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Saturday, October 17, 2009

review: One Piece by Oda Eiichiro

One Piece
by Oda, Eiichiro

One Piece is about pirates. The main character, Luffy D. Monkey, is a young boy who wants to be king of the pirates, driven by the promise he made to his childhood hero. He sets out on a small wooden boat and gathers crew members along the way:
Zoro, a rebellious "demon" pirate hunter who becomes his loyal first mate; Nami, a devious money-loving pirate thief who finds him amusing but is hiding her own secrets; Usopp, a compulsive liar and coward who joins him on a courageous whim; Sanji, a womanizing cook bound by duty to the floating restaurant he serves who follows him in search of the ocean of his dreams
...and many others along the way as the crew of misfits continue on their way in search of "One Piece", the treasure that would make one the Pirate King.
(my summary)

graphic novel ; fantasy { genre
G with very mild violence { rating
weekly serialization { status
Shonen Jump (Japan) August 4, 1997 issue { first released

Why I Read This
I've always been a fan of shounen manga (graphic novels aimed towards males), and One Piece seemed to embody everything I loved about the genre. It has explosions, adventure, battles, but also strong themes of friendship. The characters did not try to "act cool" as a lot of other series tend to have, and there's less unwarranted violence. The characters are also very unique and wacky, fallible in their quirks, and there is no huge romance plot of angst to hinder character growth.

Overall Rating

An epic if not legendary shounen (young men) manga that features an almost stereotypically cast crew of shounen manga heroes, but each with their own unique story to tell.
This is a very addictive series once you get attached to the characters (I didn't get hooked until 3-4 volumes in), but it's definitely worth it to get an exciting new chapter every week where the action never gets dull and the characters never stop charming you.

review posted to, goodreads, Shelfari


One Piece is a fantastical world of wacky characters and wacky creatures. It is fantasy and science fiction mixed with crazy and fun. There's lots of fighting, explosions, and fantastical abilities given by the Devil Fruits (such as having a body of rubber, transforming into an animal, etc.). At the same time, they are balanced out with touching stories of love, friendship and betrayal that reflect the brightest and darkest sides of the human race.
This is a story of adventure and rebellion against the World Government, a totalitarian-like organization of Marine forces that seems to be hiding a vital truth to the world's origins and the execution of Gol D. Roger, the former pirate king.
Oda is an evil genius in weaving together storylines from the beginning of the series into the latest of the 50+ volumes. He foreshadows like no other, and fans are always in for a surprise when new characters from a single panel in volume 2 or something shows up in volume 40. He also uses the "cover pages" for each chapter to illustrate single-panel mini-arcs of stories that show us what past characters are doing that more often than not become a part of the larger plot later on.


The pirates are lead by a simple-minded boy looking for adventure and friends, he doesn't think twice before jumping in the line of fire to defend someone he sees as needing protection (whether it's from a bully or a civil war), and we get to see the small gems that he uncovers in each corner of this amazing world.
Of course, this being a shounen manga means the women have big boobs and tiny waists, and they all eventually need "saving" at some point in time. However, the men need saving just as much. Each character has a dark past to overcome, but they do overcome it with the help of their crew and move on (very little angsting or moping outside their intro arcs).
Each character also has their own major flaws (Zoro gets lots EVERY TIME, Sanji cannot refuse anything a woman says, a coward, and Nami can sometimes be a little too set on the riches) and it plays nicely into getting them in trouble in the most hilarious of ways.
This is a story of "nakama" (friends close enough to be family) amongst the crew of teenagers and young adults united by their mutually big dreams and a need to overcome the tragic pasts they've saved each other from.


One Piece, like many other manga, runs on a special brand of Japanese slap-stick humor (aka "randomness"); Luffy is more than a little dumb in terms of common sense and lives in his own world of values. Each chapter will surely have at least one small panel that will elicit a smile if not full-out laughter.
Oda's stories are also both touching and hilarious, so much that you don't know if you should laugh or cry at any given moment. His characters have distinct voices and their own accents/dialects.
While sometimes One Piece does have the typical dramatic line like "They're here, watch out!", Oda is very careful in crafting his emotional scenes, littering inside-jokes and hidden meanings that fans will delight in recognizing/pointing out.
The art is very stylized (long limbs, skinny bodies, sharp angles), but it is very effective in action scenes and fits in well with the wacky themes. There are few problems with overly improbable proportions (with the exception of the women, but this IS a shonen manga), and the art improves over time though doesn't change too much in terms of style.
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