When we first wrote about the BUSTERCALL One Piece art project we stated that it was an official project due to some evidence that pointed us to that conclusion. At one point before the project was revealed the official One Piece staff Twitter account was basically taken over with graphics and information about the project. Then it launched at the extremely high-profile ComplexCon event in Long Beach, California. Next, they held an exhibition in China, and announced one for Japan. Japan has some pretty strict copyright laws, even when it comes to fanmade media & art, so if it was unofficial that would have been a pretty bold move. The group behind it had also made no real statements regarding the project for months, at least not until an interview with Kai-You that occurred around the time they had to postpone the Japanese gallery opening. It was in this interview that things got confusing.
In the interview the team behind the project had stated they were “unofficial”, stating that they had not received approval but were in contact with Shueisha. They cited a general feeling that the official One Piece merchandise and collaborations that had been coming out were not cool enough, and didn’t represent how great the series actually was. They wanted to raise the bar and show off the brilliance of the series using contemporary artists that would introduce new people to the true coolness of Eiichiro Oda’s masterpiece. This interview definitely made me raise an eyebrow when reading it, but at the same time, it seemed like confirmation enough that our initial assumption was incorrect.
Now, in a letter posted to the official Shonen Jump website today, the One Piece Editorial Department is apologizing for calling the project unofficial. Revealing that it’s been an internal project since the beginning.
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In the letter, they state that the project itself was experimental and that they represented it the way they did because the nature of the project was informal and they didn’t go through the standard approval process for each of the pieces involved. The whole point from their perspective was to break the boundaries of the manga & anime and work with people who would otherwise have been out of their reach using the conventional processes that were the norm. They wanted to change the attitude in which things were typically done and challenge the traditional processes. In the letter, they also mentioned that approval was received before different participants were revealed, and steps toward commercialization were being made.
The reason for the response they’re providing now is because the previously mentioned interview had apparently rubbed a lot of people the wrong way on Japanese Twitter. Fans criticized the “guerilla-like” methods in which everything was being handled and perceived the statements by staff in the interview as being harsh. They clarify in the letter that not all of the artists who were participating in the project had the perspective of criticizing the official art & merchandising activities as was represented in the interview. They also mention that the Kai-You interview in itself was also framed in a way that hid the circumstances that led to its creation in the first place, which was misleading to readers. Going forward the intention is to make sure things are represented in a way that isn’t confusing to fans.
Personally, I was definitely a bit baffled at the announcement of it being unofficial and had my doubts about the truth behind it when in the interview they mentioned being in touch with Shueisha. I think ultimately this just comes down to a massive case of misunderstanding though, as the interview did specifically point out that Oda was not giving his approval for the pieces in the project, something that in any other situation would never happen as he is known to be incredibly protective of the property. At the end of the day, even if they confused fans and alienated some I think everyone will come around on their feels about the project. They’ve amassed some insane talent to be a part of it, and it seems like we haven’t even seen past the tip of the iceberg as to what BUSTERCALL will entail. I can’t wait to see what comes from it in the future, and now that it’s known to be official hopefully they’ll release some prints and other purchasable representations of the project so I can put some of my favorite pieces up around my apartment.