‘One Piece’ Diaries #2

by Anna Lindwasser

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 passageWith 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.

Episodes Watched: 5 – 18 –  Orange Town & Syrup Village Arc

I’m further along as you read this than I was when I wrote this. Nevertheless, things are going slowly. Not only am I trying to keep up with like five seasons, but I also got distracted by both Peach Girl and Somali & The Forest Spirit. And not that there’s much life stuff during a pandemic, but I still have obligations outside of watching anime.

I promised myself I would stick to at least one episode per day. I’m assuming that if I get hooked, I’ll want to watch more than that, and I’ll make time. So far, I’m not hooked.

My experience seems to be in line with a lot of other people’s. When I scroll down to the comments on Crunchyroll, most people seem to find the opening tough to get through. It’s charming, and it has great moments, but I don’t feel compelled to see what happens next.

I’ve seen varying accounts of when it “gets good.” Some people say it’s by the Arlong Park arc, and others say it’s not for a few hundred episodes. I haven’t found my magic number yet, so for now I’ll just keep plugging along.

I don’t have much to say about Orange Town, other than the fact that whoever they hired to voice ChouChou couldn’t have sounded less like a dog if they tried.

Buggy is a somewhat important villain, but I know he’s going to come back later, so I’ll get to him later. We’ll leave Orange Town alone, and head to Syrup Village.

Before I knew what was going on with Klahadore, aka Captain Kuro, I was annoyed on his behalf because I thought that Kaya wasn’t paying him enough to buy glasses that fit. I don’t think the series was trying to build sympathy for him – at most, it was a metaphor about how he’d spent his life pursuing something that ‘didn’t fit.’ But as a glasses wearer myself, that detail stood out.

Once I got to know what his whole deal was, I found it oddly refreshing. Yeah, being a pirate is probably totally exhausting! It’s reasonable to want to get out of the business and live in comfort. It’s even reasonable for someone who’s made a living stealing from others to specifically target a rich girl.

I didn’t want him to succeed in his nefarious plans, but I did appreciate that his motives extended beyond mindless power-grabbing into something more practical and realistic. Also, I like his shoes.

This arc also saw the introduction of Usopp, who is almost certainly a much more important character than Kuro.

Usopp’s design is upsetting. His ‘donut lips’ are an uncomfortably racist design choice, often found in anime characters with darker skin. These exaggerated, unrealistic lips bring to mind insulting historical depictions of black people like the pickaninny and “Little Black Sambo”. It’s true the series debuted in the 90s and that Japan is a racially homogenous country, but that doesn’t make the depiction less harmful – especially since Oda hammers it home by claiming that Usopp would be “African” in the real world, based on his appearance alone.

Design aside, I found his character to be quite charming. He’s an orphan boy who spent his childhood lying to get love and attention from his village. He reminded me a lot of Naruto Uzumaki, except that he found love and support more easily than Naruto did. Usopp is a layered character – cowardly at times, but also willing to take huge risks to protect others, simultaneously humble and self-aggrandizing, and overall just a very good kid. I’m looking forward to getting to know him better.

Also, I can’t close without talking about Usopp’s name. According to his trivia page, it seems like his name is a cross between the Japanese word ‘uso’ which means lies, and Aesop’s fables, from which he takes his storytelling traits and backstory.

That’s cool and all, but my idiot brain somehow processed this as “his name is PP Liar.”

Anyway, I’ll be back in two weeks to talk about the Baratie arc.

%d bloggers like this: