Q: How exactly did the One Piece get back on Toonami? Did they contact you? Did you contact them? How did it go down? FUNimation: It was a team effort. We have a great relationship with Adult Swim. They were looking for new content to air, we were more than happy to push One Piece as something we know will succeed on Toonami.
Q: One Piece has been on TV twice so far. Do you think the third time is the charm? FUN: Most definitely! Jumping into a series that is well on its way to 600 episodes is a daunting task for anyone. You’re not just asking for views, you’re asking for commitment. I think the long running success of series like Bleach and Naruto have shown that fans are willing to commit as long as the content remains entertaining. And One Piece definitely delivers in that department.
Q: How do you think anime fans have changed since One Piece first aired on TV? FUN: I think most fans have tried to forget the first attempt at putting One Piece on television. We joke about it these days, but it was a simple case of trying to make One Piece something it wasn’t. It was being severely edited and served up to the wrong audience while simultaneously hindering it from being watchable by even the most hardcore fans. That was almost ten years ago. The entire anime industry has drastically changed since then. Fans have so many more options when it comes to what to watch and where to watch it. Because of this, you really have to be confident in what you’re serving up, or else they’ll just go watch something else.
Q: We’re obviously rooting for success here at Shonen Jump HQ, what are your expectations?
FUN: We’re definitely optimistic about One Piece returning to television. Personally, I’ve always been baffled by how it never caught on the way other Shonen Jump shows have, like Dragon Ball Z and Bleach. One Piece is consistently one of the most watched and read series in Japan, and there is a reason for that. It’s good…really good. Our goal is simple, increase the fandom and get One Piece the attention it deserves.
Q: Why do you want to start from episode 207, specifically? FUN: Deciding where to start was a very tricky decision. One Piece is so character driven that you really miss out by not knowing the back story to each Straw Hat. We kept two things in mind when deciding where we needed to start: viewership and fandom. It’s important that we start off on the right foot with One Piece and get a strong number of viewers. If One Piece doesn’t grab the attention with the Toonami audience, then it won’t be on the air long enough to make the impression we want it to make. Episode 207 is a great starting point for many reasons. It is the first episode to be aired in the 16x9 widescreen format. For the modern anime fan, which is used to this being the norm, you circumvent the risk of immediately not appealing to them because the show appears dated. It gives the series the opportunity to stay on track with the steady stream of new English dub releases. If we started from Episode 1, there is a good chance that many of the viewers have already seen these episodes in some shape or form in the past. While the Davy Back Fight Arc is hit-or-miss with some of the more hardcore fans, it provides a hefty amount of set up into Water 7 and Enies Lobby, which is filled with some of the series’ best action sequences, character moments, and offers a hefty dose of backstory for people new to the series. Not to mention, we get Afro Luffy! The second thing we kept in mind was the fandom. How did the existing, hardcore One Piece fans of today come to be? The vast majority of these fans did not start from Episode 1 and just decided to keep watching. Many of them were introduced to One Piece somewhere in the middle, or during a pinnacle Arc. This was enough to get them to fall in love with the series and voluntarily go back and start at the beginning. We’re hoping to keep that trend going, and we make it very easy for new fans that do fall in love to catch up on what they’ve missed.
Q: If people want to catch up on the other 206 episodes, where would you direct them? FUN: For those who want to own One Piece, there is the One Piece Collection series on DVD. Each collection has between 24–28 episodes per release and can be found on Amazon for around $20. If online streaming is your method of choice, we’ve made episodes 1–205 available for free on OnePieceOfficial.com (FUNimation’s official website for One Peiece), FUNimation.com, and on Hulu.
Q: If you were to tell someone who’s never heard of One Piece one thing to make them watch it, what would it be? FUN: You will, without a doubt, find a character that you love! One Piece strikes the perfect balance of introducing a ton of deep, interesting characters while not overwhelming the viewer. Everyone has a favorite.
@Nitro_Cherry: If popularity soars from airing on Toonami, will we get more One Piece merch? Also, how about those collabs with Toriko & DBZ? FUN: The mass popularity of a show unlocks many more doors when it comes to what can be created for a series. More merch is definitely one of them. As for the crossover episodes, there’s always a possibility for those if the demand is high enough.
@Data64Prime: If One Piece is a hit, will FUNimation air the OP movies? FUN: While that decision is ultimately Toonami’s to make, their recent success with airing Evangelion 1.11 proves that there is potential.
@Sidaerdna: Can you ask them not to abridge the theme song when airing it on Toonami. I know Toonami shortens the intros and its annoying. FUN: Shows on television have to be edited for time, so they can fit in their 30-minute block. It’s always better to append the intro/outro than the episode itself.