A limited one-volume edition of the long-running manga series One Piece has been described as the longest book in existence.
At 21,450 pages, it’s physically impossible to read, making it less of a book and more of a sculpture.
Priced at €1,900 (£1,640), the book is not attributed to Eiichiro Oda, the writer and artist behind One Piece, which has been published in Japanese magazine Shōnen Jump every week since 1997. It is sold instead as a work by Ilan Manuche, The multidisciplinary artist who designed the limited volume titled ONEPIECE.
Manouach printed the Japanese digital version of One Piece and stitched it together, treating the comic book not as a book but as “sculptural material,” according to the book/artwork French publisher JBE.
A JBE spokesperson told the Guardian that ONEPIECE is an “unreadable figurine in the form of a book – the largest to date in page numbers and spine width – that exemplifies the online comics publishing ecosystem.” Regardless of its rating, there certainly appears to be a market for ONEPIECE – the limited edition of 50 copies sold out within days of its September 7 release.
Manwash’s article came about due to the “abundance of content available online and the rampant digitization of the comics industry” that “challenges the latest in the comics industry,” according to his publisher. “ONEPIECE by Ilan Manouach proposes shifting understanding of digital comics from a qualitative examination of the formal possibilities of digital comics to a quantitative reassessment of ‘comics as big data’.”
JBE also described comics as “dual objects”, which have “use value” for readers and “exchange value” for collectors. When creating a book you can’t read, Manwash apparently wanted to highlight the way comics exist as a commodity and as literature. It’s a theory that the comics industry itself has already embraced – one company, CGCoffers a service where it grades customers’ comics and wraps them in protective plastic.
When asked if Eiichiro Oda was involved or consulted on the creation of ONEPIECE, and if there were any copyright considerations, a JBE spokesperson said: “This article is about Manouach’s work on comics ecosystems, here as a sculptor who uses online publishing as the source material Not reading copyrighted content. The publisher believes that there can be no copyright infringement, because it is virtually impossible to read the book.
Keita Murano, a member of the international human rights team at Shueisha, the Japanese publisher of Oda manga, confirmed that his company had not been consulted about the JBE book. He said: The product you mentioned is unofficial. We do not give them permission. The licensee in France that publishes One Piece is the publisher Glénat.
Eiichiro Oda may not receive any royalties from publishing ONEPIECE, but his comedy series has already made him the richest manga maker ever, with an estimated fortune of around $200 million. The original One Piece manga is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as having the most copies published for the same comic book series by a single author, with over 416 million copies in print to date.
Selling an ONEPIECE sculpture isn’t the first time the art world has made a lot of money from the world of comics – pop artist Roy Lichtenstein has built his career, with his massive paintings copied directly from existing comics: Whaam! (1963), lifted from a panel in DC’s All-American Men of War from the previous year, while Sleeping Girl—recently sold for $44.8 million 10 years ago—was based on an illustration from another DC comic, in Issue 105 of girls romance.