ANIME & MANGA - Article
11:00 - 25th April 2013, by NEO Staff


"Ninjas or pirates?" It's one of the most divisive questions you can ask anime fans on the internet. While Naruto - representing the ninja corner, of course - has proven hugely popular in the UK, fans over here have long been denied chance to weigh in on the other half of the line-up. With the long-awaited arrival of One Piece on DVD this May, that finally changes.

The series is a globe spanning adventure centred on Monkey D. Luffy, a hero in the spirit of Dragon Ball's Goku - seemingly not too bright, but with a heart of gold. Enjoying versatile rubber-body powers that he uses in surprisingly inventive ways, but suffering a fatal weakness to water, he nevertheless sails the world as the ever-optimistic captain of the good ship Going Merry and leader to the Straw Hat Pirates. One Piece blends fantasy and adventure, all set on an almost entirely aquatic world where the only large expanse of land is a ring of dangerous mountains encircling the planet. A nautical society has understandably developed, where people are dispersed across several smaller island communities, trading and communicating via boat. It's also a world of magic and steampunk pseudo-science, where mystical 'Demon Fruit' can grant bizarre superpowers when eaten, and whole cultures of animal people live at odds with humans.

Decades before the start of the series, the renowned 'King of the Pirates', Gol D. Roger, hid his legendary treasure - the One Piece of the title - in the Grand Line, a distant ocean and its surrounding territories. Challenging any who fancied claiming his legacy to find it themselves, Roger's proclamation gave birth to a golden age of piracy, with would-be pirates racing each other for the prize. Luffy is one such pirate, inspired by a childhood idol to take to the seas in search of adventure. Joined by sword-master Zoro, elite thief-turned-navigator Nami, fiery chef Sanji and oddball mechanic Usopp, the loose-knit group frequently find themselves standing up for the weak and oppressed in their travels, all while avoiding the attention of both violent bands of rival pirates and the World Government's Marines.

The quest for Roger's treasure and inheriting his 'royal' title serves as a starting point and reason for the crew to come together, but is far from the main focus of the series. At its heart, One Piece is about the sheer joy of exploration and adventure. As the series progresses, it also explores some unexpectedly mature themes - slavery, racism, war and child abuse are all addressed, delivering a depth and consideration to the saga belying its overtly comedic visuals.
One Piece ©Eiichiro Oda/Shueisha, Toei Animation. This is an extract from a longer article which originally appeared in issue 109 of NEO.

TAGS: One Piece
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