by Eiichiro Oda
published by Viz; $7.95 US
The young hero of this book, “Straw Hat Luffy”, really wants to be a pirate. Aside from the criminal nature of this goal, which rightfully disturbs many of his fellow villagers, his dream is made more difficult when he accidentally eats magic fruit that gives him the Plastic Man-like ability to stretch his body like rubber. It also curses him to never be able to swim, which makes his goal somewhat of a tricky challenge.
Ten years later, he’s still determined to make his dream come true. He starts assembling a crew, almost by accident, to find a fabled treasure (the “One Piece” of the title) left by the pirate king after his execution. Luffy meets a cabin boy his age who’s been shanghaied by a lady pirate, and together they free a pirate hunter (who wants to be the world’s greatest swordsman) from prison in order to have him join the crew.
This pursuit of an inappropriate goal no matter what is a hallmark of this title. It’s very much “damn the plot, full speed ahead” with the action and the fighting on the path to making Luffy King of the Pirates. I’m told that One Piece is one of the world’s most popular manga titles. I’m surprised, but hey, Tom and Jerry cartoons are quire popular, too.
This episodic adventure is told through cartoony exaggeration. It’s rated T for teens due to violence and the stupid things Luffy does, like stabbing himself in the face to show his dedication.
Although his youthful attitudes towards what being a man means has more in common with the mountain bandit villains than the pirates he wants to join — they are more concerned with having a good time then getting into pointless fights — his determination later becomes more admirable, taking him closer to his ridiculous goal. It’s silly fun that works better if you’re willing to play along with it.