Sunday, May 16, 2010

One Piece

So, I spent the weekend (and a good chunk of last weekend) reading One Piece. It was very good, and I fully see why it's the single most popular manga ever in Japan. And I mean, it's ridiculous how much One Piece crap you see here. You go into a random store, and I'll be willing to bet that there'll be at least one One Piece item. I recall hearing that One Piece tankouban are among the best-selling books in Japan, if not the best-selling. Books, not just manga. One Piece is ridiculous. One friend of mine mentioned how some people he was working with asked him what manga he liked, then (drunkenly) insisted that he read One Piece.

At its core, One Piece is a silly, lighthearted pirate drama. It's pure shonen cheese, and it revels in it. Reactions are overblown, characters suffer ludicrous punishment* and come out smiling, and the power of friendship can beat down anything. The bad guys are ludicrously evil at times, and at other times just ludicrous. I don't feel like summarizing any of the plot right now, but suffice to say that there are moments of the purest win, and distilled awesome, and no real lows like you get in Naruto and Bleach.

Saying that...the latest arc (the Whitebeard War one) didn't do it for me. And there's a prime reason for that. The crew was broken up, and we've heard exactly jack and shit about them since Kuma split them up. It was all about Luffy trying to save his brother, and a bunch of characters I really didn't care about doing stuff. Plus, I really don't feel like One Piece's power system lends itself to epic clashes. With all the individual devil-fruit powers and whatnot, fights need to be one-on-one type deals where each combatant can have attention focuses on his abilities. Mooks are there to be effortlessly swept out of the way. Previously, One Piece pretty much stuck to that formula and it worked, but with the sheer amount of unique powers being slung around in the battle, it was highly confusing and altogether not as awesome as folk squaring off one-on-one. Sure, it's probably a touch more realistic, but...well, if you're expecting realism, you clearly haven't read One Piece.

But like I said, the fact that the Straw Hat crew was broken up (really, right after Brooks joined!) bugs me. The primary appeal of One Piece was the sheer dedication of the Nakama to one another, and that's just vanished ever since the group's been split up. Luffy's been so focused on Ace that he hasn't given a spare thought to his friends, and the manga hasn't saw fit to give them much more than a couple pages.

So I hope that we'll be seeing a reunification of the crew very shortly.

P.S.- Nico Robin is smoking hot.

*For this reason and this reason alone do I think that Luffy could take Naruto in a fight. Even given Naruto's superhuman toughness and recovery, Luffy is just in another league.

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