The excitement never stopped as I walked through the “Hello, ONE PIECE” exhibition, which gathers over 200 illustrations and paintings of this popular manga series.
Supervised by its creator, Eiichiro Oda, the exhibition is actually part of the manga’s 20th-anniversary celebration and is currently on tour around Japan and the world. QooApp is lucky to catch its tail as it sets sail in Shanghai Himalayas Museum until 1st September, before heading to its next stop, Wuhan.
▍Exhibition Celebratory Sketches from Oda
The exhibition starts with a couple of sketches created by Oda, commemorating its trails in China. Oda thoughtfully added Chinese elements in the sketches according to the features of each location. For instance, you can find panda in the Chengdu sketch and hairy crab in the Shanghai sketch.
▍Original Jump Manuscripts
You will then enter the zone of “Hello, Luffy!”, which concludes five keywords (Ambition, Toughless, Awareness, Freedom and Leadership) of this charming protagonist. The iconic dialogue quoted from Luffy also takes you a trip down memory lane by relieving some of the most iconic scenes in the manga.
One Piece fans will be thrilled by the original “Jump” manuscripts, which are previously available only for editing. If you study the manuscripts carefully, you can find the original storyboards that Oda created before transforming them into manga.
This zone also features a giant sized version of the iconic wanted-poster, featuring Luffy and his Straw Hat Crew.
▍Abundant Coloured Illustrations and Oda’s Working Desk
A large number of beautifully coloured illustrations awaits when you enter the zone of “Hello, Colorful World”. As many fans know, the coloured illustrations are drawn as the frontispiece of that episode. Oda insists to depict them as a fun and colourful world that contrasted from the severe battle scenes of the main story.
You would find the Straw Hat Crew members having fun in various settings in the illustrations as Oda brings the birds, trees, flowers, sky, ocean and animals to life with his exceptional depicting skills. You can spend the whole day scrutinising the details in each work
Taking the center of the room is a full-scale reconstruction of Oda’s original studio. All the tools and materials on show were actually used by Oda, and are positioned exactly as they were when he was working with them.
On his desk, you can find the adorable figures which transforms the Straw Hat Pirates as different animals. The idea was indeed used in one of his coloured illustrations.
▍Oda’s Live Painting Video
The exhibition also showcased a video documenting the process of Oda creating the coloured illustration. In the video, he mentioned his interest on using “fun colours” in his paintings.
“Manga should be fun to watch or it would become a pointless media. That’s why I like to apply different colours in my illustration. Also, whether it is a good manga or not really depends on how you bring the characters to life. So I try to create manga by stepping into the shoes of every character. I always ask myself what this particular character will feel when they arrive a completely new environment,” Oda said.
▍One Piece Collaboration Art Project NUE
The exhibition brings a pleasant surprise as it houses the artwork collection of One Piece Art NUE, a project collaborating with Kyoto last year to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the manga.
The project was viewed as an innovative attempt of Oda as the Straw Hat Pirates are featured in folding screens, various sized canvases, hanging scrolls, and flags, while some of the art piece reminds the style of Ukiyo-e (浮世絵) paintings. As the Straw Hat Pirates has entered Wano Kuni in the main story of the manga, the project told a special episode of the country.
The tale starts with a dangerous criminal eating a mysterious fruit on the beach. He then transformed into the mythical creature Nue.
At the same time, Luffy and his crew happens to visit the country as they enjoy themselves in the edo-style street. If you look closer to the scroll, it is not hard to find their traces.
The crew was then entrusted to catch the creature by Prince Lark as it has captured the Daimyo’s daughter Princess Kiku during a wedding with Prince Lark.
Just as Oda’s manga, the story has a twist at the end. I will not be a spoiler here, but you may find some clues in the pictures.
The art collection is really eye-opening and I particularly appreciate the design of Nue. Instead of portraying the creature as an ugly beast like many illustrators will do, It was portrayed with abundance of vivid colours. On the other hand, the raging fire wrapping around his body emphasis his sacred status.
The Ukiyo-e (浮世絵) art painting style undoubtedly gives a new face to the Straw Hat Crew featuring the expressions of kabuki actors. But you can still sense the unique sense of humour of Oda’s work. For instance, one scene depicting the excitement of Luffy, who wants to adapt the mythical creature as his pet, contrasting the beautifully written Japanese poems on the side.
Od also created a coloured illustration to commemorate the last scene of the story, which successful creates a space housing the traditional artwork and modern manga.
▍Photo Corners and Official Shop
You can welcome to take picture with Straw Hat Pirates in the photo corners at the end of the exhibition. Going Merry and Thousand Sunny can also be found in the area!
There is even a VR experiential zone where you can get into Oda-sensei’s mind and see how he views the entire One Piece universe.
Don’t forget to drop by the official One Piece shop which brings a number of limited edition merchandise to you!
The exhibition is extremely nice and again it showcases the reasons why it is still the most popular manga of all time, with over 400 million volumes in circulation worldwide. Oda’s attention to details and persistence to create fun distinctive characters makes it stand out from other manga. The story’s appeal lies in its contradictions: cartoon-like, exaggerated art depicts a complex pirate world with its own myths, rules and multifaceted characters.
The merging of manga elements and Japanese tradition arts in the collaboration art project NUE further demonstrates the unlimited potential of One Piece. As a fan, there is nothing more happier than to see this actually happens.