Just when fans thought One Piece creator Eiichiro Oda’s recent manga color spread featuring women from the franchise would put a definitive end to the discourse over Yamato’s gender identity, the oni princess’ newly-cast English voice actor has reignited the conflict.
However, this read of her character ignores the fact that her use of male pronouns is based in both her being forcefully raised as a boy by her abusive father, Emperor Kaido of the Beasts, to fulfill his desire for a son, as well as her wish to follow in the footsteps of her hero Kozuki Oden.
Of course, all dissenters to this ‘transgender Yamato’ head canon are automatically labelled as transphobic bigots.
As noted above, after months of debate among fans, the matter of whether Yamato identifies as a man or a woman was eventually put to rest by series mangaka Eiichiro Oda himself – twice.
The first came in the form of Yamato’s ‘Vivre Card’, an official profile written with approval from Oda, wherein the heroine was specifically labelled as a woman.
The next instance came roughly two years later in 2023 when he included the young warrior in a cover illustration specifically highlighting the series’ female character.
Yet, despite these confirmations from the character’s creator himself, it seems the Western voice acting industry is refusing to accept the reality of the Yamato situation.
Dropping numerous announcements during their annual Industry Panel at this year’s Anime Expo, Crunchyroll revealed that not only would the One Piece anime’s Wano Country Arc soon be receiving an English dub, but that the voice of the Okuchi-no-Manakmi Devil Fruit would be provided by non-binary voice actor Michelle Rojas.
Later taking to Twitter to announce her casting, Rojas reignited the Yamato gender discourse by referring to the character as a transgender man.
“I AM KOZUKI ODEN!!” declared the actor, who goes by she/they pronouns. “Honored to announce I play Yamato in #OnePiece! I am a huge One Piece fan and resonate with this character so much! So excited for everyone to meet him in the dub!!”
For activists, the non-binary voice actor’s overwriting of Oda’s established canon was viewed as a victory against ‘transphobic’ fans.
“When even the dub va of Yamato uses the right pronouns,” @LoonaINK proclaimed. “You transphobes have no excuse now.”
“This is literally the meme of ‘X anime character looks into the camera and calls themselves a He, and transphobes will still deny it’,” @Vin_Rising claimed.
“These comments,” noted @Mhwasahage with disgust. “Like how are you a One Piece fan but transphobic. Y’all are just mad that ur attracted to a trans man. Yall are losing ur goddamn mind over the fact that if u accept that he’s trans that means ur gay. Like u can be attracted to femme presenting trans w/o being gay”.
Accusing fans of being both illiterate and transphobic, @tullavin bleated, “In another installment of One Piece fans can’t read, bigots are debating the voice actor of Yamato that Yamato doesn’t use he/him pronouns…Like y’all can’t actually be reading the same manga as the rest of us.”
“Inb4 ‘Yamato just wants to BE Oden so much they’re willing to change their gender,’ the further dismissed Oda’s own words. “That is the most trans thing I have ever heard. It’s almost like people have role models and experiences that help them realize their transness. Tell me you don’t know trans people w/o telling me.”
Others, like @SoulBois, attempted to fall back on the idea that gender and pronouns are two different things to keep pushing their debunked Yamato theories.
“I love how the simple correct usage ‘him’ is enough to trigger transphobic One Piece fans,” @SoulBois sneered. “Like sorry f*ckers not only are you betraying the values of your fav series you’re also dumb as hell for not knowing pronouns do not equal gender so Yamato being a woman wouldn’t stop us”.
However, refusing to entertain any attempt to make this narrative take root, One Piece fans at large responded to Rojas and her supporters’ mental gymnastics by simply pointing back to Oda’s own words.
“It’s a SHE,” @beltran_edd declared. “This is just getting ridiculous and very desperate coming from the ignorant bafoon taking characters that are not the things they want to for their purpose of ‘representation.'”
“[Yamato] Is a she,” they added. “Oda clearly stated that.”
“If the creator of the property says that a character is one thing in Yamato’s case SHE is FEMALE” @RazeSilva proclaimed. “Stop trying to change properties that’s not yours for some ‘Ally’ points it just make you look like pieces of s–t.”
Attempting to explain just how disrespectful they were being towards a creator they supposedly supported, @Hydro_Ponix told activsts, “Imagine you are the creator of something. You literally founded it. Then an outside group says we are going to change things.”
“And even after you, the creator, comes out and say no, you’re wrong about that,” they continued. “They still insist on being correct. Narcissistic psychopath’s all of them.”
@10mgitzanthony corrected, “‘Her’. Oda has made it very clear on multiple occasions that people clearly ignored so that they could keep their headcanons. I would suggest actually researching your character before playing the part lmao you are very under qualified for the job.”
“There are actually important and well written trans characters in one piece, Oda himself explicitly goes out of his way to confirm them too,” @Slim_DaddE called out the activist’s superficial outrage. “But because Yamato is popular, they ignore all context and canon information that makes it clear she simply isn’t one of them”.
“This just goes to show that even a creator’s word doesn’t mean anything to these people,” acknowledged @liddle_lefty.
“Yet strangely it’s the end of the conversation when it comes to Bridget, despite the creator contradicting himself a lot,” they then noted, drawing a comparison to Guilty Gear creator Daisuke Ishiwatari’s sexuality-swapping of the aforementioned character. “The entire ideology is incoherent and has colonization in its DNA.”
As of writing, neither Rojas, Oda, Toei, Crunchyroll, nor Shueisha have offered a public comment on this reignited discourse.