Gabbing Geek Manga Review: One Piece Volumes 1-3

I don’t know a whole lot about manga culture, but I am aware that One Piece is a hugely popular series of books that has run for a very long time, and that creator Eiichiro Oda announced somewhat recently that the series would be ending fairly soon.

Well, I might as well check it out, and my copy has the first three volumes combined in one book, much like when I read and reviewed Naruto‘s first three volumes.  I was pleasantly surprised by Naruto.  Will I be likewise pleasantly surprised by One Piece?

Monkey D. Luffy, from his earliest days, wanted to be a pirate like his hero, Captain “Red Haired” Shanks.  Told repeatedly he was too young, one day he accidentally ingested a magical Gum Gum Fruit, turning his body into rubber and forever making him unable to swim.  Shanks had to leave town for the final time, but he gave his distinctive straw hat to Luffy for safe-keeping and the promise Shanks would one day return for it.

Years later, a much more grown Luffy, one who has somewhat mastered his rubber-based body, sets sail in the hopes of finding the mysterious One Piece, the fabled treasure whose owner was and will again be the King of the Pirates.  For that, he’ll need a crew to do the things he doesn’t know how to do.

That’ll be something because Luffy doesn’t seem to know how to do much of anything.  Before this thick volume is over, he’ll have two in the form of pirate-hunting bounty hunter Roronoa Zola and navagator Nami, a young woman who likes to steal from pirates.  That both of these people hated pirates before somehow being won over by Luffy says a lot about what sort of series this is, and to its credit, it never once suggests pirates are anything more than seafaring thieves.  Sure, Luffy doesn’t seem inclined to steal from anyone, but he may not understand “pirating” beyond the idea that pirates protect a treasure of some sort, and as such, for a pirate, Luffy is a fairly good-hearted if dumb young man who doesn’t understand things like subtly or lying, always loudly announcing that he’s a pirate even in situations where not mentioning that fact would probably do him a lot of good.

Most of this book is taken up by Luffy’s initial rescue of Zola and then his battle in a small village against the viscous pirate Buggy the Clown.  Again, stuff like that should tell you exactly what kind of series this is.  The book ends with a new adventure that will probably end with Luffy recruiting a new crewman in the form of Usopp, noted teller of tall tales and all-around liar that no one believes even when they should, but that will have to wait as there are bigger issues to deal with.

So, I did like this.  It’s largely a broad comedy, and the series doesn’t exactly shy away from some dark humor.  Buggy, for example, kills some crewmembers for imagined slights and Luffy is told repeatedly that pirates are scum, but he just doesn’t believe it.  He just makes decisions on who will or won’t be on his crew and then hangs around until he somehow gives each person a reason to join.  Granted, Usopp may be a bit different in that he wants to be a pirate, but there has been a good pattern so far.  Will Luffy one day be the King of the Pirates?  I have no idea as he’s nowhere near close enough for that just yet.  I’ll probably have to read some more in the future to find out.

9 out of 10 animal training first mates.

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