Well, with the announcement of Viz Media partnering with Comixology to bring tons of manga volumes digitally this is kind of topical. Sure, let’s go with that.
I was going to review New Avengers #19 but then realized that the layman was not going to understand a word I was saying if they had not read 1-18, Hickman’s Avengers, Infinity and probably S.H.I.E.L.D. too so let’s talk about a book anyone can get into.
One Piece is without a doubt my favorite of the “Big 3” manga of Shonen Jump (the other two being Naruto and Bleach which I feel have, in the latter’s case, outlived their welcome or, in the former’s case, jumped the shark so many times the shark has become bored). It’s amazing because it has run for over 700 chapters and very rarely has it dipped in quality. I think I did come up with a theory as to why.
One Piece… is completely insane.
I say that in a good way. It’s insane like Baccano! is insane. It’s insane like how Nextwave is insane. It is wacky and it is unapologetic in that fact. It doesn’t try and fall into the pretentious “war is bad” nonsense or tell us about the power of love/friendship/Heart of the Cards like Naruto does. It’s fully aware of what it wants to be and that is high seas sailing, rum shucking fun but fully capable of inject true pathos and heart into the narrative.
The first volume of creator Eiichiro Oda’s masterpiece contains the first eight chapters of the series which introduces the first three members of what would be known as the “Strawhat Pirates”.
The First is protagonist Monkey D. Luffy. He is an interesting character to me because, considering all his personality traits, I should hate him. He follows that archetype of the ‘Idiot Hero’ that was made so popular by Dragonball‘s Son Goku, a character whose popularity I will never comprehend. I think that what makes Luffy way more tolerable is that he only seems to follow that archetype to a degree and even in some cases, it appears that he actually just putting on the air of stupidity in order for his foes to underestimate him or to make his journey more challenging. Whether that is true or not, what matters is that in spite of his alleged idiocy, he has the charisma to pull it off and not come off as annoying. To link this to Western comics, Sam Alexander in the current Nova comics. He’s kind of not that intelligent, at least academically. But he has the charisma (and in his case, the snark) to pull it off and make him more endearing than annoying.
Volume One gives the origin of Luffy. He was a child who was saved by a pirate idol of his, the Red-Hair Shanks (who is more manly then you will ever be) and when denied to join Shanks’ crew, declares that he will form his own crew and eventually become King of the Pirates by finding the legendary treasure known as One Piece. Thus begins the young Would-Be-Pirate’s journey.
But it’s not just his personality and dream that make Luffy special. No, it’s also his abilities. You see, Luffy consumed what is known as a ‘Devil Fruit’. Basically, it gives people unique abilities. In Luffy’s case, he ate the Gum Gum Fruit which makes him quite literally a Rubber Man. Basically Mr. Fantastic except actually useful and incredibly awesome.
This volume of the manga also introduces two of Luffy’s comrades, the Pirate Hunter Roronoa Zoro, an incredibly kick ass swordsman who has a similar dream to Luffy (instead of Pirate King, insert “World’s Greatest Swordsman”) and Nami, who is just introduced at the end of the volume whose story will go into the next volume (but eventually will become the team’s Sea Navigator and kick ass in her own way). Maybe it’s just time that has made me forget, but it surprises me how quickly these two were introduced to the series.
It’s fascinating looking back at Oda’s art in comparison to the present. You see back then how he had not gone into the full insanity that later designs would bring on but they are all still incredibly unique and you can see the eye for character expression that would further develop as the years go on. However, you do see some flaws in the beginning. Like many comics that just start out, it does take a bit before the creator gets a real “feel” for the character designs. Also, maybe it is just because I’m so used to a chapter or an issue ending on a “big moment”, but it’s jarring how some of the chapters just abruptly end, almost in mid-conversation. I do argue with myself if that is necessarily a flaw or not but considering how I know events will eventually turn out and how the pacing changes, it is interesting how it begins.
At the end of the day, this volume is an introduction to the main character and a bit into the world. This crazy, crazy world that Oda has created and expanded beyond what I think many believed it would be. I plan to continue these retrospectives into the future (No set time when the next one will be. Basically expect the Apes finally taking control of the Earth before I finally catch up with the 71 volumes out at time of writing). Volume One can be found digitally here or in print here. I’m begging you to give this one a shot.