One Piece review
Usually, I don’t review anything that is still ongoing and that I haven’t dropped after a considerable number of episodes/chapters. After 857 chapters of One Piece however, I feel like I have formed a viable opinion. Also, I don’t know if I’m gonna live long enough to see the end.
One Piece follows the story of Monkey D. Luffy on his way to become the pirate king (whatever that title implies), making friends and foes along the way as his crew grows in numbers, strength and notoriety. There is one thing that sets this manga apart from most other shounen titles however, and that’s the creativity
of Eiichiro Oda. He knows exactly whether the story needs more drama right now or more comedy and the plot unfolds bit by bit, but only as much as necessary to keep interest. I mean, after 20 years we still have no idea what One Piece, the will of D or the lost history are, but we learned about other things along the way. But still, that would not be enough for most people, so why does One Piece not get boring? Well, one major factor is that “Oda never forgets”. Remember that little comment from a character 12 years ago? That’s an important plot point now. That new character? First mentioned in 2000. Hey, isn’t that the one guy they beat up in chapter 319? He happens to be an important person on the island they just arrived on. A heavy continuity in a long running series usually alienates potential new readers, but here the lore is never too deep for newcomers so that they would feel left out. Another big plus is the setting. The crew travels from one island to the next, not knowing a thing about the different locations of the world (except maybe for Robin). Therefore, we get to see all kinds of different themes on the visited islands. From prehistoric settings to Egyptian deserts to islands in the sky or underwater, there is always something fresh, a new climate and a new culture, a friendly or hostile environment, you never know. Sure, you will hear people say “One Piece jumped the shark with the XYZ arc”, but that’s normal for a manga this long. People either complain about how it changed or that it’s repetitive, you’ll never make everybody happy.
Except for the Simpsons, I think we can all agree that they have sucked for at least 10 years now.
Back in 1997, One Piece looked unique. To some, it looked ugly, so it had a bit of trouble picking up readers. But all it took was a little time to get used to it. Still, Oda’s artstyle isn’t the best around, neither 20 years ago nor today. That’s not saying it looks like shit, not at all, but it seems as if he has trouble drawing a normal human being. He makes up for that with crazy character designs that only got more crazy as time went on. A big point of criticism in recent years have been the female bodies. Realistic females have never been a staple of anime or manga, but in One Piece they not only look unhealthy, but rather impossible. Their breasts are twice the size of their heads while their waists are merely as wide as a thumb. That goes beyond sexy and into uncanny valley territory. In total, Oda has good ideas but occasionally trouble to put it on paper.
At this point I would take a look at all characters that are somewhat important or worth mentioning individually, but if I did that for One Piece, I would need to write a goddamn book. With a series this long that tells a tale of traveling, naturally the character count will be in the multiple hundreds. And here’s the thing: Almost all of them are memorable and unique. While the story in itself may not be all that special for many, you will have a hard time arguing against the fact that the cast of One Piece is simply amazing. Not only do they all have their own distinct design (though females are starting to look more and more the same, sadly) but they also all get a different personality. After all, the fun thing about travelling is meeting many interesting people and that is what the Straw Hats are doing. Characters that are a bit more important to the story usually get plausible motivations, and even though their backstories aren’t all deep stuff, it’s more than enough for a story of this kind. Also, as I mentioned earlier, Oda never forgets. Sometimes, you meet people more than once and the same happens in One Piece. Sometimes they used to be important but aren’t anymore, at times unimportant side characters get a major role, other times they are just as dangerous or useless as they’ve been the last time. In total, the characters embody the fun the story wants to spread among its readers and they stand as one of the best casts of a shounen manga that ever existed.
What can I say that I haven’t already? One Piece is fun. It’s exciting at times, but always hilarious and it owns the shounen genre like no other work managed to do since. In terms of quality (and length) it has surpassed its spiritual predecessor Dragonball, so if you are a fan of that and somehow haven’t checked out One Piece yet, you totally should. While some weaker phases are inevitable, the weak parts of it are still far superior to those of works like Naruto or Bleach. Long story short, One Piece is a MUST for shounen lovers, but also worth at least checking out for anybody else.