Heres a intro to One Piece from my marvellous brother
What I get out of One Piece
When you try to explain to someone – who hasn’t watched One Piece – why you watch One Piece, things don’t go to plan. You explain the perennial chasing of dreams, the pirates versus marines, moral justice versus absolute justice which are all major themes and plots of the series. You explain really the core aspect of the series too: the journey to the end of the grand line in search of One Piece. Needless to say, this doesn’t get the reaction one would hope for. Met with “Uhh, that sounds cool” is perhaps the best I now I hope for.
Being over 625 episodes long at the time of writing, I can understand this attitude. Dedicating over 200 hours to a series is not something to be decided by being convinced in a simple conversation. Hell, if it was that easy we simply wouldn’t get anything done! However, One Piece is a series which deserves that kind of attention. From everyone. Hopefully this entry will help to demonstrate this with better, more articulate language than I could ever convey within the constrictions of a conversation.
First off, let me just say I know bigger One Piece fans than myself. I by no means claim to have the first opinion on all matters One Piece. Having said that, One Piece is without a shadow of a doubt one of, if not the favourite piece of art I’ve ever had the pleasure of indulging in. Yes, art. One Piece as an anime, for me, transcends anime. It is not just a shonen, it is not even just a TV series (and lets just ignore its original form, manga). No, One Piece should be regarded as art, looked on as art and appreciated as art. I’ve watched the entire series twice through, so I hope my opinion is valid in explaining its merits.
The essence of the tale is that a group of ever-growing pirates (the Straw Hats- named after their captain, Luffy) fight the world in all its ways as they aim to fulfil the dreams of each of their crew members. Primarily, this means attaining the One Piece left by Gol. D Roger supposedly left at the end of the grand line decades earlier. In the process, their captain Luffy would realise his dream of becoming “Pirate King”. As ever, there are challenges to be overcome. “One Piece” is this story.
One already apparent theme therefore, is dreams. Yes, it’s a bit cheesy, a bit cliché. But this is One Piece. One Piece makes you forget about what you’re “supposed” to think and encourages you to think for yourself, to do what you want to do, to realise your ambitions and work hard towards your goals. Being a pirate is simply an expression of the search for true freedom. Of course, this goal doesn’t come to fruition for everyone. Every pirate has failed to retrieve the One Piece for the past 22 years. That doesn’t matter. Whether or not you actually reach you goal isn’t the important thing. It’s the willpower to go on that search, the expression of freedom which is so powerfully reminded time and time again in the universe of One Piece. In short, the theme isn’t necessarily dreams, but the journey towards dreams that is ever-present in the series.
Then there is the storytelling itself. It’s not presented in a way normal to series. In fact, I would say it relatively unique in this aspect along with other shows such as Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings and such ilk. The storytelling method here involves seamlessly blending the adventures of the crew with the adventure of the world. The viewer takes in all that the crew takes in, the unknown world of the Grand Line. This is not necessarily unusual in and of itself. Many series do indeed have a stock “new” character who the viewer/reader feels they can see through their eyes. What is unusual is that a greater emphasis is put on the fascinatingly intricate discovery of the world of One Piece, really, than is put on the day-to-day activities of the Straw Hats. Examples include the bewildering geology (Reversal Mountain, for example, has such strong currents that water is pulledup the mountain), the World Government (more on that later), racism, slavery, an underground criminal network, the cultures of each inhabiting island and simply the make-up of the world itself. It’s honestly refreshing, and helps make each unseen episode a truly exciting prospect.
Moving on. While a true “antagonist” of the series is yet to emerge, the overarching enemies are, clearly, the marines. They represent the World Government, an institution founded 700 years ago under shady circumstances who represent over 170 countries worldwide. What’s so strange is that these are the antagonists at all. They are the law, they fight pirates who by and large are antagonists to the inhabitants of the world of One Piece. This is where justice comes in. The marines follow an idea known as Absolute Justice, which holds that “the ends justify the means,” essentially. In reality, this is a rather pragmatic way of doing things which no doubt has its advantages as far as the safety of the world is concerned. Moreover, many of the marines are in fact likeable characters, and are portrayed as such. This is where a grey area kicks in… Moral Justice. This is the code that most (but certainly not all) of the likeable characters in the series follow. This makes sense. Following on from the major theme of the search for freedom, for someone to believe that “ a man should follow his own sense of Justice,” is quite a powerful follow-on idea.
I hope that paragraph in a small sense captures the scale of the problem here. Yeah, sure we want the Straw Hats to win because we know they’re alright. However, every casualty of the World Government is a loss to the protectors of the public. Other pirates certainly do endanger the public, hence the conflict which proves so interesting to watch is born.
If I may enter into fan-boy territory… Eiichiro Oda (the author) is a genius. I already mentioned his storytelling in a small aspect, however there is so much more to it than just that. Oda foreshadows events hundreds of episodes before they occur. Remember, this is one episode a week folks. This means that in certain cases, particularly the Whitebeard War in which it is foreshadowed three hundred and fifty episodes worth of manga material before it occurs, the foreshadow came to fruition many years after being conceived! The imagination, the art itself, and the choreography of the fighting are all unique in a way which is – I’ll say it again- refreshing.
One Piece is an anime which has such depth, such scale and such emotion that it simply should not be ignored by anyone remotely interested in the above characteristic in the search for new universes to experience. If you have read to the end of this entry hopefully you have been convinced of this.
Thats the end of what was written by my brother
How I Watched It
I started watching One Piece about 4 years ago. At first, the art style put me off but fairly soon I got used to it and became completely obsessed, during one summer I remember watching 50 episodes in a day. I finally caught up towards the end of the Whitebeard War Arc. Originally I watched it in dubs until they ran out after Little Garden. Then, after a brief existential crisis, I caved and started watching subs. Now, I avoid dubs like the plague.
Why I Love It
My favorite thing about One Piece is the universe, the sense of location and pace it has. The Strawhats are trying to get from A (The East Blue) to B (Raftle) and the next 600+ episodes are their meandering route in that direction. Not only does this style mean that the Strawhats never stay in one place but it also helps you see how their world fits together. No other anime I know is structured like this.
Of course, I like other aspects as well. Like how One Piece treats subjects like slavery, racism and tyranny, it shows the impacts of these issues from the bottom up, in such a way that you could almost miss how it fits together. For example, Arlong’s relationship with Nami was almost certainly influenced his experiences with Koala (500 episode foreshadowing…only in One Piece).
One Piece’s treatment of government and politics is another fascinating, yet subtle, example of the series’s intelligence. The World Government is clearly hiding demons i.e. the Void Century, and goes about covering up the truth in the same way real world oppressive regimes do by media propaganda and dismissing any opponents as malevolent. At the same time, the World Government is undoubtedly a source of much-needed stability in the world. After all, not all pirates are as nice as the Strawhats
You also have the Marines and Cipher Pol. The Marines are morally ambiguous in the story with people that just want to protect civilians such as Coby and Smoker alongside totalitarian believers in Absolute Justice for whom the end always justifies the means such as Akainu. This conflict between security and morality as well as between the lives of the many and the lives of the few, is something that plays out time and time again in the real world
I’d talk about the way One PIece portrays family but to do I’d have to think about Ace and that’s a painful subject.
What I Don’t Like
HOWEVER, there are somethings that annoy me about One Piece. Namely the silliness sometimes. I hate Franky; he’s annoying, stupid looking (esp. post time-skip) and just not funny.
One Piece also has a tendency to be somewhat sexist.
- Females underrepresented as proper characters. To illustrate what I mean you really have to go by organisation.
- Senior Baroque Works – (5/11) = 45%
- Strawhats – (2/9) = 22%
- Yonkou – (1/5) = 20%
- CP9 – (1/8*) = 13%
- Shichibukai – (1/10**) = 10%
- 11 Supernovas – (1/11) = 9%
- Whitebeard Commanders – (0 or 1****/16) = 6%
- Senior Marines – (3/35***) = 1%
- Gorosei – (0/5) = 0%
- Seriously, with the exception of Baroque Works, those numbers are just pitiful. Other organisations (mainly pirates crews) aren’t normally any better. Oda seems to like dropping in a single female character into each group, this is better than nothing but still a serious gender imbalance
- If there’s a female character, that isn’t old or bizarre-looking like Miss Merry Christmas, then they’re only ever allowed to properly fight other females. In a universe where strength is everything, this is a serious limitation. A female Luffy just couldn’t exist and neither could a “Pirate Queen” who fought her way to her position. This is especially annoying in a universe where everyone has supernatural powers anyway because then you can’t even use the ‘females are physically weaker’ excuse.
- It’s also bizarre that Oda would lampshade this in Tashigi’s character but then never act on it.
- Sexualisation. I get that fan service is a given in anime but its still worth mentioning that every female who isn’t YOD (young, old or deformed) is sexualised. Why do they all have to have super-boobs?
*excluding Spandam, Nero, Funkfreed and Hattori
**All past and present, including Buggy & Blackbeard
***Over Captain level, present and former, it’s even worse when limited to Vice-Admirals and above
****Haruta is androgynous and his/her gender is never clarified. Izo’s a cross-dresser
The increasingly unrealistic art also annoys me. I’ll happily suspend my disbelief from time to time but the Fishman Island Arc just took it too far. It’s just hard to sympathise with a character if they make Spongebob look like an anatomical drawing.
- I’d like the next Strawhat to be female, if possible, and preferably not a sexpot like Nami and Robin.