Thursday, May 3, 2012

My Thoughts on One Piece

To start out this series, I'm just gonna go with convention and write my thoughts on the big three of One Piece, Naruto, and Bleach. And I'll start with my favorite of the three: One Piece.

Experience: Chapter 1 - current.

I love One Piece. It's easily one of the most influential stories I've ever experienced. This is really thanks to the sheer scope of the story OP tells, and that's really what I love most about OP: it's epic.

Eiichiro Oda has truly crafted an incredible world. What's great is just how believable the world is. Unlike many other shonen which tend to make up rules as they go along, OP sets its rules very early on and sticks to those rules throughout the story. The result is a world that is almost a character itself. The main cast interacts with this world and the rules it contains; in fact, much of the conflict of the story revolves around the main cast conflicting with the rules of the world.

I won't go deep into the main cast, because that would just take too long. Simply put, the cast is superb, and over the course of the series, they really become a family and you can see that camaraderie between them; after all, at its core, OP is a story of friendship. I really like the way the crew is like a family, as it creates a bond much stronger than those seen in other shonens where the characters are usually split into antagonizing positions like rivals, or just a love interest for later. In OP, each member can be described as a member of the family; for example, Franky is the eldest brother of the group, Chopper is the youngest brother, Zoro and Sanji are the bickering older brothers, and Nami is the wise yet rambunctious middle sister who gets annoyed by her brothers' antics and finds solice in the calm personality of her older sister (Robin). And it all revolves around Luffy in the middle as the middle brother. It all works out great within the confines of the story and makes the emotional moments of the story even greater.

And that's really what defines One Piece the best: emotion. OP is an emotional roller coaster where the reader will laugh, cry, and burn with passionate excitement. It's incredible how Oda manages to balance comedy and tragedy so well within the story. And, as of this writing, One Piece is the only manga/anime that has made me cry, and not just once but many, many times. Nami's backstory is forever burned into my memory because of how impactful its story was for me. I find Nami, Robin, Chopper, and Franky's backstories particularly powerful, but everyone's is superb, even the shorter ones like Zoro and Usopps.

What's great is how the emotion of OP isn't found only in the backstories of the characters, but rather we get a lot of emotion throughout the story, and this is mainly thanks to the strong subject material the adventures of the Straw Hats take them through. the Skypeia Arc dealt not only with segregation, but also the concept of God and what God means to people. The recent Fishman Island arc dealt strongly with racism in a very realistic and powerful way. At the end of the day, OP isn't interesting just for the main cast, but its surprisingly powerful story, which has many themes that reflect real-world problems. When all is said and done, OP will be remembered for its impactful story.

The art in One Piece is usually hit or miss with many people; I love it. I find it very expressive, which makes it superbly effective when portraying the powerful emotions from the characters, from sadness to happiness. A criticism that often pops up is how Oda draws women. Once again, I love it. Yes, all of the attractive women have the same general body type, but Oda does a great job at making them stand out from eachother with unique clothing, hair, and little touches, all while keeping them pretty sexy in appearance. This criticism doesn't come up too much mainly because there just aren't many women in One Piece, heh. As far as the other characters go; it's just superb. All the characters look very distinct from body type to clothing. Oda's monsters are also quite impressive, and the best I've seen since Dragonball.

OK. So what don't I like about OP? Well, it's actually only three things. The first thing is more of criticism: I wish Oda would give more attention to some of the other crew members more. Now, this isn't really a good criticism because the other crew members do continue to get face-time and battles, but its still not as balanced as I'd hope it'd be. Some more love towards characters like Franky, Nami, and Robin would be nice, but it could be difficult to do without hurting the story pacing, so its understandable. OP is very much Luffy's story, so he's the focus. In the end, it all works out, but for fans of specific characters, their favorite may not get as much spotlight as they want (like me with Robin and Franky). My second point my only complaint with the series: the fanservice. Oda cannot pull off fanservice without it coming across as forced and awkward. Personally, I think Oda is forced by his editors or pressure from the fanbase to include fanservice in the story, because, for one thing, there really isn't much fanservice in OP at all (maybe like 3 or 4 moments in the whole series), and whenever it occurs, its always breif and awkward, usually played for laughs. It's a small complaint, but its one that gets brought up whenever I think of things that annoy me in OP.

The third point is a character: Boa Hancock. Now, Boa is a pretty cool character in many ways, and has a good amount of depth to her character despite being a side character; however, her crush on Luffy is probably the only thing in OP I'd say is poor writing. It just feels forced and makes Boa feel like a weaker character because of it. I know its mainly played up for laughs, but when she was going to sacrifice herself for Luffy during the war, that was just going too far, imo. Its not a huge story point, and, like I said, its mainly played for laughs, but I think its a trait that hurts a character that could've been very cool and respecful; not she just feels like a strange mix of annoying and cool.

So, with that out of the way, OP is a manga that only continues to impress as it continues. The story just gets better and better with each new arc, the art continues to improve, and world and characters continue to expand more and more. One Piece is an incredible manga, and one that I say truly deserves all of the sales it recieves and is not over-rated in the slightest. With that said, I can understand how some people can dislike OP, main for unique art style (which isn't "cool" like most manga these days), but I hope everyone can at least respect it for what it has accomplished as a manga.

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