One Piece Read Online
One Piece: Why is it unique?
One Piece’s reputation precedes it. Setting a Guinness World Record for the most copies published for the same comic book series by a single author, it’s been in near-constant serialization for over 15 years and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
One Piece is a Japanese shonen manga, an action-oriented fantasy following in the footsteps of renowned titles like Dragon Ball. Yet, in terms of longevity, One Piece stands head and shoulders above its influences and contemporaries. So, what makes One Piece unique?
Story Structure – A Grand Odyssey
One Piece is a simple story about a treasure hunt. The story follows the adventures of Monkey D. Luffy, a happy-go-lucky boy harboring the powers of a “Devil Fruit” that turned his body into rubber.
He sets sail for the Grand Line (a colossal planet-spanning sea) in search of the fabled treasure known only as “One Piece .”What follows is a massive island-hopping adventure, allowing Luffy to slowly assemble an equally ambitious crew, battle rival pirates, and fight off Marines (operatives of an oppressive World Government bent on stamping out piracy).
Each island has a distinct geography, social structure, and position in the interconnected network of the Grand Line: some are occupied by Marines, others are independent kingdoms, and still more are uncharted territory.
The surprisingly intricate geopolitical landscape allows for a wide variety of plot threads. Our heroes can invade marine bases to rescue comrades, while alliances can be forged with neutral kingdoms to quell rebellions. The consequences of these varied story arcs form a constantly evolving world that exists independently of our heroes.
The versatility of this setting works wonders for a long-running action comic by preventing narrative stagnation and providing a constant sense of progression. Sailing to the next island is always accompanied by anticipation for a new story line and new ideas, and it’s always a tangible step closer to the crew’s ultimate goals.
One Piece, therefore, is one of the few shonen manga that justifies its length. The story’s length complements the journey’s grand scale, novel ideas are explored at each island, and the overarching narrative maintains a steady momentum towards a definite, inevitable finish line.
Artwork – Humour and Worldbuilding
Eiichiro’s Oda distinctive artwork is the most immediately noticeable aspect of the comic. Faces and bodies have exaggerated proportions, often contorting to convey solid emotions or pull off inhuman martial arts feats.
And the designs of characters themselves walk a fine line between the traditionally cool and hilariously goofy: where else can you find a megalomaniac king/mafia swathed in flamingo feathers, a cyborg sporting a pompadour, or a government assassin who morphs into a cuboid giraffe.
This isn’t surface-level novelty either, as character designs are often visual indicators for a character’s colorful personality or superhuman martial abilities. For instance, the cyborg can detach his sideburns as projectiles in combat.
This design philosophy carries over to the world itself. We’ve seen islands on the back of ancient elephants, islands made of giant pastries, islands housed in undersea bubbles, etc. However, world building is never sacrificed for novelty or a cheap laugh.
Geographical features pose challenges for our heroes, like using a freakin’ boat to reach an island in the clouds or playing into the aforementioned social structures and global political landscape. This attention to detail ensures that the world feels cohesive and lived in despite its absurdity.
Characterization – Friendship and Ambition
Beyond the wonders of adventure, One Piece heavily focuses on camaraderie and platonic relationships. Building a crew remains integral to the story progression and the characters. Luffy handpicks crew members and, throughout the journey, has their motivations and personalities thoroughly explored (often through flashback sequences).
Roronoa Zoro is a prime example of this approach to characterization. An ex-bounty hunter, Zoro is bent on becoming the greatest swordsman in the world. He’s the first person to join Luffy’s crew and is initially skeptical of the fledgling captain.
However, Zoro soon gains absolute respect for Luffy’s wild ambition (as it mirrors his own) and becomes his most ardent supporter despite being qualified to be a leader in his own right.
While Zoro’s loyalty demonstrates his growth, it highlights Luffy’s leadership capabilities. Even the fun-loving Luffy gets serious when the going gets tough and takes up the captain’s mantle.
This type of development has been afforded to all ten crew members so far, forming a believable bond between them. Beyond an innate desire to see new islands and characters, does this friendship drive the story forward?
This isn’t a story about chosen ones on a quest to save the world; it’s about misfits and weirdos chasing their unrealistic, foolish dreams. Friendship ties the weird, disparate elements of the story’s world together. No matter where we go in One Piece, we’ll do it as a crew.
One Piece isn’t an infallible comic. Not every arc is a winner; some characters aren’t intense, and the humor isn’t for everyone. But it’s worth examining the properties that make it unique, as they have cemented it as one of the longest-lived stories of our time, a true epic in the making. One Piece’s strengths reveal themselves as the world unfolds, and it’s a lot of fun to be along for the cruise.