Eiichiro Oda, one of the most influential figures in the world of manga, rose to fame by creating the most iconic shonen adventure of modern times — One Piece. The best-selling manga series in history, One Piece has seen unprecedented success since first beginning serialization in 1997. Over the decades, Oda’s magnum opus has long since transcended the pages of Weekly Shonen Jump, becoming a worldwide phenomenon through anime, video games, light novels, and even a recent Netflix live-action adaptation.
Yet, despite its global reach, One Piece remains the work of a single genius mind — Eiichiro Oda. Outside of being known for one of the best shonen series it has ever seen, Oda possesses many peculiar qualities that have allowed him to make it to the top. A multifaceted, compelling individual with unconventional talents and quirks, Eiichiro Oda is just as interesting as the imaginative worlds he creates.
Manga was truly Eiichiro Oda’s lifelong passion, as he first announced his decision to become a mangaka when he was just 4 years old. In his adolescent mind, creating manga was a favorable alternative to getting a “real job.”
Oda’s breakthrough work was a one-shot titled Wanted! Oda created at 17, which earned him a few awards and secured the aspiring mangaka a place as an assistant in Weekly Shonen Jump, a magazine that would eventually house One Piece. Before committing to One Piece, Oda also published two prototype volumes titled Romance Dawn in 1996, which already featured the future protagonist of his magnum opus, Monkey D. Luffy.
9Oda Eagerly Helps His Hometown
Originally from Kumamoto Prefecture, a beautiful historical site located on the island of Kyushu, Oda feels a deep love and appreciation for his hometown. So, when Kumamoto was struck by two earthquakes in 2016, Oda put his best efforts into reconstructing the city. Oda donated ¥800 million to the Kumamoto Revival Project, with ¥500 million going out in Luffy’s name, which was the Straw Hat’s bounty at the time.
On top of the generous donation, Oda wrote supportive messages, created art for local productions, and encouraged others to help the affected areas. To thank the mangaka for his selfless efforts, the governor of Kumamoto commissioned statues of the Straw Hat Pirates to be built all around the city.
Since Volume 4 of One Piece, Eiichiro Oda has kept up the tradition of answering fans’ questions in an end-of-volume column known as SBS — Shitsumon o Boshu Suru, or “I’m Taking Questions.” Due to Oda’s whimsical nature, the SBS segments vary from serious explanations about the story’s lore and characters to bizarre, unconventional jokes and silly speculations.
And while it’s always exciting to learn more interesting facts about One Piece from the creator directly, the unhinged and humorous answers are the ones fans love the most. From confirming that Sanji spikes Zoro’s food with razors and poison to learning of the unconventional uses of the characters’ Devil Fruits, SBS is worth reading for a good laugh.
One of the most prominent Easter Eggs in One Piece is a peculiar character named Pandaman, a bizarre, enigmatic person with a panda head who frequently appears in the background of the One Piece pages. Originally, Pandaman was submitted by Oda to a Kinnikuman character creation contest, and he even appeared in a chapter of Yudetamago’s manga.
Yet, Oda refused to let his goofy creation go and made Pandaman a prominent figure in One Piece manga, anime, and video games. Spotting Pandaman cameos is a beloved pastime of One Piece fans. Oda encourages their interest in his joke character by occasionally sharing bits and pieces of Pandaman trivia in SBS.
For Eiichiro Oda, the dream many of his fans undoubtedly share actually came true — he got to marry the real-life Nami. Oda and his wife, actress and model Chiaki Inaba, met at Jump Festa 2002, where Inaba played the Straw Hats’ navigator in the One Piece stage show. After two years of dating, the couple married in 2004 and had two daughters together.
As a private person, Oda doesn’t like to share much of his personal life with the public. Yet, it’s known that he and Inaba maintain a loving relationship despite Oda living separately from his family due to the intensity of his work schedule.
All of the manga industry greats have works that initially inspired them to pursue the craft. For Oda, such a series was Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball. Growing up, Oda developed a fascination with Toriyama’s superb art style and even practiced by trying to imitate the legendary mangaka’s drawings. Dragon Ball‘s original run ended just two years before the start of One Piece.
And, while many believe that One Piece took Dragon Ball‘s spot at the top of Jump, Oda claims that no one could even compare to Toriyama’s mastery. After many years of idolizing Toriyama’s work, Oda got to collaborate with his favorite mangaka in 2007 on a crossover one-shot, Cross Epoch. The two creators have worked together on multiple exciting projects since then.
Both in his spare time and parallel to creating manga, Oda enjoys listening to music. His favorite genre is soul music, and he lists the soul legend Brook Benton as his favorite. Oda’s other beloved musician, the American rapper Eminem, even made a roundabout appearance in the manga, inspiring the character design of Enel.
Oda is also a big fan of Bryan Adams and Izumi Kato. Outside of his interest in music, Oda tries to dedicate some of his limited free time to movies, holding an equal appreciation for domestic classics and foreign films.
With over a thousand named characters making an appearance over the course of One Piece, even its creator must struggle to choose a favorite. When it comes to heroes, Oda admits that Luffy is, predictably, his best-loved, although he also has a soft spot for the quirky Gaimon.
However, Oda’s favorite antagonist is much less conventional. In an SBS, Oda stated that Buggy the Star Clown is both his favorite One Piece villain and the Devil Fruit user whose power he’d want most in real life. Oda’s appreciation of Buggy must explain how this low-level pirate managed to accidentally become one of the series’ strongest villains.
Like most mangaka, Oda is painstakingly dedicated to his craft. The manga industry is known for being an excruciatingly onerous work environment; however, according to Oda, he loves his job despite all the challenges and sacrifices. Oda’s typical workday starts at 5 AM and doesn’t end until 2 AM. He rarely sleeps more than four hours a day and works for as long as 20 hours straight.
Days off and holidays are also a rarity in Oda’s life, save for the occasional vacations he takes with his family. Despite his vigorous schedule, Oda somehow remains one of the industry’s most consistent and prolific creators, which is even more commendable considering Oda prefers to do most of the work himself and not rely on assistants.
For many manga creators, the process of writing a series is intuitive and non-structured, as they prefer to go with the flow instead of coming up with every narrative element in advance. While Oda admits to often coming up with characters and story beats on the spot, he puts a lot of emphasis on thorough planning.
On many occasions, Oda assured fans that he already knows how One Piece is going to end and what awaits the Straw Hats at the end of the Grand Line. Such dedication to forethought allowed Oda to create a manga famed for its tight plotlines, incredible payoffs, and stellar long-term storytelling.