Is One Piece the National Geographic or Discovery Channel of the manga/anime world? The world that our lovable and brave pirates sail in is massive and full of wonders. Each new story arc brings us to yet another mystical and magical place. Will we ever see the whole world? Definitely not. That is the amazing point about Eichiro Oda’s opus: we have seen so much but there is always the nagging feeling of vast, unexplored territories. Knowing that One Piece is nowhere near its conclusion, I am as excited to see the rest of the world as I am to follow the Straw Hat Pirates’ journey.
One Piece (ワンピース, Wan Piisu) has been around since 1997. Eiichiro Oda (尾田 栄一郎, Oda Eiichiro) started illustrating the manga when he was only 22 years old. Prior to that, he assisted Rurouni Kenshin’s creator, Nobuhiro Watsuki for a while. One Piece is currently one of the top-selling manga of all time. In 2015, the Guinness Book of Record awarded Eiichiro Oda and OP for “The most copies published for the same comic book series by a single author.”
The anime series started airing in 1999 and it has broken through almost 800 episodes and counting. Needless to say, the franchise has created many movies, video games, art books, toys, and more. The thirteenth One Piece movie, One Piece Film: Gold saw limited releases in the US in January 2017.
We follow the story of Monkey D. Luffy and his Straw Hat Pirates crew on his journey to become the next Pirate King and discover One Piece, the last piece of treasure left by Gol D. Roger, the deceased Pirate King. The current crew consists of Luffy, Roronoa Zoro, Nami, Usopp, Sanji, Tony Tony Chopper, Franky, Nico Robin, and Brook.
If you love the Straw Hat’s ships, replicas of the Going Merry and the Thousand Sunny were built and are available to board. They were parts of a One Piece theme amusement park in Japan.
The gigantic world of One Piece
I wrote this editorial out of love of watching nature documentaries and Oda’s manga. Rather than examining characters or mysteries, I thought it would be interesting to shine the spotlight at the story’s unsung character, the world. I remember reading the early chapters of the manga with the similar sense of adventure that Luffy has. Oda established and hinted that the world is vast and magical. More than 800 chapters (as of writing this) in, I am still amazed at how he is able to extend my fascination towards its world.
I will not be covering all of the places, myths, or wonders below because there are too many of them. Instead, I will highlight some notable ones from mostly the early part of the Straw Hats’ journey.
Early on, One Piece had set itself as having a world with unimaginable places, people, animals, and natural occurrences. Though the early arcs started slowly with Oda concentrating on characters with inhuman abilities, the world starts to open up and be more interesting when the crew meets Laboon. The Straw Hats need to cross over to the Grand Line by way of the Reverse Mountain where Laboon, a big blue whale, resides. The Reverse Mountain is the home to a series of rapids going up a large mountain due to the force of oceanic waves. The Mountain is one of two known entrances/exits to the Grand Line, a tumultuous belt surrounding the World. The weather in the Grand Line is unpredictable, violent, and deadly. Seafarers can only navigate the Line using special navigation devices, adding to the difficulty and mystery of the world.
Later on, our beloved crew arrive at Skypiea, a floating island sustained by very dense cluster of clouds named the White-White Sea. Despite currently being situated above ground, Skypiea was once a part of an island below. It was blasted by a particularly powerful Knock Up Stream, a giant pressurized stream of water. Can you imagine the amount of force needed to separate a chunk of an island and launch it skyward?
Oda plays on the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle with his own spin: The Florian Triangle. It is a stretch of sea covered by very thick fog complete with its tales of ghost ships and zombies. It has its own demonic ruler, Gekko Moriah, a vampire/devil-like being with the creepy powers to steal shadows and reanimate the dead. At the end of their visit to the Triangle, we get a glimpse of a shadow of a gargantuan creature that is still not revealed. Maybe it was just a giant red herring?
Lastly, there is a legendary part of the ocean named All Blue that Sanji is looking for. It is said to be the home of every fish available, the ultimate ingredient resource for a chef such as Sanji. So far, Oda has not shown us even a glimpse of it. Oda-san, could we get more hints about All Blue, please?
Exciting flora and fauna
Laboon, the cute and enormous blue whale, is only one of his kind in the world of OP. He was separated from his family years before Luffy sets out. After entering the West Blue region, the Straw Hats encountered a pod of friendly blue whales very similar to Laboon.
A group of dangerous and large oceanic creatures collectively called the Sea Kings exists in the wild. They are often at the top of the natural food chain with the exceptions of other stronger creatures or persons. Interestingly, the meat of certain Sea Kings is said to be really delicious.
There is a group of highly intelligent and skillful primates named Humandrills on Kuraigana Island. Zoro, with the permission of One Piece’s strongest swordsman, Dracule Mihawk, trained with them during the two-year reunion break. The Humandrills learned a little bit of Mihawk’s skill, enough to give Zoro some trouble. They are capable enough that after the intense training, Zoro has grown multiple times stronger. Though he still has ways to go before he catches up to Mihawk.
The next extraordinary specimen is located in the Boin Archipelago, a group of islands made of giant vicious plants. In this place, Usopp mastered the skills and knowledge of using Pop Greens, plant seeds that can grow into full-size vegetations with different stimuli. One type of seeds grow large venus flytrap looking man-eating plants, another type spawns a raft boat that looks like a group of bananas. There is another type that springs up a group of bamboo javelins from the ground. Usually, Usopp deploys the seeds as his offensive ability coupled with his wit and creativity in battles.
Mysterious artifacts and happenings
Obviously, in a world this vast, there are many baffling and unsolved phenomena. I did say I will not be covering mysteries, but these relate to the world. There are big notable ones such as the One Piece itself, the poneglyphs (ancient records of events on large slabs of stone spread all over the place), and the origin of the Devil Fruits.
Some of the things I mentioned above are intriguing too. What was the large creature in the Florian Triangle? How did Boin Archipelago come to be? Was the Reverse Mountain formed by material deposited by the conflicting currents? Where is All Blue located?
One other big mystery that has come up on multiple occasions is the Void Century. It is a one hundred year gap with no record and studying the said period is forbidden. The missing history took place around 800-900 years before the current events. So far, we only know hints and other events connected to this missing puzzle piece. What happened during the Void Century that made researching it outlawed? Could it be that the knowledge of what went on then is too dangerous?
Though One Piece is set in a fantasy world, some of its technology is very much inspired by ours. No, I am not talking about shipbuilding because that is a given. One example is the Den Den Mushi or the Transponder Snails. They are a group of snails capable of telepathic communication. Often, a mechanic would attach electronic devices to the snails to allow human-to-human communication. The Snails’ capabilities vary from transmitting video, amplifying sound (like a speaker), to taking photographs. They can even mimic the person’s expressions when they speak!
In Skypiea, the locals have access to Wavers, water/cloud vehicles similar to water scooters. Breath Dials, shells that store and emit strong air currents, power the scooters. There are other types of Dials capable of different uses. A Lamp Dial is capable of storing and emitting steady light, just like a lightbulb. A Tone Dial functions like a recorder. Brook, one of the Straw Hat crew, recorded a song named “Binks’ Sake” on a particular Tone Dial. It is a keepsake from his old crew and he intends to bring the Dial back to Laboon.
Among the Straw Hats, there is a cyborg named Franky who is a genius shipwright and mechanical engineer. After a near fatal accident, he fixed and rigged most of his body into a cyborg. Proving that in One Piece’s world, the technology is sufficient to build a full-fledged mechanical being.
Another case in point is the Pacifistas, human weapons developed by the Marines in the shape of Bartholomew Kuma. There is a long story behind the Pacifistas and Kuma but I will save that for later. There is one key scientist who has been experimenting with very advanced technology for the Marines and his name is Dr. Vegapunk. As of writing this, we know very little about the good (could be bad) doctor. Dr. Vegapunk is the mind behind the Pacifistas.
That is all I am going to touch on today. Can you imagine a documentary film about the world of One Piece narrated by Sir David Attenborough, Neil deGrasse Tyson, or the late Steve Irwin? I think that kind of series would be amazing. For now, I am eagerly waiting for the next time Oda makes me shed my nakama tears.