Do you like One Piece?
I don`t. In fact, I hate One Piece.
One Piece is a manga (comic) and a subsequent anime (cartoon) by Eiichiro Oda. It began its run in 1997, and is still going strong today. Like most manga, it is serialized weekly, then collected into volumes which are published in their own right. The manga tells the story of Monkey D. Luffy and his crew, the "Mugiwara Pirates." They live on a world that is primarily covered with oceans and is infested with pirates. Everyone is out searching for the "one piece," the hidden treasure of the now-executed Pirate King. Whoever finds it can claim the title and, of course, become fabulously wealthy. Along the way, Luffy assembles his crew, clashes with other pirates, the lawkeeping yet often corrupt Marines, and the many strange sentient creatures that lurk both on islands and beneath the waves.
Sounds like a pretty cool story, right? Unfortunately, One Piece falls prey to some of the traditional traps of Shonen or "boys" manga, and is, in my opinion, devestatingly boring.
First of all, the manga is insanely long, soon to be over 70 full volumes. To put that in perspective, my favorite manga, Rurouni Kenshin, is 258 chapters long, filling 28 volumes. Fullmetal Alchemist, another extremely good manga is 108 (much longer) chapters, and 27 volumes long. Small wonder, of course, as One Piece has been running for almost 16 years now. Once a series in Japan reaches sufficient popularity, the author (and their publisher) don`t want the story to stop, because fans will keep reading it and buying it as long as it is running. Naturally, this leads them to drag things out. Anyone out there remember the duels in Yu-Gi-Oh? It`s like that, but instead of it taking three episodes for someone to spring a trap card, it takes three chapters for the characters to unveil new secret abilites. Characters repeat themselves, especially about their motivations (more on that later), and "emotional" moments are hammered into the ground to fill up more pages. The anime is even more offensive, as it is now over 600 episodes long. Cowboy Bebop needed only 26 episodes to do far more.In short:the series draaaags.
Second, the aesthetics are all wrong. I`m cheating a little bit here, because the picture I`ve provided above is a one-off from the artist imagining his characters in a mecha(ish) genre. But I think this drawing is indicative of the generally ludicrous style that pervades the comic, with anthropomorphic animals, sentient machinery, and cyborgs being commonplace. I mean, just look at some of the main characters:
Luffy is the main character, and his design is one of the few that I think actually works in a pirate setting. I present it primarily to contrast with a member of his crew, Franky.
Yep, you`re seeing that right, that dude as extendable chains in his forearms. But wait, after he spends some time training (and under the knife) it gets even better.
Look, I love pirates and tend to be a bit of a historical setting purist, but even I can admit that an artist can take license with what his pirates look like. But this is ridiculous. So ridiculous in fact that I find it jarring, distracting, and detracting from the already perilously mediocre story. And that`s before we get to the treatment of the female characters:
Nami (above) and Nico Robin (right) are both members of the crew. Well, they and their boobs are. Oda very selectively applies his anatomical inaccuracies to basically every single female character of any importance whatsoever in the manga. Some of the female characters do some very cool things, some are pretty kickass, and they often outsmart male characters, but I think their constant oversexualization is nevertheless off-putting.
This picture shows the entire crew along with their "flag." I`m not going to go through my problems with every single character, but don`t worry, Tony Tony Chopper (the reindeer in the blue and pink hat) is going to get plenty of hate in Part 2 of this series. Also, do take note of what is featured about all three of the girls in their cutaways.
Third, the plot is inane and the villains are (you guessed it) surreal to the point of being nonsensical. Like many manga, One Piece has a rather simplistic quest premise. On the bright side, at least they`re only looking for the one treasure, not crystal shards, but the steps to finding it still provide the side quests that stretch the series out. The overabundance of rival pirate crews and the everpresent Marines allow Oda to tap into the "villain of the week" format of many serialized stories. The only problem here is, in One Piece that tends to be the villain of the 2 to 4 weeks. This also gets quite repetitious, as every villain simply has to know why Luffy fights so hard and wants to be the King of Pirates. We simply don`t need to hear Luffy declare his unending devotion to his achieving his dreams in every single chapter. It`s lazy, space-filling writing and bad storytelling.
THE PROBLEM IS THAT ALMOST EVERYONE IN JAPAN LOVES ONE PIECE.
That dear friends is where I will conclude Part 1. Stay tuned for Part 2 soon!