One Piece – East Blue Arc (Episodes 1 – 30) Review

One Piece EBArc P1

One Piece is, if nothing else, epic in length. Whenever I cover the show I’ll be doing it in much bigger chunks of episodes than I normally do, though given this chunk of 30 episodes doesn’t even end what most people consider to be the opening “arc”, it’s not going to make covering the show any less of a daunting task. Anyway, One Piece grabs the bronze in this Jump! 50th Anniversary opening arc list of mine as it does a good job of introducing you to our lead, but a fantastic job of making us care about the rest of the crew. It was really hard deciding between this and the #2 spot! So let’s look at the first half of the East Blue arc, which really contains a bunch of smaller arcs that introduce us to several of the cast members going forward…

Synopsis:

Monkey D. Luffy is a young man who was inspired to be a pirate by his childhood idol and powerful pirate “Red Haired” Shanks. He has set off on a journey across the East Blue Sea and beyond to find a crew, the famed treasure One Piece and proclaim himself the King of the Pirates…

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

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“Wanna join my crew?”  “Nah, I’m good hanging out here.”

Monkey D. Luffy (Mayumi Tanaka / Colleen Clinkenbeard) – Luffy was inspired by his brothers (of a sort) and his idol Red Haired Shanks to become a pirate. Not just any pirate, but the King of the Pirates, and the man who claims the fabled treasure called One Piece. Having already gained rubber powers thanks to the Gum-Gum Fruit, Luffy is on his way to reaching his goal! He just needs a ship… and a crew…

Roronoa Zoro (Kazuya Nakai / Christopher Sabat) – Zoro is known as the “pirate hunter”, a bounty hunter with a fearsome reputation and three swords on his belt. His goal is to become the very best swordsman in the world, so joining a crew isn’t really on the cards…

Nami (Akemi Okamura / Luci Christian) – Nami is a thief, a thief who has no choice but to make a bunch of money given an unfortunate situation she’s found herself in. That being said, her personality does naturally lend itself well to gathering money and treasure for herself!

Usopp (Kappei Yamaguchi / Sonny Strait) – Usopp is a natural born liar, so much so that very few people in his town take him seriously. Well, you know what happens to the boy who cried wolf…

Sanji (Hiroaki Hirata / Eric Vale) – Sanji is an amazing cook, and an even more amazing fighter, not that he’s particularly bothered about the latter. If his customers have a smile on their faces when they leave that’s all he cares about.

Buggy The Clown (Shigeru Chiba / Mike McFarland) – Buggy, despite his odd appearance, was once a member of Gol. D. Roger’s crew, the man who gained and stored One Piece itself. In the years after Roger’s execution Buggy has become cold, showing no care towards his own crew. He has eaten the Chop-Chop Fruit, meaning he can separate and control different parts of his body independently.

Captain Kuro (Koichi Hashimoto / Kent Williams) – Captain Kuro was once the leader of the Black Cat Pirates, feared as the “Man with 100 plans”. After he faked his own death to avoid being hunted by the marines, Kuro has spent the last three years posing as a butler for a wealthy family, just waiting for his crew to return so he can take away their riches.

Captain Don Krieg (Fumihiko Tachiki / Andy Mullins) – Don Krieg is the leader of the Krieg Pirates and has a bounty of 17,000,000, giving him a fearsome reputation amongst the citizens of East Blue, but not much of a reputation further out…

Dracule Mihawk (Takeshi Aono / John Gremillion) – Dracule Mihawk is one of the Seven Warlords of the Sea, and is touted as the world’s best swordsman. Being officially part of the World Government means he can’t freely act on his own, or at the very least, can’t freely attack government facilities and personnel…

Plus more!

The Good:

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Can you tell he’s a villain?

Lets start by talking about Luffy. While I feel he’s less developed here than his crewmates soon become, his flashback of being saved by his hero Shanks, at the cost of Shanks’ arm, is still a great scene, the guilt and confusion of young Luffy and the general warm feeling you get from Shanks makes for dramatic viewing. Luffy at his core is a pretty generic Shonen hero type, eating loads and loads, a cheery, child-like demeanor and heroic and powerful fighter who keeps getting up after being knocked down. Not very original, but very enjoyable, though his elastic abilities give him a unique moveset at least. The concept of “Devil Fruits” that give people super-hero-like powers is a good one in general as well.

Zoro, and the first real story arc, is a good one. He couldn’t be further from Luffy, personality-wise, being the “cool, bad-ass” type and a skilled swordsman. Zoro is tied up in a very Jesus cross-like manor by a corrupt and spoilt son of a ruthless marine. This was all because Zoro saved a girls life, and he later refused help from the same girl so as not to get her in trouble. Luffy, who arrives with young wannabe marine Cody, is impressed with Zoro’s skill and personality and insists he becomes his crew’s swordsman (despite still not having a ship…) In the end they both fight off Axe-Hand Morgan and his men, leading to Luffy’s personality managing to attract Zoro as his first crew member (though Zoro only agreed because his goal of travelling the world in search of Dracule Mihawk in order to duel the world’s best swordsman coincides with Luffy’s goal of sailing the seas to reach One Piece).

Our next small arc sees us introduced to Nami, who has found herself captured by Buggy the Clown, a devil fruit user who can split into bits and control each bit independently. It’s a small arc that gives us our first Devil Fruit v. Devil Fruit battle, and introduces us to another crew member, though Nami’s thieving personality means she doesn’t actually join Luffy and Zoro for a while, keeping her interests to herself.

The next story to be told is the debut story of Usopp, the ultimate comedy coward character. He loves telling made up stories about himself to a spoiled, but sick, rich girl (who in turn likes hearing them), everyone else in the town dislike him for his desperate attempts to get attention by lying about pirates arriving at the bay. Eventually the girl’s butler turns out to be a vicious pirate whose crew soon arrives, of course meaning Usopp tries to warn everyone but no-one takes him seriously. Luckily for him Luffy and co. arrive and fight Kuro, whose sword claws and disregard for his own men make him a deadly foe. Kuro does fall and eventually Usopp not only joins the crew, but gives them their ship! It’s a good story that piles on the sympathy for Usopp, though that soon vanishes in a wave of comedy coward antics…

Lastly in this half of the East Blue Arc is Sanji’s debut arc, set on the boat restaurant Baratie. Actually, before we begin that we get a flashback episode on Zoro, which helps flesh out his character a bit more and make him more well-rounded than just a blunt instrument. He learned his craft alongside a girl, a girl who was more talented than he was. Sadly she died and he promised to fulfil her dream by become the best swordsman. Luffy and co. arrive at Baratie roughly the same time as a group of pirates know as the Krieg Pirates, leading to an inevitable clash between Captain Krieg and Luffy, which while being fun, isn’t the main thing here…

Sanji’s background is obviously the main one, particularly nearly starving to death on an island with a famous pirate (who later became his head chef) and how that shaped his idea of never refusing to serve a starving man, even if it’s an enemy. Sanji is the cool laidback ladies man type, always smoking thanks to the old fashion notion  that it made people cool… Secondly Zoro comes across Dracule Mihawk already, and tries his luck. Obviously he’s completely outmatched (given that’s his end goal and the series is still going on two decades later, it was never going to happen this early!) but a scene of him tearfully declaring he’ll beat him one day and be the best swordsman for his Captain as well as himself, was a great turning point for the character, and a great moment in general. Oh and Nami betrayed them all and stole their ship (already!).

Nami’s story is fleshed out in the next mini arc, and is the highlight of the East Blue Arc in my opinion, but just covering these 30 episodes made for a long enough review, I had to stop somewhere…

The Bad:

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Episode 1 of going on 800+!

Not a lot to talk about, really. As I said, it was close between this and next week’s entry, but the only real flaw I see here is the lack of polish to Luffy, it takes a while for him to have any real depth of character added to him, and it’s made even more obvious when so much care and attention is given to the backstories and personalities of his crewmates. Really it isn’t until the whole deal with his brother Ace’s capture and all the flashbacks that occur afterwards that we get Luffy’s proper character building stuff, and as good as that is, it’s 400-odd episodes away!

Still, it’s a good start to the mammoth epic, it’s shorter stories lends itself well to better paced storytelling, something later arcs could have done with…

Overall Thoughts:

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Kuro was a good villain, but boy is he ever retroactively a nobody now!

One Piece’s debut episodes are full of small arcs that give us good to great character pieces for the debuting crew members and lots of action (and weird characters!) While the next mini-arc is the highlight of the whole East Blue story, Usopp and especially Sanji’s debut arcs are really good, with the latter doing a great job with Zoro as well. While watching One Piece from the start is a seemingly impossible task now, it’s worth a watch if you dare to try…

4 Star Watch

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