Zoro Statue Completes Touching Life-Sized Tribute to One Piece Creator

Eiichiro Oda, the creator of the global hit manga series One Piece, is not only one of the most successful mangaka of the past two decades, he is also an incredible human being. After a big earthquake hit the Kumamoto prefecture in Japan, his birthplace, Oda made two sizeable donations (under the name Monkey D. Luffy) to help with the reconstruction. The Kumamoto government decided to thank him in the most amazing way, building a series of One Piece statues that was recently completed with the one representing Zoro, the Pirate Hunter.

Japan is infamous as a very seismic active area, having the densest seismic network in the world. In April 2016, a 7.3 scale earthquake hit the middle area of the Kyushu island, the southernmost of the four major islands that compose the Japanese archipelago. The Kumamoto prefecture was at the epicenter, suffering extensive damage: 50 people were killed, more than 3,000 killed, and more than 44,000 had to be evacuated. The estimated cost of damage ranged between 5.5 and 7.5 billion US dollars. Luckily, Kumamoto is also the birthplace of Eiichiro Oda, the creator of One Piece, the best-selling manga series of all time, with a ground-breaking record of 470 million copies sold as of 2020.

Related: My Hero Academia and One Piece Creators Reveal Their Music Inspirations

Oda moved to Tokyo when he was 19 years old, to start working as an assistant for several senior mangaka publishing on Weekly Shonen Jump. However, he maintains strong ties with his birthplace, and that's where his wife, former actress and model Chiaki Inaba, and their two daughters, reside. The two donations he made to help with Kumamoto's reconstruction are the biggest proof of that: respectively 300 and 500 million yen, or 6.9 million US dollars. While Oda is one of the richest mangaka in the world, earning as much as 26 million US dollars per year (according to a Nippon TV show), this takes nothing away from the display of generosity and compassion shown by One Piece's creator. In fact, the way that Kumamoto prefecture decided to thank Oda ended up being both a treat to One Piece fans and a further way to help the damaged region in recovering from the earthquake's damage. The local government commissioned a series of bronze statues depicting Luffy and the other Straw Hat Pirates, to be positioned in places that had been particularly damaged by the earthquake.

The first statue, Luffy, was unveiled in 2018, in front of the Kumamoto prefecture government building. In 2019, the first two Mugiwara followed, Sanji and Usopp, placed respectively in the town of Mashiki and in front of Aso train station. In 2020, more followed: TonyTony Chopper, in the Kumamoto botanical gardens; "Soul King" Brook, in the town of Mifune; Cyborg Franky, in the Takamori station. Oda even wrote and drew a story, in which the Mugiwara crew lands in Kumamoto and helps the inhabitants with the reconstruction. These initiatives proved really helpful for local tourism, as One Piece fans flocked to the locations to admire the statues, earning the Kumamoto prefecture an estimated 2.6 billion yen (22.5 million in US dollars). After the statues of Nami and Robin were unveiled in 2021, the only member of the Straw Hats missing was Zoro, and he finally received his own homage on 22 January 2022. The Straw Hat pirate crew is now complete, with the only exception of Jinbe, who joined them in the manga only in April 2020.

The practical help provided by Eiichiro Oda to his birthplace in a time of need is obviously incredible, but the initiative taken by the Kumamoto prefecture to thank the mangaka also speaks to how much value a work of fiction can have in the real world. One Piece is a beloved manga in Japan and throughout the world, and the values of courage, resilience, and camaraderie portrayed by Luffy and his crew were surely a great help to uplift the spirits of the Kumamoto people after a disaster.

Next: One Piece's Mysterious New Devil Fruit - Theories Explained

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