Getting into One Piece

In the run-up to the next Manga Moveable Feast, it occurs to me (mostly thanks to Johanna Draper Carlson of Manga Worth Reading) that people who aren’t familiar with Eichiro Oda’s One Piece (Viz) might appreciate some suggested entry points to the very long series. (The 55th volume came out in early October.)

Viz has released the first twelve volumes in less expensive omnibus editions, with three paperbacks collected in each book. The first two omnibuses contain fun material and introduce the story’s core characters, and they’re certainly worth reading.

If you want to see what Oda is really capable of achieving, however, I’d recommend you go for the third and fourth omnibus collections, which contain all of the chapters comprising what some call the “Arlong Arc.” While the story arcs prior to that are certainly accomplished in terms of their ability to combine adventure and comedy, the Arlong Arc represents Oda’s most successful addition of dramatic material into the mix. If you’d rather buy or borrow individual volumes, I believe the Arlong Arc is contained in volumes eight, nine, ten and eleven. Even if you buy individual volumes, there’s going to be some overlap with previous and subsequent arcs, but it will be a “cleaner” read if you only want to sample one relatively contained story arc. I don’t think reading the material that runs up to the Arlong Arc is strictly necessary, but there’s some fun stuff in those volumes.

On its dedicated One Piece site, Viz lists the various sagas of the series, which is less useful than you might expect, especially in the early going. The “East Blue” saga actually consists of about four discrete individual arcs, with Arlong being the strongest. I believe “Baroque Works” is also more a collection of loosely related arcs than a single narrative, though I’m not entirely sure. I’m approaching One Piece from two directions, using the omnibus editions to catch up on older volumes while picking up recent individual volumes from the 29th forward. Prior to reading the 29th, I’d only read a few of the earliest volumes and liked them well enough but was not yet fully converted to the cult of Oda.

I’m hoping that Viz continues with the omnibus collections of the earlier volumes, though there doesn’t seem to be one on the schedule any time soon. It does seem to be one of those series where all of the volumes are readily available at your average chain bookstore. I’m not sure how much of a presence they have in libraries, and I’m sure that partly depends on how interested your local library system is in manga and graphic novels.

Does anyone else have any suggestions on entry points for the series? I would think that the most recent volumes to be made available in English would be kind of impenetrable, or at least you wouldn’t be able to fully appreciate what’s going on except in the sense that it’s an accomplished adventure story. And that might be plenty for some readers to enjoy it just fine.

10 Responses to Getting into One Piece

  1. MikeyDPirate says:

    If you really want to get to see what One Piece is made of then Arlong Arc would be a good entry point as you mention. you can see what Oda is made of while getting a good idea of what to expect in future arcs.

    Upon entering the Grand Line (Vol 13) would be a somewhat good start since that is when they enter the Grand Line where the majority of the story takes place. That would take them though the Baroque Works story saga and the first ‘long’ story arc.

    Vol 24, the beginning of Skypeia saga, is maybe the best part to jump into One Piece. This is basically a vacation story arc for the characters that doesn’t involve knowing anything about the past two sagas since the StrawHats go to a place that is literally away from the world of the Blue Sea. It starts off a bit slow and clearly is long but it is easy to get lost once the story picks up and you be reading up those volumes like they were candy.

    If you really want to start off closer to where the story is currently is then vol 51 could be consider a possibility. Though I wouldn’t recommend it. There are some ‘epic’ things consider by the fans but I am not sure if somebody just planning to get into the series may be able to have the same feelings of what happening compare to fan that been following the series though the last few volumes.

    Another closer spot to start off if you REALLY want to jump closer to the story would be the Impel Down story arc around Vol 53 (This is actually a bit before it though) since it involves a single character. The arc does involve some of the characters that have appeared in the past but still enjoyable.

    These are just some jumping points to start off from and could work. Though I would always recommend that once you start off at one of these points to always go back and read from the beginning since the story is worth it.

    PS: I have heard that fans have read all the way up to what would be consider vol 60 in Japan in about a month. This involves taking a good amount of time out of your day but if you can do that then more power to you.

  2. DeBT says:

    Personally, I feel that the Davy Back Fight (Vol. 33) would be a better starting point for new fans. It’s close to the halfway point (so far) and also skips the Skypia Arc, which is evenly split between fans who like or hate it. It’s also the prelude to a much longer epic arc that would continue for about 10 volumes.

    The fact that the various fights are some of the funniest battles I’ve seen doesn’t hurt it either.

    • davidpwelsh says:

      Oh, “Davy Back Fight” would be a good choice too… more of the regular cast is in place, and there’s some neat, moody foreshadowing under the goofy stuff. I think it’s in volumes 32-34, right?

      I’m obviously in the “likes ‘Davy Back Fight'” camp.

  3. Erica says:

    Call me perverse, but I think that the Arlong Park should be a climax, not an entry point. If you begin at the beginning, it’s a fun, goofy series with some spark here and there and then BOOM! Arlong Park hits you between the eyes with the kind of drama that TV writers will never ever approach. I quite literally was laughing at something, then realized in find anime fashion that tears were streaming from my eyes.

    If you finish the Arlong park arc and don’t care for One Piece, then you’re not going to care for One Piece.

    But everyone I know and respect has hit that moment – you know the one – and thought, THIS is what shounen manga can be. My god, this is *it.*

  4. [...] (11/15/10) David has posted a rundown of possible starting points for the series. Similar Posts: Manga Moveable Feast: Mushishi — [...]

  5. [...] the prospect of a 55-volume (so far) series can be intimidating. Helpfully, David Welsh suggests some possible jumping-in points at The Manga [...]

  6. miz says:

    Hmm…at this point, I am really quite excited for MMF beginning, but yes.. even thought this is a 55 book series to get into. At least.. getting into this series is not as bad as getting into a giant that is like Marvel or DC Comics.. since they have been running for decades.

    Hmm.. a good starting point for where readers should get into this series.. definitely from the time that they enter Grand Line.. which is after Arlong Arc.. should be nice. From Louge Town part.

  7. Ahavah says:

    Okay, so when I get interested in a shonen manga, I get hooked by the characters…an usually not the protagonists, but the supporting characters with the most interesting (to me) personalities and sometimes intriging or mysterious backstories.

    My biggest example is Bleach. I had a very chilly reaction to the series at first, but then I heard a rumor that there was a major mystery surrounding the protagonist’s father, Isshin Kurosaki. Intrigued, I read and watched as much canon Bleach material as I could, and eventually found myself really enjoying other supporting characters, notably Ryuuken and Uryuu Ishia. Unfortunately, the quality of the actual plot has taken a turn for the worst in the past few arcs…and frusteratingly, the Kurosaki family mystery that drew me in to begin with is still unsolved! But I still keep up with the hope that it will have some kind of satisfying conclusion…

    Naruto is another Shonen Jump example. I watched a few episodes to figure out its popularity, but it didn’t really grab my attention very much. Then I saw an episode about Shikamaru, and bam! I’m still not sure how it happened, but I’ve become a full-blown “narutard”. I found a whole lot more characters endearing now, and the plot itself has a strong hook. But Shikamary remains one of my favorite characters, while Naruto himself, while he has his charms, can still grate on my nerves a bit.

    I guess I like the smart, strategic-thinker type character, and the good guys (or shade-of-grey guys) with quirks. The characters in shonen I tend to like best are the ones who are either *not* the best fighters, or, because of mysterious reasons, can rarely show how good they really are. Knuckle-headed, rush-into-every-fight types like Naruto and Luffy annoy me, villians are usually boring (you know they’ll lose!)

    I read some One Piece volumes (I think it was the Arlong Park arc, as it focused on Nami’s backstory), and the only character I found “intriguing” was Usopp, the guy with the slingshot, because he seemed to have even more potential than even he realized. But then they got stuck inside a whale and…I don’t know. The plot seemed to drag, the characters seemed stagnant…

    I really feel like I didn’t give One Piece a good enough chance. I *know* that there are a lot more characters that join the main group later on, and I *hope* that the characters I read about eventually get some growth.

    In short, I’d really appreciate it if someone coul point me to the most interesting characters in One Piece and tell me where I can find their character arcs amidst the nearly 60 volume series. Strong/interesting characters are a bigger hook for me than nebulous, long battle arcs. So it’s not a matter of which volume I read, but *who* I focus on!

    I really do want to understand One Piece’s appeal, and that would be a great help! Thanks!

  8. josh says:

    I’ll have to agree with Erica, Arlong park should be a climax, not a beginning.
    Oda hits his stride after the East Blue crew (Luffy, Zorro, Nami, Usopp) form. Around the time Johnny and Yusaku get picked up, Oda starts his worldbuilding.
    We learn about the Shichibukai and the Grand Line, but more importantly we have deepening and changing crew relationships going on during the mess of the battle between Don Krieg and the Baratie. Then outta nowhere comes THAT GUY. Fuck Yeah, Crazy Shit.
    Sanji’s arc has enough recap for the beginning volumes, a great mix of humor, crazy battles that don’t fully involve the crew (just yet), and also a good amount of foreshadowing for the rest of the series.
    It’s a great appetizer to Arlong Park.

  9. [...] has an entry that talks about opinions on where to begin reading. There was a comment that Davy Fights Back might [...]

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