I Have a Favorite (Anime) ... One Piece
One Piece is a hugely long running anime. I own 6 collections of it currently, and there are three more to be bought, and many more episodes created, waiting to be dubbed, subbed, and Funimation-ed so I can add them to my collection. I watched it when 4Kids had it, it was fine, but I got tired of it. I decided to, on a whim after talking with my roommate, give it another go. I love the Pirates films, I love fantasy, and I'm a fan of good shows, anime, cartoon, live-action, whatever, and I have never heard a bad thing said about One Piece. So ...
Yup, I got nothing bad to say either. Because it is perfect. Even the filler episodes have a purpose, which is hilariously obnoxious. I can't, won't, and don't want to skip the episodes made to be pallette cleansers between arcs. Not only that, but this show is perfectly plotted. Let's talk about that a moment.
Many animes start you out in the middle of the story, or at least a little bit after the beginning of the story, and then after a few episodes, backtrack you to the actual beginning of the story. It is an irritating practice, and one that if you do too much, makes you start to go a little insane, as I showed reviewing Attack on Titan. Yes, we do get backstory and flashbacks, but they show up when they are narratively important, to give us a better understanding of these characters. For all intents and purposes, we start this journey with Luffy, riding along in a barrel, waiting to be opened up.
I mentioned the characters before, and yes, these characters are great. They are fully fleshed out and complete, with weaknesses, strengths, likes, dislikes, goals, dreams, flaws, and are completely realized. It is so wonderful to see a cast of 7 now (a new cast member was just added) and for me to be able to completely immerse within them. I know these characters as well as I know the best characters from any book or film. And there is still more to learn, and still points to be surprised, as well as times to watch them grow and change, as Usopp becomes braver, as Luffy becomes wiser, as Nami becomes more trusting, and as Zoro learns to open up more.
The plot of the show, well, metaplot, as with episodic shows you have other plots going on, is that they are pirates going out for not only their own goals, but to find the One Piece, a great treasure lost in the Grand Line, a dangerous current filled with dangerous islands. It is a battle anime, just like Ranma 1/2 (the first one, and my other favorite anime, whose collection sits nicely next to One Piece, both unfinished ... for now) or Dragonball Z or Yu-yu Hakusho (man, I gotta get this too ... ). Our heroes have villains that stand in the way of their goals, and they take them down, to move on to the next.
Except One Piece is different from all the three the others I mentioned. One Piece is truly character driven. It isn't about doing your Spirit Cop duty, or competing in more and more ridiculous Anything Goes Martial Arts challenges. Luffy is going to become the king of the pirates ... somehow, he isn't quite sure. Zoro will prove he is the world's greatest swordsman, even though he pretty early on learns he is nowhere near good enough and he continues to train to reach that goal. Sanji looks for a mythical paradise for a chef like himself, as well as love (though that is very much something we are meant to infer, as he would never say it directly ... or well, maybe he does, just not seriously). Usopp's goals are a little more amorphous, to become a better man, a man worthy of the woman he loves and left behind. Nami wants to map the dangerous Grand Line, creating the first grand map of the world. And so on and so on. Instead of "guy shows up, wants to destroy world or inact some other evil plot, good guys stop them" we have our heroes finding their way to where they are going, and because of their CHARACTER, they stop the bad guys, or help the people around them.
Not only that, but sometimes they fail. Of course, as heroes, they ultimately will win (or at least, I believe they will). But still, sometimes they fail as they go on their journey. Sometimes they make big mistakes. Sometimes their own character flaws make things more difficult.
Not only THAT, but One Piece gets around one of the biggest problems of a battle anime: exponential power growth. Super Saiyan sure was cool, yeah? Well, nope, it sucks, because they eventually reach Super Saiyan 4. Really?! 4? Ok, how does that even begin to make sense? And lots of animes work like this, with people just getting more and more powerful, and villains becoming more and more ridiculously powerful to counteract the heroes power, which means that the heroes get more powerful again ... it is non-stop.
But One Piece is more clever than that. 155 episodes in, and the only character that has trained at ALL is Zoro, and that is a character choice - he pushes himself to continue to train. Luffy may have learned a new way to do what he does, but in the end, he isn't Super Luffy. He is the same power level as he was before. But how do they keep the stakes high? By having every challenge be a different problem. I would love to spoil stuff, to be able to better explain, such as with Crocodile, or with Arlong. But nah, just go watch it! It is glorious in how they are able to masterfully tell stories without ridiculous character power growth.
I could gush on and on and on. And I hope you enjoyed hearing/reading me gush as far as I did. But ultimately, I plead you find a way to start watching if you can. I didn't even begin to talk about the amazing water color artistry to accompany the unique character designs, or the amazing music, or the incredibly talented Funimation American voice actors. I cannot get enough of this show. I devour it as fast as I can, and will be getting Collection 7 as soon as possible so I can continue to do so.
A+++++++, all the pluses.
Edit: P.S. There really needs to be a parody of Pharrel's "Happy" with "Luffy". I'mma find it!