One Piece Was Supposed To Be Named ‘Forward’, And Luffy Was A Thief, Not A Pirate

One Piece, the manga and anime series that has captivated audiences worldwide for over two decades, almost had a very different beginning. Recent discoveries have shed light on the early stages of creator Eiichiro Oda’s vision, revealing a fascinating alternate universe that could have been.

luffys early design

Before we dive into these revelations, let’s recap the basics for those who might be new to the world of One Piece. The manga, written and illustrated by Eiichiro Oda, began serialization in Shueisha’s Weekly Shōnen Jump magazine on July 22, 1997.

The anime adaptation, produced by Toei Animation, premiered in Japan on October 20, 1999. Since then, both the manga and anime have become global phenomena, with the manga holding the Guinness World Record for “most copies published for the same comic book series by a single author.”

One Piece follows the adventures of Monkey D. Luffy, a young man whose body gained the properties of rubber after eating a Devil Fruit. Luffy and his diverse crew of pirates, known as the Straw Hat Pirates, explore the Grand Line in search of the ultimate treasure known as “One Piece” to become the next Pirate King.

Now, let’s turn back the clock to 1994, about three years before One Piece officially began. An unearthed prototype sketch from this period reveals some surprising differences from the series we know today.

one piece forward sketch

First and foremost, the working title for the series was “Forward,” not “One Piece.” This title hints at a different focus for the story, possibly emphasizing the protagonist’s personal journey more than the grand adventure we’ve come to know.

But the changes don’t stop there. In this early concept, the character who would become Luffy wasn’t a pirate at all – he was a thief. The sketch shows a figure with Luffy’s iconic grin, wearing a bandana with a spiral pattern. This detail is particularly interesting because in Japanese culture, such bandanas often symbolize thieves.

Also Read: One Piece Live Action: Alvida’s Actress Loses Weight Ahead of Season 2

This spiral motif might have evolved into the pattern we see on the Gomu Gomu no Mi (Gum-Gum Fruit) in the final version of One Piece. It’s a prime example of how Oda repurposed elements from his initial concept as the series developed.

The sketch introduces other intriguing elements:

  1. A character named “Rezel” appears, possibly an early version of another crew member.
  2. The rubber abilities are present, with notes about stretching and falling asleep.
  3. There’s mention of a “Rubber (Gomu) Tree Spirit” that’s 5008 years old, which might have been an early concept for explaining the source of rubber powers.

The prototype also includes quotes that reflect themes that would become central to One Piece:

“Anything is better than rock bottom. That’s why I’m so glad. If I hit rock bottom, then that just means I gotta start anew.”

This quote embodies the resilience and optimism that would become hallmarks of Luffy’s character.

“The strongest people are those who can laugh at their own weaknesses.”

This phrase captures a core theme of the series – finding strength in acknowledging and overcoming one’s limitations.

While many elements changed as One Piece evolved from “Forward” to its final form, Oda’s vibrant character designs, themes of personal growth, and unique blend of comedy and adventure were present from the beginning.

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