Welcome! This will be the second post in a series of posts I call “Anime Greats”. There’s a few anime that sit in a weird place in my life; while they’re popular, I’ve met very few fellow fans of the series or none at all. That being said, I’ll do my public duty and give it a bit of exposure.
Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece starts off the way many shonen manga begin these days; a boy named Monkey D. Luffy decides to sail around the world to find the lost treasure of the last Pirate King, Gold Roger, and take the title of Pirate King for himself. The plot quickly thickens as pirates and the government clash in a conflict that threatens to unravel the structure of the world as they know it.
I’ve asked several people about it over the years, and usually one reason comes back as to why they don’t invest time in it; the series length. Honestly, I understand. At 839 chapters and 756 anime episodes (excluding 13 movies) at the time of writing, it’s not for everyone. However, I’d like to make a point as to why it’s such an expansive series. One Piece is supposed to be the adventure to end all adventures. Everything people in the real world have fantasized about is possible in this one voyage. Immensely beautiful women, legendary heroes and villains, long-lost history, the works. This is a tale that can’t possibly be written well in just a few seasons. Naturally, this means that the pacing begins a bit slow. The anime takes about 60 episodes for the crew to enter the Grand Line. By that point, the ambiguity of the Marines’ morals and the pirate crews begins to blur.
On one occasion, I’ve heard someone show distaste for the art style. Again, it’s not for everyone. Personally, it’s a fresh sight in an industry which is overrun by what appears to be the same art repeating itself. One Piece uses a more colorful, traditional cartoon style for most of the characters, while it uses equally beautiful background. Often, even the scenes of traversing the oceans are pleasant to look at. The character designs are mostly drawn to match the theme of exaggeration in the tale. Also,the comic moments (believe me, there’s a ton) have some of the most exaggerated faces I’ve seen in anime.
The concept of justice is prevalent throughout the series. Most marines follow an “Absolute Justice”, meaning that if you break the law, you’re to be punished, no questions asked. Some marines witness the actions of the good pirates and will break protocol in order to allow the pirates to escape. However, some government officials have their own idea of what “justice” is. A more extreme variation is killing the hostages of a criminal in order to take his leverage away from him. In any case, the World Government frequently demonstrates hypocrisy in their pursuit of “Absolute Justice”, such as slavery occurring unchecked despite a 2 millenia ban on the practice. The pirates often operate independently (though alliances are more common in harsher seas), but have characters on the same spectrum. Luffy has repeatedly overthrown villains that threaten the common good and received a bounty on his head for it.
The powers in One Piece are often similar to other series such as JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and Hunter X Hunter. The characters eat an ‘cursed’ fruit called a “Devil Fruit”, which allows them an ability, at the cost of losing their ability to swim. The powers are extremely varied, from developing a rubber body to the ability to become a giraffe half-breed to summoning earthquakes. The abilities aren’t always welcomed in the lore, as they can ruin an individual’s life if the wrong fruit is eaten.
It takes a master storyteller to use the color and lightheartedness of a series such as this and balance it well with an equally serious tone which such an adventure deserves. Eiichiro Oda has perfected this in the almost 20 years that the series has lasted so far. The series is believed to be heading to the end chapters in the coming years, which will likely be a combination of sad, but welcome. The series is like a challenge burger at a diner.. it’s well worth the investment and will offer more than what most people can handle. I’d also recommend enjoying it in pieces, not in a single sitting.. I’m not sure if finishing it will get you anything free, but it’s the journey that counts, not the destination.
On a final note, I cannot find the artist for the picture, but the image suited my needs. If anyone knows, let me know and I’ll give credit where it’s due or remove it.