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Friday, September 11, 2009

Manga of the Week - One Piece

Series summary:
A boy named Monkey D. Luffy, inspired by his childhood friend and hero "Red-Haired" Shanks, sets out on a journey to find the legendary One Piece, to become the new Pirate King, and to make a grand adventure. To accomplish this, he must reach the end of the most deadly and dangerous ocean: The Grand Line.

Luffy captains the Straw Hat Pirates first through the sea of East Blue and then through the Grand Line. He follows the path of the deceased Pirate King, Gold Roger, from island to island on his way to the great treasure One Piece.

During the course of the story, the crew contend with both other less moral pirate crews and the Navy. The latter are the subordinates of the World Government, who apparently seek justice by ending the Golden Age of Pirates. Many background story elements involve the delicate balance of power between the World Government and the world's most powerful pirate crews.

One Piece by Eiichiro Oda

Review by Morghus

I'm a fan of the series, but I need to get this off my chest immediately; the beginning of the manga will most likely be boring. There're quite a lot of people who liked the first 75 chapters of the manga, but in my experience they're surprisingly few. The anime might be a good choice for you.

The first chapter is nice enough, you get to know about Luffy's back story and dreams, as well as a glimpse of Shanks' mighty crew at an early stage. From chapter 2 and onwards it can get boring pretty fast, a major gripe for a lot of people. Perhaps the result of a young mangaka that hasn't found his footing yet. Thankfully the story becomes a lot deeper later. Actually, it will become engaging and, at times, agonizingly realistic, like chapter 502 (extended explanation, long read). You'll notice that One Piece dares to use serious topics like the abuse of humans, wraps them up in cliches and actually makes it work. The world and story of One Piece is a good example of amazing storytelling.

In the beginning you'll probably find the art just as odd and unappealing as I did when I started, but I suspect your opinion will change as time goes. After all these years, Oda's style is hailed as a bit of a revolution due to his combination of a simple style with incredibly complex details, and chances are I'm not the only one who thinks his art is among the best.

The cast of characters never stops growing, and as Luffy adds people to his crew the likelihood of finding a character you love beyond anyone else keeps increasing. The good part is that they're all adorable and unique, like Chopper and Franky. Or loathsome and ruthless, like Enel and Crocodile, who are both fantastic villains.

Fortunately it never seems to fall into the trap where it takes itself too seriously, or use serious moments like a gimmick the way a lot of other shounen mangas do. Characters are often portrayed in an intentionally stupid manner to make us laugh, but so far I have never seen them be portrayed stupidly in a manner that makes you groan inside. To the contrary, it allows us to take them even more seriously when the shit hits the fan.

Overall this manga is amazing. Fantastic and unique artwork that never gets messy, a story and cast that always feels fresh and a world and setting that feels increasingly inventive the further it develops. One Piece continues climbing with increasing sales in Japan, and an increasing following outside of Japan as well. However it's sadly marred by a beginning that can feel unimaginative and boring, and an art that can feel too alien at first, further decreasing the chance of new readers despite the quality of the manga later on.


Storyline - 8/10 (a 10 for the story later on, a 6 for the boring beginning)
Characters - 9/10 (one of the best galleries of characters I've come across)
Artwork - 9/10 (simplistic, detailed, and original, simply superb)
Overall: 9/10

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