A post in the Epic Journey.
One Piece is a series that is epic to the point of pretty much being legendary. It is still going strong after 400 episodes and the manga artist, Eiichiro Oda, says it’s only a little over halfway done. Aside from sheer length, One Piece is an epic adventure series that seeks to cover it’s whole world and bring to life an eccentric cast of characters both in teaching us all about them and letting us see them continue out on their journey. It’s the kind of series that could go on forever; and most likely will. 400 episodes (54 volumes of manga) may sound like a lot, but it’s only been around for 12 years – much less time than similarly long running and influential manga series like Berserk have gone on while producing less content. Truly, this is destined to be an immense series – which is exactly why I’ve had such a rough time getting into it.
I’ve been familiar with One Piece for about 6 years now. I started reading it with it’s publication in the U.S. version of Shounen Jump, and I even purchased the first 2 tankouban at the time, though I eventually handed them down to my younger brother (similar to how I gave him 2 vols of Yu Yu Hakusho, a volume of Yugioh, and sold all 12 of my Naruto volumes, lol). I enjoyed the series, but it was never really a favorite, and when that fucking 4Kids dub came out, I think everyone just kind of wanted to distance themselves from the series. I still love that awesomely bad opening song though XD (I think they canceled the dub when they couldn’t think of how to add more names to the opening song lol)
Well anyway, I caught a decent number of those 4kids episodes and plenty of bits and pieces on TV . This tends to happen naturally when most of the TVs in your house are playing Cartoon Network most of the time, and I also learned stuff about the show since my brother ended up seeing a lot of it thanks to him ritualistically watching TV when he goes to bed at 10, where it happened to come on for a while. So from that, I at least knew the basic story and characters that would show up through the early parts of the show (about 100 eps apparently lol.)
Well, later on, as I got into anime blogs and stuff, I started to notice that the One Piece fanbase isn’t quite the same as, say, the Naruto and Bleach fanbase. There are plenty of serious otaku and knowledgeable fans who obsess over One Piece as well. People like Nomadotto of Drastic My Anime Blog started to convince me that maybe I needed to give One Piece another look. This was really exemplified when I became friends with No Name who is a HUGE One Piece fan. Over the course of the show’s run, he’s started again from the beginning plenty of times and watches religiously – he’s more than likely seen over 1000 episodes worth of One Piece. I decided to give the show a try sometime last summer, but I already knew there’d be one really big issue – the length.
I’ve still yet to see more than 60 episodes of any one show in the time since I’ve become an otaku. Back in the day, it wouldn’t have been a problem, when I watched tons of shounen and little else, but these days I just have some kind of mental block that prevents me from watching long series. There are a number I really want to see – Card Captors Sakura, Monster, Legend of Galactic Heroes – but the sheer length keeps me at bay. One Piece was bound to be the same, and as such I only managed to watch 8 episodes of it last summer, bringing me right to the end of the Buggy Arc. However, that was enough to fully restore interest.
For starters, the Japanese op is fucking awesome and is done by one of the members of JAM Project. I was lucky to have done my 8-ep watching only weeks before last year’s otakon where they performed the song – a truly epic experience because pretty much the whole audience knew the lyrics.
Aside from that, what instantly drew me to the series was Luffy himself. Luffy is exactly who I want to be, and do mostly consider myself. He has big dreams, steel determination, and utter confidence. He pushes ahead full force and takes shit from absolutely no one, and once he’s set his sights on something, he doesn’t let go. Each of his crewmates was practically captured by him and he will go to any lengths to keep them happy and remaining on his crew. He puts himself squarely in people’s business, and makes sure they know that they are members of HIS crew, first and foremost. In my opinion, he is the perfect leader, and exactly the kind of hero a person like me needs, haha.
Later that year, No Name also got me to watch the 6th One Piece movie, Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island, which was absolutely fucking excellent. It was directed by Mamoru Hosada (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time) and one of the key animators was Hiroyuki Fucking Imaishi (directed Gurren Lagann, animation in all GAINAX shows) [it even had the guy who did the music for G Gundam!] After this movie, I pretty much started considering myself a One Piece fan, even though I’d seen so little of the series. You may have even noticed that Luffy is one of my site banners (though that’s also because No Name assured me that he says ‘FUZAKENNA!’ at several points in the series.)
Well, it’s pretty much always been one of No Name’s goals to get me to watch One Piece, preferably with him in a marathon. Over the course of the past few months, I’ve made a few attempts to possibly break my 60-episode barrier by starting on longer shows, but it never worked. Now that I’m out of school, though, and bored most of the time, I figured it was finally time we got started.
We set out with a few things in mind – firstly, that we were going to skip any of the unimportant or boring arcs. This will likely include most of the filler and some fast-forwarding in the episodes where stalling really gets out of hand. Secondly, that this will be a very long journey, and we will likely watch arcs in concentrated bursts and then break for a little bit. Under this visage, we actually skipped almost all of the Kuro arc (eps 10-17) because that was some of the most boring, poorly animated shit I have ever seen. Seeing as how I’d actually read this whole part in the manga, I didn’t consider it much of a loss.
So, first we have the Baratie arc (20-30), which introduces the most badass motherfucker around, Sanji. Sanji has all the best elements of a badass – firstly, he is a cook. I’ve always loved characters with big appetites (like Luffy) because I consider eating one of the better things in life, and the only thing more badass than someone who loves to eat is the guy who makes the food, especially if he’s really passionate about it (this is why I watch so many Gordon Ramsay shows. Sanji is like the anime version of Gordon Ramsay.) Also, Sanji smokes, which is what cool people do. He also wears a fucking suit and is often seen with a wine bottle. His facial expressions are classic (sometimes remind me of Stein from Soul Eater) and his fighting style is cool as shit (kicks are where it’s at, bro.) And of course, he loves the ladies, but he also practices chivalry and is a true gentlemen. Truly, he is the epitome of badass.
Both the Baratie arc and Arlong arc seem to follow similar formulas that work in some ways and fail in others. Both arcs start off by introducing the place they are set in, the characters who will be involved, and the villains who are going to need taking care of. This part is fine in both arcs – there’s some good pacing and characterization as well as plenty of hijinks with the existing Going Merry crew. After introductions, things start to heat up, and we end up jumping headlong in the backstory of the central character of the arc. In both cases, the backstory was the best part of the arc in my opinion. Then we have the string of battles that go on, which is easily the weakest part. Afterward, there are touching last words and a feel-good episode as the crew sets off again.
What makes the backstories so great is that they aren’t terribly original, but are very detailed and have defining elements of One Piece’s style. Sanji’s arc had the not-unusual backstory of Sanji having had his life saved by an older, powerful man who saw a spark in him, and upon making a sacrifice to save his life, took him in to pretty much raise him and settle down from his old life. However, only in One Piece will it be a story about chefs suffering from starvation in the middle of the ocean, and the resulting ways things play out. This way, we not only get the story of why Sanji is what he is and where he is and why he feels so indebted to his boss, but the story also instills some defining elements of his personality, such as his obsession with helping people who are hungry no matter what.
Unfortunately, it’s when the fights start that things get stale, and this seems to mainly spring from the factors of this being a shounen series and one with a really low budget. While I’m told that it greatly improves later on, in these early parts, One Piece has some ungodly shitty animation. There’s a mountain of stills, awkward shots, horrible attempts at perspective, low frame rates, and every single location will look like it’s height or length has changed several times, often within the same minute (for instance, I could never figure out if Baratie’s “fin” was supposed to be 50 or 200 feet long, because it kept changing.)
Really shitty animation isn’t that big of a deal when you’re doing exposition and backstory, as most of it is going to be centered on dramatic dialog and plot twists anyway. However, when you’re trying to have a fight, animation becomes a big deal. When every move looks stiff or is outright confusing due to awkward movement, you’ve got problems. The fights are also hardly exciting at all because they are constantly interjected by dialog. This is a problem almost every shounen series has, because in the original manga, the dialog doesn’t really get in the way, and what makes the fights cool is the dramatic artistry of the frames and often the epic feeling of turning the page and seeing a huge image of someone getting a fist pounded into their face versus it just being part of the flow (and a poorly animated flow at that). To put it simply – a volume’s worth of fights that I can read in about 15-20 minutes is highly preferable to 5 episodes of fights that will take more than an hour to watch.
In the Baratie arc, there were at least some interesting parts of the fights, like when Sanji fought Gin, which was a fairly emotional battle, but there were also completely stupid elements, like Pearl, who had absolutely no purpose but to waste time and get royally owned. There was also a lot of time wasted by Zoro’s friends and the stupid crew mates on the Baratie.
Easily the coolest part of this arc, though, was when Zoro fought Hawk Eyes Mihawk and plenty of epic, manly dialog was thrown around by both of them. This was one of a few times in the two arcs where some cool directorial tricks made up for the crappy animation to still create a visually dramatic and intense scene. Overall, I enjoyed the Baratie arc in spite of it’s flaws, both for it’s more awesome moments and the sheer badassery that is Sanji.
Next we have the Arlong arc (eps 31-44) which, in spite of seriously glaring flaws, was pretty superb, IMO. It starts off pretty slow, which I didn’t mind, partly because Nami’s sister, Nojiko, is fucking hot as hell. What was really cool about the start of this arc, though, is the way Oda uses his now fairly large cast. Since there are 5 characters to play around with (ignoring Johnny and Yosaku), all of them are sent out to do different things at the same time, which means that all sorts of story threads can go on at once, and be pulled together when the crew meets up. It also makes it easier for the crew to accrue useful information in different areas all at once (though they also may find misinformation, as happens when Yosaku mistakenly thinks Nami has killed Usopp.)
We then get Nami’s backstory which is both touching and brilliant. Once again, it has a lot of elements not alien to shounen backstories, but with those unmistakable One Piece stylings, and little bits and pieces that would define different facets of the characters’ personalities. I had never cared much for Nami before (besides that she is really hot and has amazing breasts) but I definitely connected to her more after seeing her backstory.
I would have just outright called this arc brilliant at this point were it not for the fighting portion once again leaving a very negative taste, perhaps even more so than the Baratie arc. I mean, all of the elements of a would-be great fight were there – Zoro’s fighting in spite of massive injuries, Usopp’s coming into some more bravery, and Sanji’s general badassness, but the fights for each of them were just so drawn out and boring, and their opponents weren’t very interesting. Even when Luffy finally steps into the ring against the very worthy and interesting villain, Arlong, the fight is kind of boring at first because so much time is spent dicking around with ‘hahaha I r stronger than u’ and ‘look at mah crazy powah’ moments. No Name and I actually found ourselves fast forwarding through some parts of all the fights.
However, this is almost completely made up for by the last episode of Arlong and Luffy’s fight, when the fight is taken into Nami’s former room in Arlong Park. There is plenty of emotional dialog and truly epic lines by Luffy that reminded me once again why he is one of my favorite characters. The arc ends well, once again leading to some great feel-good parting lines and a fun party episode.
After the Arlong arc, I can safely say that I’m getting pretty into this show and having a lot of fun with it. I don’t know how I feel about the fact that I’ll be skipping all sorts of parts, because I can’t decide whether or not/how much I should fault the show on that. Either way, I’m looking forward to more of this epic adventure and this lovable crew as the journey continues.
1. My Top 100 Anime Characters – This is ruthlessly outdated, but Luffy was on there long before I even got back into One Piece.
2. Why One Piece Doens’t Suck – Nomadotto does a very messy but overall true post on the greatness of One Piece’s structre.