When friends ask me about a shounen story I’d recommend, the first title that comes to mind is One Piece. After hearing the title, most of them groan saying “it’s too long” or “there’s no bishounen in there” or “the art is butt ugly.” Although I’d honestly like to immediately contest and defend this rag tag crew to them, I always just throw at them the line “For your nakama1, just give it a shot.” Happily so, after I lend them 20 volumes to read, they’d come back screaming “Nakama!!” with great gusto!
One Piece is more than just a shounen story with a pirate touch. Oda Eiichiro has turned Luffy’s quest for One Piece into your adventure as well. This is the reason why it has lasted a decade with fans and why it’ll be probably go on for a couple more years. This is a manga where the characters become your nakama.
Hopping on the ship
The story of One Piece revolves around a boy named Luffy who wants to become a pirate. The moment he grew older he set sail looking for comrades to join him in his ship. Together, they go all over the seas where they can find the great pirate treasure “One Piece”. Such a simple story, however, people are always hesitant to start with One Piece.
Getting started with One Piece is always an issue. Really. I cannot stress enough how much I have recommended this to many friends and all of them just shrug their shoulders wanting to read Bleach or Naruto instead. The first hurdle in One Piece is the art. It’s too simple. Un-mangaish. Luffy isn’t a bishounen like Sasuke or Ichigo. Luffy doesn’t look cool. I remember having said this myself when I started out but I sure ate my words by the second volume.
Sure, the art is not something we’d easily consider as handsome by Bleach or Naruto standards. It is indeed childish with large round eyes and gummy faces. But his art works well with the paneling. His art doesn’t look too constricted when he places them in small panels. When he dedicates a page for a moment it becomes ‘THE’ moment. More so, he also takes time in reconstructing the world. You can see detail in his backgrounds even for the small panels. The cartoony images work for his style and his world. And when it matters, Odacchi2 will place the details on his character’s faces and they’ll be just as cool, if not even cooler than Ichigo.
Luffy is the Captain. Not Zoro. Not Sanji. Not Nami. It can only be Luffy.
So, you have one great swordsman who can cut and slice anything with his swords. You have a cook who can mince meat with his feet. And you have a smart navigator who has a keen sense of the weather. So why do you have a captain who can’t swim and can’t make smart decision?
Sure Luffy is a glutton and an idiot. But he’s got the heart of the captain. And that’s why he is one. He may not be your average suave and cool shounen jump hero, but, in my opinion, he has the spirit and the energy to be one. His optimism and faith in his friends is endearing. Just when everybody thinks it’s over, here’s Luffy screaming his guts out telling everybody that the battle is not over until some fat lady sings. Because his crew knows that Luffy trusts them that’s why they too trust in him infallibly. It is this trust, earned and fought for by Luffy that made his people follow him despite his silly demeanor.
When Luffy steps up and decides to put matters into his hands, Luffy is cooler than Sanji and Zoro combined. You actually just have to read it and you’ll know why Sanji and Zoro are cool they way they do right now. It’s because they met someone like Luffy, someone who had absolute faith in them and someone whom they don’t want to disappoint. It’s amazing how Luffy’s energy just channels through the rest of the crew whenever they go to battle. His bravery, courage, and sense of justice is amazing. And this is why he’s captain and not anybody else.
A long adventure is long. But you’ll get by since you have your nakama
If there is a point where I would probably claim defeat is the idea that I’m pimping over 40 volumes of One Piece to my friends. IT IS LONG. And it will be even longer since I know that they have just arrived probably towards half of their journey (They just got their shipwright Franky a months ago!!). The interesting thing though is that you won’t feel the length of the journey nor get bored by it because you know that you’ll have a great adventure with great comrades. Odacchi is a master in plotting. The world he established for One Piece gave him an infinite amount of creativity to harness. You are guaranteed that you won’t be getting bored thinking that they’ll be on the same island again. In fact, after the last adventure, you’ll be asking ‘So, where do we go next?’ The One Piece world, wherein your next stop is unknown, creates opportunity for creativity. And Odacchi doesn’t fall short of this. He will always have exciting battles and moving stories to tell. Yes. Moving stories. One that can literally sweep you off your feet and make you cry. Yes, this is a shounen manga.
It’s a given if you cry in shoujo manga. Seinen, I prolly cried once or twice. But shounen manga is all about action and battles, victory, and perseverance. Sometimes emotions are set aside making the event more cool than it is really a development of a character. In One Piece, Odacchi is not scared to make his heroes cry nor is he scared to do something that will make you cry. It is this sad tale of parting, the happiness of victory, and the inexplicable trust that just punches your heart and makes you think “So, there are still people who value friendship like this.” I have cried countless times in One Piece. I even cried when they lost their trusty friend, their ship Going Merry. (Yes… I truly cried for a ship and the idea still brings tears to my eyes!) When Sanji left Baratie… all of them moving. And strangely so, in a shounen manga!! Of course, with most tears are joys and One Piece also has that up its alley. The crews personalities just collide and is really funny, especially Luffy. That guy is on crack. Him and his family. XD
As I said earlier, Luffy’s strength lies in his faith in his nakama and this will be utilized over and over again when hardships befall on the Strawhat pirates. You will see them try their best to get out of the ruckus together. And you’ll see them try to use their skills to protect and to journey through the dangerous seas. It’s really moving, to the point that it can move you to tears and make you shout “Nakama!!!” As you go through each adventure and you meet new people, over and over again you will see how this crew of 8 (or maybe 9… soon) prove time and time again that it’s their friendship that makes them strong. And this makes One Piece one of the best stories that is running on Jump. It has dreams and goals that boys dream of. More so, it has values that make men out of boys.
On a side note, it’s kind of sad that the popularity of One Piece is not as big as Ghost Fighter or Dragon Ball was to Filipinos. Is it because Luffy looks lanky? But he’s really cool you know. And the Tagalog dubs are really good. I wonder why though. Hmmm… Bleach and Naruto is a whole lot popular here too, but I strongly and firmly believe that One Piece should get some loving from the local community too. lol.