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One Piece – Manga Series Review

One Piece – Manga Series Review
Book Name: One Piece
Author: Eiichiro Oda
Publisher(s): Shueisha (Japan)
Formatt: Fantasy / Shonen Manga
Genre(s): Paperback
Release Date: August 4, 1997

On the day the Pirate King Gold Roger was executed, a huge crowd gathered to hear his last words: his treasure, won after pillaging through the entire world, lay somewhere on the “Grand Line”, the most dangerous of all oceans.

This is how One Piece, the most successful manga of all time (yes, I’m taking Dragon Ball into consideration) begins: just when the World Government thought the pirate menace was about to die, Gold Roger’s words marked the beginning of a golden age of piracy, as more and more outlaws began to search for Roger’s valuable treasure, the One Piece.

The first thing that calls the attention on this manga is its cartoonish style and how apparently typical its plot is: the main character, Monkey D. Luffy, is a young man whose greatest desire is to find the One Piece and in so doing become the Pirate King. What separates him from normal people is that he has consumed one of the valuable Devil Fruits, which give unexpected powers to the one who eats it, but in exchange takes away their ability to swim, a great disadvantage in the One Piece world, composed entirely by islands. In Luffy’s case, he has eaten the “Gomu-Gomu” fruit, turning his body into rubber, which allows him to stretch his body to impossible levels, an advantage he uses to unleash devastating attacks.

This misleading absurdity is slowly dissipated as Luffy goes looking for a ship and a crew to make the trip to the Grand Line. Though the art is still cartoon-like, and there’s certainly no lack of humor, there are many surprisingly shocking episodes, their crudity standing out even more by the contrast with the art style. At one point, they face unscrupulous pirates that pillage and murder whole towns, corrupt World Government officers willing to take bribes in order to ignore slave trade, and a very long etcetera. While Luffy’s quest is extremely idealist, it clashes time and again with the harshness of the real world.

As the plot goes on we meet many characters, good and bad, incredibly well defined and, in most cases, with credible dreams and ambitions explaining the way they act. From Luffy to secondary characters like the deceased Gold Roger, they all have reasons to act like they do. Some reasons are good, others bad, but all of them are plausible.

Deeply tied to the solid character development, we find a complex world with its own legends, traditions and, of course, politics and clashes for power, the most important of which is the fight that has the World Government on one side and the booming pirates on the other.

Another interesting detail of the series is the amount of characters you can find in each faction, without any of them being clearly good or bad: while the World Order gives peace and stability, many of its officers abuse their authority, sometimes even with the conviction that, since they were only acting for the greater good, their atrocities will be forgiven. On the pirates’ side, we have our main character and his crew, along with many others that are good natured and only wish to live freely at the sea, but there’s no lack of those near to the historical image of the pirates, plundering towns and slaughtering innocents wherever their ships take them.

Another surprise in a manga that is supposedly aimed for young men and with such an unrealistic drawing style is the amount of transcendent problems it deals with, and the depths to which it goes in doing so. First, we have the idea of the voyage: Luffy, a young man of just seventeen years, takes a small boat and starts travelling through the world, encountering many experiences that, good or bad, make him grow enormously as a person. Without losing sight of his dreams, as the manga advances, he drifts further and further away from the idealistic young man that started travelling without knowing anything about the world.

Another constant theme is that of friendship and the ties that unite human beings, mainly those between Luffy and his ragtag crew. After all, even the most powerful captain needs others to manage the ship: he won’t survive without a group of people supporting him through good and bad weather. Of course, even the most harmonious of friendships have their weak points, and the crew members many times end fighting and bickering among themselves, even to the point of abandoning the ship, though never for long.

Finally, we get the matter of prejudices, both social and racial. At the early stages of the manga we meet Arlong, a fish man and his crew, who have enslaved the entire human population of an island, charging them heavy taxes under the menace of slaughter. In other islands, however, the situation is the opposite: there, the fish men have no rights, and they can be murdered or enslaved without penalty. In these situations, Luffy’s crew always takes a stand, which generally means a huge amount of property damage and laying the smack down on the offending party.

Wrapping all up, One Piece is a very long saga: it started in 1997 and has continued without significant interruptions until today, with more than 650 episodes in the manga and 500 in the anime. It shows a surprisingly original take on the classic themes of the coming of age and journey of the hero. Its strongest points are the solid character development and the way it shows the thriving world in which they live. Its creator, Eiichiro Oda, is an excellent narrator, and the series always leaves one eager to keep reading, in order to know what new adventures are in store for Monkey D. Luffy and his crew.

Definitely a masterpiece that can be of interest both to manga, adventures, and fantasy enthusiasts.

Note: This article is a translation made by me of another article I wrote for the Spanish online magazine Nosolofreak.



  1. Avatar AnimeDave says:

    Love One Piece 😀 Nice review!!!

  2. Avatar Gray says:

    I was both anxious as well as overjoyed to see this manga/anime being reviewed as it’s the very first anime I had ever watched and had instantly gotten hooked to the world of anime and manga.

    That being said, I must agree with every word in this review and definitely urge readers to check it out !

  3. Thanks for sharing this. To be honest, I watched One Piece before it became really popular here in the USA. I saw the first few episodes on a bootleg DVD in 2002 during my final year of college.

    It’s really remarkable that Oda can create not only such a gripping series with super stories, but character that seem real as if they were flesh and blood.

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