Of Sea Kings and Sky Islands: A One Piece Manga Review

Title: One Piece
Genres: Shonen, Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Humor
Author/Artist: Oda Eiichiro
Publication: Weekly Shonen Jump
Start Date: August 4, 1997
End Date: On-going
Number of chapters at review: 597
Number of chapters read by reviewer: 597
Summary: Monkey D. Luffy sets out on a journey in order to fulfill his dreams of becoming pirate king and obtaining the great treasure One Piece, while gathering invaluable crewmates and strength along the way.

There’s been a slew of manga these past few years, and yet so few of them managed to make an impact as much as the classics (like Dragon Ball Z, Rurouni Kenshin and Slam Dunk) have done. As of the moment, there are only three manga who have god-like status in terms of popularity, also known as the Shonen Trinity: Naruto, Bleach & One Piece. No doubt Naruto and Bleach are already popular in the international market, but the underappreciated (at least by the international anime community) gem of the shonen trinity that is called One Piece is in fact the best selling manga of all time in Japan. Hopefully, this review may give you the helpful nudge into completing the Jump experience, for once you start, you’ll surely be in for a long but humorous and action-packed adventure.

Category Ratings: (1-10 scale)
Art: 9

For a developed art style, it is certainly unique and is a breath of fresh air from all those other anime that look the same. Sure, it may not look all that great in the beginning of the manga, but as it goes on, the art definitely gets better. As of the past 100 chapters, Oda probably is the manga-ka that puts the most detail in a weekly manga.

Fig. 1 One Piece art development as seen in Luffy's punches; from left: Luffy punching Alvida in Chapter 1, Luffy punching Bellamy in Chapter 232 and Luffy punching Saint Charloss in Chapter 502. Notice the increase in detail and the improvement in overall art as the story progresses.

Plot: 10
It may seem that it has a certain cycle (go to an island, meet some friends, beat up the enemies that made your friend suffer, go on to the next island), but the way Oda executes it doesn’t make it seem cyclic at all, since people tend get so caught up in the moment that they don’t really mind if there is a formula behind it all.
The series is also a surprisingly awesome mix of action, humor, and not to mention drama, for it can bring people to tears without killing its characters off. Oda has also planned his entire series from the start, which is a big plus, so there is no way that it will ever lose its direction. One Piece also doesn’t lose sight of the rules that the author set from the start, and there are no large scale power escalations among the characters. Luffy and co. still tend to lose to the bigshots that are stronger than them, and manages to show us how much work the crew still has to do before achieving their dreams.

Fig. 2 The major elements that Oda incorporates in his manga to keep readers interested. From left: Action, Humor and Drama.

Characters: 10
Most of the characters in One Piece have a unique design that surely makes you remember most, if not all, of them. Oda has also managed to give his characters great depth and unique back stories, not to mention their very own laughing styles (like Blackbeard’s Zehahaha or Saul’s Dereshishishishishi) and quirks (for example, Nami’s insane love for money, Brooke’s burping and farting, and Hancock’s looking down on people) His characters also seem to leap out of the page, and are never out of character. The way Oda managed to shell out consistently amazing characters for more than ten years is no mean feat.

Fig. 3 Several examples of One Piece character designs. From left: Saint Charloss, Hannyabal, Boa Hancock, Sengoku, Gecko Moria

Themes: 10
One Piece manages to tackle several themes in its run so far. One of them, nationalism, was done very skilfully and managed to touch people with it. Racism and slavery also seems to be a recurring theme in the anime, not to mention the corruption of the government. The action and humor makes it appealing to children, but it’s these themes that Oda have incorporated into his manga that attract the older audiences, making the manga popular among all ages.

Fig. 4 Several themes found in One Piece; from left: Nationalism, Slavery and Racism

Originality: 10
One Piece certainly is one of the most unique manga out there. The concept of devil fruits, pirates, sky islands is certainly something that no normal person would have thought of. Oda’s imagination has run wild with this piece, turning even simple telephones into snails, stoves into things called dials, and even coming up with things like the Reverse Mountain, Knock-up stream, Water Metropolis, and not to mention the anomaly that is called Enies Lobby.

Fig 5 Several examples of One Piece oddities. Den Den Mushi (One Piece equivalent of a phone), Devil fruit (gives user unique abilities but strips the user of the ability to swim), Water Seven (the water metropolis operates by using water), and the Knock-up stream (abnormal current due to the air pockets in the oceanic crust).

Overall: 10
One Piece is definitely one of the, if not the best manga out there. Oda’s genius will never fail to amaze you, and even with more than five hundred chapters, it’s still going strong, and he never fails to surprise everyone with even more tricks up his sleeve. You’re up for a long journey through the Grand Line indeed!

1 Response to “Of Sea Kings and Sky Islands: A One Piece Manga Review”

  1. 1 SAM December 25, 2012 at 7:10 am

    so another one piece fan here? i myself give this series 9 out of 10.
    being a regular reader of it past 5 years

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