[From February Issue 2013]
This manga tells the story of its main character Luffy, who sets off on an incredible adventure in search of One Piece (a great treasure) in order to become king of the pirates. The series of comics first came out in 1997 and has continued up until today. It’s been a huge hit with the total number of copies printed domestically exceeding 280 million, the highest number ever. The translated version is also popular abroad and is sold in over 30 countries.
The story takes place during the Great Pirate Era. The dying words of Gold Roger, the former king of the pirates, were: “My treasure? Why, it’s right where I left it… It’s yours if you can find it.” This pronouncement drove people out to sea in search of his fortune. Luffy is a young boy living in a port village, he wants to join the pirate Red Haired Shanks, but is turned away because he is “just a brat.”
When Luffy accidentally eats a “gum gum fruit” which Shanks had stolen from an enemy pirate ship, he becomes a rubber human being, but the downside of this new ability is that he will be unable to swim for the rest of his life. Before long Luffy turns 17 and sets off on a grand adventure to find treasure and to fulfill his promise to meet up with Shanks again after he has become a great pirate.
As he continues his adventure, one by one he acquires travelling companions. Currently, a crew led by Luffy includes Roronoa Zoro who wants to be the greatest swordsman in the world, Nami, a genius navigator, Usopp, an expert sniper who is good at cheering up his mates, Sanji, a cook whose fighting technique is delivering killer kicks, Chopper, a reindeer and ship’s doctor, Robin the beautiful archeologist, Franky a shipwright who made himself into a cyborg, and Brook, the skeleton who is both a swordsman and a musician.
It’s not only Luffy’s companions that make this story interesting, there are also many other unique characters portrayed in the manga, including members of rival pirate gangs, the World Government, and the marines who chase Luffy. Additionally, the attention to detail in this vividly imagined universe makes these characters even more attractive. These elements give depth to the otherwise monotonous and repetitive story development of defeating each new enemy that stands in their way as they push on with the adventure.
The themes running throughout the story are passion for adventure and friendship between companions. The characters literally bleed, sweat, cry, even snivel, and crumble to pieces at times. However, they always get back on their feet again and regain the determination to search for their dreams and protect their friends. There has been a long tradition of this kind of passionate determination in the history of shounen manga (boy’s comics).
The animated version for TV first aired in 1999 and is still in production to this day, there are also ten movie versions too. In 2012 for the 15th anniversary of One Piece, a new movie was released and an exhibition was held. One Piece novels and games are also sold and many companies have produced One Piece merchandise. One Piece has transcended the bounds of manga to become a phenomenon in itself.
Text: HATTA Emiko