The strong bond between the "One Piece" characters goes beyond mutual support. Yasuda points to the equity between characters. "(The characters) maintain egalitarian relationships, with different characters taking the leadership role depending on the situation. It's completely different from the Showa-era (1926-1989) image of the authoritarian athletic team leader pushing members to make sacrifices for group success," says Yasuda.
I'm not myself the biggest fan of One Piece -- it's one of those things that where I missed the first bus, so to speak, and getting caught up with it now would be a gigantic investment of my time. I've tried dipping my toe in the water since, but each time I ask myself Do I really want to bother going back and getting caught up with all those previous episodes? And the answer is always No, and that's the end of it. The same thing happens with Bleach, Naruto and maybe even Gintama despite me being a major fan of the comic when that was coming out here.
This "egalitarian" analysis sounds easy on the face of it — meet the new shonen hero, nothing like the old shonen hero — and I wonder how much water it holds on closer inspection. To wit: Nobody is ever going to vote Luffy off the boat, and Naruto is never going to stop being the axis around which much of Naruto's action revolves — because a) those things would go against what they are, and b) they'd produce stories that would be arguably a good deal less exciting than what we're getting now.
That said, I do think the general trend is towards heroes that are still heroic but also clearly part of a larger whole. In something like Fist of the North Star, the whole thing revolved around Kenshiro and who he was punching out this week. In Fullmetal Alchemist, the story is unquestionably Ed & Al's, but they would get nowhere in it without the cast that surrounds them — both good guys and bad, who give them both support and something to push against. It's more mature storytelling, that's for sure.