What makes One Piece a good manga?
One Piece, with more than 100 volumes published, is among the best shonen manga available these days. In this analysis article I will try to share with you what aspects make that One Piece is a good manga according to me, so that you can use that same elements to build your own manga.
The sources of inspiration
A world of pirates
The first element that makes that people like the One Piece manga is its theme: pirates.
Pirate stories, like knight or police stories, have always been a subject praised by the public.
Pirate stories have had success throughout the latest centuries with both young people and adults. They tell about adventures across the oceans, treasures, exoticism and epic battles. All in all trhey are generally exciting.
The One Piece manga is full of all these different elements.
Super powers and science-fiction
But One Piece adds to that a second super ingredient: super powers. With the introduction of demon fruits, it also transforms some of the characters into super heroes. And super hero stories have also been a hit for the comic and movie audience for years.
And last but not least, One Piece is also relying on some odd and old school sci-fi technology inherited from ancient and forgotten times. This last ingredient gives some kind of sci-fi/steam punk flavour to the story which is also well appreciated by many.
The world building in One Piece is simple and well constructed.
First, the world of One Piece is built for pirates. The geography of the One Piece world is build around 4 oceans separated by the Grand Line and the Red Line. And you have islands all over the place.
It also has some politics with the World Government, the Nobility, and kingdoms and various countries. And many forces confronting with the Marines, Cipher Pol, Emperors…
And last but not least it has a lore, with ancient and forgotten history, legendary heroes…
This setup, even though simple, gives a sufficient geo-political background for the story. It sets the physical rules of the world (with the specificities of the Grand Line) and the forces that are confronting for power.
And Luffy and his crew are sailing through the Grand Line, from one island to the next one, discovering new places and people, and seeking the secrets behind the poneglyphs and the One Piece.
A well paced story
The promise about a pirate story is made at the really beginning of the first chapter, and it is being delivered all along the story without failing through adventures and battles.
The fact that the crew is constantly moving from one place to another one helps to keep the rhythm And the interest of the story. Every two books or so, Luffy is encountering a new environment, new people and new challenges. As a reader you are always awaiting to see where Luffy and his crew will land next. And we have storytelling promises made all along the story that tickle the readers curiosity. What and where is the One Piece ? Luffy will he become the King of Pirates? What is the secret behind the poneglyphs? Will Luffy be able to give back his straw hat to Shanks? What’s the secret of the « D »? … All these events are announced at a moment of the story and are awaiting to be resolved at a later stage.
And In addition to that you have the characters arcs which are building as the story goes. The main arc is Luffy’s story, but you also have Nami’s, Zoro’s, Sandy’s… Each characters have their own background, even secondary characters, and these character arcs lead them to grow along the story. The characters become progressively stronger physically and psychologically through the good and bad moments they face, making their life more relatable to the readers.
And as a final touch, the world itself is evolving day after day, with new events changing the face of the world and the distribution of powers amongst Pirates and the World Government.
Only point I find a bit detrimental to that pace is the length of the battles which are getting longer and more complicated over time. This is of course part of what makes a shonen manga and Eiichiro Oda tries to make it so they look somehow tactical and full of suspens by showing the many events that are happening in parallel. But for battles like the one against Kaido and its many factions, you quickly start to lose track of the essential and dilute the rhythm. This is where, from my point of view, giving too much highlight to the side characters to please their fans finds its limits.
A great casting
Speaking about the many characters, this is another aspect that makes One Piece a manga people like. Luffy who fears nothing and likes to eat, Zoro who seeks perfection in swords handling, Nami always looking for sparkling objects, Sandy always falling for women, Chopper always ready to help people, Nico Robin the calm and intellectual one, Franky who loves mechanics, Usopp the not so valliant… everyone can find there a character he/she likes. And that is without counting the hundreds of third plan characters that Luffy and his crew are encountering.
The fact that each of these characters have their own personality, makes them predictable and allows the readers to anticipate their reactions, like you would do with your good friends.
Even Luffy’s boats, Going Merry and Thousand Sunny, have some kind of personality which makes them a full part of the story and not just sailing devices.
A solid realization
The last element that makes One Piece a good manga is its pages.
Drawings have a cartoony style that fits well the story and helps in the diversity of the features of the characters. Not two characters are alike, they all have their own features and fashion.
Moreover, in addition to being a long story in terms of volumes, each page is packed with detailed content, actions and dialogues. The pages have a high average number of panels (9 or more) which makes it a consistent and worthy read.
Drawback of this last point is that people that like light pages and story paced by quickly turning pages after pages might be intimidated by this amount of content.
And one last touch that I really like is the use of the title pages of chapters to count side stories for secondary characters. This helps to keep them alive instead of them just being a brief encounter.
The purpose of this article is to provide you with great content to identify key elements that make a good manga, or a bad one. Therefore do not hesitate to share your feedback about the One Piece manga story and content. Note that non constructive content will be moderated though 😉