One Piece, Volume 1: Romance Dawn
Author: Eiichiro Oda
Publisher: Viz Media
American release date: July 23, 2003
Publisher/Industry Age Rating: Teen
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★
Just before Gold Roger, the “King of the Pirates”, is beheaded for his crimes, he’s asked for the whereabouts of his treasure. His reply—that it’s still out there in the world somewhere, and free to the person who finds it—triggers the start of a great era of piracy!
A pirate ship has made its base in a small harbor village for the past year. A young boy in the village, Monkey D. Luffy, is determined to be a pirate and go with them on pirate adventures. When they refuse to take him seriously, he shows them he means what he says by stabbing himself beneath his eye! Although they are amazed that he’s done that, nothing changes. Pirate Captain “Red Hair” Shanks reminds him that a pirate has to be able to swim, and Luffy can’t do that—he has a tendency to sink like a stone. Luffy refuses to give up on his dreams, no matter how nicely the pirates try to let him down. He is determined that he shall learn to swim!
When a big blustery mountain bandit named Higuma comes into the tavern and tries to rile up the pirates, they refuse to fight, to Luffy’s dismay. He pegs them as cowards and yells at them. However, when he tries to storm away, he makes a startling discovery—because he stole and ate the gum-gum fruit the pirates took from an enemy ship, his body is now rubbery and stretchy! Furthermore, as the captain informs him to his chagrin, now he’ll never be able to swim! Oh no!
Luffy has a lot to learn about what constitutes true courage!
Ten years later, his real adventures begin.
Still determined to become the king of the Pirates, Luffy sets out in a small boat, with no real sense of direction but a whole lot of determination. An encounter with a whirlpool leaves him in the company of the pirates of the dread lady pirate Iron Mace Alvida. Here he meets Koby, a timid young man who’s been enslaved by her against his will, and only wishes to join the Navy. Luffy befriends Koby and instills in him a courage and fortitude he’s sorely lacking. After they leave her, Luffy confides that he is assembling a super pirate crew in order to seek Gold Roger’s treasure, known as “One Piece”. He’s heard about a really good swordsman who’s imprisoned at the naval base, named Roronoa Zola, and he’s determined to add him to his crew. Koby is a bit skeptical.
They reach the naval base, which is under the command of Captain Morgan, and his despicable, cruel, effeminate son Helmeppo. Zolo is a prisoner, tied to a post in the naval yard. But when Luffy approaches him for possible recruitment, he says forget it, it’s only for a month, he can tough it out. Luffy soon discovers that things are not as they appear to be.
Can Luffy rescue Zolo? And even if he does, can he convince him to join his pirate crew? What of the despotic Captain Morgan and his horrible son? Can Luffy help Koby attain his lifelong dream of being in the navy, or will their acquaintanceship put an end to Koby’s chances?
First off, I know, I’m slow at getting to this. That being said, I wasn’t sure what to expect, despite the fact that it’s a long-running series. That doesn’t mean it’s for everyone. I quickly discovered that it’s really quite funny and very entertaining, and I’m looking forward to reading more.
Monkey D. Luffy is quite the character, and a fitting hero for this series. His ability to be rubbery at will, and also to withstand bullets, is pretty cool, and not something you see in your average hero. He’s young and enthusiastic and determined—traits which will carry him a long way. Eiichiro Oda doesn’t play to stereotypes. The pirate captain Shanks isn’t what you’d necessarily expect in a pirate, and neither is his crew. I like the artwork, it matches the story well, even to the exaggeratedly big mouth that Luffy has, a common characteristic I notice in Oda’s characters.
This book is rated for teens, but I think it would be enjoyed by all ages. It’s first and foremost an adventure tale, so there will be fights, but it’s not what I’d call particularly gory. If I have any complaints with the artwork, it would be that his girls tend to look more like boys. But that’s not really a complaint so much as an observation.
I enjoyed the first volume and look forward to reading more. Yes, I know he’s up to like 60 now. Guess I’ll be reading for a while!