Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Why I Hate One Piece

(This is Part 2 in a series. For Part 1 )

Honestly, I hate One Piece because everyone else likes it.

You probably think I am exaggerating, and I am a little bit, but only a little bit. The anime and manga are monolithic in popularity One Piece merchandise is not only everywhere and on everything, but it is just about all that you can get. If you like Naruto, Trigun, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Madoka, Cowboy Bebop, Fullmetal Alchemist, Helsing, Fruits Basket, Gurren Lagann, or any of many other anime popular in the United States, many Japanese people have never heard of it. In common Japanese conversation, Gundam, Evangelion, Doraemon, Sazae-san, and One Piece are pretty much your only surefire anime conversation starters. And even with those five, many people will have only heard of it, not watched it. (I am speaking only about T.V. shows in this instance. In movies, Miyazaki Hayao`s films are your best bet.) None of them comes close to the merchandising domination held by One Piece.

"Romanyu" is a store in Kanazawa that specializes in used and new anime accessories, video games, clothes, electronics, and model kits. It is a little slice of nerd heaven. Or it would be, if at least half the anime merchandise weren`t One Piece.

You`re not reading that incorrectly; a complete (used) collection of current One Piece comics will set you back $240.

Of course, if that`s too much, you can buy the manga one tankobon at a time from this massive display (including a video screen playing the anime beneath that flag). This isn`t even the only bookshelf of One Piece manga in the store.

Need even more One Piece swag? You can find it on this giant rondel of figures, mugs, key chains and more. This is also where we find the second screen playing the One Piece anime (this time it`s a clip from the most recent movie on loop).

That rondel is where we find this Luffy crossover merchandise. Luffy is wearing the uniform of the Orix Buffaloes. What does One Piece have to do with baseball? Outside of Pittsburg I can`t find any connections. Yet here the figure is. The Bs are kind of like the Astros of Japanese baseball, which is why no one wants to buy this figure.

If you still haven`t sated your desire for One Piece figures and model kits, you can always peruse one of the numerous glass display cases completely dedicated to the show.

And all of this merchandising is there even before we get to Tony Tony Chopper.I loathe this character more than I can properly express. Chopper is a reindeer who has been given human-like intelligence and the ability to assume a variety of forms because he ate a magic fruit. Most of the time, he stays in his "brain point" form (pictured above). He is the pirate crew`s doctor and generally speaking has a very high voice, lacks confidence, and is pretty cowardly. He basically exists for merchandising. When One Piece began, Chopper was drawn in more of a rough-and-tumble way.However, soon fans began commenting that he was cute, so the artist started drawing him in more of a "" style. Chopper therefore spends most of his time doing relatively little of use, and just being cute.Japan is obsessed with cute. I have already written about . In short, even when it is questionable, pretty much anything that is "cute" will sell in Japan. Thus begins the endless parade of Chopper merchandise.

Remember kids, drink your milk and you too can have a head of equal mass to your body!

Keychains like this one are commonly draped off of cell phones.

Crossover merchandise is very popular in Japan. Like Luffy in his baseball uniform, you can find both Chopper and Hello Kitty dressed up for everything from restaurants to National Historic Sites.

Wouldn`t you like this to stare at your bed every night?

As much as I think One Piece isn`t worth anyone`s time, I do not begrudge people all their useless One Piece stuff (except the Chopper stuff - I begrudge them that). What I truly hate is how One Piece merchandise is sold at the exclusion of everything else. You either like One Piece, or you don`t find merchandise for the anime you like. What`s worse is when this is applied to social tastes in class.

Pencil cases are one of the few non-standardized pieces of school equipment. For many students, their pencil case is their only real outlet for self expression. These pencil cases and other One Piece ones like them are very common in my schools. I do wonder, however, is it good for everyone to express themselves through the same show?

I love to get up in front of a class and say, "I don`t like One Piece." Under normal circumstances, this will draw some shock and horror out of my students. Occasionally (especially in elementary schools, where I have a much higher cache of cool) a brave soul will pipe up "Me too." The other students will then often turn on the offending speaker, their shock and horror now doubled. I often teach classes of 20 to 40 students. The idea that a single group of people that big, drawn together geographically (not by a common interest) would, or even should all like the same thing never crossed my mind. But for my younger students it is a revelation if one of their number doesn`t like One Piece, or a rather courageous step to speak up against that which everyone else likes.

One of my Japanese teachers and I got into a discussion about this, and she told me that having everyone the same was both a cultural aesthetic and part of the Japanese spirit. I think that having everyone different is part of the American spirit, or at least is something the American spirit aspires to. I can`t definitively say one is better than the other. The Japanese certainly have a more peaceful go of things. For one thing, if all the kids like One Piece, they all have something in common to talk about, and it`s not like there aren`t plenty of different characters for them to choose from. It`s also not like we don`t have things that almost everyone likes in the United States. What bothers me about it is that in the U.S. the kid who doesn`t like what everyone else likes at least is told that he is an individual, and so on some level it`s okay to disagree with everyone else. But in Japan, that kid is doubly excluded, because not only do his peers deride him for being different, society at large tells him he is wrong for not liking what everyone else does.
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