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Remembering One Piece

September 9, 2009

One_Piece

Years ago, the fearsome pirate king Gold Roger disappeared, leaving a huge pile of treasure and the famous “One Piece” behind. Whoever claims the “One Piece” will be named the new pirate king. Luffy D. Monkey, a boy who consumed the “Devil’s Fruit”, has it in his head that he’ll follow in the footsteps of his idol, the pirate Shanks, and find the One Piece. It helps, of course, that his body has the properties of rubber and he’s surrounded by a bevy of skilled fighters and thieves to help him along the way.

Considered by some to be the heir to the throne of Dragon Ball in terms of Japanese market penetration, One Piece is certainly a phenomenon. The manga’s print run recently outpaced Dragon Ball and the series, at more than 130 episodes, is still going strong. It’s easy to see why; One Piece follows a very simple and very successful shonen action formula. It worked in the past for Rurouni Kenshin and Dragon Ball and it’s working wonderfully for One Piece. The premise is pretty basic. Luffy D. Monkey, an irrepressible youth, ate the Devil’s Fruit, which gave his body extra-strength elasticity. He’s searching for the One Piece, a legendary treasure that will make him the King of all Pirates and finally allow him to prove himself to his childhood idol, a selfless pirate by the name of Shanks. Along the way, he collects an army of somewhat freakish rogues, including a tough swordfighter named Zoro who fights with a sword in his mouth, and Nami, a spunky thief. Together they have wacky adventures, beat up the bad guys, and collect treasure. It all sounds pretty harmless, right?


One Piece

Well, right, it is. One Piece is completely harmless entertainment. The battles can be surprisingly brutal at times, but overall, this is pure shonen action entertainment. It is entirely unpretentious and knows exactly what it wants to be, and excels at that. That having been said, One Piece is not a particularly deep show, although the characters are well developed. The focus seems to be on the crazy villains and the endless string of fights the main characters go through. Luffy and his crew of misfits go from town to town, saving the repressed masses and eliminating evil pirates who stand between them and the One Piece. In some ways, it’s very reminiscent of Rurouni Kenshin. Kenshin and Luffy are both laid-back badasses with hearts of gold that surround themselves with surprisingly capable outcasts and defeat circus freak-style enemies in episode after episode. If you like that sort of thing, One Piece delivers. If you don’t, One Piece is going to bore the faith out of you.

So, for fans of formulaic action shows, One Piece is a well-animated bit of fluff that sports decent music and some well-done action scenes. Unfortunately, the bizarre character designs are sure to turn a lot of folks off. One Piece is not done in a traditional anime style. It’s very unique and it’s bound to rub some people the wrong way. Otherwise, if you like your anime rife with fight scenes that last several episodes, declaratory statements (“Ore wa Kaizokuo ni naru da!” or “I will become the Pirate King!” is Luffy’s favorite thing to say…), screwball humor and a touch of originality, One Piece will not fail to please.

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