I’ll have to say that One Piece is one of the best shonen anime series out there, with plenty of unique twists to the typical formula.
First of all, the main character, Monkey D. Luffy, is a teenage guy with the power to stretch and bend his own body at will. He is literally a rubber man, who received his powers from eating the devil’s Gum Gum fruit. However, as a consequence, he cannot swim.
He’s also far more outspoken than most anime shonen. He literally speaks up whenever somebody is in trouble, sometimes completely blowing the element of surprise. Then again, he’s such a versatile and powerful character that one could call him “flexible.”
Luffy is planning a voyage on the Grand Line, to search for treasure and become the pirate king. Of course, we still have no idea how he’s going to do that, until he knocks out other pirates to get their ships. He also befriends a number of friends to help him.
He first helps Koby, a purple-haired boy, escape from his slave work on the ship of the Pirate Queen, Lady Alvida. Then he starts looking for a crew. The first member he finds is Roronoa Zolo, a swordsman who handles three swords to kill his enemies. He wants to become the master of swordfighting.That’s one big ambition.
After Luffy rescues Zolo from his execution, kills the evil Captain Morgan and saves the town, Luffy sails his ship to search for the map to the Grand Line. After launching himself in the air with his arms, Luffy runs into Nami, a pirate thief. She’s very sneaky at stealing loot from pirates, and she tricked Luffy into getting captured by other pirates, so that she could get the map from Buggy the clown…er…clown pirate.
While the plot of this part of the series is certainly standard shonen action, in which Luffy kicks Buggy’s butt, the characters are so multifaceted that one could hardly call it typical. Luffy is wearing the straw hat of his childhood friend, Captain Shanks, who saved him a long time ago. Luffy is hoping to return the hat. Zolo is getting better at swordfighting so that he can once again duel his childhood girlfriend.
Most of all, the female character, Nami, is one of the most complex characters. Nami hates pirates, especially after they killed one of her best friends. Although at first she despises Luffy’s ambition to become the Pirate King, she become more and more impressed with Luffy’s passion for fighting other pirates. To say the least, Nami identifies Luffy as an anti-pirate, who fights pirates who attack innocent villages.
While there are times when Nami gets hurt, she is far more independent than Kamiya Kaoru in Rurouni Kenshin. And Nami is very smart, and often identifies the pirates’ special abilities sooner than Luffy or the other guys recognize them. This is one of the few anime series in which all the characters work as a team, each contributing their own talents.
Although this first DVD set consists of only the stories with villains Lady Alvida, Captain Morgan and Buggy the Clown, the story remains very solid. Most of all, the characters are very admirable. And while the fighting mostly consists of the villains pulling off special moves before Luffy and Zolo kill them, they are visually stunning fights with lion tamers, acrobats and a clown who can freely move his arms and legs off his body at will.
Even if this is a rather typical shonen, it is far more optimistic and epic than most shonen anime out there. In my opinion, it looks a lot cooler than Dragon Ball Z. It is an anime essential, especially for anyone who really hated the previous release of One Piece by the dreaded 4Kids company, with awful English dubs. The Funimation version features a decent dub and the original Japanese voice track as well (with optional subtitles). This is one set that I highly recommend.
Image courtesy of animecubed.com