One Piece Anime Helps Teach Human Rights in High School
posted on by Egan Loo
A teacher in an Osaka high school uses the One Piece anime to explain civil rights in a way that connects with his students. Through the example of the half-reindeer character Chōpper, 46-year-old Akitoshi Maekawa demonstrates that those who have been ostracized by their external appearances can grow up through friends.
Maekawa began using One Piece in his "Global Civil Rights" class at Osaka's Kunijima High School in December of 2010, and his latest class of second-year and third-year students began at the end of January. He first displays the medical quack Hiluluk and Chōpper on his classroom screen.
In Eiichiro Oda's original story, Chōpper was born with a blue nose, and he used to be bullied by other reindeer. He then became half-human by eating a mysterious Hito Hito Fruit, but humans still treated him like a beast and shot him. Hiluluk came to his aid, and the two bonded. Maekawa said, "Chōpper was isolated for a long time, but he's able to become friends with Hiluluk, and so he grows to accept himself little by little."
His students, who had been learning about the South African apartheid and American civil rights movements, were surprised when they first realized the connection with Chōpper's situation. After using Chōpper to explain civil rights issues, Maekawa had his students write about what group of society Chōpper represents in modern society. They noted his similarities with black people who face racial discrimination, people forced into a homeless lifestyle, handicapped people, and victims of bullying.
Based on Oda's manga, the One Piece television anime premiered in Japan in 1999. Funimation is distributing the title in North America.
Image © Eiichiro Oda/Shueisha, Fuji TV, Toei Animation © 2008 One Piece Production Committee