One Piece opens with Gold Roger's (Michael Dorman) execution. He is the King of Pirates, responsible for starting the Great Pirate Era. His last words indicate that all his loot is just lying out there waiting for the next owner. The crowd gets excited, and as soon as the blades penetrate Roger's skin, everybody goes off to a race across the seas to find the Pirate King's hidden treasure - the One Piece.
All of this occurs 22 years before the current timeline. In the present day, we meet Monkey D. Luffy (Iñaki Godoy), an aspiring pirate with an irksome smile, who, too, wants to find the One Piece so that he can become the King of Pirates. Luffy has a romanticized view of a pirate's life. "It's all about being...free," he says to his friend, Koby (Morgan Davies). Luffy isn't the only character in One Piece with a dream, or a goal. Koby wants to be a good Marine, Roronoa Zoro (Roronoa Zoro) wants to be the greatest swordsman, and Nami (Emily Rudd) has her own personal quest, which I won't spoil here.
The message that One Piece gives is that people who have a purpose are mad, unafraid, and daring. Others will try to discourage you at certain points and scoff at your dream, but only a coward will accept defeat. Some characters often tell Luffy that the One Piece is a myth or that he should stop chasing it (someone from Luffy's life hunts him down so that he can force him to give up on his pirate goals and be a Marine). But Luffy is a hero because he's determined. He believes in himself and understands the value of having a solid objective. This is why he picks resolute and skilled folks to join his team. He wants to form his crew, own a ship, and appear on the wanted list.
There are some excellent items in the series, my favorite being snails doubling up as telephones/earphones. The characters' superpowers have eccentric charms, like a clown who can tear himself into pieces or a butler who can transform his fingers into knives. One Piece, however, fails to conjure excitement from these inventions. It merely sees them as tools servicing the story. The show creates a superficial sense of wonder that asks the audience to respond perfunctorily to such sights. You don't feel so different from those victims who are chained to the floor and react according to a clown's wishes. For instance, a "laughter" cue card is shown to them when the joker demands chortles. In One Piece, snail-y telephones and fishmen (and other such creations) serve as cue cards informing the audience that they should be awed by these details.
One Piece feels like a children's story told through the (mostly) dour lens of an adult. It knows the tale and has memorized the words, though it isn't able to say it with a consistent playfulness. The pace slackens, and the show turns tedious as soon as the mood becomes serious. Everything's fine when scenes are allowed to be jolly, like when a butler smiles after proudly stating that Luffy has eaten all the poison he prepared or when a character comments on someone's head while carrying his wounded body. These moments manage to be light and dramatic, but then you have scenes like the one where a boy requests to take someone's sword at a funeral or the one where a daughter emotionally wonders what her (dead) parents would think of her, which sap the show of life and energy. The bad news is that these dramatically dull moments exist in the majority.
Another issue with One Piece is that it considers its characters and locations (even body tattoos) as things that require exposition. When the characters come across an upended house, they wonder what must have happened. Their words are meant for us. It's One Piece's way of teasing the audience, smilingly telling us, "We have an amazing flashback for you in store!" And as far as the characters are concerned, they are empty figures waiting to be filled by generic backstories. Zoro's flashback is a big disappointment. We learn about someone's accident, but the show never tells us about the cause or nature of this accident. In his case, the past seems like an excuse to support the cliché of a silent and stoic killer. But then, One Piece is riddled with unoriginal ideas. You even get two best friends who initially deny being in love with each other.
There is one scene that cheaply tries to elicit an emotional response from us. A boy states that a man has been eating his flesh, even when we immediately understand what he has done. The scene could have ended after the kid's realization, but it goes on a bit longer so that the pain can be underlined. Take it as another cue card, asking us to feel sad and shed tears.
Get all latest content delivered to your email a few times a month.
Bringing Pop Culture News from Every Realm, Get All the Latest Movie, TV News, Reviews & Trailers
Got Any questions? Drop an email to [email protected]