A related Question for Greg:
Oda has, in many interviews and extra material, been up front about how many things in the series were improvised, how his plans have been changed and updated, even explicit statements that he’s not yet sure how he’ll handle certain things. Yet I think its fair to say Oda has a general perception as a meticulous “master planner”, with the “Goda” moniker and all that. Do you have a sense of how Oda views this? Is this “master planner” idea something he, and the general franchise handlers, are aware of and actively leaning into? Or is it more borne out of the fandom?
Note I’m obviously not saying Oda never plans anything or isn’t good at remembering and paying off very old setups, but I often just find theres such a gulf in how he is perceived in comparison to other shonen writers, where theres a more general attitude of “all of this probably wasn’t planned from day 1”
When you get to know how the sausage is made, there are aspects of the GOda image that fade.
The first few years I found myself constantly asking, "Wait...really?"
But while those aspects are revealed in a strikingly more down to earth light, entirely different aspects of his artistic and entertainment genius that you never even considered become apparent. Because he's (mercifully) so far removed from the public, those aspects aren't clear and if you ask the man himself, I'm sure he'd be happy they remain that way.
When Oda makes statements like, "I don't know how Luffy will beat Kaido." Make no mistake, he's being a showman. He's up there with Houdini and Barnum. He's not necessarily blatantly lying, but he's giving you a truth from a certain perspective. I have said this for a long time and people like to brush it off, but to be a great mangaka, you must be a legendary bullshit artist. Everything from depiction, to presentation, to product, the better you can bullshit, the more successful a manga artist you will be. And that's not an insult. Every great tale or joke is based on bullshit:
You're lead to believe something is impossible, but then, somehow, it becomes possible and the person telling you knows it's possible all along.
Simple concept. But the more impossible that 'something' sounds and the better you can explain how that 'something' gets pulled off, the more pleasing a story it is.
Oda doesn't just draw his story that way, everything he does is a calculated performance. I'd clarify that he's not lying. He is often misleading and there's a fine line between that and lying but when he's misleading it's often because he feels that the result will defy expectations or that the misleading itself can temper expectations.
Some of the most openly honest sessions Oda has had are in the 'Manga is a Wonderland' comments that came with some of the manga Logs. The general theme there was Oda revealing instances of serendipity. He was shockingly open there. But there are other aspects of the series' major developments that fans celebrate him for which, surprisingly enough, came as a result of mistakes on Oda's part with resolutions being born from the creative team. To my knowledge, he does not openly discuss those aspects due to what I assume to be a matter of pride (rightfully so) but that might be presumptuous.
So yes, Oda is aware of what the fans think of him (at least in Japan) and he plays that up to help his story and characters shine more brightly. Is he perfect? No. And he's not 'GOda' for the same reasons many people believe him to be. But on a number of different levels, he is a certifiable genius.
I guess one example of 'disappointment' would be hidden messages.
There are hidden messages in the series that I think only a handful of people in the world know about with most of them being in Japan.
The first half of the series is absolutely dripping in them.
I used to think they were all placed there by Oda but when I happily sent him enlarged panels praising him for his cleverness, he responded, "...What is this?" Turns out the majority of those messages were a result of the creative team.
I have explored that aspect of the series publicly....exactly once. I won't say what or where but it is an official outlet (ie. not here) and I wondered if I could sneakily present a behind-the-scenes aspect without trying to be too direct or point towards the mastermind. The result, Oda wasn't happy with the creative team adding certain aspects behind his back and had a long talk with them.
This is one of the many reasons I can't wait for serialization to end bc I can finally talk about all this cool stuff hidden in plain sight but if Oda isn't happy with it (and his unexpected reasons are great ones) then I'm not going to blab about them just because it'll get me some Followers.