A Review is usually done when you finish an anime or a game. But, One Piece is an anime that refuses to stop and still continues to air after starting airing in the late 1990’s. The anime has logged around 700+ episodes and is expected to run for a few more years. So while this can look and feel like a review, it’s actually not one.
The anime is an adaptation of the equally famous manga, with the same name, which was written and illustrated by Eiichiro Oda himself. This review will be scored on the basis of the aired episodes of the anime and a bunch of other factors. I’ve tried to keep this as spoiler-free as possible, but we’re human and hence, Spoiler Alert!
That said, let’s dive in.
The story of the series is pretty basic. It revolves around our young protagonist and his merry band of misfits as they hunt for something great. This time around, our protagonist is Monkey D. Luffy, a kid with the power of being able to stretch/bend like rubber and his quest to find the treasure of the legendary pirate king, Gol D. Roger. And no, they’re not related. A very important thing going in is that the story flows like water. It twists and turns in often unpredictable ways. That said, props to Oda for still maintaining consistency and adding things to the lore with each step while making clear-cut changes as it progresses on. The story never seems to hang around one thing too long but at the time, doesn’t seem to rush it either. The pacing is excellent.
Character development, though seemingly lazy initially, is not. Each character is fleshed out and Oda took special care into crafting each of their stories with painstaking detail as our protagonist’s. Since this is a show/series about pirates, our characters are all part of the crew with specific roles to fill in. We first meet Zoro, our swordsman, then, Usopp the Sniper, Nami, our navigator, Sanji the Chef, Chopper the medic, Nico Robin the Archaeologist, Franky the mechanic and Brook the musician. While being vital parts of the crew, they also bring their own skills to the battlefield. Zorro is a master swordsman, Usopp is the marksman, Nami uses her agility to get around and later on, uses a special weather rod to control the elements around her, Sanji uses his strong legs to fight with a style akin to Taekwondo, Nico has the ability to sprout limbs out of anywhere in a given radius, Franky is an android and hence uses steampunk/ballistic weapons/abilities and Brook is a skeletal fencer. Chopper, also the mascot, though unimposing in stature and often depicted as the cute pacifist, the reindeer-ish character can burst his limits and become a monster like Hulk if he wants to. Together, they form the Straw Hat Pirates.
Eiichiro Oda has the insane ability to give life to the most innate objects and convey emotions through simple plot lines and set pieces. The story never ceases to be interesting. The longer run time of each season actually allows him to pack more detail into the story and rely less on fanservice to get the job done. That said, there still is plenty of that going on too. The manga-anime conversion is pretty solid. Though there are a few non-canon episodes, they hold themselves well and are fun to watch.
The visuals of One Piece are unique to say the least. They are not for everyone. As we live in an age where visual perception is as important as the quality of story or character development, this can be a serious detriment. On one end of the spectrum, it can be argued that Oda wanted this to have a unique quality of its own but on the other, it can be argued that it’s downright lazy and cheap. That said, a lot of people actually like it and I am one of them. It holds its own and though it’s seemingly unrealistic at times…well, this is a world where there exist fish-men who can breathe above water and can find fruits that grant super powers. I rest my case.
The animation is well done and the fight sequences are fantastic. Toei Animation did a good job and the anime conversion from the manga was done justice. The special effects do not divert the attention from the fight between the characters to the effects themselves. The expressions, like the art style, though comical at times, have been done justice. Before you start making assumptions as soon as you see the first episode and find the quality of it lackluster, you have to remember that it was done back in 1998. The later episodes have come with better animation and there is/was no cut corners. In a way, the anime grew with us (if you’ve been following it from the beginning as I have) as we see the quality of it growing with each successive episode.
Voiceovers are the lifeline of an anime. No matter how good the story be or the visuals be if there are no decent voice overs the anime falls apart immediately. The voice actors in the anime are brilliant and manage to bring the feelings of the character through their voice.
While the opening and closing songs change after episodes and cannot be commented upon, the music during some of the fight scenes really sets the mood. The ambient sounds are also present but not so noteworthy.
As the title dictates, this anime might be the undisputed king of all present day anime. Though, I said this was not a review I can’t help but recommend this anime as it has surpassed every kind of expectations I had to date. If you’re like me who has come from a background of seeing Osamu Tezuka, you might be initially disappointed because it actually does feel like a regular shounen in the beginning. But if you let it be and go further in, you will start seeing the true potential that is Eiichiro Oda.