Did you know that political Twitch streamer Hasan Piker watches One Piece? If you aren’t a regular viewer of Piker’s Twitch or YouTube streams, you may not know that he’s been going through his first One Piece watch. And his takes are impeccable. Piker was recently on the YouTube podcast show Trash Taste, where he gave his “most controversial anime takes,” focusing on the Eiichiro Oda series One Piece and telling weebs that not only is it openly “leftist,” but he thinks that Oda is a comrade. You tell ‘em, king.
“This is going to piss off everybody, but I’m so right about this. Every single arc literally details the leftist politics, which I think Oda is. Oda is 100 percent a leftist,” he said before immediately taking a phone from his pocket. “He has a Che Guevara photo in his studio. I have assets. I can pull it up.”
I don’t know what I expected. As a leftist content creator, Piker often reads receipts for a living, dredging up proof for his sometimes controversial takes with impressive speed. After showing viewers a fuzzy photograph of what is presumably Oda’s office, he details how Oda manages to incorporate socialist politics into multiple story arcs.
“[The arc about the desert kingdom of Alabasta] is about resource deprivation,” he told his YouTube hosts. “[The arc about the sky island] Skypeia is quite literally about indigenous populations being removed from their land and violently trying to find autonomy and emancipation through violent means against someone more powerful than them. That’s like a “Land Back” movement,” he said, referring to a political movement centered on giving Indigenous people more control over their own land.
Piker seemed to get worked up when his hosts brought up that there are many fans who think that the anime doesn’t contain any political statements. “[The pirate captain] Luffy is a terrorist. He is a freedom fighter in the most honorable sense of the word,” he said about the series’ protagonist. “He is fighting against an unjustifiable corrupt military apparatus that is holding the entire world hostage. The world government and the navy. He’s literally killing cops. He’s killing sea cops, and motherfuckers are like, ‘No, that’s not politics’.”
I don’t know why his hosts were laughing, because Piker is absolutely on the money. In fact, I would go even further and say that Oda knows about Karl Marx’s theories of historical materialism, which asserts that history is shaped by economic circumstances, and that contradictory forces will continuously drive society to transform itself. Every One Piece villain eventually falls regardless of the size of their army or the strength of their magic powers—either because the tyrants’ resource extraction is unsustainable or the existing population gets fed up with not being able to control their own livelihoods.
But what makes the stories remarkable is that the protagonist Luffy isn’t the source of all these revolutions—the social tension had always existed. Whether it’s the racial division between the fish-men and the land dwellers or who controls water in the desert kingdom of Alabasta, Oda portrays revolution as a historical inevitability. Shounen anime normally features protagonists who are able to overcome fate. One Piece is unique in that it shows how everyone is beholden to it—and its creator suggests to the audience that that has liberatory potential.
Even the pirates are affected by materialism. The protagonist associates piracy with freedom, but not even the series’ most lawless faction is free of geopolitical forces. When one of the most powerful pirates in the world falls, territories are redrawn in response to the power vacuum. The islands without powerful sponsors are in constant peril. Even our carefree heroes are forced to join alliances and sponsor islands in order to maintain the civilians’ independence. Freedom in One Piece is not an empty ideal, but a question of who has political power and military might.
Piker also said that One Piece’s creator was “clearly anti-racist” and brought up the strength of the Fish-Men Island arc. The show’s host said that every anime had a slavery arc nowadays, to which he rebutted: “Yeah, but this is very specifically getting into the details of how slavery depersonalizes the other person and dehumanizes them in order to self-justify it.”
Maybe it’s a good thing that One Piece is so long, or Oda would be catching shit from filthy casuals who can’t appreciate the depths of its socialist politics. For those who are willing to stick with it long term, it really pays off. Just ask Piker. “I have people in my fan base who don’t know me for politics but just listen to me talk about One Piece,” he said.
As they should.