Written By: Platitude & Shiggins
I knew it would come to this. My first attempt at writing a One Piece review kind of went up in flames and came down smoking, as I realized that my personal hatred for the series would morph what should be a fairly unbiased analysis of a manga into a prolonged hate speech. After a spending a period buried beneath other work, I returned to this idea with renewed perspective and... Basically turned the review into a hate rant. A very well-structured hate rant, but a hate rant nonetheless. So, enjoy this list of the many sins of One Piece.
Unless you are actually a One Piece fan. In which case, say hello to Mecha-Godzilla and Xenu for me, because you clearly don't exist. Oh, and feel free to express your new-found loathing of me in the comments. Come at me, bitches.
|HIT ME WITH YOUR BEST SHOT!!!|
Reason #1: The Art Style (Written By: Platitude)
I will unashamedly say that I actually enjoyed One Piece up until that godawful sky-city arc... Thing. Sure, it was never a series of mind-blowing depth and complexity, but for me, its overall swashbuckling tone meant that it resided in the same category that Case Closed: Detective Conan now does, something vapid but lively and colorful enough that I can knock out a few chapters of whenever I'm bored.
Of course, part of a series being "lively" and/or "colorful" comes down to their art style which, in the case of One Piece, started out ugly and by around chapter 300, became downright hideous.
For example, I have pasted above a page from quite early on in the manga, near the end of the Morgan arc. While not particularly nice to look at, it's at least possible to tell what the fuck's going on. In fact, the super-simplistic style Eiicharo Oda kind of adds to the childish, swashbuckling feel that I mentioned earlier, so the visuals from around this period of Oda's work are almost an asset to the series. Of course, the manga slowly descends into this...
Jesus Christ. Let's get something straight here; the style is now just a fucking mess. Oda mentioned early on that he disliked using screen-tone in large amounts, as it is too difficult and takes too long (he seriously said that), and the trade-off for this seems to be him scribbling all over each of the panels until they resemble blobs of spaghetti.
I know that some people will claim that this is just an advancement of his basic style, and the rational evolution of toner-less art will always result in something along these lines, but I like to show this little picture to anybody that tries to support this stance:
I don't care how jaded you are, that's how line drawings with minimal tone are done. Hell, even if Eiicharo Oda doesn't have half of the skill that Katsuhiro Otomo has, he should have at least learned the one major thing that the art of Akira teaches, which is that enough space between lines has to be present, no matter how intricate the drawing. You see, the eye is naturally drawn to blank white space, which is why Tetsuo (the guy with the weird tube-arm) is the focal point of the above drawing. Now, let's go back to look at a page of One Piece.
Now class, besides looking like shit, what else can we see that is wrong with the above picture? Yes, that's right, the largest amount of white space comes from the speech bubbles, while the remainder of the page blends into an eyeache-inducing mess. Okay, so not everybody has the capabilities (or flexible deadlines) that Otomo was provided with or possessed, but for the love of God, Eiicharo, at least replace some of the speed lines and beta-flashes with tone marks. As screwed up as a lot of the character designs are, even they aren't as convoluted as half of the backgrounds and effects. In fact, if he really wanted to flex his artistic muscles, he wouldn't even have to touch any more screen-tone than he does now.
When Katsuhiro's works such as the two-page spread featured above come under scrutiny, it is clear that the majority of the shading used consists of light cross-hatching and blending, something that Eiicharo Oda could easily do in many of his scenes, without sacrificing any detail whatsoever.
|Here is another example of Eiicharo Oda's...|
Oh sorry, I mistook this picture for something else.
Another major factor that adds to the absolute visual clusterfuck of later installments are the massive, scene-stealing speech bubbles I mentioned with extreme brevity earlier in this section. A major part of the manga's tone comes from jaunty, humorous dialogue, which is kept up during fight scenes as not to break theme.
Sadly, Eiicharo Oda seems to have a fetish for the most circuitous wording of dialogue as possible, so the text seems to creep over more and more of each panel as more witty taunts are passed, like an inoperable cancer wherein the malignant tumors make snarky diatribes at their host. While this isn't all that much of an issue early on, later chapters cram each page with so many words that it looks like a thesaurus specializing in haughty, self-congratulatory dialogue has exploded all over the tankōbon.
Perhaps all of the speech bubbles are a compensatory factor, as when they aren't being used for insults, characters seem obligated to give the reader a play-by-play of whatever kind of carnage is occurring. For instance, let's return to this panel from one of One Piece's later chapters:
The only reason why... Whoever the fuck this guy is... Would be required to squawk these lines would be because the panels depicting somebody "surviving because of the barrier" look something like this:
That's right, it's a mess, just like those that I've described before. The more I think of it, the obscenely convoluted text boxes, messy panel layout, and hideous art all kind of feed into each other, like a massive circle-jerk of ugly.
|Ah... Sorry, I just had to bleach my eyes with some quality artwork.|
Reason #2: Character Design (Written By: Shiggins)
Oh I've wanted to take part in this article for a long time now. And I'm lucky enough to get to talk about one of my favourite complaints about the series too: The character designs are awful! I know you're thinking right now "but what about Monkey D. Dragon or Zoro?" and I'll have to respond with "Okay, most of the designs are awful" but you and I both know that there are many ugly characters to look at.
|Like shooting ugly fish in an ugly barrel.|
Let’s get the most obvious one out of the way: Luffy is creepy. I’m serious. Look at his damn face and smile and dead eyes! Whenever I look at him, I don’t see a character or personality. Instead, I see a terrifying empty void of nothingness, with no soul or thought inside that bouncy head of his. Don’t believe me? Really look at these pictures!
|The eyes... the soulless eyes!|
Characters in One Piece don’t seem to follow typical body size, which is actually okay. It’s got its own childish feel to it which helps make characters look cartoony and unique, so that’s not a problem… at first. However, after a while you start to realise that all the characters don’t work and instead are just poorly drawn and out-of-place. Serious characters like Akianu don’t look as serious as they do because their designs are awkward and look more suited for Adventure Time than a manga series.
|Impossibly long legs and a pretty flower just scream "intimidating" don't they?|
I’m actually going to talk about one of my favourite characters now. His name is Brook, and when I first saw him I thought that Oda might have created pure gold in character form. It’s so hard to define just how great he is because… It’s a skeleton musician with an afro in a suit and wielding a sword!
That is pure raw genius! And then… the fucking timeskip ruined him!
|I'm gonna be sick...|
Brook became this stupid-looking twat. Nami and Robin grew boobs that could knock out all enemies with one ballerina spin, while Chopper… Actually, Chopper is okay. Just a new hat… but Usopp became a muscled man which completely kills the joke of him being a weak coward and Franky became a fucking monster! I’m not going to pretend that all the crewmembers had amazing looks before but when Oda got a design right, he got it right! The fact he destroyed his own crew and turned them into ugly characters actually shocks me.
|Fun fact: Claydragon confirmed to me all the reasons this is physically and scientifically impossible.|
Am I still not convincing you? That’s fair… How about Ivankov and that ungodly design? Or how half the girls look the exact fucking same? Nami, Rebecca, Shirahoshi, Vivi and Cavendish all look identical, to the point that reading the manga can be a damn pain in the arse just for that reason alone! (Maybe it’s easier in the anime, I dunno…)
|Imagine the annoyance of reading this when Nami and Vivi were together...|
Maybe I’m just bitter because Brook had such a perfect design before, but Oda has a lot of awful designs. Be cartoony. Be cute or funny but always be appealing to look at first. DON’T MAKE ME GROSSED OUT AT BREASTS!
|BOOBS DO NOT EXPLODE LIKE THIS IN 2 YEARS!|
Reason #3: Overarching Plot (Written By: Platitude)
Let's take a break from paddling Eiicharo Oda's drawing abilities and begin beating on his storytelling chops instead. Yes, One Piece is a shounen and as such, doesn't hold a cohesive, overarching plot in the highest of regards. However, I've been really into Negima! (which is a shounen, correct?) recently, and at least that manga pays attention to actually advancing the plot, while Luffy's little adventure attempts to ignore its story like it's a shouty homeless man begging for money from passers-by.
The series, along with many other shounen, has what I like to call a "Holy Grail" style plot, where there is one big objective that never moves or evolves in any way, and the entire story focuses on the journey to said objective, as once this task is completed, none of the protagonists in these types of stories have any need, reason, or motivation to do anything else.
|Wrong Holy Grail, guys...|
However, to counteract this, may series other than One Piece will typically contrive a new destination that the plot and protagonists must reach, and a new arc begins, creating the typical "never-ending shounen" stereotype that so many popular manga now seem to follow. While this isn't exactly a storytelling method that would make Marcel Proust cream his pants, at least the story progresses a noticeable amount with every chapter.
Unlike Bleach or any of the other "mainstream" franchises in the medium, the "Holy Grail" of One Piece has remained the same since 1997, and any progression that Luffy and Co. have made towards obtaining the One Piece has been spread out like the last bit of butter in the tin over a particularly large slice of toast. Without a new objective for each of the manga's arcs, it feels like we've been watching the first 26.2-mile snail marathon, where all of the contestants have either died of old age or were stamped on before any participants even reached the halfway point.
|Disregard this roided-up gastropod, obviously.|
I once took a very long break from reading the series, and upon coming back, found myself faced with about 300 chapters worth of new material to sift through. After about 25 of these new installments, I threw my hands up in the air, screamed "fuck it," and jumped ahead to the most recent arc.
Barring the shock of a massive dip in art quality (fine, I'll stop bitching about that), I realized that absolutely nothing had changed. I had even skipped the entire "Ace's Death" arc and timeskip, and besides Nami now looking like she took a side job smuggling honeydew melons in her chest, none of the characters had developed in any specific way.
|I mean, Jesus...|
Yes, it does sound like I've been hammering the same damn point for the past 400 words or so, but if anything, that kind of validates my argument. Besides Luffy's growing strength and Nami's ballooning bosoms, every arc in the One Piece canon seems completely interchangeable, as there is no sensation that the Straw-hat Crew is coming any closer to obtaining their goals.
"But Platitude!" I hear you (disregard this if you aren't a slobbering One Piece fanboy) cry, brandishing a replica of Usopp's slingshot in a threatening gesture, "Your massive brain must be too full of genius, universe-shaking ideas to absorb the sheer depth and weight of One Piece's plot! While it is true that the Straw-Hat Crew's goal never shifts, didn't you say just 433 words ago that the journey is the meat and potatoes of the "Holy Grail" plot structure? If that's true, then the 700-plus chapters of voyaging the series has undergone must mean that its journey has had the time to develop into a complex epic unlike any other, with a massive cast of opposing parties that weaves an intricate web of factions and battles better than a professional knitter!"
Well, if by "an intricate web of factions and battles" you mean "a convoluted mess," you'd be 100 percent correct with a little smiley face sticker, whoever you are. These days, an impenetrable miasma of differing characters, subplots, and motivations can either mean a sprawling epic (like what One Piece purports to be), or a serial that has been wallowing in its own shit for so long that it has attracted so many metaphorical flies of vestigial plot threads and extraneous groups that all meaning is lost (like what One Piece actually is), and whatever effort Eiicharo Oda put into distinguishing each member of the cast from one another becomes pointless, with all of the pirate crews outside of Luffy's blending together into an amorphous mass of Devil Fruit powers and hideous character designs.
It would be far more expedient, and perhaps more entertaining to just draw 100 or so stick figure in Microsoft Paint, and give them all one-sentence backstory, plus a unique selection of scribbles. The point I'm agonizingly trying to hack towards is that just like the manga's art, all aspects of the story, including the extended "universe" of One Piece is a hodgepodge of unnecessarily complicated filler that adds nothing to the overarching plot, and instead screws with what should be one of the simplest tales in the industry.
Reason #4: Characters (Written By: Platitude)
Oh Christ, where to begin? There's just so much crap to wade through! I could write an entire article on this subject, start with the gradual breakdown of the Straw-Hat crew's integrity due to a lack of fleshing out, or the frankly idiotic decisions Oda made with some of the villains, but in order to keep this concise, let's keep our sights trained mainly on the Straw-Hat crew, starting at the top with Monkey D. Luffy, captain of the Thousand Sunny and resident imbecile.
|His face is just so... Punch-able...|
People sometimes say that the eyes are the windows to one's soul. Well, if that, along with Shiggins' above comments on Luffy's round-browns are to be believed, then our protagonist's soul and by extension, his entire character are as bland as a stale saltine cracker. It isn't even like he is a blank slate that the readers are meant to project onto, because he does have a personality. Just a very, very bad one.
While it is true that many manga that can be identified as long-running series possess major protagonists similar to Luffy, there is usually a tangible sense of evolution with these characters as they grow up throughout the course of the plot. Yusuke Yurameshi would have been reduced to a red smear by Toguro if he never became more than a foulmouthed delinquent, and Usagi Tsukino's maturation meant she didn't become Queen Beryl's bitch by the end of Sailor Moon's first arc.
|That being said, Yusuke never really grew out of cracking absurdly smug grins...|
On the other hand, Luffy is never put into situations where he has to grow emotionally, including the death of his brother, Portgas D. Ace. Yeah, he's pretty aggrieved for a little while, but he's shown to be capable of this level of emotion early on, and after the timeskip he's back to his old, dopey self. Why Oda missed this momentous opportunity to really hunker down and expand Luffy's personality is beyond me, especially that it's clear that he isn't completely incompetent at character development.
|Don't feel bad, Luffy. In a few more chapters, it'll feel to the readers like this never even happened.|
For example, Nami's arc with Arlong and his band of swashbucklers is my favorite storyline in the entire series, as it shows an established, likable character undergoing a period that forces them to change and confront their demons in a manner that creates a sensation of development in the readers. Sure, the ridiculously long flashback curb-stomped any sense of flow the manga had, but baby steps, people!
However, my issues with never-ending shounen come to a head once again, as after this arc most competent series would probably just send Nami off on her way, to go live happily ever after or whatever. Sadly, Oda has her tag along with the Straw-Hat crew, and she fades into the background, with absolutely no point to her existence besides swelling the ranks of Luffy's sick collection of living trophies, people that have been saved, redeemed, or encouraged by his crew.
The same scenario played out with the likes of Tony Tony Chopper and Nico Robin, where people are introduced, given backstories, presented with a conflict, and then have that conflict resolved within a single arc, leaving them as little more than mannequins capable of fighting and creating the odd moment of comic relief.
Zoro is pretty awesome, though.
Reason #5: Repetitive Individual Arcs (Written By: Platitude)
Alright, I know that this kind of falls under the category of plot, but I find this to be a large enough of an issue that it deserves its own putrid little section. As One Piece is now past 700 chapters, it is probably safe to assume that Eiicharo Oda's creative faculties may be a bit spent. Well, that's the nice way to put it, at least. A more appropriately phrased appraisal of the manga's relationship with new subject matter is that the dead horse of individual arcs has been beaten so frequently and with such vigor by the series that its carcass is now nine feet wide and two inches deep.
If you remember, one of the first things that I stated in this article is that most of the enjoyment I got from the earlier arcs in the series stemmed from the manga's whimsical, swashbuckling tone. I'm a bit of a sucker for pieces of entertainment that revolve around adventuring, especially if it approaches the subject with a lighthearted, childish glee. Hell, I'm probably one of the very few people that loved the sailing in The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, and am also completely infatuated with the book The 13 and 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear.
|700-plus pages of pure escapism.|
Actually, it's funny that I mention that pile of lovable psychobabble, as it makes an apt comparison to One Piece. Bluebear's journey also consists of multiple arcs, in the form of 13-and-a-half of his 27 lives, but never grows boring. This can mostly be attributed to just how varied each of the storylines are. Whether the plot is dealing with professional lying competitions, alternate dimensions in which inhabitants feed off of music produced by instruments of living milk, or a professor with seven brains, the book doesn't come out feeling disjointed or schizophrenic. No, I'm not accusing One Piece of being so, quite the opposite actually.
While The 13 and 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear does just enough to retain its identity throughout all of the varying settings and situations by keeping a consistent written tone and point of view, One Piece hits that nail on the head and continues to unnecessarily hammer down more and more.
|Here's Luffy, beginning the path of doing the same thing for the next 700 chapters.|
Pretty much the entirety of the manga's canon consists of about the same two or three basic plotlines, all of which are resolved in the exact same fashion. Seriously, how many times has Luffy arrived on a new land and confronted a pirate crew that has either taken wrongful possession of some sort of treasure, plan to take control of the area, or already have done so? How many times have conflicts like these been resolved by an all-out, balls-to-the-wall fight, where it turns out that the Straw-Hats' enemy conveniently provides competent match-ups for the entire gang to get in on the action? Any of the adventurous charm the series had became worn down for me until nothing remained but a bland, repetitive manga with no ambition beyond perpetuating its own existence.
Platitude:Born from a freak lab accident, Platitude grew up in an impenetrable section of the Amazon Rainforest with nothing but his wits and a flying, talking arapaima sidekick named Scuppernong.After being discovered by South American cocaine smugglers, he managed to reach the United States with the help of a friendly local cartel and three condoms of pure, fresh-cut Colombian bam-bam. There, he financed a new life by betraying Scuppernong and selling him to an aquarist. Platitude immediately spent his $20.00 fortune on a bootleg copy of Boku no Pico, and a legend began...You can find his mad scribblings during his frequent bouts of insanity here
Shiggins enjoys many strange forms of communication, especially those including cosplayers or presents or videos. However, until that wonderful day comes when people care enough to give him things for being him, you can contact him on his Skype; shigginsishere. You can find out about him or ask him stuff on ask.fm/shigginsishere or go to his tumblr page http://otakugajeel.tumblr.com/.