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October 12, 2012

Why Anime is Amazing: Because Luffy

It’s been a while since I talked about anime on this blog, so I figured I’d throw a quick post out there.  The impetus?  Well, I tried out One Piece: Pirate Warriors on the PS3 (available now from the PlayStation Network!).  Now let me be frank: I was more than a little worried about the game because it’s tied to Koei and is, essentially, a Dynasty Warriors game -- a franchise that I’ve long since sworn off thanks to several iterations of bland, unrewarding button-mashing from one edge of China to the other.  On the other hand, I was willing to give the game a shot if only because of my greatest regret: that I didn’t get into One Piece, which is apparently THE story to follow over in Japan (and rightfully so, based on what I’ve gleaned).  So after seeing a few videos and realizing how this was a decisive chance to immerse myself in the mythos, I took the plunge.  I decided to balance out my love of good things with my hatred of terrible things.

And how is it?  Well…it’s good.  Not amazingly, perfectly good, but still really good.  I’ll talk a bit more about it the next time I discuss a bunch of video games (Katawa Shoujo is on deck for discussion as well), but as it stands I’m happy to have it.  But let’s set that aside for now and talk about one reason why I think One Piece is as adored as it is -- and why anime in general can be pretty great.

Luffy (that’s Monkey D!) is the lynchpin of One Piece -- the method in which the story puts its best foot forward in terms of its ideas.  In a sprawling world full of mysteries, great wonders, fantastic creatures, varied inhabitants, and general insanity, it takes a character that’s willing to interact with said world to get the most mileage out of it.  Moreover, it takes a character that holds some of those qualities -- one that reflects and occasionally clashes against the world -- to gain even more mileage.  Long story short: if you take time to build a fantastic world, you’d better not fill it with characters that are too surly to enjoy it, or else readers/viewers won’t enjoy it.

And that’s where Luffy comes in.  At a glance he’s your typical “shonen hero”, but turned up several dozen notches.  Generally speaking, it’s impossible for me to think of One Piece without thinking of Luffy’s massive smile.  The same goes for his boisterous claims of becoming the pirate king, or his cheery idealism, or his general idiocy, and the typical “I’ll protect my friends, no matter what!” mantra.  He’s your typical good guy -- not exactly something in short supply, but not exactly a bad thing.  On the other hand, Luffy’s got more than a little depth to him.  He does some silly things sometimes, but there is some logic to his actions.  Rather than relying on absurd power-ups and training arcs to rise to WTF-levels of godhood, he’s adapting and applying his basic tool set -- stretching powers -- to suit his needs.  He’s not only able to figure out how to solve problems, but proves himself capable of a wide array of emotions and ideas.  And of course, he knows when to get serious.

I haven’t seen enough of One Piece to be certain, but I can make an educated guess: whenever Luffy makes that face, it’s time for you to pack up and run.  And by run I mean leave the planet.

 But what I think makes Luffy incredibly interesting is that he is, in his own right, an idea.  We think of pirates as scurvy sea dogs -- crusty, bearded swashbucklers out for treasure and booty.  The One Piece universe often plays them the same way -- as reprehensible outlaws that’ll stomp over anything or anyone (even their own comrades) to get what they want in their quest for glory and power.  Luffy offers a brighter alternative; he’ll win new crew members and comrades not through force and constriction, but by way of his ideas.  He has a clear vision of what a pirate can (and should) be, and acts on it.  Camaraderie.  Trust.  Mutual gain.  Dreams.  Perseverance.  Courage.  Justice.  Adventurous spirit.  And above all else, getting out into the world and having some fun.  It’s a very shonen-esque mindset that, again, isn’t new to fiction…but damn is it effective, especially when done by Luffy.  To paraphrase D-Mob from Def Jam: Fight for New York, it’s not always about gaining power through fear.  Even a beaten dog can still bite back; earn the respect of the people, and you’ll be stronger than anyone who ever decides to rule through fear.  It’s that overwhelming charisma that, based on my few observations, makes Luffy, One Piece, and a well-done anime so dear to a fan’s heart…which makes it all the more affecting when one experiences both a character’s triumphs and heartbreak, even if you don’t fully know the story’s context.

Raw power, raw emotion, raw adventure, raw fun…that’s about all I can say about One Piece.  Okay, there is ONE more thing I can say: it’s a shame that 4Kids’ “creative liberties” ensured that the series never got a proper foothold in the states.

Hrk…just thinking about it makes me want to throw up...


  1. Yay! Anime! I've been thinking about incorporating more stuff relating to Japanese culture in my posts, since it's my major and plays a bit part in my life. I've actually got a review started for this anime I'm currently watching and I'm making a list of my favorite male characters that I'll be posting on Monday hopefully. I have yet to see One Piece though. My friends are always telling me to watch it, but for some reason I keep putting it off. I think it's because the series is so freaking long and I just don't have the time right now to invest in it. But I will one day watch it. Or try to. I don't think I can be considered a true anime fan if I don't...

    I was confused about your mention of 4Kids "creative liberties." Do you mean how they localize the anime to make it more suitable for American audiences?

  2. "Creative liberties"...where do I even begin?

    A while back, there was a video series on YouTube that celebrated the fact that 4Kids lost/gave up the rights to One Piece, and Funimation was going to handle all the dubbing duties from then on. And by celebrated, I mean the creator of said series named the "Top Ten Worst Moments of Dub Piece." (That might not have been the actual title, but pretty darn close.)

    He managed to outline some of the issues that cropped up over the course of his series -- and in the years since, others have pointed out the "golden" moments created by 4Kids. You can probably find some on your own, and I'm tempted to list the many, many, many grievances...but I'll just leave you with this video and leave it at that.


    ...Okay, I lied. Apparently, 4Kids cut out huge chunks of the series to get to other (supposedly more marketable) arcs faster -- and in doing so, created plot holes that they'd never be able to recover from. We're talking forty or so important episodes, GONE.

    I'd advise you not to go looking for too much evidence. Chances are you'll run into clips featuring Sanji's or Usopp's 4Kids voices. Hrggggh...can't hold it in anymore...! *runs to bathroom to puke*

  3. Yeah. The localization for One Piece is absolutely terrible. And really? Is it that big a deal that Sanji is a chain smoker that they needed to make them lollipops? Seriously?

    Not all localization is bad though. When you're dealing with Dubs there is a great deal of redundancy in the Japanese language. When it is directly translated you hear the characters saying each other's names every 2 seconds and things like "Did you know?" over and over.

    Not anime... but this is the direct result of DIRECT translations: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KPdJgD4xKSM

    Naruto's "Belive it" Is a good example of when you try and force things better off omitted. His Dattebayo verbal tick works in Japanese and doesn't come across as awkward at all. IT should have been omitted. It was basically a more confident "Uh." or "Um."

    Writing a character that stutters, or has a tick can get old really really fast. In her original incarnation. Nell from my story http://dimanagul.wordpress.com/2012/10/05/short-story-two-hunters/ stuttered every other word. In practice it was terrible writing. >.> There are better ways to show hesitance or over flowing confidence. Live and learn.

  4. To be honest, I'm one of those strange, terrible people that likes dubbed anime/video games. Outside of a few instances (One Piece chief among them), I don't think I've ever had a problem with an English dub. I know that certain things are lost in translation, and ultimately the best way to watch/enjoy a product is in its original language, but come on. America has Crispin Freeman.

    And I know what you mean about the whole stuttering thing. I had a character, Maddy, who did a lot more stuttering in earlier drafts of a story I've got. She and I have gotten better about it, but...well, now I'm starting to worry I didn't take out enough stuttering. To the bathroom! And then, to the editing room! Which is to say, right back here!

  5. Also, that RE video makes me very, very sad. I heard the acting was bad, but...wow. And that music makes me think more of Mega Man than survival horror.

  6. I'm with you there, I mean I know it's important to keep the integrity of the original lines and such, but I just don't like most of the voices in the Japanese versions, they're too high-pitched for me. Also I like to be able to watch what's happening without having to look down to read subtitles the whole time. Just a personal thing. (Except, for some odd reason, Bleach; I can watch that subbed or dubbed and be fine, maybe it's because the Japanese voices are actually likeable for me...)

    (Also, looking forward to that videogame write-up. You know me, and when I heard you talk about KS I perked up. As well, I want to hear your opinions of the One Piece game.)

  7. It might take me a while before I do another "Let's discuss" post -- I want to wait a bit until I play some more games, and can talk about at least four instead of just two. I just don't know what those two games will be yet; my brother's eyeing Assassin's Creed 3, so maybe it'll be that. Maybe it'll be XCOM. Or maybe I'll succeed in digging up my N64 so I can play some Majora's Mask (just in time for Halloween!).

    In the meantime, you can check out the last write-up I did, in case you missed it.


    So just hang tight for a bit, all right? I'll be sure to put something nice and meaty together soon enough. Perhaps enjoy some tasty hot dogs while you wait...?

  8. "Not all Anime dubbing is Terrible mind you..."

    I hear that. Try telling that to my brother, though; he'll usually switch the voices in video games to Japanese because in his eyes (or ears, as it were) the Japanese voice tracks are automatically better than the English ones. They're different, but one's not necessarily better than the other IMO...well, a few examples aside. It's just a different interpretation and a different character -- nothing worth getting all antsy over, if you ask me.

    And Gintama...man, I need to give that show a look one of these days. But I've decided to take the plunge with One Piece first; I don't know how many episodes Funimation's got loaded up on their site, but I'll watch as many as I can. And if possible, I'll watch them ALL. Going through certain scenes in Pirate Warriors convinced me that I need to drop everything and focus on One Piece.

    One Piece: It'll punch your soul. That should be the tagline from now on.

  9. Mmm, hot dogs do sound good right about now...

    Ok cool, I'll wait. I don't want you to rush it or anything, your write-ups are very detailed and perceptive, and I understand that takes time.

    And Majora's Mask sounds like a really good idea for a write-up, especially fitting for Halloween. Just beware of... them...