I don’t need to tell anyone that this year has been a grease fire in a dumpster in your basement. It has a lot of us desperate for even an once of serotonin to get through this waking nightmare of doom scrolling, and for me in these final days of December, I have turned to the last of the Big Three manga series: One Piece from Oda Eiichiro.
For the better part of 20 years, I’ve always laughed at One Piece. I thought it was silly and needlessly long and wasn’t into the art style much. I would poke fun at my friends who loved it and always rolled my eyes whenever someone tried to get me to read it or watch it (as of the 20th, there are 998 chapters of the manga and almost 1000 episodes of the anime not including the movies).
Well in this, the year 2020, I have to apologize to every One Piece fan I’ve poked fun at because I have never had so much fun with a shonen manga before.
For anyone unfamiliar with the manga, One Piece is the lengthy adventure of Monkey D. Luffy as he travels far and wide to become King of the Pirates and locate the ever sought after One Piece treasure. Along the way, he builds his crew from other misfits with lofty dreams they have often been ridiculed for and together they all build each other up and remind each other of what’s important: family, friends, and goals that make you happy. Having been in publication since 1997, One Piece is one of the Big Three Shonen Jump titles (the other two often being Naruto and Bleach although some argue for the many variations of Dragon Ball to be included) and the only one to remain incomplete. It’s the fact that it’s so long that has been the main cause of my avoidance of the series – I mean, I stopped reading Naruto around the 350-400 mark and didn’t finish it until the final chapter dropped (700) – but let’s get into my thoughts now that I’ve taken the plunge, shall we?
Right off the bat, One Piece hits you in the feels with the Luffy’s backstory of being an orphan with dreams of the open sea and being a pirate with his father figure, Shanks, who is constantly telling him that he’s too young to come out to sea. Each time a new character is introduced, their backstory and their dreams for the future are all heart-wrenching and tender. The first ten volumes of the manga is a fair amount of setting the stage for everyone’s goal while some big bad pirate thinks they can bully Luffy due to how chaotically stupid he is.
But Luffy isn’t stupid. He cares passionately about people and one only needs to ask for his help for him to be on their side. He is willing to give everyone a chance and understands what it means to have a bad go at things. Luffy is the king of giving people a second chance and he will die defending that second chance. Zolo (or Zoro, depending on the translation) is given a second chance after his murderous reputation as Luffy learns of his goal to be the greatest swordmaster in the world. Usopp is given a second chance after living his life telling nothing but lies when Luffy learns it’s his goal to find his father and be a real pirate. Sanji is given a second chance to find the All Blue – a section of the world where all the seas connect and contains all the kinds of fish a chef could dream of – when Luffy offers him the opportunity to be a chef and travel along. And Nami… *sigh* I can’t talk about Nami’s story in case people want to read this series as blind as I am, but oof, that is a chapter of flashbacks that will make you cry.
The bad guys are also hilarious. I remember Buggy the Clown from when the anime was dubbed into English by 4!Kids and I’ve always hated him, but wow. The variety in the character designs, the power levels that are off the charts while still not being OP, it’s all absolutely incredible. It’s easy to tell why this series has been running so long and remained as popular as it is.
Luffy is such a wholesome, chaotic moron but watch him defend his friends even if they’ve only just met, is so precious. This is a series I never knew I needed in these trying times and I look forward to reading more of it.
I know this “review” didn’t really do much in terms of discussing what actually happened in the first ten volumes, but I highly recommend reading them yourself and I don’t want to risk spoiling any of the best moments. Going forward from here, I’ll be getting more specific, but that will be in the new year.
Until next time, LET’S GO, LUFFY!!!