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Danielle Leigh’s Reading Diary — One Piece vol 24-28

There’s no other word for it — Eiichiro Oda’s adventure series One Piece is absolutely epic.  Today I take a look at the beginning of the “Skypiea” arc, which actually wasn’t a difficult place to jump back on board the title (I have previously read the first 14 volumes of the series) once the action started.

one piece 24

Viz is currently launching an all out One Piece offensive on the American public.  By June, the biggest manga publisher in the U.S. will have released 30 volumes in 2010, along with a new omnibus-format for the first 12 volumes (my verdict: these are a great deal at 3 volumes for $14.99, although the paper is rather thin and newsprint-like.  However, that also means the volumes are quite compact, which is important if shelf-space is prime real estate in your house as it is in mine).

Although it has taken repeated exposure to the franchise, by the time our intrepid crew burst into Skypiea I knew I was finally hooked on the title.  In these volumes the pirate crew of the Going Merry discovers a map to an island in the sky when an old galleon ship practically lands on their heads.  Now, even though the manga is about a group of pirates, the truth is that it isn’t love of gold that spurs the characters to literally risk life and limb to catch a strange wave (“The Knock Up Stream”) that can take them to the island in the sky, i.e. “Skypiea.”  It is only the love of adventure that could motivate all of these characters to travel to what amounts to another world One Piece 25where anything that could be imagined — and many things that couldn’t — awaits them.  Sure, their navigator Nami can’t get enough of money — her eyes even change to currency signs when the possibility of big pirate’s booty is mentioned — but these are pirates with big dreams.  I loved the moment when the gruff, almost entirely beaten-down man, who has just given the crew the push they need to reach Skypeia, tells Luffy, the shonen hero, “People may laugh and say they’re silly legends [i.e. Skypeia and El Dorado, a city of gold]…well, let them laugh!  That’s what makes it a great adventure!”  In that moment he and Luffy really are heroes and not because they want to get stronger, or have something to protect.  It is because they exhibit the most basic quality of the shonen hero — they have the capacity to dream.

“Ship of fools” may be an accurate description of this group as a whole, but I found the characters incredibly endearing.  Luffy, our hero, may have the IQ of the rubber that his body emulates (his one real super-power is his ability to stretch), but he is the right kind of hero-fool, the one who will never say die.  Amusingly, while everyone is screeching their damn head off in One Piece 26moments of danger, new crew member Nico Robin smiles like Mona Lisa and makes useful suggestions.  I like her very much already.  And she’s a scholar!  That grad student in me is charmed by her devotion to the historical record and her insistence that people’s stories from the past be protected at all costs.   Even at the cost of her own life.  Then there’s Tony Tony Chopper, the strange reindeer doctor (yeah, I really should go back and figure out how this guy joined the crew), who gets his moment to shine in volume 28. Chopper is usually used as comic relief so it was rather touching when you watch him steel himself and say that it is time for him to hoist the pirate flag, i.e. to get in the game, and become someone his comrades can depend on.

And this is just the main crew – there are dozens of new original characters wandering around, each with their own back story, habits and perspectives.  Some are ridiculous, some are heart-warming and some are downright terrifying.  The majority of this arc finds the crew at odds with almost everyone on Skypiea and they are basically deemed criminals from the very instant they enter this new world.  Every crew member is eventually forced to face a veritable demon in their opponent and it is rather nerve-wracking waiting to see what terrible skill the next baddie up on deck will pull out of his repertoire.  Oda has peopled his world with flair and fun and there’s always some character to draw you into a scene and help you situate yourself in spite of the frequent, almost dizzyingly fast, changes in setting.

For me, sinking into to the world of One Piece is about learning to read comics in an entirely new way.  I’ve really come into manOne Piece 27ga through the shojo gateway and much of the shojo I’ve read kind of encourages you to glide through the story, with its soft-focus perspective and panels which flow into the next one quite fluidly.  One Piece is much more grounded in its setting than I’m generally used to.  Significantly, every panel is packed with visual information.  Characters are often having a conversation in the foreground, while in the background there can be an entire town going about its business or just other characters doing their thing.  I had to force myself to slow down and really take in every panel for visual cues, which is often where the story was actually taking place (and not necessarily conveyed through dialogue).  After two volumes this started to become an easier read for me and I was able to pick up information much more quickly — particularly in the fight scenes, which are so dynamic and energetic you have to really pay close attention to figure out who is clobbering who but good.

One piece 28Oda has a knock for populating his universe with interesting people and places and his heroes never lack for conflict or a destination.   It is both a huge draw and a bit of a downside to the series because it feels as though the adventure may never end.  There’s strong incentive for me to keep reading as the story seems to get more and more involving over time, but that also means there is often a sense that these charming adventurers may be a bit rudderless in spite of their big dreams.  For now, I’m on board the One Piece ship and looking forward to finding out where these characters can possibly go after kicking ass on an island in the sky.  The best part is I have complete faith in Oda to find something equally insane and unique to occupy his heroes once they return to earth.

Review copies of volumes 25-28 provided by publisher.

12 Comments

I really wanted to stay current on this – I’ll buy any damn thing with Pirates in it, and this is GOOD with Pirates in it, but the “drop 37 volumes every week” strategy is totally leaving me in the dust.

Yeah, this is way harsh. I keep telling myself “oh I’ll just get the next three volumes” (which I did today). But what happens when I finish those three?! God help me, I’m going to have to find some way to abstain from running out every month and dropping 50 bucks on this release.

Oh please stop! First I go all crazy and buy all the available volumes of Pluto and the first five of 20th Century Boys I don’t need One Piece to fuel my manga munchies too!
Since Danielle got me back in manga i’ve been thinking about getting back into one or two Shonen Jump titles. One Piece has always been one of my favourites. The only problem is that i’ve read quite a few volumes and would like to continue where I left off … but i’d also like to have the first few storylines as well. I guess those Omnibi volumes are the ones for me! Slightly more expensive for three times the amount of chapters? I’m on board!

(What’s the canadian price on those bad boys? I pay around 15$ for the 12.99 volumes american. I’m thinking roughly 20$ for an omnibus, does that sound right?)

I WANNA EAT A GUM GUM FRUIT!! :D (and to hell with the consequences!)

I enjoy one piece, but i have to admit, it can be ridiculously hard to try and get into. There is so much chaos and action occurring on each page that to a newcomer it is just freaking hard to understand what’s going on.

That said, it’s certainly unpredictable…unlike other popular shonen mangas (Bleach particularly).

Welcome back to manga, Mario! It’s an expensive but fulfilling hobby! :-)

And amazon.ca has the list price of the first 3-in-one at 19.99 CDN, but discounted to 14.43 CDN (so if you can order from amazon.ca and get free shipping you’ll get a good deal.

Loran16 — Yeah, exactly. I’m glad I’m into it now but my god, I’m going to have a LOT to catch up on over the next few months. Shonen titles can just be endless…

Thanks Danielle! You ever so helpful. My wallet hates you (don’t hold it against it). That’s not a bad price! A third of the price more than what i’m used to but three times the material? AWE-SOME!

That’s the only problem I have with Shonen books, they’re sooo long! It must be darn fun to read some of those titles while they’re being serialized. One Pieve though, just keeps bringing the crazy! I’ve read up until the storyline where Chopper is added to the Merry Go’s crew. Luffy is so damn loveable. Oh man, I miss this series now :(
Oda is very good at having Luffy use his stretching powers in creative (and efficient) ways.

By the way, Pluto’s finite nature is what first attracted me to the book. That’s why I started buying Pluto instead of 20th Century Boys (it’s even longer than Monster!). I’m glad to see not all manga is as bloody long as most Shonen.

[...] Noah Berlatsky on Natsume’s Book of Friends (The Comics Journal) Danielle Leigh on vols. 24-28 of One Piece (Comics Should Be Good) Connie on vol. 1 of Pig Bride (Slightly Biased Manga) Ken Haley on vol. 1 [...]

I think you did an excellent job summing up what makes One Piece so special compared to other shonen manga out there!

Thanks! I didn’t want to get too specific about what happens in each volumes but give a more general impression of my experience and I’m so glad it worked for you!

Yeah, that’s one of the best things about reviewing multiple volumes at a time; you can focus on non-spoilery general accolades and stuff. :)

Hey, I found some notes I took on earlier volumes.

I REALLY had trouble following the visual storytelling in earlier volumes, too. (And this generally isn’t a problem when I read Manga, which is a lot more smooth story focused as opposed to American comics “Look at the art I drew!” focus.) And it still takes me a while to get back into the One Piece groove if I hadn’t read any in a while.

I feel like I wanna keep buying. I’d like to meet the new characters. But there’s just SO MANY of these.

Yeah, right now my incentive to keep reading is the fact I can dive into a new volume with relative ease. I don’t know…I don’t have a lot of will-power right now to NOT buy more *sighs*.

I will say this…the main villain in this arc is insanely strong. I like it when the villains are more scary than weird (which they often were in the earlier volumes). Then there seems like there is more at stake in the fights…

how many volumes do you own right now? I think the library just got a bunch of later volumes (15-22/23 or so) in if you want to get a fix right now.

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