Before his execution twenty-four years ago, the fabled Pirate King Gol D. Roger revealed the location of the One Piece, a treasure of legends, amassed over generations of sea-travelers. Thus the Era of Dreams begins, a historic age when Pirates traverse the oceans in search of riches, glory, and most importantly, destiny. For some, the One Piece itself is a segment of that purpose, among them a seventeen-year-old boy named Monkey D. Luffy. This highly ambitious youth has had a single dream since early childhood: to form a crew, conquer the Grand Line, and become the next Pirate King!
Have you ever discovered a story so incredible that you unconsciously forced yourself to hate it? Well, that was my experience with One Piece in a nutshell. I still don’t quite understand how I could have possibly accomplished it, but from where I stand today, I still have never been able to fully immerse myself in the plot. I can see how engrossing it is simply by reading the reviews of others, and at times, am almost able to clue into their standpoints. Nevertheless, I cannot possibly bring myself to admit that I enjoyed even the tiniest fraction of the early One Piece episodes. My twin sister on the other hand embraced the series from the moment Luffy was introduced in episode 1, and for the sake of my own sanity, she will provide the some of the necessary insight required to complete this review.
Needless to say, One Piece is an action-packed Shounen adventure, with bright over-the-top characters, constant… stretchy fist-brawls, and plenty of humour. The story was, for lack of a better term, interesting. Never before had I seen an author enter the daring realm of pirates with more enthusiasm. Of course, there were many small changes to the plot deviating from the original manga, but these were easily overlooked as the story progressed. Still, being the insane critic that I am, it wasn’t so simple for me to glance past the series’ altogether random outlook on buccaneer life. I assured myself that this flaw would repair itself if I continued watching; my assumptions were regrettably, wrong. The original story arcs were predictable, repetitive and boring. Truly, it was not until I came across the conclusion of the Enies Lobby Arc that I honestly began to enjoy the plot. For once, tiny elements were beginning to come together like a jigsaw puzzle. Also, I have always been a fan of Tim Burton movies, and the eerie setting of the next arc really fit the mood of Brook's introduction perfectly.
I’ll take a moment here to discuss the setting of One Piece, which was, in my opinion, the best-developed portion of the story. As a viewer, I can say that each different country or island was original in its own way, from the sparking Drum Rockies to the Nightmare Before Christmas-like Thriller Bark. No matter if you loved these scenes or hated them, one really gets a feeling for Oda’s animated world, and begins to feel involved as each new area is introduced. As an author myself, I can’t help but appreciate the level of detail Eichiro Oda included.
According to my own taste in animation, this was most likely the blemish that drew be so far away from One Piece to begin with. One look at Usopp’s nose, or Nami’s figure can cause some anime lovers to run off in the opposite direction without looking back. The character designs definitely take some getting used to. Despite the fact that it remains entirely original, Eichiro Oda’s style can be considered rather odd at times. While some characters appear to be brilliantly crafted, there are others that almost make one contemplate whether or not Oda is a frequent drug abuser. In the end, I came to the conclusion that many of Oda’s characters, similar to Rock Lee of Naruto, where created to illicit such reactions from fans.
Next up: One Piece’s actual animation. Oh Toei studio… I’m sorry you’re so terrible. I’m sorry that you’re shaky at times, and that you use recycled frames over and over again. Your overall gesticulation is pathetic and jerky; it sometimes looks as though your characters have mild epilepsy. I could name dozens of Shounen series that you’ve outright ruined… and now, there’s no going back. One Piece has been infected with your eternal disease. With that said, I’m certain that you can understand to a degree what the animation of One Piece is like.
The music quality of One Piece was all right, especially considering the fact that it wasn’t blessed with a full orchestra. I wish that it were louder, because you can hardly hear it at all behind the character’s voices. Otherwise, not much can be said. The openings and closings are J-pop themes with fast beats and plenty of energy. They suit the series just fine, and I wouldn’t have changed them myself.
The English dub (yes, the Funimation dub and not the dreadful 4kids dub) was very well done, especially considering the fact that Funimation was presented with the job of resurrecting the rotting, decapitated corpse that 4kids left behind. Luffy is of course, voiced by a woman, and Zoro’s voice actor is rather deep and cynical. I have to say that I hated Nami’s dubbed voice, and much preferred her original Japanese seiyu. She was quite whiny and irritating in the Funimation dub, and just like Lenalee of D. Gray-Man, reminded me too much of Haninozuka Mitskuni of Ouran High School Host Club’s English voice.
One Piece’s characters are incredible, less a few poorly developed antagonists such as Don Creed or Captain Kid. I truly enjoyed Chopper and Brook, the reindeer and the musical skeleton. Their characters contain so much flair and originality that it would take a true fool to not adore something about them. Luffy was okay I suppose – he was really just the stereotypical Shounen hero: idealistic and regrettably dim. Thus, it was impossible to hate him, but he didn’t manage to stand out either. One trait that did stray from the typical Shounen protagonist ring was the undeniable fact that Luffy understands situations much more than he shows. He is able to subconsciously manipulate those around him to a degree that even they aren’t completely aware of. This one attribute is the only thing that truly makes him different from character eyesores such as Ichigo or InuYasha.
Other than those three characters, the remainder of the Straw Hat Pirates weren’t particularly noticeable. Their interpersonal interactions were greatly lacking, even up to the point where I am in the manga. I almost felt as though a permanent hiatus was placed up their developments once their arcs finished.
In truth, my opinions in regards to One Piece are both vast and difficult to comprehend. I really can’t say if I hate it or if I love it, because in all honesty the story has yet to conclude itself. Perhaps when the end finally comes around, I will realize that I enjoyed it all along, or else, that I despised it from the very beginning. There are many, many people who adore One Piece, and maybe you’ll end up being in that sub-category instead of in mine. I realize that it is an amazing story with well-developed characters and a complex plot that remains easy to follow. With that said, I conclude my review of Eichiro Oda’s, One Piece.