One Piece MMF: Appendix I

December 9, 2010

Here’s a round-up of some posts on One Piece that arrived shortly after the conclusion of the Manga Moveable Feast:

Jammer’s AniMovie Blog begins to unravel “The Threads of One Piece.”

Connie (Slightly Biased Manga) compares One Piece and Dragon Ball.

Sam (A Life in Panels) Kusek thinks Usopp looks a little jaundiced and asks you to vote for your favorite Straw Hat Lantern.

The gracious Ed (Manga Out Loud) Sizemore hosted a One Piece podcast with me, Erica (Okazu) Friedman and Sean (A Case Suitable for Treatment) Gaffney.

Update:

DeBT (Sunday Comics DeBT) marvels at the sometimes astonishing displays of violence in One Piece.


Upcoming 12/8/2010

December 7, 2010

After a shônen-heavy week, rewarding as it was, it will be nice to spare a little attention for shôjo and even josei in this week’s ComicList:

Viz debuts Julietta Suzuki’s Kamisama Kiss, about a girl who unwittingly becomes a local goddess. It happens. The series originally ran in Hakusensha’s Hana to Yume, which is a good sign, and Suzuki also created Karakuri Odette (Tokyopop), a well-liked series that will be the subject of the next Manga Moveable Feast, to be hosted at Manga Report.

On the josei front, there’s the fifth volume of Yuki Yoshihara’s smutty, ridiculous, and endearing Butterflies, Flowers (Viz). In this volume, our completely insane protagonists go furniture shopping, which will surely devolve into madness. The series originally ran in Shogakukan’s Petit Comic.

That’s not a very substantial shopping list, but other bloggers are willing and able to help you part ways with your discretionary income:

  • First up is Melinda (Manga Bookshelf) Beasi, who offers this excellent gift guide with many useful categories.
  • And if I were to write a Best of 2010 list, it would look very much like Kate (The Manga Critic) Dacey’s, except mine wouldn’t be written as well. Still, book for book, I can’t find many points of disagreement. Maybe the order of a couple of items?

  • One Piece MMF: Thanks, and farewell!

    December 6, 2010

    With more than 50 fresh blog posts generated over a seven-day period, the One Piece installment of the Manga Moveable Feast has reached its conclusion. I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed reading everyone’s contributions and how delighted I am that so many people took the time to chime in on the series with their own varied thoughts. I also appreciate all of the links to the various Manga Moveable Feast updates and articles.

    Just to have them all in one place, here’s a list of the daily link updates:

  • Day One Links
  • Day Two Links
  • Day Three Links
  • Day Four Links
  • Day Five Links
  • Day Six Links
  • Day Seven Links
  • Appendix I
  • And for posterity’s sake, here are all of the Manga Moveable Feasts so far:

  • After School Nightmare (Go! Comi), hosted by Sean (A Case Suitable for Treatment) Gaffney
  • Paradise Kiss (Tokyopop), hosted by Michelle (Soliloquy in Blue) Smith
  • The Color Trilogy (First Second), hosted by Melinda (Manga Bookshelf) Beasi
  • To Terra… (Vertical), hosted by Kate (The Manga Critic) Dacey
  • Mushishi (Del Rey), hosted by Ed (Manga Worth Reading) Sizemore
  • Emma (CMX), hosted by Matt (Rocket Bomber) Blind
  • Sexy Voice and Robo (Viz), hosted by me
  • If you still have some unexpressed thoughts on the series, I’ll be doing the occasional appendix post this week for folks whose schedules didn’t allow them to get their thoughts posted during the “official” period.

    The next Manga Moveable Feast will be hosted by Anna at Manga Report. Watch that site for details!

    Update: The topic and dates for the next Manga Moveable Feast have been announced!


    One Piece MMF: Day Seven Links

    December 5, 2010

    Johanna (Manga Worth Reading) Draper Carlson has it right: while yesterday was the last “official” day of the One Piece Manga Moveable Feast, I’m absolutely open to “appendix” round-ups if people didn’t quite get their pieces in by the wire. Now, on to the updates:

    The Cat Demon Spirits ask, “Can One Piece be taken seriously?”

    Sam (A Life in Panels) Kusek inexplicably passes on the opportunity to draw Sanji in a ridiculous lavender bikini.

    ABCBTom crafts a pitch for new readers by practicing on the ABCBTom of days gone by.

    Anna (Manga Report) considers the obstacles to entry through the prism of the first two volumes. Anna will be hosting the next Manga Moveable Feast, and she’ll release more details on that soon.

    David (4thletter!) Brothers rounds up some of his reactions to the series, born of long experience with One Piece.

    And I cobble together a gift guide featuring comics for boys that people who like One Piece might enjoy.


    MMF: The Great Shônen Manga Gift Guide for 2010

    December 4, 2010

    Daniella (All About Manga) Orihuela-Gruber is picking up the baton of the Great Manga Gift Guide, and I thought I’d take the opportunity of the One Piece Manga Moveable Feast to offer a shônen-flavored version that takes One Piece’s tone and content and creator Eiichiro Oda’s career arc into account. Now, many shônen series are great, but they’re just plain long, so it’s with some reluctance that I would suggest them as a gift when, if the gift is received well, it would require the recipient to spend a ton of money completing a series. That’s very “first hit’s free,” don’t you think? But sometimes that kind of recommendation is unavoidable, and since this list is conceived at least partly with the One Piece admirer in mind, I’m not going to be too rigid about it.

    I will be rigid about one thing: use what you know about the recipient to guide your choice of gifts. If you know they like comics, great. If you know you want them to like comics, tread carefully, and pair the comic gift with something you know they actually like. Holidays are always creepy when they’re tinged with evangelism, I think.

    It’s widely known that Oda took great inspiration from Akira Toriyama, so it seems reasonable to recommend Toriyama’s Dragon Ball, which is available in bulky, gift-worthy VizBig editions. It offers “a wry update on the Chinese ‘Monkey King’ myth, introduces us to Son Goku, a young monkey-tailed boy whose quiet life is turned upside-down when he meets Bulma, a girl determined to collect the seven ‘Dragon Balls.’ If she gathers them all, an incredibly powerful dragon will appear and grant her one wish. But the precious orbs are scattered all over the world, and to get them she needs the help of a certain super-strong boy…” Less adventure and more jokes can be found in Toriyama’s Dr. Slump (Viz). Toriyama and Oda have collaborated on a Dragon Ball/One Piece crossover called Cross Epoch.

    Oda began his career as an assistant to Nobuhiro Watsuki, who was working on Rurouni Kenshin (Viz) at the time. Viz declares, “Packed with action, romance and historical intrigue, Rurouni Kenshin is one of the most beloved and popular manga series worldwide. Set against the backdrop of the Meiji Restoration, it tells the saga of Himura Kenshin, once an assassin of ferocious power, now a humble rurouni, a wandering swordsman fighting to protect the honor of those in need.” It’s also available in VizBig format.

    Another of Watsuki’s assistants at the time was Hiroyuki (Shaman King) Takei, who’s currently at work on Ultimo (Viz) with Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee. I found the first volume of Ultimo unsatisfyingly creepy, but Erica (Okazu) Friedman liked it when she reviewed it for About.Com, finding that the series “provides a solid reading experience with characters you want to know more about, in a situation you want to see resolved well.”

    If you liked the whole “travel by water” notion and were particularly taken with the aesthetic of Water Seven, I would strongly suggest you take a look at Kozue Amano’s Aria (Tokyopop), which follows gondoliers on Mars. It’s the absolute tonal opposite of One Piece, but manga fans cannot live on crazy hyperactivity alone, and Aria and its prequel, Aqua, are really beautiful.

    If the goofy humor and occasional satirical bent of One Piece are to your liking and you’d like a slightly more mature (sometimes just coarser) take on them, I’d recommend Hideaki Sorachi’s Gin Tama (Viz). It’s about a swordsman-for-hire living in a world that’s been handed over to greedy, corrupt aliens. Like One Piece, it veers from flat-out goofy to surprisingly serious, and Sorachi does some entertaining world building.

    If you like Oda’s distinct, detail-packed artwork, give Yuji Iwahara’s Cat Paradise (Yen Press) a look. It’s your basic Hellmouth story – plucky young people must fend off demon invasion while keeping up with Algebra – with the bonus of helpful, heroic felines. It’s not Iwahara’s best work, but his pages are always easy on the eye.

    And now we start with shônen I’d recommend under any circumstances, first being Osamu Tezuka’s three-volume Dororo (Vertical). It’s disappointingly short, as Tezuka abandoned it much earlier than he had intended, but it’s creepy, funny, sad and wonderful. The lead character’s father sold his son to demons, part by part, and the kid has to kill all of the demons to get his body back. He hooks up with a young thief along the way.

    Far and away the best new shônen I read this year and one of the best sports manga I’ve ever read is Mitsuru Adachi’s Cross Game (Viz), which I reviewed here. Beyond being really good in every way, it’s a big, fat package that makes it very gift-worthy.

    What if you just like stories about pirates? Well, you can’t go wrong with Ted Naifeh’s Polly and the Pirates (Oni). A proper schoolgirl is shocked to discover that she’s got a pirate-queen legacy to live up to in this completely charming, hilarious comic.

    Chris Schweizer’s Crogan’s Vengeance (Oni) takes a more scholarly approach to how pirates actually plied their trade, but it doesn’t downplay the adventure in the process. It’s a smart romp, which I reviewed here.


    One Piece MMF: Day Six Links

    December 4, 2010

    I inexcusably missed this one yesterday, but Anna of Manga Report looks at some of Luffy’s brothers in comic-book stretchiness.

    Ogiue Maniax explores “The ‘Limits’ of One Piece,” few though they may be.

    Sam (A Life in Panels) Kusek asserts that you would like Zolo when he’s angry.

    Eeeper’s Choice enters the world of One Piece via Arlong Park and is game for a return visit.

    Jason (Playback.StL) Green sees the potential in “Romance Dawn.”

    MikeyDPirate (One Piece at a Time) wonders how best to swell the ranks of One Piece fans.

    animemiz discusses Color Walks at Anime Diet.

    You thought Water Seven was sad? Take a look at Enies Lobby, ABCBTom says.

    And I wonder why someone (Viz) hasn’t published Oa’s WANTED! Answer: there is no good reason, so get on that.


    MMF: Wanted: WANTED!

    December 3, 2010

    You’d think a manga-ka as successful as Eiichiro Oda would have more of a back catalog of works that predate his mega-hit, One Piece, but, as near as I can determine, his only other book is a collection of short stories called WANTED!, originally published by Shueisha. I’m a big fan of collections of shorter works by manga-ka who are best known for their longer-form work, so I feel fairly comfortable asking someone (Viz) to publish this retroactively introductory tome.

    The stories included and their years of publication are as follows:

  • Wanted! (1992)
  • God’s Present for the Future (1993)
  • Ikki Yakou (1993)
  • Monsters (1994)
  • Romance Dawn (Version 2, 1996)
  • “Romance Dawn” is the story that served as the template for One Piece, where young Luffy is inspired by local pirates to begin his own career of seafaring adventure.

    The title story, which Oda created at the cadaverous age of 17, apparently won some awards and came in second for an Osamu Tezuka Cultural Prize, which is not even a little bit shabby.

    WANTED! has been published in German by Carlsen Verlag.


    One Piece MMF: Day Five Links

    December 3, 2010

    ABCBTom reaches the roiling surf of Water 7, but cheers up with an appreciation of Nico Robin.

    David (4thletter!) Brothers launches a look at the sprawling Baroque Works saga.

    Kate (The Manga Critic) Dacey gives us “3 Reasons to Read One Piece.”

    Lori (Manga Xanadu) Henderson considers the anime adaptation at her blog and rounds up chatter at Manga Village.

    Alexander (Manga Widget) Hoffman asks, “Why Start Now?” then answers.

    Sam (A Life in Panels) Kusek thinks Nami looks great in orange.

    Ed (Manga Worth Reading, Manga Out Loud) Sizemore explores the appeal of the series in comparison to another much-loved comic creation.

    And I’m up to my usual shenanigans.


    MMF: Straw Hats, Assemble!

    December 2, 2010

    I often cite the Riverdale crowd as my entry point into comics, and it’s perfectly true. The first comics I remember reading with any regularity are from the Archie family, and I spent many pleasurable hours with that crowd. But the comics that turned me into a fan, the ones that turned an activity into an enduring hobby, were undeniably those that featured Marvel’s Avengers. It even reached a point where I couldn’t bring myself to enjoy The Fantastic Four, because each issue promised “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine!” and that was clearly a lie.

    In retrospect, the thing that drew me to the Avengers and, to a lesser extent the Defenders and the X-Men, was the notion of the family of choice – people without much in common, people who at times ostensibly disliked each other, coming together because of a shared philosophy. The Avengers came together because they wanted to accomplish something – fighting substantial threats that were too much for individual heroes – while maintaining individual goals, whether that was redemption for past misdeeds, finding a place in a world where you don’t fit, or just enjoying the comfort of like-minded comrades.

    The other quality at the core of the Avengers’ appeal to me was the sheer variety of characters, from the enormously powerful to the enormously skilled. Some members were unvarnished in terms of virtue while others had decidedly dodgy pasts and complex motivations. They didn’t always get along, but the bickering was one of the spices in the stew. Gods and carnies, soldiers and freaks, robots and knights could join forces, and each could be better than they were individually simply by virtue of their loosely shared identity as Avengers.

    So it’s perhaps not surprising that, as I enjoy Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece, I find similarities between the Straw Hat Pirates and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. If anything, the Straw Hats are a distillation of everything I like best about the Avengers minus of a lot of things I didn’t. The moments that rankled in Avengers comics were the ones over which the writers didn’t have any control – the comings and goings of characters that were franchises in their own right, like Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man. Every Straw Hat belongs to One Piece lock, stock and grog-filled barrel. Everything that matters (or at all) happens to them in this comic, and I know they won’t be yanked away from me due to the machinations of anyone but Oda himself.

    Even the dissimilarities between the two teams end up being similarities. While the Avengers became notorious as a sort of rehab center for the formerly villainous (the Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, the Black Widow, Swordsman, and so on), the Straw Hats function as a kind of mirror opposite. Characters who previously lived relatively blameless lives (bounty hunter Zolo, small-town oddity Usopp, reindeer physician Chopper) decide that blamelessness isn’t all it’s cracked up to be in the face of the lure seafaring adventure and Luffy’s bizarrely charismatic, seemingly unfounded certainty. (Some would argue, me among them, that the Straw Hats aren’t really all that adept at villainy, as they barely ever do any actual pillaging, but let’s just stick with the foundational premise that pirates are, by definition, outlaws. And really, unless defending yourself against attack counts for full marks as heroic, the Avengers don’t always live up to their mission either.)

    For me, the dissimilarities just reinforce the idea that the Straw Hats, like the Avengers, are something larger than individuals. They can accomplish more collectively than they can individually, no matter how skilled or strong they are. And the Straw Hats’ roles are stated in ways that aren’t made explicit in the Avengers: Luffy is the Captain, Usopp is the Marksman, Nami is the Navigator, and so on. (The current Avengers writer recently took a big meta stab at each member’s iconic function, but that trick almost never works. Grant Morrison couldn’t pull it off with his JLA “pantheon,” either.)

    And if the Straw Hats’ stated intent isn’t to fight evil and injustice, they do so with a proactive vigor that the Avengers should envy. How many One Piece arcs are driven by the Straw Hats discovering that something isn’t right and taking steps to rectify it for the benefit of the innocent or oppressed, no matter what the cost might be to them personally? These acts of altruism may just as often be a result of the crew’s thirst for adventure, but they inevitably come from a desire to do the right thing, at least insofar as they view matters of right and wrong. Half of the time, the Avengers’ adventures are driven by an assault from someone with a grudge, often the same person with the same grudge. If the Straw Hats run into an old opponent, the dynamic has often changed based on past events, which opens new and interesting possibilities.

    There are also resonant individual parallels. Nami can be reasonably compared to the Wasp in that she’s a charming boy-magnet who is much more formidable than she initially appears. Of course, Nami’s primary function isn’t romantic, so she has a leg up on the Wasp in that regard. (Over time, the Wasp managed to transcend that set albatross herself, but I think she’s dead now, so Nami still wins.)

    Everyone gets to be a little bit of a Hawkeye. Usopp gets to overcome his inferiority complex with skill and dedication. Sanji gets the hopeless crushes, the fruitless flirting, and the inclination to bicker with the alpha male. Zolo gets to be the badass by virtue of rigorous training. (Zolo is a bit greedy in that he also gets bits of Captain America’s stoicism and Iron Man’s glamour.) I could theoretically credit Sanji with a little bit of Jarvis, at least on the culinary front, but Sanji has none of the butler’s fastidiousness or fatherly virtues.

    Nico Robin gets to be all of the Avengers’ various shady ladies in one glorious package. Like the Scarlet Witch, she’s tarred with the brush of her heritage. Like the Black Widow, it’s not unreasonable to question Robin’s motives, at least initially. Like Mantis, Robin is allowed to be her best self through the support and friendship of her comrades.

    Sweet Chopper gets bits of some of my favorites, too. He’s like the Vision, fully experiencing the world for the first time in the company of friends. He’s also like the Beast, reliably delivering comic relief while maintaining a core of sadness and even a tinge of potential menace. Franky has the foe-to-friend aspect of characters like Swordsman or Wonder Man, without being as pathetic as either of those mopes. It’s a little early to tell what, if any, assembler will draw parallels to Brook.

    And Luffy seems conceived to redeem qualities of the Avengers who mattered least to me. Like Captain America, he’s a natural leader, but Luffy is even more of a natural leader in that he rarely needs to assert his authority. Like Thor, Luffy is ridiculously powerful, but unlike Thor, he seldom feels the need to speechify on the subject. Like the Hulk, Luffy is at times random in his behaviors and choices, and he’s most answerable to his appetites, but the randomness and the appetite are glorious and funny instead of being obstructions. They’re part of Luffy’s rhythms, and his crewmates know how to roll with them in ways the Avengers never did with the Hulk. (Luffy is emblematic of Oda’s ability to show rather than tell. Oda allows readers to sense all of these things about Luffy, to realize the truth of them, without anyone having to stand around and discuss them.)

    Another quality that I loved about the Avengers is noticeably absent from One Piece, that being the romantic subplots that proved to be such a substantial part of the narrative. This isn’t really problematic, in my opinion. I’ve talked with people about how One Piece seems to defy romantic fan fiction because romance is simply not among Oda’s narrative concerns. He simply doesn’t poke that ‘shipper reflex in the way that many other shônen manga-ka do. He doesn’t do anything to demean that impulse, but he does nothing to encourage it either.

    And the things Oda does nail are the subplots about personal growth. He executes these both obliquely and explicitly. Readers can watch Luffy’s qualities evolve out of the corner of their eyes while seeing a more direct address of Usopp’s insecurity among people who overpower him in so many ways but match him in heart. Watching Robin re-learn how to hope and trust is lovely in some of the same ways it was to watch the Scarlet Witch become a formidable, independent heroine. And it’s all woven in so nicely with the goofy bombast that it might surprise you that you’re being moved as you’re being entertained. Better still, there’s nothing resembling Hank Pym’s decades-long struggle to decide just what kind of creepy loser he wants to be.

    So, yes, One Piece is routinely what Avengers was to me at its very best. It’s about the family that you make because you trust people and respect them. It’s about big, crazy battles that seem lost from the start, until teamwork and individual courage come into play. And it’s about a seemingly incongruous group of equals becoming better and stronger in each others’ company.

    (For a look at One Piece‘s resemblance to another super-hero franchise, please swing by Sam Kusek’s A Life in Panels. You’ll see why.)


    One Piece MMF: Day Four Links

    December 2, 2010

    It’s not related to the Manga Moveable Feast, but I wanted to point to this One Piece sales milestone reported at Anime News Network.

    Evan (Ani-Gamers) Minto jumps into the fray with “MMF: One Piece – A Love Story in Two Acts.”

    ABCBTom heads up in the air for “Skypiea and 4th Generation Warfare… in the Sky!”

    Sam (A Life in Panels) Kusek enlists Franky and Brook in the Lantern Corps, but which part of the spectrum will they represent?

    And I take a goofy, alphabetical approach to the series.