mihawk’s cross dagger and Miss Merry Christmas’s Christmas tree turned purple and she was renamed Ms. Groundhog’s Day.
    • No death scenes were ever shown, with all blood removed.
    • And of course, the infamous One Piece Rap that replaced the opening theme.

curtesy of YouTuber DragonBlaze67

Despite all the editing 4Kids did, there were some pieces that were not avoided. Most notably, Shanks’s arm and Zeff’s leg being ripped off.

With these changes, you would think that all of that would be the least of the problems. Well, remember that original 143 episode count being converted to 104? In order for the series to reach that amount, much of the story line was cut; something you’ll notice as I recount the episodes in future retrospective articles. However, there are three notable arcs that were either minimized or completely taken out, causing for some rather large plot holes: the Warship Island Arc, the Reverse Mountain Arc, and the Little Garden Arc. For the Warship Island Arc, this created the problem of lack of information as the how to enter the Grand Line causing problems of how one simply cannot just sail into the Grand Line. This was the smallest plot hole issue.

During the Reverse Mountain Arc, 4Kids removed both Laboon and Crocus creating two major problems. First, in the case of Laboon, this would have left Brook with no real reason to join the crew much later on if 4Kids had managed to continue dubbing the series. As for Crocus, the storyline was reworked because he was one who initially told the Straw Hats of the Log Pose and included just that explanation in 4Kids’s version. However, since he is a character of focus during both the Thriller Bark and Sabaody Archipelago Arcs, this would have caused even more problems later on. However, at the time, those story lines had not even been explored or even reached in the original Japanese version.

Out of the three arcs that were heavily altered, Little Garden is the one with the most impact because it was removed in it’s entirety, causing some of the larger plot holes to form. One of those interesting holes comes in the form of Mr. 3. In the 4Kids version, he claims to have been chasing the Straw Hats since Rogue Town, however, in the actual storyline, Baroque Works had no knowledge of the crew until Misty Peak, a short arc prior to both Drum Island and Alabasta. However, prior to his appearance, during Vivi’s explanation of the organization, Mr. 3 and his partner Ms. April Fool’s were included along with clips from said Little Garden Arc, making it seem like the Straw Hats had previously met them when they hadn’t. This would also create problems later on in the Impel Down arc as Luffy would have never met Mr. 3 beforehand, thus he wouldn’t know who he is. Another change thanks to the removal of Little Garden is the removal of Dorry and Brogy which meant another plot hole would have been created when the crew encountered Omio and Kashi. Finally, comes the problem of Nami’s sudden illness during this time. Because Little Garden was removed, this meant a change in how Nami got sick, creating 4Kids’s “Grand Line Fever” as the explanation. This would have been all fine and dandy until the Drum Island Arc and Dr. Kureha contradicting this by asking Nami if she had been walking around on a prehistoric island, aka where the Little Garden Arc takes place.

4Kids version of the Belle Mere and Arlong standoff.
I think you're missing your gun, sir.
One Piece was successful in Japan thanks to a wide audience of children, teens, and adults. Because 4Kids decided to try and market the series solely for the 6-11 age demographic, it caused a major hindrance to it’s success. However, when the series was brought to Toonami, a more 9-14 age demographic, it received higher ratings. This now begged the question of the excessive necessity of censorship. Not only that, but the even broader potential audience through an uncut version of the series was, at the time, heavily ignored. Luckily for all of us Westerners, that problem has been dealt with and in spades. As of writing this article, FUNimation has released 372 episodes on DVD under initial seasonal releases. Along with that, as of 2011, the company has also been rereleasing the series in larger collection formats with collection eleven (episodes 253-275) set for a February 2015 release date.

The Who’s Who of One Piece: Voice Actors Explained!

Throughout this retrospective piece, I will be referring to FUNimation’s English dub because it is the one I know the best and is one I want to keep following throughout my watch of the series. However, later on, there may be a switch to the Japanese language track due to unreleased episodes of the English dub. This little section is just a quick discussion as to the many voice actors who play the Straw Hat Pirates in the series and in both English versions. This includes: Japanese, FUNimation’s English dub, and the 4Kids English dub. As for the remaining characters we will see frequently throughout the series, I will just list the voice actors who play them when talking about them for their first appearance.

So, who exactly is playing who in One Piece?

Monkey D. Luffy
Mayumi Tanaka (J), Bella Hudson (4Kids), Colleen Clinkenbeard (FUNi)

Tanaka has been active in the voice acting world since 1978, with Luffy as one of her most notable roles. Some of her other known roles can include Pazu from Castle in the Sky, Kuririn from Dragon Ball, and Koenma from Yu Yu Hakusho. For Bella Hudson, that is the name that is credited for 4Kids’s version of One Piece, however it is actually Erica Schroedor. For Schroedor, she has taken part in other well know 4Kids properties such as Bridget Verdant in Mew Mew Power, Mai Valentine in Yu-Gi-Oh!, and even took on the role of Yuka for the dub of Midori Days (though this series was never aired on 4Kids for obvious reasons). As for Clinkenbeard, her popularity has soared since her early days in 2004 with roles such as Rachel Moore of Case Closed and Riza Hawkeye in Fullmetal Alchemist. In recent years, along with Luffy, she has also taken on the roles of Hana from Wolf Children, Scanty from Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt, and Erza Scarlet from Fairy Tail.

Roronoa Zoro [Zolo (4Kids)]

 Kazuya Nakai (J), Marc Diraison (4Kids), Christopher Sabat (FUNi)

Nakai is a voice actor who has been active even in recent years. Some of his other well known roles can include Jan Valentine from Hellsing, Mugen in Samurai Champloo, and Domeki from xxxHolic. Marc Diraison has also remained active in recent years with well known roles such as Guts from Berserk, Akihiko Kayaba from Sword Art Online, and Tokiomi Tohsaka from Fate/Zero. As for Sabat, well he’s been around for a very long time and is one of the more well known FUNimation voice actors. With such roles as Alex Louis Armstrong from Fullmetal Alchemist, Giroro from Sgt. Frog, Togane from the recent Psycho-Pass 2, and (his other most popular work) Vegeta and Piccolo from Dragon Ball Z you can kind of see why.


Akemi Okamura (J), Kerry Williams (4Kids), Luci Christian (FUNi)

Okamura has been active in Japan’s voice acting world since 1992, but doesn’t have one of those extensive resumes. Some of her other roles include Great Teacher Onizuka, Mekakucity Actors, and Shakugan no Shana. Kerry Williams is also someone with very small voice acting credits, mostly revolving around other 4Kids properties such as Dinosaur King, Sonic X, and Winx Club. As for Luci Christian, she, like Sabat, has a rather extensive resume of work. From Duck in Princess Tutu to Nessa in Fractale and even Medusa from Soul Eater, Christian has been in everything and anything to some capacity.


Kappei Yamaguchi (J), Jason Griffith (4Kids), Sonny Strait (FUNi)

Yamaguchi has also been active for a decent amount of time and has had his fair share of well known roles. If you’d like some examples, L from DeathNote, Kaito in Magic Kaito 1412, and Teddy from Persona 4 are some solid ones here. Griffith also has decent credits though, once again, mostly of the 4Kids variety including Sonic X, Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, and Zetman. And then there’s Sonny Strait. When he isn’t voicing Dragon Ball Z’s Krillin, he is also seen as Maes Hughes from Fullmetal Alchemist, Kamiya from Yu Yu Hakusho, and even Lupin III in The Woman Called Fujiko Mine. Also, fun fact, did you know that Strait voiced Toonami’s Tom from 1999 to 2000 before it landed in the hands of Steve Blum? The more you know!


Sanji: Hiroaki Hirata (J), David Moo (4Kids), Eric Vale (FUNi)

Now for one of my favorite characters from the series and one I’ve had a crush on since I first started watching the show! Hirata has been active since 1985 and is among the cast’s older members. When he isn’t busy playing Sanji, Hirata has also taken turns as Leomon from Digimon, Mutta from Space Brothers, and Tatsurou Ikeyama from Welcome to Irabu’s Office. David Moo’s portrayal of the same role was one of 4Kids’s most infamous performances thanks to the odd Brooklyn accent the director asked him to bring in. Moo has also had roles in Ichi the Killer; Now and Then, Here and There; and Slayers. As for Eric Vale and the FUNimation dub, thank you for getting rid of that accent as well as being one of those voice actors I can’t help but gush over. If you’re interested in other roles, Vale is most well known for Trunks in Dragon Ball Z, Yuki Sohma from Fruits Basket, and Tamaki from Deadman Wonderland.

Tony Tony Chopper

Ikue Otani (J), Lisa Ortiz (4Kids), Brina Palencia (FUNi)

Next is the adorable little reindeer, Chopper. For Otani, this isn’t the first time she’s played a mascot kind of character as she has also voiced Pikachu from Pokemon. But, if you’re looking for other roles, try Hunter X Hunter and Tokyo Underground. Lisa Ortiz is probably most well known for her role of Lina Inverse in the Slayers franchise, but can also be found in Boogiepop Phantom, Shaman King, and Yu-Gi-Oh! as Joey’s sister Serenity. As for Palencia, she is also one of FUNimation’s well known voice actors with Ciel Phantomhive from Black Butler and Holo from Spice and Wolf as her most well known roles. Palencia has also broken into the live action world with a major role in, the rather short lived, CW series Starcrossed.

Nico Robin

Yuriko Yamaguchi (J), Veronica Taylor (4Kids), Stephanie Young (FUNi)

Yuriko Yamaguchi is also a long time veteran in the Japanese voice acting world with roles such as Naurto’s Orochimaru, Evangelion’s Ritsuko, and Nurse Joy for a part of the Pokemon franchise. Veronica Taylor is also rather well known in the voice acting world with her role as Ash Ketchum from Pokemon. Though she can also be spotted in Irresponsible Captain Tylor and Patlabor. As for Stephanie Young, her experience is also rather expansive including Eden of the East, Soul Eater, and Psycho-Pass.
Kazuki Yao (J), Patrick Seitz (FUNi)

This is where things get a little less stressful because we only have two actors to talk about. First Kazuki Yao is a long time actor in Japan with other roles such as Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple, Mobile Suit Gundam 00, and Gunslinger Girl. As for Patrick Seitz, the actor is one of the few, along with Christian, to have crossed licensing companies and have taken part in numerous dubs. Those dubs include Bleach, Fairy Tail, and Monster where he also directs the dub.


Cho (J), Ian Sinclair (FUNi)

Last, but not least, are the actors behind the character of Brook. First is Cho, or formally known as Yuichi Nagashima. This older actor has been involved in the voice acting world since the early 1980s, and some of his roles include Excel Saga, Inuyasha, and Hidamari Sketch. As for Ian Sinclair, this raising star has become well known in recent years through rather popular FUNimation dubs and roles. Thanks to roles such as Toriko from Toriko, Dandy from Space Dandy, and (one of my personal favorites) Tatsumi from Shiki, it is kinda a no brainer how Sinclair was cast as the skeleton musician as of this past year.

That’s all for the first installment of the One Piece retrospective! Next time, we dive into the series with the first twenty episodes! I hope you’re ready for this fun little project, because I know I am!


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