Shueisha (JP)/Madman Entertainment (AU), July 19, 1997-present
Writer: Eiichiro Oda
During the early 2000s, three manga titles were universally regarded as “The Big Three”. These were Eiichiro Oda’s “One Piece” (1997-present), Masashi Kishimoto’s “Naruto” (1999-2014), and Tite Kubo’s “Bleach” (2001-present). The three titles make up a triumvirate of iconic teen action themes – “One Piece” features pirates, “Naruto” features ninjas, and “Bleach” features samurais.
Actual sales rankings paint a different picture from fan perceptions of success. Measured by revenue, “Naruto” and “Bleach” regularly rise, fall, and trade places with other manga titles. “One Piece”, on the other hand, consistently takes the top spot. The title breaks sales and publishing records on a regular basis. Volume 57, in particular, has a print run of three million copies in 2010, making it the highest first print not just for a manga, but for any Japanese book as at time of print.
As at 2015, “One Piece” continued to dominate in terms of manga sales. “Naruto” has ended its run. “Bleach” is struggling to remain in the top five.
What, then, is “One Piece” about and why is it so consistently popular?