One week before Thanksgiving on Nov. 28, readers of The New York Times were greeted by a spiky-haired, wild-eyed manga character named Monkey D. Luffy, his fists clenched and chest bare, charging forward as if the newsprint could barely contain him. Behind him in massive text screamed the words: "Hey world, this is the manga!!" above a smaller query, "Are there real adventures in this country?"
Most NYT readers over the age of 40 probably had no idea who he was or why he was bringing it on. But millions of others do — 345 million worldwide, to be specific, according to Japanese publisher Shueisha, and U.S. distributor Viz Media — making Luffy the wily and mischievous pirate hero of what is now the most popular manga series in the world: Eiichiro Oda's "One Piece."
But it wasn't only English-language readers or Americans who faced Luffy and the "One Piece" clan. The ad also ran in Taiwan's China Daily, and in various permutations in newspapers across Japan, featuring local products, foods and geographical icons.