It’s hard to believe that One Piece, Japan’s best-selling manga series in history, will be celebrating its 18th anniversary this July. With 76 collected volumes of manga, a mega-popular anime television adaptation, an upcoming theme park, and hordes of international fans, the series is stronger than ever after almost two decades.
A recent post by a Japanese internet forum user showed the evolution of series’ creator Eiichiro Oda’s artwork by comparing older pictures of the Straw Hat Pirates with more recent ones side-by-side. While most of the changes are fairly subtle, the slight differences were still enough to spark an online debate about which of the two drawing styles is better. Which is your personal preference?
In this writer’s humble opinion, Oda’s character designs have hardly changed at all (with the exception of Chopper), especially when compared with the drastic stylistic changes of other famous manga artists over time (in particular, I’m thinking of Akira Toriyama’s legendary Dragon Ball, Kosuke Fujishima’s Oh My Goddess!, or even my personal favorite, Rumiko Takahashi’s Inuyasha).
It’s only natural that an established artist’s style will evolve over time in response to personal preference or outside influences. Masashi Kishimoto, author of the recently concluded Naruto manga, has even stated that he adapted his drawing style to more closely resemble that of the anime series once it began airing. Of course, the fans themselves can have differing opinions about whether those changes are for the better or worse.
Take a look at the following comparisons of Oda’s early and more recent One Piece character designs and decide for yourself which style you prefer:
▼Monkey D. Luffy
▼Tony Tony Chopper
▼Nefeltari Vivi & Karoo [Vivi Nefertari & Carue]
Made up your mind yet? See if your opinion matches any of the following comments by Japanese net users:
“Hey, where’s Franky??”
“The ear placement in all of the older ones is no good. Once I realized that, it always bothered me.”
“I never noticed that about the ears. Now I can’t stop laughing!”
“They really haven’t changed that much.”
“Chopper’s gotten much cuter now!”
“I’ll allow the newer Chopper, but as for the rest of them, the old designs were definitely better!”
“The older version of Nami was cuter. Now she’s all boobs.”
“Brook hasn’t changed one bit.”
Assuming that One Piece‘s critical and commercial success will continue well into the future, we’ll have to wait and see if Oda’s artwork goes through even more stylistic changes!