One Piece is one of the most beloved anime in history, but at close to 1,000 episodes, it’s tough for those who haven’t been watching from the start to jump on board. One Piece Diaries tracks one writer’s experience with this daunting rite of passage. With hype for the highs and critique for the lows, this column will help you decide whether to take your own One Piece journey – or let you relive the one you’re already on. It will update biweekly every other Thursday.
Well, I’m four episodes in, and I’m enjoying it more than I thought I would! From what I’ve read about the series, and what I’ve experienced with other shonen, I was expecting a slow start, but I’m engaged right out of the gate. Also a little annoyed.
The first mini-arc, which involved Luffy helping Coby escape from the Alvida Pirates, was a dynamic way to introduce the protagonist and quickly establish his goals. This fed seamlessly into the next storyline, where the corrupt son of Captain Morgan uses his status to bully townspeople and nearly have Roanoa Zoro executed – setting up the conflict between the Pirates and the Marines. Once at sea, Luffy nearly loses his hat, triggering a flashback about his early mentor, Shanks.
The storytelling here was excellent – I already have a clear sense of the main character’s personality and motivation, as well as the world he lives in. I’m also intrigued by the fact that the military officials are the corrupt ones, and the so-called criminals are the good guys.
This is an inversion of the usual tropes. I don’t know yet what they plan to do with this inversion, but I can already tell that this series has a slightly skewed way of seeing the world, and I’m here for it. There are some exceptions to this – Coby seems like a good kid, and he wants to be a Marine, and Alvida, a pirate, is a huge jerk. But that’s a good thing – it creates complexity.
Speaking of Alvida, here’s something I didn’t like. Alvida is a cruel, despotic pirate who is obsessed with her own beauty, but clearly isn’t supposed to be beautiful. Why? Because she’s fat, something that the ever-honest Luffy makes sure to tell her.
I know this is a shonen anime that started in 1999, but that context doesn’t make it any less grating.
Alvida’s vanity is depicted as ridiculous because she isn’t ‘beautiful’, a fact that’s given more screen time than the fact that she’s constantly screaming at Coby. When Coby tells her off, it’s not to critique her abusive behavior, but to call her ugly.
The corrupt male characters we’ve seen so far aren’t evaluated based on their appearance but on their actions – even though Helmeppo’s hair looks like a lemon. Because she’s a woman, her appearance is the most important thing about her. And if she’s fat, she can’t possibly be beautiful – she’s just arrogant.
This, of course, isn’t true. Alvida isn’t beautiful, but it’s not because of her weight, it’s because of her personality. Fat people can be beautiful, but the series presents that as something impossible. So, that’s gross.
Okay, enough about Alvida for now, because I want to end on a positive note. I love, love love how Luffy gains his powers. He just grabbed a fruit and started chowing down to distract himself from how mad he was at the bandits, and then suddenly his whole body changed. Part of me wants it to have a little more impact than that – wouldn’t it hurt to have your body’s composition change so quickly? – but it was so funny I didn’t really care.
Anyway, despite my annoyance with the whole Alvida thing, I liked the opening overall and I’m looking forward to watching more! I’ll be back in two weeks with another update!