One Piece Volume 1

“You want my treasure? You can have it. I left it everything I gathered together in one place. Now you just have to find it!” The last words of Gold Roger, the King of the Pirates.

Monkey D. Luffy has a dream: to become King of all the Pirates – and to search for the legendary pirate treasure, One Piece, buried somewhere along the Grand Line. According to Luffy’s simple, optimistic view of the world, a pirate’s life is one that glorifies being a free spirit, of pursuing one’s dream and believing in the power of friendship, unfettered by the dull constraints of everyday life. Eiichiro Oda’s classic (and ongoing since 1997) shounen tale is the best-selling manga in Japan (and isn’t doing too badly elsewhere either.)

In Luffy’s world, Devil Fruits exist – and if you eat one, you gain extraordinary powers. Luffy manages to eat the Gum Gum fruit and becomes a rubber man – with the downside that he loses the ability to swim; if he falls into the sea, he’ll drown (not so good for an aspiring pirate.)

Luffy’s happy-go-lucky approach to life lands him in all kinds of mishaps and clashes with dastardly pirates (of the Wrong kind.) However his strong sense of justice finds him risking his life to rescue fabled swordsman – and pirate hunter – Roronoa Zoro from the clutches of a corrupt Marine commander. Constantly taking advantage of the distractions Luffy’s antics cause is light-fingered, red-haired navigator and thief Nami and when she steals a map of the Grand Line from another pirate, it looks as if she may be destined to join up with Luffy too.

The first episodes of One Piece – in which we meet Luffy and watch him set out on his grand adventure, collecting the members of his ‘unusual’ pirate crew along the way – move at a surprisingly slow pace. This is partly because the story unfolds in a more leisurely way than we’ve become accustomed to (these episodes date from c. 1999) and partly because the animation budget must have been a little tight, so there are plenty of still shots, even in fight sequences.

But if, like me, you remember the crudely edited TV version (no smoking, no alcohol, no violence, no deaths ‘becuz this is a cartoon fur kidz’) with the wonderfully stirring original music by Kouhei Tanaka and Shiroh Hanaguchi replaced by some loud forgettable blah) you’ll be so grateful to be watching the ‘real thing’ at last with the proper orchestral soundtrack that you’ll overlook these little quibbles.

Oda-sensei has made no secret of his love of and admiration for the Dragon Ball series and Toriyama’s influence can be seen in these early episodes, partly in the exuberance of the action and the quirkily imaginative powers of Luffy’s villainous opponents (check out Buggy the Clown) but also in the depiction of the characters and their facial expressions.

And what about the FUNimation dub? The versatile Colleen Clinkenbeard makes a feisty Luffy, Sonny Strait is suitably irritating as Usopp, Luci Christian can’t go wrong with Nami, and Christopher R. Sabat is alternately cool and irritated as swordsmaster Zoro (and how good it is to have the correct version of the name, rather than the awkward ‘Zolo’ of the earlier US version, done, if I recall correctly, for slightly debatable copyright reasons.) Purists will enjoy the original seiyuu: Mayumi Tanaka (Kuririn in Dragon Ball Z) as Luffy; Kappei Yamaguchi (Inu Yasha) as Usopp; Akemi Okamura as Nami and Kazuya Nakai as Zoro.

The stirring Opening song “We Are!” is available in English performed by Vic Mignogna or in the original Japanese by Hiroshi Kitadani. The more contemplative Ending is “Memories” which is performed in English by Brina Palencia – or you can switch to Maki Otsuki for the original version if you prefer.

Extras: Trailers, Staff Commentaries and Textless Songs.

It’s brash, it’s loud, it’s exuberant – and its shounen pirate heart is in the right place. However, it’s also showing its age a little; not a bad thing, per se, but if you’ve never seen One Piece before, you may need to make a few allowances in these early episodes. Stay with it, though; your patience will be rewarded.

7 / 10


Sarah's been writing about her love of manga and anime since Whenever - and first started watching via Le Club Dorothée in France...

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