|| Print ||
|Written by Allison Jarvis|
|Monday, 25 July 2011 00:00|
I had the privilege to represent (Cult)ure Magazine at the 2011 Anime North convention earlier this year in May. Spending a decent amount of time in the media lounge I got to meet Charlie, one of the media coordinators. We got into some great conversations, relating to Gundam figures, queer topics in Yaoi, and a variety of manga titles. It was during our manga discussion that he mentioned One Piece. His eagerness took me by surprise as my face soured at the mention of the series. "I'm a ninja, they're pirates. I don't do pirates," I stated matter-of-factly. "No! You can't think that way! It builds up and then it gets you all 'OMG! No way!' and then you're sad and distraught and then you're laughing, and . . . well, you just have to read it. You HAVE to."
I have had other people try to tell me that it is a good series. Many have told me that my excuse was pretty lame and that I was being silly. Sadly, I am well aware of this fact. I watch the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, so why not read a pirate manga? In response, I say I saw it because of Johnny Depp, and maybe Orlando Bloom, but not because it was about pirates. I never participate in "international talk like a pirate day," and I always side with ninjas whenever they are an option . . . All in all, I am pathetically devoted when it comes to the "pirate vs. ninja" culture war. Despite my usual protests, I grudgingly admitted defeat and said that I would give it a look over. Part of it was his unbridled passion, part of it was curiosity, and, I'll admit it, part of it the crush I developed on him during that weekend (*blush*).
And so, as the title states, I say "Damn you, Charlie," since I am now hopelessly hooked on the adventures of this motley crew of non-pirates turned pirate. I have already read the first hundred chapters, which is the equivalent to nine chapter books, within a two week span. Tears have already threatened to grace my cheeks at certain points of the story (the staff/crew of the Baratie and the fate of Bellemere!). I am completely rapt by their perseverance, drive, and unwillingness to even consider faltering. There are swords, jokes, Fishmen, bad guys turned good, and good guys turned bad.
In fact, it is currently one of, if not the, most popular manga in Japan right now. The last three tankoubon (think graphic novel) to have been released have broken sales records, and two of them shared the top two spots one week -- the first series to achieve such an honour since such records have been kept. The manga is one of Shonen Jump's flagship series, aimed at male youths aged 10-19. According to a survey done by Tokyo Polytechnic University in 2010 about what is cool in Japan, it was teenage girls who, against expextations, overwhelmingly said that the One Piece manga defines "Cool Japan" at a whopping 71.2% approval, ranking within the top five for all but one category. When asked which anime they felt represented "Cool Japan," again, it was the teenage females who overwhelmingly supported One Piece with 62.4%, followed only by women in their twenties who ranked it third at 51.2%, and then teenage males, who voted it first, but with a support of only 50.7%. The only manga title that scored higher all round was Dragon Ball, which took first in all other age groups.
What is it that is pulling in this counter-intuitive demographic? The multitude of battles, simplistic humour, and busty women is clearly designed to pander to its target audience of teenage boys. Having read as much as I have, the reason for its cross-demographic appeal still eludes me in terms of specifics. It could be the characters that are so well fleshed out and consistent that they are hard not to root for. The male characters range from ruggedly attractive to clueless and adorable; the female characters are strong, if not in body, then in heart, intellect, and soul. The smattering of corruption among the government officials coupled with those who truly fight for justice from aboard their ships makes for a thought-provoking world. Upon meeting any new characters or seeing a new ship upon the horizon, no matter what flag they fly, their moral compass is never known at first sight.
The manga opens with the background of the protagonist, Monkey D. Luffy, and how he becomes a man made of rubber through the consumption of an evil fruit at the age of eight. Ten years later Luffy is finally leaving his home village, starting off as a pirate crew of one with the goal of finding the treasure known only as the "One Piece" to become the Pirate King. At each port he reaches he finds new friends, new enemies, and, most of the time, a new crew member is lassoed into joining Luffy on his adventures. Ninety-six chapters in he now has a big boat, his own flag, and a five person crew consisting of Zoro the swordsman, Nami the navigator, Usopp the gunman (and renown liar), Sanji the cook, and Captain Luffy himself!
In the end, although I still wholeheartedly put my strength behind my ninja brethren, Charlie has shown me a world where pirates aren't so bad and maybe even sympathetic. And if you're reading this, Charlie, you'd better be holding up your end of the bargain and giving the Naruto: Shippuden anime another go!Please feel free to visit Allison's super-awesome blog about anime and manga at http://auroraonanime.blogspot.com/.