One Piece article published in Animerica Extra Vol. 5, No. 9, August 2002
This article was written by and is copyrighted to Patricia Duffield and may not be reproduced in part or whole without permission.
It has been a while since we've had a new shonen sensation, a series both genders and many age groups enjoy equally, one with the staying power and popularity to last more than a year on TV. One Piece is such a series.
The legendary pirate king Gold Roger was a man who had it all --wealth, fame, power— until he was finally captured. His last words to the crowd before his execution were, "My treasure? I've put the world's riches in ‘that' place. It's yours if you can find it." Thus began the Great Pirate Era.
Rufi thinks pirates are cool. He likes them so much, he actually stabs his cheek to create a scar, briefly traumatizing the local pirates. While captain Shanks the Redhead tries to dissuade Rufi from his ambition of becoming a pirate, his men make it sound fun. No matter, Rufi's at least ten years too young and can't even swim. All teasing and talk of piracy end when Higuma the mountain bandit and his men enter the bar looking for wine. When Shanks offers him the last bottle, Higuma breaks it over Shanks' head, calls him a coward and leaves. Rufi's so upset Shanks didn't fight back that he tells Shanks he sucks and storms off, but when Shanks grabs Rufi's arm... STRETCH! During the conflict with Higuma, Rufi ate Shanks' latest treasure, the cursed Gomu Gomu Fruit. Because he ate it all, Rufi is now a gomu-ningen, or rubberman!
Although being a rubberman means Rufi will never be able to swim, it doesn't take long for the advantages of his stretchy state to come in handy. When Higuma returns, mocking the absent pirates, Rufi foolishly defends his friends. Rufi's rubberized body helps him survive long enough for Shanks and his men to impressively save the day --almost. Higuma kidnaps Rufi and escapes by boat, but the monster in the bay eats Higuma in one gulp! Rufi's about to be next when, out of nowhere, Shanks rescues Rufi and stares down the monster. This rescue costs Shanks an arm, but he doesn't mind so long as Rufi's safe. With such a cool role model, it's small surprise Rufi decides to one day become a pirate captain just like Shanks.
Ten years later, Rufi's pretty strong and has learned to use his rubber body very effectively. With little more than a dingy and his cheerful bravado, Rufi leaves his village determined to create his own band of pirates, find Gold Roger's One Piece treasure and become the Greatest Pirate Ever! Thus begins the epic adventure of Monkey D. Rufi. One by one, he collects his unusual crew, gaining experience along the way. Rufi's not the only one looking for One Piece, so his adventures are filled with hunts for treasure maps, journeys across land and sea, wonderfully strange characters and plenty of action. Mixed in with all this are themes of understanding and honesty, for Rufi's straight-forward, accepting demeanor often impacts the people he meets.
You don't have to be a fan of pirates to enjoy this top-selling international hit, but you do have to have a love of adventure and a sense of humor. Story-wise, there's not much to compare to Dragon Ball, but as an oddball quest with the same publisher and animation company --and the same TV time slot for a while— One Piece shares some of the feeling of Toriyama's historic series. Plus the artist, Eiichiro Oda, is a Toriyama fan. Also like Dragon Ball, One Piece isn't for the faithless. Currently at 23 volumes, 4 novels, 3 movies and over 100 episodes, this series is a commitment. But for those willing to commit, One Piece is one heck of an adventure!