Celebrity manga artist, Eiichiro Oda pulls out all the stops by holding a One Piece exhibition as part of the celebration for the title’s fifteen-year anniversary. The exhibition takes places in the Mori Arts Center Gallery in Roppongi from March 20 to June 17 — the same location as the Dragon Quest exhibition.
This colourful event was supervised by Oda himself, giving us a personal insight into the magical world he has been creating for the past fifteen years.
Although he is considered one of the busiest men in Japan, he still found the time to draw a special image to serve as the exhibition’s advertisement poster (featured right).
This image of the Straw Hat pirates can be found littered around the streets of Tokyo, giving you no excuse for not turning up.
Upon entering the exhibition, you are greeted by the mast of the Straw Hat’s ship, the Thousand Sunny, along with a 360-degree panoramic view of Tokyo.
From there on lies a linear path directing you throughout the exhibition. The infamous wanted posters plastered all over the brick walls occupied us while we waited to enter the theater room. Specific posters had “Deceased”, “Captured” or “Under Review” printed over the mug shots of the more unfortunate characters. A very nice touch indeed.
Once inside, we were treated to a short movie being projected onto an IMAX-like screen. It showed a first-person view aboard the Thousand Sunny ship and travelled at break-neck speeds through all the locations featured in the story. All images were taken right out of the manga as well being blessed with some clever animation techniques.
We then made our way into the eerie Thriller Bark.
The following room transported us to the Impel Down Prison arc, where we could catch a sneak peek at what the security room looks like. Rows of security monitors were on show — each having a key scene being displayed on them in manga form.
We made our way past Ace’s prison cell as the life-sized statue stared at us in contempt. The gloom of the prison lifted as we stepped outside and onto the battlefield of Marine Fort. Loud sounds of cannons being fired accompanied chaotic images of the ensuing battle.
The frantic battle ended with a short movie depicting the death of Ace, using the same animation style as the previous movie. The inclusion of melancholy music made the whole scene very powerful and moving. In fact, it was so moving that half of the audience members were sniffing and weeping at the tragic event — including the man next to us.
One of the highlights of the exhibition was seeing Eiichiro Oda’s work space in all its glory. All volumes of the manga were lined up in numerical order along with countless, expensive looking pens. The top shelf displayed models of the Straw Hat pirates in animal form, while the left side was reserved for two-hundred colouring pens and a packet of Oda’s favourite cigarettes.
The area suddenly became very crowded – due to the original artwork hanging from the nearby walls – so it took some time to get a good look at all of the intricately detailed artwork. Although we were familiar with all the art on display, we couldn’t help but marvel at the sheer detail and talent that goes into them.
A short documentary was being played across the other end of the room, showing Oda’s step-by-step process for drawing characters. He made several interesting and revealing comments as he effortlessly penciled in the outlines of Luffy and Chopper:
I always used to think that it was impossible to make the colour of the sky even. That’s why you may notice that my earlier works use white skies.
My sole purpose is to make manga fun. The medium will be rendered pointless if I can’t achieve that.
Life-sized statues of the entire Straw Hat crew waited for us in the final room to send us off into the real world. It was astonishing to see just how big Franky and Brooks really are — not to mention Nami’s assets…
A One Piece themed restaurant and souvenir shop lied waiting at the end for anyone with deep pockets. Luckily for us, we got an unexpected freebie that was more impressive than anything money could buy.
One Piece is the most successful and popular manga Japan has ever seen. The exhibition reinforced that fact as well as leaving us with uplifted spirits and anticipation for the next exciting chapter.
If you can’t make it down to see Luffy and his motley crew, then visit the official site and have your own mugshot on a wanted poster.