This time in One Piece, we look at two seasons: Grand Line Inrush arc and Chopper on Winter Island arc.
The Grand Line Inrush arc takes Luffy and his crew along the Grand Line, a volatile band of water that divides the oceans and where the laws of nature take a vacation. One could be on a desert island in the morning only to hit a land of perpetual rain by evening. Monsters are a common sight in these parts. After a brief encounter with a lonely giant whale, Luffy arrives at an island of bounty hunters that want that sweet, sweet mullah on his head. This is a mere pit stop in the story to introduce us to Princess Vivi of Alabasta. She employs the talents of the Straw Hats to transport her to safety back to her country, where a rebellion threatens.
Matters become more interesting on the next island. Two giants have been stuck in a duel for 100 years, evenly matched for eternity. The giants turn out to be rather friendly. However, a dastardly organisation called Baroque Works – responsible for the troubles in Alabasta – has plans for the giants and their new friends. Agent “Mr 3” wants to turn everyone into a giant wax wedding cake. Our heroes are to remain as cake toppers for all time!
What an unusual power. Similar to Gaara’s sand tomb, it’s a terrifying ability to imagine as it would suffocate you to death. One Piece, of course, tempers it with humour. These quirky villains are a riot. The guy literally has his hair styled into a 3 with the end lit like a candle!
The story gets a little more serious in the Chopper on Winter Island arc, where the team need to find a witch to cure Nami’s illness. The island, as the arc title would indicate, is in perpetual winter. And what is synonymous with winter? Reindeer. The witch’s small reindeer assistant is Chopper. Of all the character backstories so far, I like his the most. He was assistant to a crazy doctor reminiscent of a good Rick from Rick & Morty until his death, wish unfulfilled. It’s a touching story of regret, powerlessness, and ambition. He becomes the Straw Hats’ doctor after they help him fulfil his old teacher’s dying wish. This cute reindeer is the show’s mascot. Just don’t make him angry. You won’t like him when he’s angry. I want to see more of him, though I hope he isn’t relegated to mere comedy relief.
One Piece’s adventurous feel continues to be its greatest asset, aided by a good pace on a micro level wherein no story lasts too long. However, we still seem to be in the introduction stage. On a macro level, these 92 episodes haven’t gone far in the grand scheme and I wonder how long it will take a real plot to develop.
There isn’t much more to say about these seasons. They continue in much the same vein as what came before. See you in the next season.
Quality so far – Medium (still)
Current Thoughts: I like the addition of Hulk the Reindeer to the team. It is also great to see the continued feel of adventure with the locations and cultures. Two giants stuck in an eternal battle – why not? An island covered in snow in the middle of the ocean? Let’s do it.
Never has the saying “better late than never” been more applicable to my anime viewing timeline. At over 900 episodes as of this writing, One Piece has reached proportions that seem impossible to tackle (read all about my recurring nightmare here, in One Piece and the Curse of the Backlog). However, I shall take this one episode at a time and finally conquer the seas! (Or until I no longer find it entertaining. Whichever comes first.)
For those of you marooned on an island in the South Pacific since 1999, One Piece follows the adventures of Luffy, a boy with ambitions of becoming king of the pirates and who has the power to stretch his body like Mr Fantastic. First, he needs a crew if he means to survive all that the ocean and other pirates have to throw at him. Much of this first season is travelling to various locations, where he meets and recruits crewmates. Among them, we have Zoro the three-sword pirate, Sanji the chef, Nami the cartographer, and Usopp the best pirate to have ever lived.
I had tried One Piece many years ago – a few times, in fact, but had given up within an episode or two. Revisiting it now hasn’t changed my mind on those opening few. They give a terrible first impression. What is with the shouting? Of the approximately 190 lines of dialogue in the first episodes, over 100 are shouted – that doesn’t even include the action/reaction yells and one-word screams. Some pink-haired kid yells just about every line he has! Yelling for dialogue is a trait of cartoons for little kids, as it holds their attention better. This coupled with Luffy’s laissez-faire attitude to the most dangerous situations (more on him later) makes One Piece feels so bloody juvenile. Is this for five-year-olds? Thankfully, this only holds true for the first few episodes. Once they reach the Usopp recruitment story (starts episode nine), the tone jumps up two age demographics.
I think back to the start of Naruto, which also had a weak few episodes. Who can forget the second episode where Naruto hangs out with that brat Konohamaru? However, Naruto was clever enough to include the scene when a teacher betrays him and shows him how life isn’t friendly or fair. This is a promise from the author that despite the juvenile tone of the early episodes, this isn’t a “happy go lucky” anime. One Piece needed that moment.
It’s obvious One Piece isn’t for small children with all the guns, alcohol, and smoking, which leads me into an aside about the original 4Kids dub, having gone down in infamy. I watched the new Funimation dub, which is unedited and matches the original Japanese, but I also looked into the 4Kids atrocity that removed blood, replaced all the guns with…something, swapped Sanji’s cigarette for a lollipop, skipped entire episodes, and cut the alcohol, amongst many other changes. This was their most censored import. Why bother bringing it over at all if they’re going to change everything, you ask? As I’ve discovered, the decision makers at 4Kids did not watch One Piece before acquiring the licence. It was a package deal with other anime, likely for a younger audience than One Piece. So when it came time to dub it, they realised it didn’t fit their target demographic and thus began the massacre. Funimation, thankfully, took over the project years later and undid all of the changes to release it remastered in HD.
This HD re-release was a fantastic idea. When I thought back to One Piece’s art style before this viewing, all I could remember was those giant mouths. I still hate them of course (they add to the screaming as well). However, outside of this pet peeve, One Piece’s art holds up well because of the textured environments and the character designs. Imagine if it had gone for the standard style of the day with those flat colours, two-tone shading/lighting, and shallow backgrounds. It wouldn’t have aged well at all! As for the character designs, I find some great examples here. I love the fish people from the octopus guy to the sawfish captain. The fat pirate queen in episode one and her look later in the season (plus her perfect skin power) has me laughing. Best design award has to go to Captain Smoker, a marine in pursuit of Luffy who smokes not one but two cigars at all times and has belts of cigars strapped across his massive biceps and chest. Bloody hilarious! More than having good individual designs, there is strong cohesion for such a large cast.
By contrast, I find audio to be One Piece’s weakest department. The original Japanese performances are a mixed bag, as is often the case in battle shounen, while the dub is quite good (the new one). The lack of great music so far most surprises me. I think back to how many iconic tracks Naruto already had by this point, though that is probably a genre exception. For many battle anime, the OPs are all people remember, sometimes just the songs created by the dub studio such as Pokémon and Dragon Ball Z.
As for story, I am mixed so far. It is better than my past impressions had led me to believe, there is no doubt here. This is very much a romanticised view of pirates and is rather tame, despite all of the “not safe 4Kids” content. Almost all story arcs so far have been about recruiting someone to Luffy’s crew and/or giving us their backstory. We have Zoro the edgelord with a sword in his mouth (I don’t like this design) who kept losing to a girl, Nami and the death of her mother at the hands of the fishmen she works for, Usopp the greatest pirate to have sailed the four seas and his tissue of lies, and so on. These are fine stories, some better (Nami) than others (Zoro). However, when I think of what Naruto and Bleach have accomplished by the 60-episode mark, they far outshine One Piece. Naruto has completed the Zabuza arc and is mid-chunin exam, while Bleach is at the climax of the Soul Society Arc. That said, anyone who has seen Bleach would tell you that one good arc doesn’t make for a great anime. One Piece has plenty more to show off, so I hope it delivers something great.
I don’t mean to say an anime such as this needs to turn dark right away as Naruto did. What I want is depth. Even if it’s just a few promises of what is to come. The biggest disappointment has to be Luffy. Battle protagonists are rarely the most interesting of the cast since they have little flexibility in demographic marketing, yet even by those standards, Luffy is a thumbs down from me at the moment. I hate how he doesn’t care about anything or how he laughs at every predicament. In a more serious setting, they would all be dead because of him. Not to keep drawing comparisons to Naruto, but when the orange ninja laughs and brushes off dangerous situations, there are consequences. Most of all, I hate how half of Luffy’s dialogue is yelling about how he’s going to be “king of the pirates”. We get it!
The action is quite good. Standard shounen content on the positive side of the scale. It doesn’t have the flashiness of Bleach or the strategy of Naruto or the brisk pacing in Yu Yu Hakusho. However, it doesn’t have any glaring problems either. One Piece hasn’t had the action drag for ages (Bleach, Naruto) or power reset (Bleach) or repeated some trope to death (there is always a bigger fish in Yu Yu Hakusho). I will want something more soon though or I’ll stop paying attention when a fight starts.
To end on a positive, I want to discuss One Piece’s greatest promise for the future of the series – the world. There is such variety and limitless possibilities for a world where you can sail to a new island, meet a new culture, a new species of person. It reminds me of a simpler classic Star Trek (one of my favourite franchises) and that is always a plus. I love the restaurant ship that roams the seas to feed one and all in a scrumptious experience. There are rules (“more what you’d call guidelines”) that vary by location. One gets a strong sense of character and personality at each destination. When the crew gets on that ship and hits the open blue, I want to see what island they will discover next. One Piece delivers a true feeling of adventure.
Quality so far – Medium
Current thoughts: The early episodes don’t give a good first impression, but once the longer story begins, One Piece stretches it’s creativity to give a good opening season with promises of so much more adventure. Luffy needs to grow up and do something. See you in the next season.
Naruto, Bleach, One Piece – the trinity, the hotness at one time. It started with Naruto for me and Bleach came not long after. I was in the door early for both, keeping me hooked on a weekly basis. I didn’t need more, so I never tried One Piece. I’m sure that if any of my friends were interested in it, I would have started it to keep up with weekly conversation as I had with the other two.
Years passed, Naruto and Bleach descending into the filler nightmares (Bleach turned to garbage as well, but that wasn’t enough to stop me watching yet). I needed my shounen fix. Twelve years ago, I tried One Piece for the first time. I had heard good things. “If you like Naruto, you’ll like One Piece, for sure.”
Episodes aired: ~250
Five episodes and I couldn’t go any further. The art was just too ugly. I particularly hated the hyper-stretched mouths and expressions. The immature protagonist, the try-hard guy with a sword in his teeth, the screech acting – I couldn’t do it. I was already sick of Naruto’s – the character’s – immaturity. I couldn’t take another such protagonist for hundreds of episodes. Luffy didn’t have the legacy status in my mind to make me look past his issues.
I dropped One Piece.
Leap forward five years. I was talking with a friend about our early anime days and the topic of shounen series came up. I had long since moved past such drawn out, poorly paced stories. When One Piece came up and I told him of how I hadn’t managed to stomach it, he said how he had felt the same, but pushed through and come to love it. He re-recommended it to me with conviction. So I looked it up again.
Episodes aired: ~500
Well, I could get through that eventually, I supposed. And I was willing to try it again. I was just going to get through a bunch of smaller series first, get them out of the way before I sink into the behemoth.
That bunch turned into a field of smaller series, which, coupled with my on-and-off interest in anime, delayed the trial more and more. But I was going to try it. I made certain of that.
We leap another few years forward and my passion for anime has reignited to the point where a desire to write anime reviews for my own enjoyment has started to burn. The idea swims around in my head for a while longer, until I decide to go for it.
Okay, now it’s serious. I couldn’t review anime and not review One Piece. Writing a review would be motivation to watch because now, even if I didn’t like it, I could write about what I thought of this ever-growing monster.
Episodes aired: ~700
Not a problem – I would review a few dozen 13 or 26-episode anime first, likely ones I had seen before and could rewatch quicker, build up a backlog of reviews ready to go before I tackle One Piece. There wasn’t anything to worry about. I had a plan.
“Remember that series Monster you had failed to finish over a decade ago? Yeah, it’s one of the greatest anime, so you have to complete and review it.” Sure, it was only 74 episodes, nothing like the near 750 episodes of One Piece. I could just get that out the way first. Oh, and, of course, I had to review Naruto, at least the classic series, to use as a point of comparison. A mere 136 episodes against One Piece. I could get through Naruto in a month with the Naruto Kai edit. That would add, what, four or five episodes to One Piece? No problem.
What about those sports anime like Ippo? I needed more variety to balance out the action heavy landscape of my anime reviews and sports was a niche in my library. Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood, how could I leave such a great on the backlog for so long?
“Have you heard of Korean dramas? What about British panel shows? How long has it been since you watched a Bollywood film? And you haven’t rewatched Top Gear in a while.”
Good point. I needed more than just anime or I would burn out. Plus, the gaming backlog was growing ever larger and needed trimming.
“Have you watched your favourite anime, Legend of the Galactic Heroes, yet? That’s only 110 episodes – much quicker to get through than One Piece.”
Episodes aired: ~800
Alright, that was it. I was never going to get around to One Piece! I knew it. My friends knew it. It had become an inside joke for how many small things I would just “get out of the way” first, after which I assured them I would get to One Piece. In truth, it was only on the backlist because it took no effort to keep it. Saying you are going to do something is less meaningful than a fart in the wind until you commit.
A time came about a year or so ago for me to cull the backlog. I went through the list, briefly checking each title to see if there was any hope or even the slightest interest in getting to them in my lifetime. I axed 50 titles with ease. Except, there was still One Piece. I was about to drop it when I saw a video about one of the characters. I was so beyond the fantasy of ever watching this anime that I didn’t care about spoilers. The video was great, and you know what? It made want to watch it, even if it meant skipping through the early content to reach the arc where it “gets good”.
Sadly, and as no surprise to anyone, I am sure, I still haven’t touched the series. It has surpassed 860 episodes (and growing) and I still have no idea when, or even if, I will watch a single episode of One Piece. See, I have it in my mind that it would be more productive and enjoyable for me to get through other, smaller anime instead. Allow me to illustrate.
Following is my complete backlog of anime. Not all titles will be completed, nor do all have equal weight and priority. Everything on this list has a good chance of getting my eyeballs for a few episodes, at least. And yes, the garbage is there intentionally.
In rough alphabetical order (series flagged red are very long):
In total, that comes to about 80 unique series and movies with possibly more, depending on how much I want to see of the larger franchises. Let’s not forget any upcoming releases and requests from you, dear readers, either.
As of this article’s writing, One Piece is about to air its 869th episode. If we assume each episode is roughly 20 minutes, skipping OP and ED, it would take over 289 hours to finish the series! Of course, I would skip the 107 filler episodes, bringing the total runtime down to 254 hours. In that same time, I could finish between 40 and 50 of the series listed above.
What would I rather do? Experience a large variety or stick to one long series? Naturally, I’d want to do both if possible. So, what’s the solution?
I probably need to turn to the manga first. I can read volumes at a fast pace, allowing me to clear the same story in a fraction of the time, free of filler and stall tactics to lengthen scenes. However, I prefer anime to manga assuming both are of equal quality, though in the case of shounen, especially once the filler starts, the manga is often better. On the other hand, it’s nice to see key fights in motion. Perhaps I could read the majority and just watch the best arcs? That’s my current thinking.
Oh, but before I can read 91 volumes of One Piece, what about the shorter manga on my backlog? (Here we go again…) Noblesse, Lone Wolf and Cub, Vagabond, and 20th Century Boys, to name a few.
Regardless of what route I take, there are plenty of smaller series I want to finish first. My goal is to complete (or drop) every series in the above list that has 50 episodes or less by the end of the 2019.
One final thing to keep in mind is that I have barely rewatched any media (excluding anime I had to rewatch for their reviews) or replayed any games since I started this site, and I’m getting the strong urge to revisit some favourites, which equates to more delays for One Piece. So will it ever be done? I don’t know… I truly don’t know, but I will try.
(What if it turns out I still can’t stand One Piece a few volumes in, dropping it and rendering all of this redundant? Wouldn’t that be hilarious?)
UPDATE! The One Piece journey has started – click here!