Love it or hate it, there is no disputing the fact that the U.S. market for Japanese manga is at an all time high. In fact, in 2021 alone the twenty most popular graphic novels were all Japanese mangas, beating out their U.S. competition by a longshot.
As someone who for years was staunchly devoted to American comics alone, it’s only in the last year that I accepted a few recommendations from some trusted friends and began to dip my toes in these newfound waters.
The verdict? Yeah, I was dumb and manga is pretty darn great.
Along with a number of different mangas in a wide variety of genres, I’ve also been investing some of my scant free time in watching several related animes. The manga-to-anime pipeline is a well established tradition, and to many fans the two are completely inseparable.
Of all the long running anime and manga series few can even hope to compete with the juggernaut that is One Piece. Created by Eiichiro Oda, One Piece tells the story of Monkey D. Luffy, a young man who sets out with the ambitious dream to become King of the Pirates. Joined by a rag-tag crew of outcasts and misfits (including the character of Roronoa Zora, my favorite) Luffy sets off to find the mysterious treasure known as the One Piece, which only the King of the Pirates can claim.
It’s an epic, swashbuckling adventure on the high seas, and has run for not only over 100 volumes, but well over a thousand episodes of the ongoing tv series, as well as several feature length films. This year, to coincide with the release of the latest feature Red, a film focused on Luffy’s titular hero, the good folks at Tamashii Nations, Bandai Hobby, MegaHouse and Banpresto brought a traveling museum, product showcase, and interactive experience right to the show floor of C2E2.
I met with Justin Cavender, a rep for the tour, and had him show me around everything the tour had to offer. There were copies of the manga for people to read, statues of the character for people to take selfies with, demos of the upcoming video games to play, and even an opportunity to play the upcoming One Piece card game and get a few early bonus packs for playing.
In addition to this, Justin also showed me some exciting new items hitting the shelves soon, including the new Nanoblock figurines, which are a micro building block toy allowing people to build their own versions of several we’ll know comic and video game characters (including a Sonic the Hedgehog figure that my nephew is going to go nuts over.)
They also had info about a classic Japanese tv series that is near and dear to my heart; Kamen Rider, which they’re trying to spread more awareness of. If Power Rangers is your jam, Kamen Rider is definitely something you should check out, and this tour has a lot of great history about the show for people to check out.
C2E2 was the second stop on this tour, which has its third and final stop at the NYC Comic-Con later this year, so if you missed out this time, make sure you make an effort to check it out in New York.
Like I said, I’m still relatively new to a lot of parts of this world, but I grabbed some friends at the con and showed them the items on display and they were all raving about how cool they were. There’s also no doubt that when a major U.S. comic con has more Luffys than Harley Quinns, we’ll, that’s saying something about how this industry is continuing to grow.
A big thank you to Justin and the great people of the One Piece tour. I had a lot of fun seeing all the things you had to offer, and I can’t wait to check out the new video game! Plus, I can’t wait to see how excited my nephew is to build his new Sonic figure.
Today is the last day of C2E2, so I’ll be posting my final thoughts about what has so far been a pretty amazing con. Until then, Stay Safe.