Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

One Piece (Wan pîsu) (Season One)

Chances are that if you are reasonably familiar with anime then you have probably heard of One Piece. If, for whatever reason, you haven't heard of this show then you'd certainly be in for a treat. Although some patience will be required of you. Generally, folks steer clear of television shows, movies, and books that are really long and I never have gotten this kind of logic. For one thing, it means missing out on a story just because it isn't confined to a certain length. I have always believed that a story should be as long as it needs to be in order for the story to be told properly. So whether it's six episodes or 600 episodes, I don't really care because I just want a damn good story. Sure, 600+ episodes can seem intimidating, but if it's good you won't really care because you'll enjoy the time spent watching the series.

In case you haven't gathered, One Piece is a very long anime with over 620 episodes to its credit and it isn't finished yet. That makes it the 18th longest anime of all time, I believe. To date this is the longest anime I have attempted. All of the episodes from Dragonball, Dragonball Z, and Dragonball GT combined (629) is just as long as One Piece (629) for now. I say "for now" because One Piece is still in production while the Dragonball franchise has long since been finished.

So watching One Piece is a commitment, no doubt, but it is one worth making if you consider yourself a fan of the action and adventure anime genre. As of this writing, I am about to embark on episode 88 of the series after beginning the first episode on January 1st. My goal is to catch up with the series in six months. I think that is a very doable goal since a little over a 100 episodes a month is very feasible for me. I might even try for 130 a month.

And yes, I still have a job.

However, I am a die hard anime fan with a lot of other stuff to watch (as well as non-anime things to read and watch) so I certainly won't spend all my time on this one show.

But I will tell you a little about each season like I did with Naruto and will do with Naruto: Shippuden, Bleach, and the Dragonball series once I can thin my queue down a bit.

The plot can roughly be summed up by saying that it is about a boy (although his age is hard to discern) named Monkey D. Luffy and his quest to become the King of the Pirates, but I think that the sheer amount of episodes involved warrant a little bit more of an explanation.

The first season (of the sixteen current seasons) is 64 episodes long and it slowly but surely introduces us to the characters we will be sailing with on our journey. The first one we meet is naturally Luffy. He wears tattered jean shorts, a red button-up sleeveless shirt, and the patented straw hat with a red band on it. The straw hat is the reason that his pirate group earn the nickname "Straw Hats," but that is later on down the line. He's a goofy guy, but he seems easier to like than a lot of his shonen counterparts. So if he doesn't mesh with you than you might be in for a very long journey indeed. I really like him, though. He can be very goofy, but he can also kick some serious ass with very little hesitation.

The first season is comprised of a bunch of smaller arcs and they are as follows: Romance Dawn (1-3), Orange Town (4-8), Syrup Village (9-17), Baratie (18-30), Arlong Park (31-44), Buggy side story (45-47), Loguetown (48-53), Warship Island (54-61), Reverse Mountain (62-63), and then Whiskey Peak (64-67). For whatever odd reason the first season ends at the beginning of the Whiskey Peak while the East Blue Saga ends at episode 61 with the Alabasta Saga beginning on episode 62.

Not quite sure who thought the division between seasons out, but I think that's a little bit screwed up. Stopping a season right in the middle of an arc in a different saga doesn't make much sense.

The first three arcs are pretty decent and they introduce us to Luffy's some of eventual crew members: pirate hunter Roronoa Zoro, liar Usopp, and navigator Nami. The villains from the first three arcs left me with mixed feelings. Axe-hand Morgan seemed cool, but then I thought things took a step backward with the introduction of Buggy. Buggy just didn't interest me that much (although I did like when his character was reintroduced in episode 45... sort of). Then the Captain Kuro stuff really seemed to indicate that this show could actually be better than your average adventure schtick.

By the time I made it to the Baratie arc I wasn't sure if I really could be into this show for the long haul. It was okay so far, but not super fantastic. Certainly not worth 600+ plus episodes and six months of my time.

Then came the Baratie and the Arlong Park arcs.

And, man, did this show take a fucking great turn. 

One thing I have liked about this show since the beginning is that the characters are generally well-rounded and fleshed out. The Baratie arc shows us Zoro's motivation for wanting to be the most skilled fighter in the world. That same arc introduces us to Sanji and tells us his backstory. I like that. Each time a new character is introduced we are told what we need to know about them to make them interesting. A lot of anime expects you to take their cardboard caricatures as being interesting without telling you anything about them or showing them do anything, but not One Piece.

The best of the backstories (and villains) of the first season is saved for the Arlong Park arc, though.

Inuyasha started the same way, basically introducing each character one by one in a new adventure, but Inuyasha couldn't carry its own weight after a while. The lack of diverse villains didn't help Inuyasha, either. One Piece doesn't fail like Inuyasha did. I mean, Inuyasha was okay, but it was way too long and the same points were hammered on endlessly. It's like that characterization in Inuyasha stopped after the two seasons because the writers forgot what that word meant. When I was on episode 80-something of Inuyasha I was hoping that an end was on the horizon somewhere. One Piece is different, though. One Piece has a bit of a leisurely pace, but never feels deliberately slow (as far as the canon episodes are concerned, anyway). The fighting is prominent and in multi-episode format like Dragonball Z, but the resolutions to each fight are worth it and they don't feel like they have been dragged out. 

Of course, I'm not watching these episodes week to week like people did when they premiered, but going through about five per day. Sometimes more, sometimes less. But I don't feel like I'm forcing myself through these episodes even though I made it a point to watch them. If I were someone dedicating years of childhood, teengedom, and even adulthood to this show then my opinion might very be different. 

The only time when things got tedious was during the Warship Island arc. That stuff is filler (although the last half of episode 61 is canon). Episodes 50 and 51 from the first season are also filler. It's pretty impressive how long it took for filler to rear its head, though. Dragonball Z was hitting its first filler before episode ten. Naruto hit its first filler on episode 26. So for the first filler to be episode 50... that's impressive.

So, folks, if you've got a Funimation account then you can watch pretty much entire show online in either the dubbed or subbed version. I'm obviously going subbed the whole way.

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