[Editor’s note: Drew takes over for me again today, so I can have some time off for the holidays, and not have to write about manga I hate and enrage fans who actually enjoy it. Thanks, Drew!]
Half way through volume 58 of One Piece it suddenly struck me that this manga really is one of those milestones of great manga/anime storytelling. By now most of us know the tale of how One Piece initially was killed in the U.S. by a horrific dub from 4-Kids Productions, and instead of becoming the next Dragon Ball Z or Pokemon here, the ship for the pirates of One Piece pretty much just sunk; even anime shows like Ultimate Muscle or Fighting Foodons had much better success. Viz seeing the potential and growing base of Shonen Jump readers, reading it uncut month-by-month, didn’t give up on One Piece, and kept up the manga and even retackled the anime itself once it slipped out of 4-Kids’ hands. Still, as we know, despite a solid following here from the manga and anime community, it’s not the giant as it is in other countries. That aside, it should be a giant (see I’m bringing it full circle here), for this volume proves it’s great. For starters, I haven’t personally read One Piece in a number of years, yet without any issue, I was able to pick up the volume, and after a few moments into what was going on, completely get back into the world of One Piece, becoming enchanted with the art, cheering for the heroes, and wanting Luffy to save the day. Of course the manga I’m sure would be way better if I had been rocking out previous volumes like any series, but with One Piece it just naturally ignited that flame inside of me and was really easy to get into.
Volume 58 tells the already waging rescue mission of Luffy trying to save his brother Ace from being executed. From the moment the first chapter starts, we are brought into this huge war between multiple groups of pirates and the Navy fighting them, as they are trying to kill Ace (it is at this point if you’re jumping on you may feel like “Woah! There’s a crazy battle, over 20 characters who look important talking about stuff, etc!”, but I encourage you to stick with it, as within two or three chapters it’ll click and you’ll fall in love). After a lot of sorting out if Whitebeard has betrayed the other pirates or not, the real enemy stays the enemy and it becomes pirates versus navy once again, as Luffy rises to the stage and does not give up, and non-stop takes on the Navy head-on, leading the pirates to save his brother Ace. And just when he gets Ace, a great twist finishes the volume that you don’t see coming, and I won’t give away for you!
Oda’s storytelling is great, because for such an epic battle going on, as mentioned it was real easy to get into. His art, which looks like a little more cartoony version of Dragon Ball/Dr.Slump‘s Akira Toriyama’s art, is great, and like any non-stop fight-filled Shonen Jump manga, he knows how to draw a great fight scene that keeps you jumping with it from page to page. For everything going on here, Luffy is still the heart of the story, a hero who puts others first because he has a big heart, although he has his own goals, and being a great character himself is enough to make you always come back and read One Piece. Other characters that stood out to me in this volume were the Rocky Horror Picture Show inspired Emporio Ivankov (who Oda does admit in one of his Q and A sections in the book is actually inspired partly by Rocky Horror), and the navy admiral Akainu who was using this awesome flame fist power, which made for really cool battles; you could just feel that Oda loved drawing the fights he had to for this guy. Overall, One Piece volume 58 is nothing but great manga.
Publisher: Viz Media
Written/Drawn By: Masashi Kishimoto
Vintage: 2010 by Shueisha, September 2011 by Viz Media
Like the above One Piece, admittedly it has also been a few years since I picked up Naruto and read it. However, unlike One Piece, I found jumping back into Naruto an easy task but not one that I got wrapped up in. The story was easy to get back into the groove with, but something was missing that used to be there a few years ago for me when reading it occasionally. I think maybe Kishimoto’s art doesn’t have the same love it once did. It was like that moment when you are watching season 3 of Transformers, and you feel slightly put-off, but by something other than the story, and then you find out they switched from Japanese to Korean animation. Something not feeling great aside, Naruto fans will still dig it, and the story of guy-A fights guy-B makes it universally accessible and holds up.
In volume 52 the plot unfolds fairly simply. Naruto and the characters in the series are now graduated from the Ninja Academy by this point and are full-fledged ninjas. The book starts as Naruto and Kakashi have saved Sakura from a vengence-filed Sasuke, who has finally taken out one of his enemies, Danzo. Sasuke and Naruto have a standoff moment, but in the end it’s decided it may be better to live to fight another day between the two, and Sasuke takes off with the baddie forces of Madara. The group goes back to the village where in the over plot, the village leaders are working on the Allied Shinobi Force with other villages to fight Madara. After some talking, Naruto is whisked away to see the giant frog-like Great Lord Elder, who gives him advice about his future and a quest of sorts to go on to help tap into the power of Nine Tails locked away inside him (note: the art starts feeling better here, making me think Kishimoto doesn’t love having to draw fight scenes all the time, which is probably forced upon him by the Weekly Shōnen Jump editors in Japan). Naruto agrees and off he goes looking for an octopus he is supposed to keep his eye out for. After being attacked by a giant monster, which humorously Naruto tries to count the tentacles on to figure out if it’s an octopus or a squid, Naruto finds what he is supposed to be looking for in the older, and rapping, Master Bee, whom Naruto refers to as Octopops. Seems Master Bee in his young days had an octopus monster called Eight Tails inside him that he had to learn to control, and so with the right training from him, Naruto may just be able to tap into Nine Tails’ potential.
The writing on the first half of the volume is standard Shonen Jump, if you like that kind of thing with guys talking about how they are going to fight and kill each other someday, and it’s not really memorable. The second half with the frog-like gods and search for Octopops, which also contained a kinda cool Street Fighter 2-esque moment of Naruto fighting a Dark Naruto inside himself, really is where the good stuff happens, and as mentioned above feels like that’s the story Kishimoto wants to tell and is not being forced to tell. I didn’t think the book was amazing, but for this type of manga it’s not bad either. To each their own, right? The volume’s enjoyment factor would probably be increased by listening to some music by Anamanaguchi (and maybe a good beer if you’re an old enough reader to legally buy beer). Naruto-fans will not be disappointed here, and judging by the thousands of you out there, I guess that’s all that matters (and hey, I really did like those frog-guys).
Review copies provided by Viz Media.