By Jin Kiyokawa / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterThis year marks the 20th anniversary of the animated TV version of the manga “One Piece.” A new movie in the globally popular franchise has been released this summer to celebrate the occasion.
The setting of the movie, “One Piece Stampede,” is a “pirate expo” that draws together a bevy of colorful characters from the fantastical world.
Eiichiro Oda’s manga “One Piece” has appeared in the Shukan Shonen Jump weekly manga magazine since 1997 and has sold 450 million copies worldwide as of March this year. Its 93rd volume went on sale in Japan in July.
The protagonist, Luffy, is granted the power to stretch his body like rubber after eating a Gum-Gum Devil Fruit. He sets out with his mates on a quest to become king of the pirates. The animated TV version first aired in October 1999 on Fuji TV. “One Piece Stampede” is the 14th movie in the franchise, and Oda has been involved in most movies since “One Piece Film Strong World” in 2009.
The new film starts with Luffy and his fellow Straw Hat Crew receiving an invitation to the pirate expo from Buena Festa, the master of festivals. All the pirates in the fictional world — past characters in the “One Piece” universe as well as newcomers — converge on the expo in search of treasure hidden by King of the Pirates Gol. D. Roger. However, they must endure traps set by the warmongering Buena Festa, as well as the naval squadrons of Smoker and others who are trying to arrest them in one fell swoop.
The movie’s revelry is heightened by actor Yusuke Santamaria, actress Rino Sashihara and comedian Ryota Yamasato, all stars in their own right, who provide the voices to guest characters Buena Festa, Ann and Donald Moderate, respectively. The three recently discussed the film with The Yomiuri Shimbun.
Santamaria: I knew that you liked “One Piece,” Yama-chan (Yamasato). Did you like it, too, Sasshii (Sashihara)?
Sashihara: Of course I liked it!
Yamasato: Right, we’re on the same wavelength then.
Santamaria: I’ve been reading this manga since “Romance Dawn” [a one-off work that became the basis of “One Piece”]. I’ve been buying Shukan Shonen Jump every week since I was like 17.
Santamaria: Convenience store clerks always give me a look like: “You’re buying a Jump magazine? Aren’t you almost 50?”
Yamasato: Well, the “shonen” in Shonen Jump does mean boys, you know. I prefer the animated and standalone comic book versions.
Santamaria: In any case, we all felt a little apprehensive about taking these voice-acting jobs, just because we love the work so much. What’s more, some fans are probably against it because they think us showbiz types are abusing our power. I had to prepare myself for this kind of adversity, but in the end I said yes to the offer.
Yamasato: It made me so happy. I’ve been dreaming about this opportunity for more than 10 years.
Sashihara: I wasn’t sure I was the right person for the job, but then I thought there wasn’t much time for pondering and my only choice was to accept. But I was so nervous.
Santamaria: It’s a kind of nervousness I never felt on other jobs. But you both did just fine. Yama-chan, when you were doing the role of the master of ceremonies, you changed your voice from the one you use when you emcee for real. And Sasshii, you did a lot of creative things, too.
Sashihara: Thank you. I did the movie thinking it would be nice if people thought, “Wow, that was Sashihara,” after watching it.
Yamasato: The director loves this work immensely. He put a tremendous amount of energy into it.
Sashihara: He handed me a piece of paper with the message, “Please get up three hours before [the recording].”
Yamasato: He advised me on how to take care of my throat.
Santamaria: I was always conscious of the need to speak in a loud voice. I explained the story behind the pirate expo in the opening scene, so I had to be clear and easy to understand.
Yamasato: By the time we finished recording my voice was so worn out that if they told me we had to do a few more scenes, I would have had to say no.
Sashihara: I couldn’t stop shaking. I’ve never felt that kind of exhaustion before.
Santamaria: I was almost staggering after finishing all five volumes of the script. Then they said, “Yusuke-san, can we do the first volume over again?” They told me it was because I had mastered my character, Buena Festa, during the second volume. We did a second take but ended up using the first take. Man, I was dead tired after that.
Yamasato: I learned from this work that the best way to depict joy, anger and sadness is to throw everything you have into expressing them.
Santamaria: What I think is great about Mr. Oda is that he never uses needless sentimentality. He doesn’t have his characters going around shedding tears at the drop of a hat just because it’s a boys’ manga. Luffy rarely cries. The manga gets more interesting the older you get.
Sashihara: I read my brother’s copies [of “One Piece”] when I was in elementary school. When I read the manga again after becoming an adult, I felt very differently. I was surprised to find myself crying at different parts of the story.
Santamaria: This movie breaks the rules. Mr. Oda said he wouldn’t have done it this way had it not been for the 20th anniversary. He has gathered all the pirates together for a lavish soiree, so I guess he has more ideas stored in that brain of his.
Yamasato: I received a message from Mr. Oda saying he watched it and found it interesting.
Santamaria: In any case, every scene is a must-see.
Yamasato: You’ll feel like you’re in the spectator seats at the pirate expo, not in a movie theater.