One Piece, Fuji TV
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It's mostly a pretty silly show, but it's reasonably fun, I think, with tons of great fights. And it just keeps getting better the further you go into the series. Though some of the story arcs tend to go on too long for my taste. Anyway... so like 20 years before the series starts, there was this pirate king named Gold Roger, who before he was hanged had hidden his whole treasure in "one piece." Now, a 17-year-old pirate named Monkey D. Luffy (pronounced "Loofy") wants to find the One Piece treasure and become the next king of the pirates. Of course, he'll have competition from plenty of other pirates, many of whom have special powers derived from eating one of various types of "Cursed Fruits" (or "Devil Fruits"), which also take away one's ability to swim. Luffy himself can stretch like rubber, because when he was a little boy, he ate a Gum-Gum fruit, one of the cursed fruits. He's very goofy and single-minded and doesn't seem to act at all sensibly, unless absolutely necessary. He became a pirate because of his admiration for a pirate captain named Shanks he knew when he was little, from whom he got his beloved straw hat. I should mention that the crew Luffy assembles will be known as the Straw Hat Pirates.
At the start of the series, Luffy rescues a cowardly kid named Koby from a pirate captain named Alvida. Koby wants to join the navy someday. Later, Luffy rescues a pirate hunter named Roronoa Zolo (Zoro, in the Japanese version) from naval captain Morgan, who is evil. After Morgan was defeated, Koby joined the Navy. Anyway, even though Zolo hunts pirates, Luffy wants him to become his first mate, because he's a great swordsman (master of a three-sword style called "santoryu"). There's also a girl named Nami, who steals from pirates. There was this pirate captain named Buggy the Clown (who had eaten a Chop Chop fruit, which allows him to separate his body parts), and Nami stole a map from him, of the Grand Line, which is the area where One Piece is hidden. Like Zolo, she doesn't want to join the crew of a pirate at first, but eventually she becomes Luffy's navigator.
Then the crew meets this guy named Usopp, who pretends he's a pirate, because his father was a pirate in Shanks's crew. Usopp always tells tall tales (or outright lies), but he's a good guy and a great marksman with his slingshot. After some battles against another pirate named Kuro, Usopp joins Luffy's crew, and his friend Kaya gives them all a ship, the Merry Go (or the Going Merry). Later they're joined by Zolo's former pirate-hunting partners, Yosaku and Johnny. And they go to this floating restaurant called Baratie, where they meet a chef named Sanji. And the place is attacked by a pirate named Don Krieg, who commanded a huge fleet of pirate ships. That is, until they were recently defeated by Dracule "Hawkeye" Mihawk (who is apparently the greatest swordsman in the world, and one of the Shichibukai, or Seven Warlords of the Sea). Now, in the midst of Krieg's assault on Baratie, Mihawk shows up, and Zolo fights and loses to him, though I expect they'll have a rematch someday. Zolo really wants to become the world's greatest swordsman, himself. Anyway, Mihawk leaves after defeating Zolo.
Then, while Luffy's fighting Krieg, Nami steals the Merry Go, and returns to her home, where it turns out she's been working for a pirate named Arlong for 8 years. He and his people are Mermen, very powerful creatures (and no, they're not at all like traditional mermen; they all have features of different sea creatures, mixed with humanlike features). Sanji joins Luffy's crew as his chef, and they all go to look for Nami. (Sanji, btw, is smitten with her, as he always seems to be with any pretty girls.) They learn about her past, and why she was working for Arlong, and help defeat him. After this, we don't see Johnny or Yosaku anymore, though I don't think this was ever explained.
Anyway, after defeating the Mermen, the crew go to Rogue Town, where Gold Roger himself was born, and executed. There they meet a naval captain named Chaser (or Smoker in the Japanese version), who wants to arrest Luffy. A lot of people want to now, because the Navy has put a high bounty on him. Chaser had eaten the Smoke Smoke fruit, which allows him to trap his enemies in a cloud of smoke that solidifies around them. There's also an ensign named Tashigi working under Chaser. She's fairly good with swords, and she reminds Zolo of his childhood friend Kuina, who always beat him when they were both training at swordplay. It's because of Kuina that Zolo wants to become the world's greatest swordsman. However, Tashigi is a dedicated Naval officer, intent on capturing Zolo and the Straw Hat crew. Buggy and Alvida also show up to cause more trouble. Alvida now looks very different from the last time we saw her, as she's since eaten a Slip Slip fruit, which made her thin and I guess, like, slippery. Chaser might have captured Luffy if not for the interference of a mysterious and powerful man called Dragon. The Straw Hat crew escape and head into the Grand Line, though they will be pursued by Chaser, as well as Buggy and Alvida.
However, it will be awhile before these old enemies catch up with our heroes, who now have new enemies to deal with. They get involved in a fight against a group called Baroque Works, which is led by someone called Crocodile, aka Mr. 0 (one of the Shichibukai). They meet a young woman named Vivi (Sanji's smitten with her, too), who turns out to be the princess of a kingdom called Alabasta, which has been taken over by Baroque Works. So the crew agrees to take her to Alabasta and help her defeat her enemies. But before they get there, they fight a pirate named Wapol, who had eaten a Munch Munch fruit, which allows him to eat anything. Also, Nami has gotten sick, so they have to find her a doctor. They go to Winter Island, where it turns out Wapol used to be an evil king. The group gets separated for a time, but Luffy and Sanji manage to get Nami up a mountain to Wapol's former castle, which is currently inhabited by a witch doctor named Kureha, the only doctor left on the island. Here they meet Tony Tony Chopper, a chibi, blue-nosed reindeer who had eaten a Human Human fruit that gave him some human characterstics, like standing on hind legs and speaking. Chopper was trained by a doctor named Hiriluk, and since Dr. H died, he's been the apprentice of Dr. K. Chopper has 3 basic forms, but using something called a Rumble Ball, he can briefly transform into any of four other forms. Each form has its own special advantages. When Wapol returns to try to reclaim his castle, Chopper helps Luffy fight him. Later, Chopper joins Luffy's crew as their doctor. They all set off again toward Alabasta...
The crew will for a time be joined by Luffy's older brother Trace (Ace in the original version), who had eaten the Flare Flare fruit, giving him the ability to manipulate fire. Trace is on the crew of a pirate called Whitebeard, but right now he's searching for another pirate named Blackbeard, a former member of the crew who killed another member of the crew and set off to form his own crew. So Trace wants to take revenge against Blackbeard. So, he won't be with the Straw Hat pirates for long before he sets off again on this quest. Meanwhile, Luffy & friends have lots of trekking to do through the desert, and lots of Baroque Works pirates to fight, many of whom have themselves eaten various cursed fruits. Another problem with which they must contend is that civil war is on the verge of breaking out in Alabasta. There's a Rebel Army led by Vivi's childhood friend Kohza. The people of Alabasta have been tricked by Crocodile into believing the current drought was caused by Vivi's father, King Nebra. So not only will Luffy & crew have to fight Crocodile and all his underlings, but also try to prevent war between the Rebels and the Royals. Of course, the pirates won't be the only ones who are against Crocodile, and trying to save Alabasta. There are some Royals who do their part, including a guard named Pell, who'd eaten a fruit that let him turn into a bird, and a guard named Chaka, who'd eaten a fruit that let him turn into a jackal. There was also Igaram, the Captain of the Guards, who, along with Vivi, had infiltrated Baroque Works prior to the Straw Hats meeting them. And I may be forgetting some others... Anyway, after Crocodile's defeat, Vivi was considering joining Luffy's crew, but instead decided to stay in Alabasta.
In helping save Alabasta, the Straw Hat crew gains the respect of Chaser and Tashigi, who let them escape after the final battle against Crocodile. However, Chaser and Tashigi still intend to capture them the next time they see the pirates. Luffy & crew will also be pursued by Naval Captain Hina. She commands her own fleet of ships, and seems so far to be very serious about capturing the Straw Hat crew. She's also an old friend of Chaser's. And she ate the Cage Cage fruit, which allows her to... restrain people. But the crew escapes her as well, due to the assistance of Bon Clay, aka Mr. 2, one of Crocodile's former henchmen (who had eaten the Clone Clone fruit, which allows him to change his appearance to look like anyone). He has a swan fixation and dresses like a ballerina (yeah, he's a transvestite). A more important former member of Baroque Works, in fact Crocodile's partner, is Miss Sunday, aka Nico Robin. She's an archaeologist, searching for the Rio Poneglyphs, ancient writing that would reveal the history of the world. She has partnered with various bad guys like Crocodile in her search, but she's not really bad, herself. Oh, she had eaten the Hana Hana fruit, which allows her to replicate pieces of her body to emerge from any surface. Anyway, she helps Luffy, and she betrays Crocodile, and after his defeat, she joins Luffy's crew, though they retain their suspicions of her at first. (Though of course Sanji is smitten with her.)
Anyway, there's a short story arc about some kids who played at being pirates like 50 years ago and ended up getting stuck in someplace called Wreckers Reef, with the wrecks of a ton of ships, but it was within this phenomenon called the Rainbow Mist, which they couldn't escape, as space was sort of warped within the mist, and time didn't work right, either. On the outside, 50 years passed, but within the mist the kids didn't age, and I don't think they experienced that much time at all. Meanwhile, a friend of theirs on the outside grew up, became a scientist, and tried to discover a way to rescue his friends. But there was an evil pirate who became mayor of their town, and he wanted to find a way in (and out) to steal all the treasure in Wreckers Reef. The Straw Hats got involved in all this, and the end of the story is kind of twisty.
With the next arc, the distribution rights transferred from 4Kids to FUNimation, which gave the show new opening and closing theme songs and a new dub cast. While I (unlike some people) actually liked the old theme, the new ones are, I must say, much better. The new cast is... it's hard to judge, they seem to be trying to be somewhat consistent with the old voices, and I'm not completely used to them yet, but they're probably better. Anyway, FUNi is supposed to retain more of the original elements of the series, keeping it more serious at whatnot, as opposed to the excessive editing and punny translations and whatnot that 4Kids did. Even so, the series is just inherently pretty weird a lot of the time, and at this point in the series, it seems it will soon start getting, quite possibly, weirder than ever.
The Straw Hat crew learn of a place called Skypiea, which is an island or islands in the sky, so they'll spend some time trying to figure out how to get there, or if it even really exists. They'll have a confrontation with a salvage crew captained by a man named Masira, who looks like an ape or something. They'll also see some kind of giants, which isn't explained right away. And they'll travel to Jaya island, where they have a confrontation with a pirate named Bellamy, who mocks their dreams, and pretty much everyone mocks the idea of Skypiea existing. But there's one man who believes, Montblanc Cricket, a descendant of Montblanc Norland, who was considered a liar, but he may have known something about Skypiea. Or at least some city of gold, which Norland discovered on Jaya 400 years ago, but never found again after that. Cricket also happens to be friends with Masira and his brother Shojo, whose crews will fix up the Merry Go so it can withstand the knock-up stream, a powerful current that might take the Straw Hat crew into the sky to find Skypiea.
Meanwhile, Trace shows up on Whitebeard's ship for some reason. And the Blackbeard pirates try to capture Luffy and Zolo for their combined 160 million berry bounty. And the world government was concerned about who should replace Crocodile as a member of the Shichibukai. So... it seems like there may be many interesting things in the works, but soon of course, Luffy and crew leave all that behind, for the time being, as they head up into an ocean of clouds, where there's all sorts of weird stuff going on that they don't know anything about, to replace the weird stuff we've grown accustomed to on the blue seas... or whatever, I dunno. It's crazy, but hilarious and quite interesting, and fairly complicated...
Um. Soon after they arrive in Skypiea, the crew is attacked, but they're defended by the "Sky Knight," who rides some weird large bird. He gives them a whistle to blow in case of emergency, so he'd come rescue them. Then they meet a girl named Conis, and her father, Pagaya, and the two of them tell the crew a bit about the world in which they now find themselves, including different technologies that use things called "dials." (No, I'm not gonna explain that.) The crew also soon find themselves to be wanted criminals for illegally entering Skypiea. So I guess they're going to be tried by the king, Eneru, who has like godlike powers.
Um... and the Merry Go gets taken to a sacrificial altar, with Zolo, Nami, Chopper, and Robin on board. Which leaves Luffy, Usopp, and Sanji to try to find them. So they'll have to use a small boat given to them by Conis, to travel the milky river to Upper Yard. Of course, there are also four very powerful knights who serve Eneru. Luffy and the others will have to face one of them, Satori. Meanwhile, Nami, Zolo, and Robin leave the ship to explore, while Chopper stays behind with the ship. He'll be attacked by another knight, Shura. So he uses the Sky Knight's whistle. And um I guess we learn that the Sky Knight is the former king of Skypiea, Gan Fall, who was replaced by Eneru. And then there's a tribe of people called Loftrians (or Shandians), who rebel against Eneru, though they also don't seem to feel any loyalty to Gan Fall, and in spite of having a common enemy in Eneru, could be enemies of the Straw Hat crew, as well.
Anyway, Nami and the others discover that the Upper Yard was a piece of Jaya that got shot into the sky 400 years ago by the knock-up stream. So the city of gold should be up there somewhere, which of course makes Nami excited. Anyway, they return to the ship, which is in bad shape after the battle against Shura. Not long after that, Luffy and his group reach the altar, so the whole crew is finally reunited. After comparing notes, they all decide to find and steal the gold. Which shouldn't be easy, considering they have so many enemies now....
And that's all I can say so far, but I continue to enjoy the show more all the time, and keep looking forward to each new episode.... Unfortunately, Cartoon Network stopped airing it before the end, so I'm not sure when I'll get around to finishing the series. Update: I guess Adult Swim eventually started airing the series, but by then I no longer had access to Cartoon Network, so... I still don't know when I'll get back into it.