As COVID-19 swept across the world, many countries enforced lockdown rules to slow the spread of the virus. Ultimately people ended up with a lot of extra time on their hands from working from home and not being able to go out. Some learnt a new language, others an instrument, and a few even decided to get fitter. Me? I started watching One Piece.
As a huge fan of Shonen Jump shows such as the Dragon Ball series, My Hero Academia, Gintama, etc., it was always something on my watchlist. Where the number of episodes in the series was off-putting before, all the extra time I gained made it more inviting. There are still lots of people on the fence about watching it, so what can you expect from One Piece?
As the One Piece anime started in 1999, it starts off in a 4:3 ratio using classic cel techniques in notably impressive and creative ways. Animated by Toei Animation, there is a huge amount of effort considering all the hand-drawn cels involved. This effort is only added to seeing the different outfits characters wear in the separate story arcs meaning a lot couldn’t be reused. Despite being cel-animation, the movements are fluid and have more of a flow compared to other works using this method of animation. This is most evident in the attacks during fight scenes as they are unique compared to other shows, really showing off all the characters’ various abilities such as Luffy’s rubber body allowing him to pull off incredibly unique techniques as he stretches his body in different ways. As the years go by production-wise, One Piece does move to a digital style in a surprisingly smooth transition, working only to improve these fight scenes and move into a widescreen ratio.
Although the real highlight is the backgrounds as it interestingly has a watercolour design. These give a warm feeling and just so nice to look at. Outside of the background, the colouring is used effectively to emphasise the emotions in the scenes. Although this is something lost in the move to digital, still slightly present but opting for a more standard colour scheme overall. Either way, what remains consistent as they travel across the seas, discovering different islands is the incredibly unique features of the destinations with a serving of fantasy elements to spice it up further. A great example of this is when they travel to an island in the sky. It doesn’t matter if it is an island they spend a few episodes on or even a whole arc, each has a whimsical feel as the characters themselves get swept up in the adventure, the viewer can’t help but be swept away too.
One Piece revolves around Monkey D. Luffy, who is enlisting others to join his Straw Hat pirate crew on his quest to find the One Piece treasure and become the Pirate King. Interestingly, it begins right when Luffy starts to get crew members to form the Straw Hat pirates, meaning the viewer joins the adventure from the very beginning. It creates a more natural progression of the Straw Hat crew as through the episodes their bonds strengthen as they overcome the different challenges they face. Particularly as they all have their own reason to set out to the seas, joining together to help each other achieve these goals. This is only enhanced by how well the characters are designed as each character is incredibly unique with extensive backgrounds that are explored in-depth, making good use of the number of episodes. Not only that, it is one of those few shows that pulls off every character having a heart-wrenching backstory without feeling forced as it works to enhance the unity of the crew as they were rejected by society in some shape or form. In a subtle way, there is a strong message of acceptance and that a person’s past doesn’t define them. A powerful message that isn’t expected from the outside looking in. Sure some may argue this is at the cost of pace but it pays off in seeing how the characters develop over time and frankly One Piece is one of the best series for this.
In terms of the wider plot, comparing it to all the Shonen Jump shows I’ve watched, it has to be the most solid out of all of them. Sure, there is the odd time pacing is a bit off but it is very much worth it. Remember, it airs pretty much weekly so the extended recaps help on a production level, although proper recap episodes using old footage don’t happen until around the 200 mark which is an impressive feat in itself. Still enough about pacing, the plot itself comes together extremely well even with a slow burn overarching plot behind the shorter term arcs which start in throwaway moments which build up as the series goes on. This is only enhanced in how all the arcs are anything but predictable. It is incredibly hard to guess what happens next making it heavily gripping and even when the direction is obvious the manner on how the issue is resolved isn’t. Not only that, there are also darker themes at play making it more mature than the art style lets on. However, it is a balance. It pulls off the serious side of things whilst being utterly goofy at other times. The lovable nature of the characters allow for this balance and makes the viewer feel all kind of emotions. Again, this all works as One Piece gives itself the chance to fully develop the ideas and sure, it is a shame pacing puts some off but it is very much worth it.
Admittedly the opening and ending themes are a bit hit and miss. This isn’t helped by how the first one, We Are, is an absolute classic and captures the heart of the show. In all honesty, they could’ve of gotten away with using it the whole time as it never gets old with the soul of One Piece in the track. Other than the themes, the soundtrack itself is great and distinctive. Where due to the amount of episodes it gets repetitive, it works just as well and helps reinforce the consistent feel of the show as the same music plays for the funny moments, fights, etc. It helps all the episodes feel connected despite the number of them.
This is matched with an incredible Japanese voice acting cast who bring the characters to life. Each voice talent manages to further the uniqueness of their designs and make them feel distinctive. Even the few that are recognisable from other series still bring something different this time around. Out of all of them, Luffy is the most impressive as he is voiced by Mayumi Tanaka, who is a woman but in a rare occurrence that isn’t obvious (unlike Goku in Dragonball Z). Overall, it perfects the already in-depth character design.
Helped During Lockdown
Usually, a review wouldn’t contain a section like this but One Piece has helped me deal with lockdown and everything else going on in the world so I wanted to take a moment to explain in case it could help others as well. Let’s start with the obvious, the number of episodes itself. Other than the fact of solving the issue of what to watch next it created a sense of consistency as the weeks went by. With all the changes with the guidance, it was nice to have something that was the same week in week out. Not only that, it was nostalgic. Sure, it wasn’t something I watched as a kid but the animation style reminded me of the anime I did watch back then making it comforting nonetheless. Lastly, the plot itself. Before COVID-19 the world was already divided and it has only made matters worse. Seeing the unity of the Straw Hat crew was another way the series provided comfort. Not only that, just seeing an adventure around the world, whilst travel is restricted, just increased the sense of adventure. If anything, this may prove now is really the right time to watch before things get back to normal!
So there you have it, One Piece is a show bound to cheer up your day with some of the purest forms of escapism. Incredibly well written, it is hard not to be invested in the interestingly designed characters, whilst wishing for their success as the plot marches on. Despite the large number of episodes, the pace is generally good and with all this extra time it is the right time to watch. Okay, that’s done I’m off to find the One Piece and become the Pirate King myself!