One of my favorite animes growing up was One Piece, though I was limited to the Skypeia arc; and this was before Crunchyroll and streaming services became a staple of modern life; and yes that was when Luffy had that scratchy high-pitched voice, Robin had that Southern twang, and Sanji had that New York accent.
Now I get to take full advantage of the subscription model to read the 1000+ chapters of the manga. Of course, for this analysis of what is Eiichirodan, I will simply read the first 1000 chapters, since the series has not yet ended.
It takes place in a world where piracy is abundant. Monkey D. Luffy, the leader of the Straw Hat pirates, seeks to find the great treasure One Piece and become King of the Pirates. Of course, he has a lot of competition that spans more than 1000 chapters.
He is a manga artist of the One Piece series. Oda once worked for Shinobu Kaitani and Masaya Tokuhiro as an assistant. He would eventually work on the One Piece comic, which set the Guinness World Record for most copies produced from a single manga artist.
How Does It Hold Up…?
Promises As Motivations
One of the major themes is the attachment to the past. Each of the Straw Hat crew is bound by events or loved ones in the past. It usually culminates into promises that they dedicate their lives to. There is even a promise in the middle of the manga that dramatically alters the series.
Every pirate ship has its own personality based on the captain and the crew. They usually reflect how they want to be seen by the Navy when they dare come across them. Baratie, for instance, is supposed to be a sea-restaurant where anyone who has money–or berries as they are called–can get good service, whether they are laymen, pirates, or Navy; and that the crew consists of outcasts who become cooks but also protectors of the ship.
Just as well, every island has some distinct features. There is an island, for instance, that has a polarizing climate of volcanoes and snowy desert.
Loveable Band Of Outsiders
As such, because this manga is about pirates, it involves outcasts who set the high sea with no guarantee of protection from higher authority. This means that the Straw Hat pirate crew cannot stay in the same place for a long period of time. It also means that they are not likely to be trusted upon arriving and have to earn their trust.
As for the Navy, they are depicted as normally pursuing pirates, yet for high-bounty pirates with Devil Fruit powers and large crews they develop a form of complicated relationship. This involves them working with the Navy either to pacify the populace or provide tribute. Of course, there are plenty of Naval officers who are deeply corrupt as a result, with Smoker and Tashigi being among the few exceptions in that they genuinely believe their occupational purpose.
Individualized Codes, Personalities, And Eccentricities
Another theme has to be the codes of honor that each pirate captain takes. Some like Don Krieg and Bellamy have more amoral codes, while Luffy has a code based on placing the well-being of his friends and allies above his own. In fact, every major character has some form of unique distinction, whether it is the looks, the facial drawing features, the mannerisms, the Devil Fruit powers, or even the laughter.
With or without Devil Fruit Powers, every character has some form of individual move-set with their own names. This also leads to each of the major characters having some form of zany quality. Not just in their personality, but also in their appearance they can appear over-the-top. Whether the appearance is the staple of their home, or for personal reasons, plenty of the characters have an unusual taste in fashion. The black-and-white standard version does not do them justice.
Friendships Contentious Yet Reconciliatory
As for the interactions between the Straw Hat crew, they are normally characterized as being contentious mostly arising from annoyance. The most common and well-beloved contention comes between Zolo and Sanji. I can clearly imagine how any crew in the world of One Piece would be. Clearly, such annoyances would arise from boredom from traveling long distances. Though, there have been moments where the contentions have nearly fractured the crew.
When it pertains to activity outside of the Thousand Sunny, the Straw Hat crew never had any real sense of direction besides pertaining to reaching the Grand Line and finding One Piece. They do strategize when it comes to a battle with another pirate crew or an evil kingdom, mainly relying on Luffy’s Gum-Gum powers. However, in the latter half of the series, they have started to strategize beyond the battle itself. It involves something like capturing an important character to the Seven Warlords and using them as a bargaining chip.
Of course, a common theme of the Straw Hats’ adventures is how they were able to rescue each other from particularly compromising situations. Even when they are not in danger, they experience some form of hopeless scenario in which there is no escape. In the case of that big event in the middle of the series, it involved ALL of the Straw Hat pirates relying on their own individual training.
However many times they bicker or endure emotionally trying moments, it has not stopped them from enjoying a giant banquet with all the people they rescued.
There is also the admixture of different genres, since One Piece itself is pretty hard to classify. While it is science fantasy, there are elements of crime noir as seen in such characters as Smoker and Bege. There are also horror aesthetics with the Thriller Bark Arc.
Oda himself based many characters off not just real-world pirates, but also famous Japanese actors.
At the beginning of most chapters, they feature a single page update about one of the characters doing their own quest. They are mostly villains who have shown to exhibit some redeeming qualities. The Straw Hats are no exception to this, since they each have an arc where they have to confront the insecurities and troubles they have had in order to progress on their journey.
However, I was hoping Sanji would undergo one in his unique arc. Instead, he is still in the endless cycle of creepily ogling Nami and other women and getting his behind handed to him in the following panel. I really wish Oda would have developed Sanji more–more like Simpji amirite?! For all the times Nami beat the crap out of Sanji, it was that one scene where she slapped him that really shook me. I was hoping that it would make Sanji really think about whether he needs a woman to complete himself.
However anachronistic they may appear, every aspect of the One Piece world reflects a unique juxtaposition of multiple time periods into a single span of two years.
As the story goes along, we get incrementally more details about the characters, history, and geography.
Hatred And Fear As Perpetual Cycles
This was especially relevant in the conflict between the humans and the fishmen. Essentially, if one group hates and oppresses another group, then that group will hate and oppress the other. As such, Luffy never kills his enemies, since it would not stop the cycle.
Obviously, the One Piece world is based off the Golden Age of Piracy in the 18th century, with plenty of characters based off real-world pirates of that time period. These include Francois l’Olonnais (Roronoa Zolo), Blackbeard (Edward D. Teech), Bartholomew Roberts (Bartholomew Kuma), Ann Bonney (Jewelry Bonney), and many others. Just like the real-world piracy of that time, wealth becomes the main pursuit of these characters. In that case, it is the legendary treasure called One Piece left behind by Gold Roger, the King of the Pirates.
As such, there is a constant battle for supremacy among these pirates over who should be the rightful claimant of the One Piece. Unfortunately, it also includes ordinary people trying to mind their own lives.
The dialogue involves a lot of info-dumping, which can work if it weren’t for the chapters-long flashbacks that can slow the story down.
Of course, there are characters who speak in puns, particularly if they have a Devil Fruit power from where their puns derive.
This section would be appropriate where I write about the moves that each of the characters have. They tend to derive from their Devil Fruit powers, if they have any. Other than that, they can derive it from their Haki powers.
The series got me to think about the implications of character development1, whether it is the heroes, villains, or neutral characters. It also made me understand the determination of whether a story is worth continuing or only as an aside. In the case of the Straw Hat crew’s venture for One Piece, it is definitely a story with a lot at stake.
A way to look at One Piece is to understand how to truly plot a story spanning 1000+ chapters. It would involve a goal so macrocosmic that it would involve the entire world, including every direction of the seas.
This Book Adds…
…To World-Building Knowledge
As for the anachronistic elements, I will say that they can work in concert to each other so long as they make sense–or at least appear blasé. The popularity of this series is a lesson that you should not always be constrained by your fictional genre so long as you can provide an explanation for the existence of anachronisms.
…To Other Authors
If One Piece were to be written in novel form, it would definitely take inspiration from Joseph Conrad. He provides no additional space for nautical terminology, and his zany writing style would fit the aesthetics of the One Piece world. However, it would have been trimmed down to Robert E. Howard’s easily understood style of writing.
For some reason, assuming the Big Mom arc is brought up to speed in the anime, I have been reading Big Mom’s dialogue thinking she would have the same voice as Mrs. Puff from SpongeBob SquarePants. In some ways, the schoolteacher vibe would definitely make Big Mom even more disconcerting. This is especially the case since Mrs. Puff already has that manic side of her–caused by SpongeBob’s reckless driving of course. There have been moments when Mrs. Puff blew up her pufferfish form, but never out of rage.
…To My Own
I will have to say that Franky and Robin are among my favorite characters among the Straw Hat crew. I find Brook to be quite annoying, and Luffy’s brash actions leave me asking “What are you doing?!” Every other crew member is mid-tier. I am especially fascinated by Franky, who is the character who literally and figuratively rebuilt himself. I have mad respect for such a character.
Although repetitive, I do like the adventures that Luffy and the crew embark on, no matter how much the odds are stacked against them. It’s almost like the purpose of the reader upon reading the Straw Hat adventures would be “If these greenhorn pewmans can emerge victorious, then so can I.”
I hope to read more installments of the One Piece, even after the ending. It was the series that got me hooked when I was 13 and it will continue to get me hooked.
1. For the record, I don’t like using words like “growth,” “constructive,” or “change,” because they have that New-Agey, southern Californian aesthetic to them. I prefer words like “development,” “adaptation,” and “evolution.” I’d rather sound sciencey than woo-woo. Maybe I am exhibiting the Eiichirodan theme of unique speech patterns.
- Eiichiro Oda. Anime News Network.
- “One Piece Manga Sets Guinness World Record for Copies Printed for Comic by Single Author”. Anime News Network. June 14, 2015. Archived from the original on June 17, 2015. Retrieved June 15, 2015.