What are your thoughts on this long voyage that has spanned 21 years and over 900 chapters? I’m surprised whenever the recipients of Jump’s Newcomer Manga Awards or the staff at our office tell me, “I was born after One Piece started.” I’m slowly getting used to it, though. Is there a reason why the story keeps chugging along without a moment’s rest? It’s probably because the characters just do as they please… When the series first started, I thought about having the crewmate-gathering process be like a video game where after you defeat a villain, they join your team. But after seriously interacting with other people, I realized that if some kid were to suddenly tell me, “Let’s become pirates!”, I wouldn’t go along with it. Unless he had a compelling story, I would not join his crew. In the beginning, I was planning to have 10 people join the crew within the first year and a half. After 20 years, the story’s at around the 80% mark, yet there are only 9 crewmates thus far. Oda-san, what kind of existence is Luffy to you? Luffy is my ideal child. I wish all children could be like him. He says some inspirational lines from time to time, but in the end, I want him to stay a child forever. There are some parts of him that are still a mystery, even to me. It be problematic if that weren’t the case. If I could understand everything, I’d have no use for any readers. Please tell us who your favorite character is. I like older-sister characters like Ivankov and Bon Clay, who saved Luffy and the others in Impel Down. No matter what they do, there’s an interesting dichotomy between their actions and their appearance, and that makes me want to draw them more. I also adore Buggy, who’s annoying but cunning. I’m grateful that my characters are so popular among females, but at the end of the day, I just want to draw things that young male readers will find cool and interesting. For example, Sanji’s not only cool, he’s also perverted. That’s why I can trust that he’s well-liked among fellow males. The death of Luffy’s brother Ace hit readers hard. I was really worried about this. In order for Luffy to move forward, I needed him to experience a major ordeal. The response I got from readers surpassed my expectations. [Ace’s death] was something that I had to get over, together with Luffy. I mean, if it was all fun and games, the series wouldn’t have lasted this long. Broadly speaking, not many enemies and allies had died up until that point, which made it even more shocking. I don’t want to draw scenes where people die, I just want to draw those post-battle feasts. Because, if someone died, you wouldn’t be able to have a fun feast. Those feasts are my image of the ideal friendship. I want to cap things off with a massive feast at the end. Following Ace’s death, the “3D2Y” message that Luffy sent out marked a big turning point. 17-year-old Luffy didn’t stand a chance of beating powerful enemies like the Yonko. I needed to use a 2-year timeskip to help Luffy and his crew grow by expanding their imagination. I had the reunion take place after only 2 years because I didn’t want Luffy to become too much of an adult. This has to remain a shonen manga, after all. Luffy dreams of becoming the Pirate King, but what does that mean? On one hand, Luffy believes that the Pirate King is “the person who has the most freedom in the world.” On the other hand, Luffy always acts on behalf of others. He thinks it’s cool to help the people in front of him. If he can make other people feel better, he’ll be happy himself. And then, those he helped will return the favor. I believe that this samurai spirit—having a chivalrous heart that beats for others—should be passed down to future generations. That’s why I love old yakuza movies. In fact, I think the most handsome man in the world is Bunta Sugawara-san (the model for Fleet Admiral Akainu). What would you like to tell all the children to help them realize their dreams? My rule is to never put any messages in my manga. But if you feel something from seeing Luffy and his crew, then I want you to react accordingly. Among 100 different people, there should be 100 different reactions.