One Piece

January 8, 2010

Arr, matey! Fancy a high adventure on the seven seas and take on swashbuckling pirates? Unless you’re just contend in just reading the manga or watching the anime series One Piece. This is a very long running anime and because it has stayed true to its manga roots, it is no wonder its popularity has been rising over the years and speaking of which, it has been more than 10 years that the anime has been running! Thanks to the creator of the series Eiichirou Oda and due to his magnificent work, he has been dubbed Oda-sensei. One of the very few animes which could retain and garner attention of anime fans worldwide. Even if you are not a hardcore fan of the series, you should at least know and heard a little about this series.
 
Now I have not actually read the manga nor have I actually followed the anime series ever since its inception back in 1999. The truth is, I only started to watch the show around 2 years ago when it was nearly halfway to its 400th mark (by now it is well over 400 episodes! Imagine that!). It’s just like The Simpsons of Japan in terms of air time, eh? So what made me go watch the show? Well, initially I had a little interest to watch it before that but I was always procrastinating due to the hefty amount of episodes and hoped that the series would finish before I started watching. But I was naive and wishful thinking, it didn’t. So what the heck, if I don’t start then, when am I going to start? That’s right. So my weekly romance of the series thus began and I was like watching as close to around 20 episodes per week to play catch up! Maybe it’s a good idea to delay watching the series because come to think of it, if you watch it week by week, overall it would look draggy as some of the entire episodes can actually focus on just 1 thing. So if you watch a bunch of them, take away the opening and ending credits, the next episode preview and some of the episodes which have a 5 minute recap of what has happened so far (especially those long arcs), I’d say on average I’d watched around 16-17 minutes per show.
 
But enough of that. The reason I’m blogging this is that I’ve got a feeling that I have forgotten most parts. So before I lose that entire memory of mine, I’d just like to blog it down for nostalgia. Speaking of which, it’s true that I am starting to forget already. So my blog won’t be that comprehensive and if you’d like to know more about the series, there is always the up-to-date Wikipedia and many other more dedicated One Piece fansites all around the internet.
 
The premise of the story tells of a young boy named Monkey D Luffy. Your typical not-so-bright kid but with a high sense of justice and values even if he doesn’t really know how to put it in words. Since this is the age of pirates, Luffy is one of the many who seek to obtain the late legendary Pirate King, Gol D Roger, who has hidden his One Piece treasure at the end of the most treacherous sea in the world, the Grand Line. I was thinking if the world is round, why not start from the other side? I guess maybe the entrance is just one way. Hey, if you go against the flow, where would all the exciting adventures be? Not only Luffy sets his mind on obtaining One Piece, he is also bent on become the great Pirate King himself. Something which most of everyone will laugh and scoff at. Don’t underestimate this boy. Furthermore, he prizes his straw hat very much because it was given to him by Shanks, the leader of the Red Haired Pirates. Shanks lost his left arm while saving young Luffy. Shanks gave him his straw hat so that Luffy would return to him one day when he has become a great pirate.
 
Seeing that this is a fantasy world, you will notice how certain characters including Luffy possess superhuman-like powers. That is because in this world, there are what you call Devil Fruits in which whoever eats them will gain certain powers like how Luffy is a rubber man and stretches because he ate a Gomu Gomu No Mi (rubber fruit). Expect to see him stretch his body parts (no dirty thoughts, please) as he unleash his trademarks move which I find they are just a variation of each other even if he calls them by a different name. No two Devil Fruits are alike so you can assure that you won’t see any duplicates though there will be model variations. A reason for high explosive exaggerated moves, eh? So why don’t one eat another Devil Fruit? Well, as far as I can remember, the body will explode. Don’t be greedy. There is a catch when one devours a Devil Fruit. He/she cannot swim in the sea and will fall like a hammer! That’s something that pirates wannabe wouldn’t want, eh? But I noticed that many top pirates too posses the Devil Fruits power. Yeah, just don’t swim. So as Luffy embarks on the adventure of the lifetime, he’ll gather a crew of his own, meet friends and foes alike, fights for allies, fights against enemies, powers up, go on an even more exciting adventure. Seems repetitious? But that’s why Oda-sensei manages to keep it fresh with all the new ideas, characters and plots.
 
When one first sees One Piece, the drawing and art may not be like your typical Japanese anime standards and for those not familiar with anime drawings would easily mistaken it to be a Western cartoon. Don’t blame you. Even I initially had that impression. Because of the powers of the Devil Fruit, this give rise to odd-looking characters with odd-looking body parts. So if you are really particular on how characters should look or should look as good as your bishonen or bishoujo, well, just hang in there. I’m sure you’ll get used to the art.
 
West Blue Arc
Besides the Grand Line, the world is divided into 4 divisions: North, South, East and West. The start of the series has Luffy trying to gather a crew of his own when he faces off with a fat and ugly female pirate Alvida. She has a crew, Colby who seems to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Something about he boarded the wrong boat and ended up being a pirate. As expected, Luffy wins and rescues Colby. However Colby’s dream is to be a Marine rather than a pirate so well, Luffy acknowledges that. The first crew Luffy ‘recruits’ is the pirate hunter Roronoa Zoro. A great swordsman (uses 3 swords: 1 in both hands an another via his mouth) and just like any Luffy’s future crew, nobody takes a liking for Luffy even if he pesters them to join his crew but will eventually give in even if they have some reason. Luffy saves Zoro from public execution of a corrupted Marine, Morgan and his spoilt son Helmeppo. Then after the duo along with jewel thief Nami take on pirate clown Buggy and his crew, they stop over on an island to get a boat of their own. Luffy’s next recruit is Usopp, a habitual liar but a good sniper. So it’s no surprise nobody believes him when Kurohadol, the butler of Usopp’s sick lady friend Kaya, displays his true colours of taking over her fortunes and attacking the village. But leave it to Luffy and co to settle things and Usopp is on his way to be a great pirate. Dream on pal. As token of appreciation, Kaya gives them a proper ship named Going Merry. Luffy also names his crew Straw Hat crew because of you know his obvious trademark hat.
 
Next they need to find a cook. It would be useless to sail the seas if they have nothing to each. Plus, Luffy is a glutton and loves any meat. That person would be Sanji of the famous floating restaurant Baratie. As usual, this lady-killer isn’t interested till some strong pirate Don Kreig crashes into his place for food and becomes ungrateful. While Luffy takes him on, Nami runs away to her homeland. Zoro also encounters one of the Shichibukai (literally the seven strongest pirates working for the Marines. Because they are on the Marine’s side they enjoy lots of privileges including exempted pirating), Dracule Mihawk. Zoro gets a taste of what true swordsman skill is and lost with honour. You’ll notice how Sanji uses his legs for battles since cooks consider their hands to be valuable in the kitchen. His kicks sure pack a punch. In the end, Luffy beats Don Kreig and has Sanji join his crew. Well, that cook is a flirt so I guess if Nami wasn’t around, he wouldn’t even think about joining. Next the gang head to Nami’s homeland. It seems that a group of Mermen pirates led by the cruel Arlong has the village on stranglehold. The reason money-minded Nami has been a thief all the while so is that she could by back the village from him. But when Arlong breaks his promise, distressful Nami pleads to Luffy to save her. Of course he would. He’d already have set his sights on recruiting her as his navigator. Nami also removes her Mermen tattoo on her arm and replaces it with a combination of a windmill and orange.
 
Before the quintet head into the Grand Line, they made a pit stop at Logue Town, the place whereby Gol D Roger was executed. They also encounter Captain Smoker of the Marines and the combo team of Buggy and Alvida (now she’s looking slim and pretty!). As Luffy and co make a run for it, a mysterious figure, Dragon, allows them to escape from the Marines. Later I found out that this Dragon guy is Luffy’s dad and is considered the world’s greatest traitor. By now, Luffy’s fame is spreading wide so much so as the series progresses, the Marines will issue higher bounty for him (this world’s currency is called Beri). Yeah, how high can they go. It’s like they’re doing charity by offering so much not only on him but on other powerful pirates as well. Are they that hard to catch? Must be.
 
Apis Arc
The crew makes a detour when they saved a young girl Apis from the Marines. We also learn that one can’t easily cross into the Grand Line because of the Calm Belt. In this section, there are no waves and winds. This means if your ship is stuck here, it will literally mean forever. Plus, there are giant dangerous Sea Kings residing underneath. In this arc, the obese Admiral Nelson and a hired henchman, Erik, are seeking Apis so that they could get their hands on some legendary 1000 year old dragon. Plus, Apis is able to communicate with the dragon because she ate a Whispering Devil Fruit. The gang’s adventure to escape with the aging dragon has them discovering an abandoned island where the dragons used to live. Then the lost island resurfaced, Erik betrays Nelson, Luffy and co take on his admirals, guess who wins? And with all that over, now they’re all set for the Grand Line adventure.
 
Laboon Arc
After entering the reverse mountain side, they encounter a huge whale with a scar across its face, Laboon. They learn from his lone caretaker, Crocus that when Laboon was a calf, he followed his beloved Rumba Pirates down to Grand Line but seeing that the sea is too dangerous for him, they left him back here while promising to return one day. So lonely Laboon tries to bang and destroy the hard continent to reach them at the other side but to no avail. Luffy makes a promise with Laboon that they will do a rematch when they come back so he can’t destroy that lame straw hat logo painting on his front then. Before they leave, Crocus gives them a Log Pose, which is essential when travelling between islands of the Grand Line. Without it, you’re good as dead and lost because of the irregular and misleading wind and sea pattern.
 
Grand Line Arc
This includes meeting a secretive group of villains known as Baroque Works. One of them, Vivi, is actually a spy to infiltrate the organization and when her identity is exposed, she knows too well that they are out for her head. Vivi is the princess of the Arabasta Kingdom and it seems she has found out the mysterious leader of Baroque Works: Crocodile, who is also a Shichibukai. So in the meantime she and her giant duck join Luffy’s crew. Sadly as they leave the Whiskey Peak Island, her faithful royal guard Igaram has been killed when Crocodile’s assistant, Miss All Sunday blows his ship up. Other initial adventures include visiting the prehistoric island with 2 giants battling each other ever since who knows when and a short side story of Colby and Helmeppo (turning over a new leaf I suppose) joining the Marines and undergoing rigorous training from Monkey D Garp. Yup, you guessed it. He is Luffy’s grandpa. What’s with their family line anyway? One a pirate, the other a Marine head and another a traitor. Such colourful family background.
 
Drum Island Arc
While the Baroque Works dealings are still in the background, the Straw Hat crew find themselves on Drum Island after battling a weird crew led by a selfish and cruel tyrant Wapol. Nami is out sick and thus the need to recruit a doctor as soon as possible. On this whole island, there is only 1 doctor, Kureha, but this "witch" lives on the other side. Kureha has a reindeer assistant that ate a Human Devil Fruit so at times, Tony Tony Chopper as what he is called, transforms into a little human or a hybrid. Furthermore, the islanders aren’t too fond of Luffy and co because of their past experiences with pirates. Then to everyone’s horror, they learn of Wapol’s return. Before he was banished, he ruled with an iron fist and made all doctors exclusive for himself and let the people suffer. As usual the flashback of some quack doctor Hiruluk but I don’t remember much to elaborate. As usual, Luffy beats the crap out of Wapol for good, Nami gets cured and Chopper joins the crew as their medical doctor. Chopper from time to time does experiments on his Rumble Ball which seems to give him temporary strength (depending on which type).
 
Arabasta Arc
The crew arrives at Arabasta Kingdom and the rest are surprised to meet Luffy’s older brother, Portgas D Ace of the Whitebeards Pirate. Note the contrasting difference in character. How can such a carefree joker like Luffy be the captain? Ah well, I guess there’s something about him which makes his crew respect and follow him. Portgas is here to find a traitor from his crew Blackbeard. But later it is found to be a hoax so before he leaves, he gives Luffy a Vivre Card paper (something about it which indicates the direction of the person and his/her life). They also enter Erumalu city to find it is now a desert due to some misuse of some Dance Powder which brings rain. Vivi also learns that there is a rebellion planning to overthrow the kingdom and is led by her childhood friend Kouza. Plus, Baroque Works are the one instigating both sides from the shadows. It wouldn’t be interesting if Luffy and the rest didn’t take on the highest subordinates for Baroque Works. Their ranks are given and are called by their numbers while their assistants by a famous holiday (previously, Luffy and co met and battled some of them already). Our heroes also run afoul into Smoker and his assistant Tashigi but they got trapped by Crocodile. Even if Luffy busts free, takes on Crocodile (he has eaten the Sand Devil Fruit) and initially lost, Luffy is the hero so he can’t really die that easily. So a lesson for Crocodile to learn is to make sure the person you thought have killed stays dead.
 
So it’s a race against time to stop the oncoming rebellion from Kouza while Crocodile plans to unleash some powerful Pluton weapon to wipe everyone out and take over the kingdom. Awesome fight scenes that has Luffy’s side eventually winning them include Usopp-Chopper team bettering against Mr 4-Ms Merry Christmas, Sanji winning against face-changing Mr 2 Bon Clay, Nami beating Ms Doublefinger with her new weather creation stick courtesy from Usopp, and Zoro claiming victory after a hard fought battle with steel/blade body ability Mr 1. Elsewhere, Vivi manages to tell Kouza about Crocodile’s plan but before he could call his side to surrender, he gets shot (note he doesn’t die. Many characters who are thought to be dead somehow come back alive. Like Igaram). Meanwhile Ms All Sunday AKA Nico Robin, takes the king of Arabasta, Cobra (Vivi’s father) to a tomb where the Pluton Poneglyph is hidden. Since Robin was the only one who can read such hieroglyphics, Crocodile gets suspicious and thinks she has never intended to tell him at all and gravely wounds her. Luffy arrives in time to have a second round rematch with Crocodile and he emerges victorious this time after all the hard trading punches and moves. Luffy also saves Robin from the wreckage and she can’t comprehend why he is doing so since she is his enemy. As for the Pluton weapon, Vivi realizes it has been hidden in the clock tower and since there is no time to stop it, one of her loyal guards sacrifice himself by blowing himself up with the bomb in the sky (don’t worry, in the end things indicate he is still alive). When order is restored to the kingdom, Luffy and his crew celebrate with a feast. But they have to run since the Marines are on to them. Vivi isn’t joining them since she has a responsibility towards her people and the distraction from Mr 2 Bon Clay helps the Straw Hat crew to escape. Also, the gang finds Robin on their ship and to their surprise she joins them. Also, Crocodile has been stripped of his Shichibukai title and privileges.
 
Goat Island and Rainbow Mist Arc
While the next several episodes are fillers including character focused episodes like Usopp’s fireball fireworks, Sanji’s cooking on board a Marine ship, Chopper’s Rumble Ball secrets, Zoro’s flashback before he met Luffy and Nami’s dream of creating a complete world map only to be hindered by the nuisance of her noisy crew. The Goat Island arc has Luffy and crew meeting a lone old man named Zenii living on the island with his herd of goats as companions. Of course a corrupt Marine official is bent on getting some treasure because Zenii was a money lender to pirates. Ironic, isn’t it? In the end, it is revealed that all his money were eaten by his goats a long time ago and that his true treasure are their companionship. The Rainbow Mist arc has the gang landing on an island whereby everyone hates a mad scientist named Henzo because they are heavily taxed and this money is used to fund his research for some phenomena called Rainbow Mist. It’s like some dimension-time-bending thingy as Luffy and some of his crew are absorbed into a rainbow-like portal and thrown into another ship graveyard-like dimension only to find several kids. Just like Neverland, eh? Never grown up. Fifty years ago, when a pirate Whetton (now governor of this island) attacked the community so the children fought back but their ship sailed into the portal with the kids on it and since then they got stuck except for Henzo. So in real time, Whetton’s aim is to create a tower via Henzo so that he could link both parallel dimensions together and reclaim the lost treasure on his ship. Whetton knows he can’t beat Luffy so he tries to make them all stuck in the other dimension. The children stayed back to generate enough power to blast Going Merry through the portal. In the aftermath, Whetton and his men are arrested by a Marine officer, who is one of the grown up kids.
 
Jaya Arc
The next island is Jaya and the crew meet a descendant of an infamous liar Nolan. He is Montblanc Cricket but he knows too well that the history of his family has been twisted. Something about how Nolan went on an expedition, found a lost city of gold, went back to tell the king but when the king and his convoy came, there is no such island. Of course, anyone would conclude he was lying and had him executed. So Montblanc has been diving into the sea ever since to seek the truth of the lost city. On the island, Luffy and Zoro encounter and got ridiculed by Bellamy the Hyena about their dreams. He got a taste of what it means to face a pirate with a higher bounty later on. Soon Montblanc and his monkey crew fix up Going Merry so that they can ride a once-in-a-lifetime knock-up stream and enter the legendary Skypeia Island which is located in the clouds. Elsewhere, with Crocodile’s status as Shichibukai revoked, the higher authorities of the Marine are having a discussion to replace him. A member of Blackbeard’s crew pops in and suggests Blackbeard.
 
Skypeia Arc
It’s like an island in the sky. Weird people (with little white wings on their backs?) and weird customs (doing a "Heso" as a salute?). Anyway such a great arc won’t be great without a great villain. The self proclaimed thunder god Enel is holding his form of fear on the citizens of Skypeia. Well, he seems to be able to know and hear just about anything so if you say bad, you can expect lightning to strike you anytime. If this ever happens in the real world, there’re going to be lots of roasted people. Of course there are those Shandian tribe rebels who claim to be the rightful owners of Vearth (the only true dirt and land on Skypeia) led by a hothead Wiper (yup, that’s his name. If it was Viper, it wouldn’t sound as bad as this car accessory). Enel’s got a high and mighty attitude well since he is nearly as close to God himself and he’s got some plan to destroy the entire Skypeia kingdom. Because Luffy and co and Wiper’s rebel team are in the way, Enel unleashes his Enforces and Priests in a survival game. Enel predicts that at the end, only 5 will remain. So it’s an all out battle royale right from the start as Enel joins in as well as other new comers (whether they want in or not, so long as they are on Vearth, they’re part of the game. Hey, it’s God’s command). Then amidst all that, the usual flashback of how Nolan met a great Shandian warrior, Calgara and helped the tribe to be cured of some disease, though the tribe misinterpreted it as an act of treason against them. So Calgara eventually realized Nolan’s good intentions but he has already left. To atone for that, the island has a golden bell which rings a beautiful sound so that it could help Nolan find his way if he ever intended to come back here. And when Nolan did come back, the island was missing because due to the knock-stream, it sent it flying above the clouds. So you could say Jaya and Vearth was once a joint up island.
 
In the end, the remaining ones include Nami, Zoro, Robin, Wiper and Gan Fall. Since Enel counts himself, one of them has to go out. Yeah, everybody gangs up against Enel but Enel wipes them all out except Nami who decided to play along and follow him to his finished golden ark. Where is Luffy? Well, he and a little girl of the Shandian tribe, Asia, is stuck in a giant python’s stomach. Can’t believe Enel can’t detect them. Are pythons’ stomach invisible to any radar effect? So anyway Luffy comes out and another epic showdown. It’s a good thing that Luffy is Enel’s enemy. Why? Because he is made of rubber and that means electricity won’t have any effect on him. But even so, Enel is good enough to take on close combat with him and also initiates a machine to destroy Skypeia. Enel is also after the golden bell (lost during when the island split) but can’t seem to find it and it only took Luffy and co to guess where it was. Luffy wants to ring the bell so that he could tell Montblanc that the bell is up there and not under the sea. In which, he is successful as he beats Enel too. In the aftermath, Skypeia is safe though part of it has been destroyed by the machine. Robin deciphers a Poneglyph and is surprised Gol D Roger wrote on it there. How the heck? As for Enel, he isn’t dead yet because he is seen flying in his golden ark in his delirium to what he calls the ultimate Vearth: The moon. Erm… There’s no oxygen there lah. Luffy and co’s Going Merry float down with Skypeia devices. Only thing is, they are falling into the Marine’s headquarters.
 
Navarone Base Arc
Yeah, fate has them landing right smack in the middle of a marine stronghold. However the marines find the ship empty. Is it a ghost ship? Well, they’re all in hiding. The base commander Jonathan seems to know what is going on but I guess he’s having a little fun of his own seeing the events unfold. Of course some got captured, lots of run around here and there, retrieve the stolen treasure from Skypeia that was confiscated (they’d better or Nami will blow her top) but in the end, the Straw Hat crew manage to regroup and make their daring escape from the base.
 
Foxy Fightback Arc
Luffy and co’s next island is Long Ring Long Land Island. They meet an annoying pirate Foxy and his motley band of pirates whom he has gotten via his weird Foxy Fightback game. To make matters worse, Luffy’s ignorance and blundering has the Straw Hat crew getting involve in that game. Since this Foxy guy has a penchant for cute animals, he takes Chopper after winning the first out of 3 games (a boat race). Note his Noro Noro beam too (makes you go slow for several seconds) and seems to get easily depressed. Then in the second game (a ball game), Luffy wins but takes back some other animal belonging to an old man. I guess Chopper will have to sit still and wait for the 3rd and final game which is a roller skating ring match. Luffy wins and Chopper is back with them. However, another blunder causes Luffy to accept another game challenge from Foxy. That guy doesn’t learn, does he? Unfortunately, Luffy lost both the first 2 rounds and lost Chopper and Robin. So in the final round even if he wins, he can only take back 1 of them. Thus Luffy in this final match, both sides will bet on everything. So in this boxing parody bout, Luffy beats Foxy and in addition in reclaiming his comrades back, also claims Foxy’s entire crew but since he doesn’t need them, he sets them free. Shortly, Luffy and co come into one of the 3 highest ranking admirals in the Marine, Aokiji. Robin knows him and isn’t too fond of him. As expected, Luffy and Aokiji clash but they are no match for his ice powers. Aokiji decides to spare Luffy’s life because he considers this as a repayment of debt for defeating Crocodile.
 
Water 7 Arc
After sailing the treacherous Grand Line, Going Merry has taken some damage so the Straw Hat crew’s next destination is Water 7, where they need to find a shipwright to repair their ship. Don’t worry. They have enough money from the treasures given from Skypeia. They meet the mayor of this city, Iceburg, who is also part of the company which houses the finest shipwrights on the face of the planet: Galley-La. The other staff include Rob Lucci (he talks through its pigeon!), Paulie (rope master), Lulu (some part of his hair is always standing out), Kaku (looks like grown up Pinocchio), Tilestone (another big guy) and the secretary Kalifa. There is also the local ship dismantlers called Franky Family, led by the part-cyborg Franky (likes running around in his swimming trunks?). The turning point came when Franky stole Luffy’s bag of money and even if they had the money, Galley-La said Going Merry is beyond repair. It is better to get a new one. Luffy makes a painful decision but Usopp can’t agree to it because Going Merry was a gift from Kaya and there is some emotional attachment to it. Because of that, Usopp fights with Luffy and though he lost, Usopp leaves the crew. But that is not the end of the crew’s crisis. Robin has been acting strange after she change upon some shadowy figure who whispered "CP9" into her ears. To make matters worse, Iceburg was shot and injured one night and the blame was put upon Franky, Luffy and co.
 
It seems the world government’s secret and most powerful police, Ciper Pol 9 AKA CP9 is bent on stealing the secret Pluton blueprints. Some of them were impersonating as Galley-La members for years like Lucci, Kaku, Kalifa and Blueno (impersonating as a bartender). Robin thinks she is a burden to her crew and voluntarily follows CP9. A phenomenon called Aqua Laguna is approaching so the gang have to take the last train to catch Robin before the city curfews itself. Franky, Sanji and Usopp (disguising himself as Sogeking – he’s even got a theme song of his own!) manages to get onboard the train heading towards Enies Lobby, the judicial island where Robin will face her trial and punishment as accused by CP9. While they battle some of the lesser subordinates, Luffy and the rest later take a sea train called Rocket Man on a track system created long ago by a skilled shipwright and Franky’s master-cum-guardian, Tom the Fishman.
 
CP9 and Enies Lobby Arc
The race to save Robin is on. The Straw Hat crew teams up with the other members of Galley-La and Franky House to break through all the obstacles that Enies Lobby has to offer, whether they are giants guarding the gates or streams of marines and world government officials. We learn that the head of CP9, Spandam (hmm… wearing those masks to cover up his hideous scars reminds me of the man in the iron mask), holds a grudge against Robin. He may be cruel but he is in fact a coward and holds no true fighting powers unlike his other CP9 members. Flashback on Robin’s past on how she came from an island considered to be the world’s greatest library, Ohara. Because they did some forbidden research, the world government is going to wipe them out and that time, Spandam’s father was leading that expedition. The island burns like hell till nothing under a move called Buster Call but Robin survived and escaped because Aokiji’s help. So you could say that this is the reason why Robin became distrustful of people and turned to a life of crime and even after turning over a new leaf after the Arabasta incident, she still feels guilty and a burden to Luffy and co. But would Luffy care? He’s here to save her because she is their comrade. That’s it. Nothing else matters.
 
So the one on one battles start and the Straw Hat crew have to obtain 5 keys from CP9 in order to free Robin. Since they didn’t say which keys, I guess they’ll have to beat each one of them. Prior to Luffy’s warm up match with Blueno (which also has Luffy powering up to some move called Gear Second), we have Franky taking on an Owl, Fukurou, who can’t seem to let his tongue slip on important information (is that what his mouth zipper is for?), Chopper against a kabuki-like Kumadori but the reindeer took a risk and ate several Rumble Balls which turned him into a mindless monster reindeer (Hulk Smash! Just kidding), a sword match between Zoro and Kaku (he turns into a giraffe), Sanji versus Jabura (he turns into a wolf) and Nami against the bubble ability Kalifa. As expected, they all win. Meanwhile as Luffy chases after Robin (Spandam in a desperate move to take Robin away), he encounters Lucci and another epic battle begins. Rubber man vs leopard man. Sure we see Lucci’s flashback as some cruel and rising kid befitting this kind of position but it’s all part and parcel of the show on why he turned out like that. Bla bla bla. To make things worse, Spandam has invoke the Buster Call. Yeah, they’re going to roast this island even if it belongs to their own. All in good timing while the marine ships fire their cannon from every angle on the island, Luffy powers up to Gear Third, did the unbelievable by knocking Lucci out cold after an intense match, frees Robin and the entire crew escape via Going Merry (it’s like that boat has a spirit of its own and sailed all the way here by itself!).
 
In the aftermath, back at Water 7, everyone says their emotional goodbye to Going Merry so Iceburg and the rest builds them a totally new and better ship and names it Thousand Sunny (that lion head somehow reminds me of that perverted stuff toy Kon from Bleach). Franky also joins Luffy crew and Usopp rejoins them before they leave to their next destination. Then we have other developments like Garp, Colby and Helmeppo paying Luffy and co a visit, Ace finally gets to duel Blackbeard but the latter’s Darkness ability proves too much for the former’s Fire ability and lost. As this arc is one of the longest so far, it was a little irritating when they showed a few non-related filler episodes like the feudal Luffy the Legendary Oyabin and dedicated episode recaps of each of the Straw Hat crew on how they joined Luffy. And since Luffy and co beat the world government, his bounty rises to 300 million Beri! Wow! Each of his crew too now has a handsome bounty on their heads. Well, except for Chopper: 50 Beri. An insult or what? So don’t play play with this bunch of pirates. They have taken on the strongest pirates, marines, world government and even God and emerged victorious in all! What is next for them?
 
Accino Family Arc
The Accino family is bent on collecting the Straw Hat crew’s flag. I guess what makes every pirate its identity is also its flag. Though Luffy and co bump into the Phoenix Pirate crew led by the depressed Puzzle (due to some failure in the New World – the other half of the Grand Line), they encounter lots of assassins from the Accino family as they traverse through the icebergs. Unfortunately, the Straw Hat pirates lost their flag and will have to go all out to retrieve it. After lots of battling and the final match between Luffy and the head of the Accino family, Don (possessing a Heat Devil’s Fruit), they get their flag back while Puzzle gets his confidence back as his crew stalls the Accino family to give time for Luffy and co to escape while promising to meet them once more in the New World.
 
Thriller Bark Arc
Luffy and crew are in the misty Florian Triangle and chances upon a deserted ship with a talking skeleton, Brook. While the rest may be a little afraid, Luffy wants him to join his crew and Brook accepts. Well, Luffy did mention he wanted a musician and Brook qualifies for it. Yeah, Brook is such a joker himself since he makes life-death statements. The gang then got sucked into the world’s biggest ship, Thriller Bark, which is owned by Shichibukai Gecko Moria. The ship is so big that you may think it’s an island. This place may send the shivers down many of their spine (especially Usopp) because of the walking dead zombies. Chopper meets a Dr Hogback whom he looked up to but later finds his research to be morally questioned like bringing to dead back to life just like how he did with some famous actress Cyndri. Then Zoro and Sanji went missing and later it’s revealed they got their shadow/soul implanted into one of the many hideous zombie doll animals of Perona. Also, the general of the zombies, Absalom, seems to be infatuated with Nami and plans to marry her to the extent of kidnapping her but a wild boar zombie, Lola, is bent on making him her bride first. Soon the gang learns of Moria’s ability to manipulate shadow because of the Shadow Devil Fruit and this whole ship is like some sort of experiment to him. Furthermore, when one loses his/her shadow, he/she can’t go out openly into the sun or else they will be dissolved. Brook is one of them too, a reason why he follows the crew to Thriller Bark to settle a score. Moria then successfully steals Luffy’s shadow and puts it in a huge monster giant, Oz, as his ultimate and powerful zombie.
 
Amidst all that, we’ll hear Brook’s past of how he was the only survivor from the Rumba Pirates and is seeking to reunite with Laboon back at Reverse Mountain. While Usopp fights against Perona and her spirits which makes one go into instant depression, Sanji rushes to save his beloved Nami from Absalom’s unholy matrimony ceremony (can’t believe Nami stayed unconscious throughout all that ruckus) and Zoro takes on a legendary zombie swordsman, Ryuuma, believed to posses Brook’s shadow. When Zoro defeats Ryuuma, the latter gives Zoro his sword and Brook’s shadow returns to its rightful owner. With the resurrection of Oz, the Straw Hat crew take the menacing giant on but to their surprise Oz can stretch just like Luffy. Even his personality is uncannily similar. Meanwhile another Shichibukai, Bartholomew Kuma, arrives on Thriller Bark to inform Moria that Blackbeard has been made a Shichibukai as Crocodile’s replacement for defeating Ace and also he is here to make sure of the Straw Hat crew’s defeat just in case, something which doesn’t go down well with Moria as he teams up with Oz to prove he can do it by himself. So they also find out that Oz don’t actually stretch like Luffy, just that his body has to follow the form of its shadow that Moria is controlling. Elsewhere, Luffy bumps into the Rolling Pirates led by big-lips Lola (what’s with her asking any guy to marry her but gets instant rejection?). All of them lost their shadows and they have faith that Luffy can defeat Oz and Moria by implanting hundreds of captured shadows into him. Yeah, he’s bulging like the hulk even if he has acquired the shadow’s strength albeit temporary. And once all the members of the Straw Hat crew are knocked unconscious, it’s a showdown between monster Luffy and Oz. Luffy defeats Oz and with the help of Brook, destroys its spinal cord to prevent it from moving further.
 
Moria isn’t going to give up yet as he absorbs all the 1000 shadows on his ship to bloat up himself into a monster. By this time, Luffy is back to his original size and lost all the implanted shadows but unleashes all his super techniques including the all new Gigant Jet Shell to send Moria reeling in defeat. Thankfully everyone got back their shadows just before the sunrise could disintegrate their bodies. As Luffy lays unconscious, the joy of victory is cut short when Kuma appears to finish the job. His powerful repelling powers sends everyone flying away and knocking them out after unleashing a powerful blast when they refused an offer of him taking Luffy’s head in exchange for their lives. A fatigue Zoro then offers himself in place of Luffy so Kuma creates a pain bubble in which he will let them all go if he could survive it. Zoro has only but 1 choice. In the aftermath, when everyone wakes up, Sanji sees Zoro standing but covered with blood (Hogback and Absalom escaped with unconscious Moria while Perona was made ‘disappeared’ by Kuma). The healing process begins as everyone celebrates their newfound freedom and of course listened to Brook’s past. Before the Straw Hat pirates depart, Lola notices Luffy’s Vivre Card is close to being falling apart and fears that the life of that person’s card is in grave danger.
 
Flying Fish Riders Arc
After that spa island filler, Luffy decides to make a little detour after encountering a mermaid, Camie and her pet starfish, Papagg to rescue a fellow friend from the clutches of the Iron Mask Duval and his Flying Fish Riders. The gang finds out that their friend is Hachi, whom some of them fought against when he was with Arlong. However he has turned over a new leaf and I guess the motivation for Luffy to go save him was his takoyaki. Can’t think anything but food, eh? It seems this is all part of Duval’s plan as revenge against Sanji. Why? When the world government drew up bounty posters for the crew, they didn’t have a picture of Sanji and horribly sketched his face instead. So this Duval guy somehow has that uncanny resemblance so his life (even if he was a bully) was hell as he is being mistaken for him. Pissed off Sanji teaches him a lesson and kicks his face several times till he turns…. Handsome?! Thus Duval becomes grateful and they are like so good friends now. So if there is anything they need, just call him and he and his gang will hurry over. Yeah, just try not to wink, Duval. Perasan betul…
 
Shabondy Archipelago Arc
Wow. It took nearly 10 years of air time to reach the halfway line. Anyway, since the gang’s next destination is Mermen Island, they need to find a specialist to coat their ship in order to dive down. This brings them to Shabondy Archipelago whereby the several islands are divided into grooves. This place serves as a pit stop for all those who plan to enter the New World. In addition, the world government headquarters is located nearby and also the Nobles called Celestial Dragons. They are so arrogant, obnoxious, proud and all the other words you can find so much so they wear oxygen masks as not to breath the same air as commoners. Nobody dares stand up to them because they have the backing of the world government and Marine. This of course pissed off Luffy when they are seen doing as they please but is greatly restrained by Hachi. Later the gang finds out that there since their arrival, this brings a total of 11 rookie pirates with a bounty of more than a million Beri on their heads. Luffy ranks second and the one who tops the list is Eustace Kid with a bounty of 315 million Beri. As they search for the coating mechanic Rayleigh (also Gol D Roger’s right hand man), Camie gets kidnapped and is sent to the auction house. Duval and his crew are called up to help send the Straw Hat crew to the auction house to stop Camie from being sold to the highest bidder. They also learn how Fish people and Mermen are greatly discriminated on this island. Plus, mermaids fetch the highest price. Everyone arrives but fails to stop the process and as Luffy is the last one to show up, he punches one of the Celestial Dragons, the moronic Charlos who fired a shot at Hachi when his identity has been exposed. This throws the entire area into chaos. The Marines are called in as the Straw Hat crew fights the Celestial Dragons’ bodyguards. Rayleigh who is also one of the auctioned humans, used his Ambition power to knock the bodyguards unconscious. He says how he has always wanted to meet Luffy. Camie is freed but the house is surrounded by Marines.
 
Since Kid and another high bounty rookie pirate, Trafalgar Law, were at the auction, they ‘team up’ to take out the Marine foot soldiers with their weird powers. Meanwhile one of the 3 powerful Marine admirals, Kizaru, has arrived on Shabondy as he takes on the other high bounty rookie pirates at the same time which include Basil Hawkins (voodoo user?), Drake (ex-Marine turned pirate), Apoo (funny limbs…), and Uruoge (some priestess from Skypeia). In short, they’re no match for Kizaru. Eventually Luffy, Kid and Law have to make a run for it but each of them encounter Sentoumaru (a stocky-build sumo wrestler-like guy from the technology division of the Marine) and Kuma. Not the real one but a Pacifista (some super cyborg). They sure have got their hands full and could’ve been worse if Rayleigh hadn’t intercepted to keep Kizaru busy. To make matters worse, they are no match for all of them when the real Kuma appears. He uses his powers to send each of the Straw Hat crew ‘vanishing’. Well, that vanishing thing may be something like flying nonstop for 3 days as said by Sentoumaru. Finally the Straw Hat crew tastes ultimate defeat when Kuma sends Luffy, the last one standing, vanishing too.
 
Amazon Lily Arc
Lone Luffy has been flying in the air for 3 days and finally lands in a jungle island. I guess being a glutton and low on jungle survival, he just eats any mushrooms he can find. Thankfully he is found by several Amazon ladies and was taken in to be nurse. Seeing that this is an all-woman island where strength equates beauty, the ladies are amazed with their new findings. So when they were removing mushrooms from him and found 1 that is irremovable, an elder concludes that he is a man, taking them all by surprise. They are wondering how he got in since this island is located within the Calm Belt. So of course Luffy gets up and because of his little unrefined behaviour, they misinterpret it as being a brute and decide to eliminate him before their queen Boa Hancock (another Shichibukai)whom they fondly call Hebihime, return. Luffy though is grateful for the women who saved his life, has to escape their arrow blasting attacks. Elsewhere Hancock is returning from another pillage only to be confronted with a Marine vice admiral who requests her presence at Ace’s public execution. Due to that, Ace’s Whitebeard Pirates may intercept and thus the need for her presence. However Hancock isn’t going to oblige and though she wants to continue enjoying her privileges as a Shichibukai. After turning the entire Marine crew except for the vice admiral into stone with her Mero Mero Devil Fruit powers, she leaves but the vice admiral is adamant and will wait for her.
 
The pursue for Luffy is still on when Hancock returns. Everybody loves her and nobody in their right mind would go against her. Simply because she is too beautiful. Yeah, she just need to act cute and she’ll be forgiven. So when she is taking a bath, Luffy who is still running away and thinking of asking this island’s chief for a boat, accidentally crashes into her bathing room and saw her forbidden back. If no women ever saw her naked, what are the chances that of a guy? Another order to hunt him down and it won’t be long before Luffy is captured and brought to public execution. The women who saved Luffy felt guilty and went to plea for clemency but merciless Hancock turns them to stone. Luffy is upset that she did this to her own comrade and for the first time in Boa’s life, someone who isn’t taken in by her beauty. He thinks she is annoying. She sends a giant panther to devour him but Luffy punches it away, surprising them. Then Boa’s sisters Marigold and Sandersonia (both Devil Fruit users of the snake type) are directed to execute him. During the fight, Luffy protects them when one of their backs became exposed to the crowd. After evacuating the crowd, Hancock is further surprised by Luffy’s answer if he wants to save those ladies or take a boat out of here. He chose the former. Hancock explains how she and her sisters were slaves to the Celestial Dragons and the mark on their back was proof of it.
 
Everyone now has a favourable view of Luffy as they feed him with lots of food (even wanting to touch him!). When Luffy learns his brother Ace is going to be executed, he desperately pleads for a boat to go rescue him but Hancock falls ill. Actually she is love sick! OMG! She has turned from a cold hearted woman into some tsundere lovey-dovey character! Hancock agrees as she secretly stows Luffy away on that vice admiral’s ship on 1 condition that they head to Impel Down first (the place where all prisoners are kept). In order not to keep viewers in the dark about Luffy’s crew, short clips are shown on their whereabouts. Like Nami at some sky weather control island, Franky at some snowy science lab island, Chopper on an island with giant birds, Sanji running for his life on transvestite island, Robin on a eternal bridge building ‘country’ constructed by prisoners, Zoro unfortunately landed on a desolated place where Perona earlier ended up (I guess she was lonely and wanted to ‘keep him’, Usopp on a man-eating-insect-and carnivorous plant island and Brook being worshipped by a demonic cult for some revolution thingy.
 
Impel Down Arc
Luffy and Hancock enter the world’s most tightly guarded prison holding hardcore prisoners. Luffy manages to sneak out to rescue Ace on his own without getting caught while Hancock is being escorted by vice guard Domino, vice prison warden Hannyabal and chief warden Magellan to see Ace (who has been recently visited by his grandpa Garp). Of course with Luffy making a ruckus trying to get deeper into the prison, he faces many obstacles at each level while meeting ex-foes-turned-‘allies’ like Buggy, Mr 3 and Bon Clay during his journey. Their attempts (except for Bon Clay) to cooperate with Luffy in order to get out backfire as they get dragged deeper into the prison. They’ll never get out at this rate. People trying to get out while he tries to get in. We are also introduced to another Shichibukai, Jimbei, a mermen, who has been imprisoned because of his refusal to fight against Whitebeard Pirates (because he looks up to him) as they too attempt to rescue Ace. Yeah, it’s going to be one hell of a bang that will shake the world when they collide. Hey, isn’t that ex-Shichibukai Crocodile in jail with them?
 
One heck of an adventure…
So that’s where I currently am at this point and it is safe to say that I will be continuing to watch this series since I find it interesting and engaging. Sure on occasions it may be draggy if you look at it on an overall picture in terms of number of episodes needed for a main story arc but it is what helps viewers to understand better about the characters and situations even better. Now if Oda-sensei does not end his manga work anytime soon, I’m thinking it will take around another 10 years or more to reach the end half of the Grand Line, don’t you think? But think of all the exciting adventures that Luffy and co will face. Like they say, it isn’t the destination which is important, but the journey. Through thick and thin, I feel that this crew has what it takes to go all the way to the end.
 
There are too many odd and trivial things which I have noticed throughout my duration of watching the series so much so that I may have forgotten what they are. Just like how I noticed everyone (especially extra minor characters) have this sense of herd mentality. In the sense that everyone initially has a pessimistic outlook as they think our heroes cannot defeat the impossible. Then when they get the slightest hope, they make a total u-turn cheering them on. Sometimes when the match is like a roller coaster ride (hey, being a hero doesn’t mean giving the enemy all the time but you have to receive some too, right?) so their support also wavers. These people have got no backbone. Another thing which I noticed is how when the characters get emotional and cry, you can see their tears or whatever body fluids flowing out not only from their eyes but their noses as well! I know it is true but at first I find it funny and disgusting. Then of course, I got used to it.
 
Just like the many terms and jargons in the series. Okay, so maybe I have forgotten some of them by now since they weren’t re-inforced but for the main ones, it’s still in my memory. Don’t worry, most of them are easy to remember and do not require complex tongue twisting techniques just to blurt them out. There are also many likeable characters and those whom many would love to hate, whether they are just supporting or minor characters for that particular story arc. Some are memorable because of the quotes they say which may very from realization insights (like Hiruluk’s saying that a man truly dies when he is forgotten) to contradictory stupid ones (like Spandam’s "Shoot her to death, but don’t kill her"). But these characters help our main heroes grow stronger and formidable as they go along.
 
For the mid-intermission, you can tell which character will hog that short 5 seconds because each of the background music is tailor suited to for that particular character’s personality like Zoro’s death march-like theme and Franky’s upbeat and funky beat. The animation for the initial episodes of the series started off with the character’s face on their bounty and wanted posters. Later they changed it to the things which the particular character in the Straw Hat crew likes such as Nami’s map drawing and oranges and Chopper’s medicine bag and blooming sakura trees. As I have mentioned, the animation of the series isn’t your standard Japanese art but at times such as comical moments, the characters will go into those trademark incredulous looks or rebuking mode. Oddly, I find many female characters in this series to be quite gorgeous. Slim, tall and lanky.
 
Regarding the names of the characters, place and certain items, I find some of them to be creative while others an eyebrow raiser. Sure, no doubt that since this is a fantasy adventure on the high seas, you’ll meet a diverse range of cultures. I noticed that the Shichibukai has names in relation to animals and if not, they look like one. Except for the new addition Blackbeard, of course. Also, some of the characters in the series are named after famous pirates of the past. I wonder if they’ll name one in the future after Jack Sparrow. Another thing I find amusing is the Den Den Mushi which is literally the main telecommunication transmission via a snail. The odd part is that the snail’s mouth and expression moves exactly how the speaker of the other line is talking. Quite a handy handphone, I’d say.
 
Since the series has been a long running production, the list of seiyuus is a very long one indeed. I guess some who played supporting characters even lend their voice as minor characters in the sense that they voiced a character in an earlier arc and then another character in a much later arc. Some of the usual main casts had a change albeit briefly. Especially Chopper and Nami’s voice, for a short stretch I noticed that the seiyuus for them sounded slightly different (In the case of Chopper’s seiyuu, I found out she was on maternity leave, so they needed a temporary replacement). After watching too much episodes, you’ll get used to Luffy’s loud and noisy behaviour that is voiced by Mayumi Tanaka (Mao in Chuuka Ichiban). She must be so used to the role by now. Other casts of the Straw Hat pirates include Kazuya Nakai as Zoro (Hijikata of Gintama), Akemi Okamura as Nami (Risa in Lovely Complex), Kappei Yamaguchi as Usopp (male Ranma in Ranma 1/2), Hiroaki Hirata as Sanji (Sha Gojo of Gensoumaden Saiyuki), Ikue Ootani (Pikachu of Pokemon), Yuriko Yamaguchi as Robin (Ritsuko of Neon Genesis Evangelion), Kazuki Yao as Franky (Bunshichi in Tenjou Tenge) and Yuuichi Nagashima as Brook (The Principal in Hidamari Sketch series). As for the rest, I’m sure if you’re interested, you can look it up by yourself. I’m just too tired to do the rest. It may take all day.
 
Speaking of the opening and ending themes, there are quite a number of them. They can range from catchy fast beats to slow tunes. I noticed that after the CP9 and Enies Lobby arc, the series does away with the ending themes and go straight into the next episode preview. That means, viewers will only get to see the opening theme but this time it lasts over 2 minutes! Of all the themes, the best one is still the first and original opening theme, We Are! by Hiroshi Kitadani. This upbeat and lively pop beat I think serves as the series’ overall theme. So much so there is a remake of this song in a hip-hop style much later in the series. Not only that, some of the background music are based around this tune as well. Speaking of which, there are a variety of them in the series with many of them sounding like a piece made for the grandeur of an orchestra concert. They may be action suspense or just buoyant. As for the soundtrack album, I did a little research on them and found out that some of the songs on initial albums are repeated over in later albums. Is it to make more money to fill up the CD so as not to make it look empty or is the old one out of print? Note the recent 12th opening theme, Kaze Wo Sagashite, sounds very gay… Ugh…
 
The popularity of the One Piece series isn’t just confined to manga and anime. Ever since its conception, there has been many TV specials, OVAs and even movies spawned over the years. People don’t get tired of them, do they? Then they have drama CDs, light novels, art books, guidebooks, video games and even trading card games! You have really got to be a real hardcore otaku and obsessed fan if you are going to have all the One Piece merchandise. Yeah, like a million pieces of the series worth of products. Haha! Thus it is no surprise that the manga won several awards not only in Japan but worldwide as well.
 
So what do you think that One Piece is at the end of the Grand Line? Well, at first thoughts based on the word itself, it may be a golden swimwear. Haha! Just kidding. Maybe it would turn out into something shocking and unexpected or something rather plain and disappoint many who has harboured high hopes of it. Whatever it is, I’ll be rooting for Luffy and co for the many adventures to come. So if you think Pirates of the Caribbean is tough, you haven’t seen anything yet. Now, if I were to have a Devil Fruit, what kind of powers should I have? Should I have the kind which saves the world or the one which destroys it or simply just for my own used like being able to understand animes without subs. Hey, wait! I could just take up Japanese classes instead. Hmm… Tough choice. Life isn’t as smooth sailing always.
 

One Piece

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