World Building in Anime & Manga: A One Piece Case Study

What makes worldbuilding so important in Anime and Manga? What sets these two apart as genres from other forms of.


What makes worldbuilding so important in Anime
and Manga? What sets these two apart as genres from other
forms of storytelling is their unique use of visual elements. Compared to a novel, that is purely text-based
and relies completely on describing every bit of context that the author wants to convey
using words, a Manga embeds its dialog and plot into a visual framework for the reader
to see and feel, rather than read and interpret. In essence it allows capturing the most significant
moments of a story, by combining two mediums at the same time: Film and text. Every panel in the story is like a frozen
frame, carefully chosen to catch THE instant carrying the best meaning and emotion for
the reader. In the hands of the right person, this hybrid
form can allow for a unique way of storytelling, combining the advantages of visual and textual
elements. While it gives us the effortless feeling of
watching a scene unfold on screen, it still manages to retain the readers need for interpretation
and in extension also participation in the story. By only showing us a fraction of what is happening,
a moment captured in time, and nothing but plain text for dialogs and description, Manga
leaves a lot more to the reader than a movie would, while still showing a much clearer
picture of the world than any book could do. Anime then of course takes this a step further
and brings that story into the medium of film completely. Being able to witness a story unfold by seeing
the characters actions and emotions with your own eyes can without any doubt be a great
experience. However, as you probably are aware, emotions
and thoughts can be depicted in a non-visual way just as well and in some cases maybe in
even more detail. The true power then of the visual nature of
Anime and Manga lies somewhere else. What really affects its audience the most
and what makes this genre so intriguing for people to follow is the vast and rich story
world it creates. In other words, worldbuilding. I think everyone has made the experience of
becoming obsessed with the world of a story they love. This obsession becomes strikingly clear when
looking at franchises like Game of Thrones, Harry Potter or the Lord of the Rings, where
worldbuilding has been taken to an entirely new level. What makes these vast worlds, with deep-reaching
lore, countless regions and even unique languages so fascinating to us, is our desire loose
ourselves in the stories we love. We are looking for a way to keep the story
going and explore even more of its facets and adventures. However, simply cramming as much detail and
additional information into your storytelling won´t make people fall in love with it. A lesson that many authors and writers have
had to learn before. Great worldbuilding then is a lot more than
simply overloading the audience with heaps of information and impressive visuals. In fact, introducing more and more elements
of a world, that don’t directly influence the story at hand can lead to a rapid drop
in tension in your story line and ultimately result in the audience losing interest. So, what makes a good story world? What sets this world you enjoy losing yourself
in apart from others? In a good story, the world is a representation
of the inner and more personal struggles of the protagonist. It is a physical representation of the most
essential elements of storytelling. Conflict, emotion, symbolism and development. All these things, that drive the plot and
get you involved into the characters and their actions, have to be connected to the world
this story takes place in in some way or form. So, it is important that each new element
of the physical story world has a connection to the events at hand and enrich the context
under which they take place. Once the arena resonates with the plot, the
audience now can start to enrich and expand this world in their own mind, without needing
any specific instructions. Now we actually want to know more about this
universe, that has brought forth and shaped our hero. This way, we assure that the plot and the
characters involved, feel like an organic part of the world they are in. Their struggles and the world´s struggles
now go hand in hand. So how is such a story world created? How does it influence your perception of the
story? And even more specifically why does it make
Manga and Anime so enjoyable to watch? We will now explore these questions using
the example of One Piece. But once you finish this video you will be
able to apply these principals to any other great story you encounter. And no worries, plot wise this case study
will be 100% spoiler free. If you are unfamiliar with the story of One
Piece, it follows the adventures of a young pirate, Monkey D. Luffy and his crew to explore
the world and become the King of the pirates. This may sound weird at first, but the overarching
premise of the story is already deeply connected to the story world it occurs in. Because the world of One Piece IS actually
a world of pirates. The arena for our story is an entire planet,
that is mostly covered by ocean. With the exception of a single slim continent,
that spans around the globe like a wall and is inaccessible to all but a small ruling
class, all inhabitable land exists in the form of islands spread across the world. This ruling class dominates the entire population
of the world. The only exception to this are pirates, who
roam the oceans freely and openly oppose the control and rules set by this world government. The evil rulers live on top of this single
continuous landmass, that separates the world, looking down on the rest of people. A dangerous and wild ocean called the Grand
Line splits the world in the other direction, forming four isolated regions. This world is constructed in a way that keeps
people from moving around and interacting with others. As you can see, the story world already is
a physical representation of the political structures as well as of the resulting injustice
and suppression happening in this world. The only ones that DO move around freely are
those that oppose the regime. And since the world is completely made up
of water and islands, these people are pirates, thus the premise of the plot being a pirate
story. This is the system and environment our hero
lives in. Now take a moment and think about this world. Just by looking at its physical structure
and geography, can you tell what the overarching struggle in the story will be? It´s actually really clear right? Even if you know nothing about the story of
One Piece, you guessed that this will be a story about gaining freedom and changing the
world. To fulfill this goal, our protagonist is sent
on a journey through this arena. And while this world has many different facets,
regions and cultures, the overarching threat posed by the world government does not change,
no matter where you go. So, while it feels like we are changing places
a lot, the overarching arena stays the same. However, this arena will have to change over
time, as the hero changes in it. So, while Luffy is on a journey to become
the pirate king, the freest person in the world, this goal actually also implies destroying
the current system of oppression and changing the world itself. The hero´s struggle is the world´s struggle. By becoming free himself, he frees the world. This is what makes the story feel so organic. The characters we meet are a real part of
this universe and not just a group of people dropped onto a nice-looking stage. So now that we looked at the overall structure
of a story world, let´s get a little bit more into the specific details of worldbuilding. One of the most prominent elements of any
story world is the natural setting that serves as a framework for the plot to take place. Typical examples from nature are the mountains,
the forest or the desert, while there are also man-made spaces like cities or villages. Each of these settings has a unique set of
characteristics and implications for the story, that go far beyond simple geography. To explain this a little more in depth, let´s
look at the two most prominent natural settings in the story of One Piece: The Ocean and the
island. The ocean makes up large parts of the planet
One Piece takes place on. As a stage for our plot, it can once again
be divided into two distinct zones: The surface and the depths. The surface is the ultimate 2-dimensional
landscape. Like a huge chessboard, it is the playing
field for the characters, with islands sprinkled across the map. It is here that the journey between the different
destination takes place and where weather phenomena and other ships are the only other
encounters for the crew. The surface is a representation of the freedom
that the hero is yearning and it´s infinite horizon opens up to an infinite number of
possible destinations. On the other hand, the depths of the ocean
are the ultimate 3-dimensional space. Compared to the freedom of the surface, the
dark and endless waters beneath it are associated with danger and the unknown. It is in this weightless realm, where ancient
worlds lie hidden, terrible monsters lurk and old secrets and treasures wait to be discovered. While the ocean may be by far the biggest
setting in the story world of One Piece, apart from a few exceptions, it is mostly the medium
to travel from one adventure to the next. The real setting, where most of the plot and
screen time takes place are the islands that lie on its surface. Not only do the islands serve as a representation
of the suppression by the world government, they are also perfectly suited for an episodic
story like One Piece. Being completely isolated by the rest of the
world, an island is the perfect premise to explore a distinct social context. Having a small and easily comprehensible culture
and philosophy on every new island is the perfect chance to create individual story
arcs with their own subplot. This makes every island into a unique setting
where new things can be tested, and individual development becomes very pronounced. One way this is often utilized in the context
of Anime and Manga is in the context of training, where one´s abilities can grow and develop
in an isolated place and where development can easily be compared. In the context of One Piece this often takes
place in the form of battle against a villain, that dominates said island. In that sense every island is also a miniature
of the world at large. All of this allows for a very complex and
detail-rich experience, which in turn works perfectly with the visual capabilities of
Anime and Manga. Typically, an island is integrated into the
plot as follows: First, the characters from the world we are familiar with arrive in a
new place with distinct rules and values. Then there is some sort of struggle or challenge
that has to be overcome, usually a villain. Finally, this conflict then has to be solved,
which involves personal growth by the protagonists. This premise allows the author to experiment
with new concepts and ideas. In One Piece in particular, but also in other
stories, these islands often also have different natural settings themselves. Some resemble deserts, others mountains and
again others jungles. Thus, a broad variety of settings can be utilized
and explored while at the same time still following the overall theme of the island. Another important part of physical worldbuilding
is the weather. While at first glance this might not sound
very exciting, weather has a profound and striking influence on the mood and emotion
of a scene. A good writer knows how to use the weather
to make the inner life of a character visible to the audience. Depending on the context, most weather phenomena
can have positive or negative connotations alike. Let´s look at a few examples: Lightning and
thunder can represent passion or terror. Rain can be a sign of coziness or sadness. Wind can be relief and tension alike. The sun can symbolize happiness, but also
a false exterior. And snow can make a scene feel very peaceful,
but it can also signify death. Next time you watch an intense scene, make
sure to pay attention to the weather and see how it used to enhance and intensify the characters
emotions. To round things off, let´s now look at some
other important elements of the story world, that create a more fascinating and organic
experience for the reader. These are elements that aren´t 100% necessary
for a story to be great, but if used correctly can make a huge difference. One of these elements, that is being used
in One Piece is the concept of the vehicle. Luffy and his crew travel on board of a ship,
that brings them from A to B. However, this ship also represents a sort of home for the
protagonists. It is a moving house that gives the audience
a sense of safety and comfort. Once the house is left, a new adventure begins
in the dangerous world outside. This helps us form a sense of continuity by
serving as an anchor point, despite the ever-changing landscape. Another great element to shift the perspective
of the viewer is to play around with size. One Piece is a story that particularly likes
to play with the concept of size in terms of landscape, creatures or architecture. Enormous constructions and beings have a profound
impact on the readers experience. No matter if it´s the gigantic gates of justice,
enormous sea monsters or the size of some of the characters involved. Having them put in contrast with our perception
of normal lets us witness the world, we thought we knew, from a new perspective and allow
for an exciting shift in perception. Then of course there is technology and culture
as a whole. Having a unique set of machines and weapons
as well as distinct religious or cultural concepts integrated into the world in a way
that feels natural, broadens our view of this world immensely. Especially in Anime and Manga, but also in
other fantasy series, this often includes magical powers or other forms of power systems,
that are woven into the world. I the context of One Piece, these are the
concepts of Haki or willpower and the so-called Devil Fruits, that bestow unique powers upon
those that consume them. These systems have to follow distinct rules
that explain, why the world is the world it is and why the characters ended up with the
level of knowledge, power and technology that they have. Last but not least, I want to mention the
use of gateways to other worlds, that can be used to create a harsh cut in between scenes
and locations and throw the hero into unknown territory. In One Piece, this concept is used quite often,
like entering the dangerous grand line through reverse mountain, visiting the fishman island
located at the bottom of the ocean by diving into the depth of the sea or entering the
underwater prison Impel Down, that resembles Dante´s Inferno. All of these elements are important pieces
that help establish a story world that feels organic and structurally consistent. When you look at other stories that you enjoy
you will see these principals reoccurring, as long as the author knows what he is doing. Of course, there are many more elements and
settings to be explored that have different rules and implications. And of course, rules are also meant to be
broken. However, whatever variation is put on a concept
it must still make sense in the context of the story that is being told. Specifically, in Anime and Manga, worldbuilding
is one of the most important pieces. With its often romantic and solemn vibe, bringing
a unique story world to life is in a way the secret ingredient of this genre. This is what makes worldbuilding so important. If you enjoy this kind of video and want to
become part of the channel, consider hitting the subscribe button and leaving a thumbs
up on this video. Also, I want to say thank you to all of you
who have followed and supported my work this past year. You have made my first year on YouTube extremely
special. I wish you happy holidays and great start
into the year 2020! Let´s make it a good one!

29 thoughts on “World Building in Anime & Manga: A One Piece Case Study”

  1. Happy new Year everyone! Let´s kick 2020 off with something new! I´m curious what you think about this video! Also, what are your goals/expectations for this year?

  2. Ohara Nice video to start 2020. This gives me more perspective on how fictional world's build up to a great extention. Can't wait to see more of your videos. 🦅

  3. Damn I'm noticing all OP YouTubers are slightly preparing their fanbases for different content. We really are in the endgame now…

  4. Great video on world building!
    You should also know that an interesting phenomenon in world building is that certain authors would like to the tweak a specific setting to help justify the stories focus on a specific topic. (an Adventure-Friendly World)
    For Example, Kishimoto, the author Naruto, said that the type of technology that exist in the Naruto would depend would it affect the relevance of having Ninjas.
    So essentially, If a piece of technology would get in the way of ninjas doing cool ninja things, it doesn't exist. This is why you don't have motor vehicles (with some exceptions) or telephones, because they would obsolete running through forests and relying on messenger birds.

  5. I love these videos. It makes me enjoy manga and especially One Piece so much more. Happy new year and thank you ^^

  6. The lore of a story always gets me so intrigued and interested, I guess that’s one of the reasons why One Piece is so beautiful…

  7. Dude I don’t know how you don’t have more subs. Your vids are honestly always so good and I can always see the love and work you put into them

  8. What a timing. Few hours ago I've read "The Importance of Paneling in One Piece: Luffy vs Lucci" on The Library Of Ohara by Artur. Now I am watching your video :D. Great Work, I love this one!

  9. Happy New year ohara , I've been following you since you had less than 100 subscribers . I wish that this year your channel touches new heights of success . Keep blowing the one piece fan community away by your breathtaking analysis and Chapter reviews 😄♥️

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *