This week’s article perfectly illustrates how little attention Britain gives to anime, because today I am covering the most popular anime series of them all and it has only been released in Britain on DVD this week.
One Piece began as a manga comic in 1997, as an anime TV series in 1999, and it is still going today. Because a new episode is broadcast about once a week, One Piece has produced more episodes than The Simpsons despite being ten years younger than it, and will approach episode 600 in June. The manga has produced nearly 70 print volumes and has sold over a quarter of a billion copies.
In America they started releasing DVDs of the series in 2006. We Brits have only just got it, after years of waiting and demanding. So, what is it about and why should anyone who is not an anime fan buy it?
One Piece is set in a world dominated by pirates. The “One Piece” in the title is the most valuable treasure in the world, which “King of the Pirates” Gol D. Roger found. He was later caught and executed, but not before saying that anyone who can find the “One Piece” will become the new pirate king. Thus every pirate is trying to find the mysterious treasure and claim the title.
Amongst these are the “Straw Hat Pirates” led by Monkey D. Luffy and named after his favourite item of clothing. Monkey is no ordinary pirate however. As a child he ate a cursed “Devil Fruit”, which causes the consumer to gain powers at the price of sinking like a stone in water. In Monkey’s case, he ate the “Gum Gum Fruit” which allows him to stretch his body like rubber, thus making him invulnerable to most attacks.
The story follows Monkey as he travels the world, trying to find the “One Piece”, defeating villains and slowly assembling his crew. His crew eventually comes to consist of three-bladed swordsman Roronoa Zoro; navigator and thief Nami; tall-tale-telling sniper Ussop; womanising cook Sanji; doctor and anthropomorphic reindeer Tony Tony Chopper; arm-sprouting archaeologist Nico Robin; cyborg shipwright Franky; and skeletal musician Brook.
There are plenty of reasons to try out One Piece. For starters there are the characters. The entire main crew are lovable, but Monkey especially is a great creation and has since become a template for similar anime characters. He is almost completely unstoppable in getting what he wants. If he spots a villain then you can be sure that he and the crew will do anything to stop them. Also, because of Monkey’s rubber-like properties you do get a lot of variations on the fights.
This is just as well because the fight sequences do form several large arcs in the series. A whole battle for example can last for what seems like dozen episodes at a time. Some people might be put off by such a long plot, but I would argue that you just need to put yourself in the right mind-set. We already have TV shows in this country which have long plots than span over several episodes. Look at any soap opera. One Piece and other anime like it are just soap operas except the fighting is more fun. It is a soap opera which men and boys can enjoy, unlike just about every single soap opera in Britain which is aimed at women.
It has to be said however that over around 600 episodes there are times at which the series gets a bit tiresome, and other episodes are just “filler” between arcs. However, for most of the time One Piece is jolly good fun.
The first DVD collection in Region 2, featuring the first 26 episodes, is out now, with more releases later in the year.