This issue of Shonen Jump is the preparation issue for the One Piece speed up. Just like with the Naruto jumps, there is a dedicated section the gives short descriptions of the arcs to be covered in the volume releases. That’s right. I said arcs. Unlike with Naruto, which could give summary of each of the volumes, One Piece has too many volumes coming out to cover them all, so they just described the arcs, what volumes they cover and what villains the Straw Hat Pirates would be facing. There are 4 arcs to be covered, with the next arc, “Skypieda”, being 10 volumes long! This is a whole lot to take in. I really hope Viz knows what they’re doing and aren’t dooming One Piece. This property, which should have been as big or even bigger than Naruto has been mishandled by so many, I really don’t want to see it happen any more.
Next issue starts up the “Impel Down” arc, which should just about catch the US up with Japan. We will never be perfectly in sync, since One Piece is weekly in Japan and Monthly here, but it’ll be close enough for government work. So, there was no One Piece chapters this month. Instead SJ readers were treated to the one-shot story, Romance Dawn, kind of the second pilot for One Piece. There are a lot of differences between this and what actually became One Piece.
One of the things I like about One Piece is Luffy, the goofy but determined hero. He’s not to bright, thinks with his stomach first, but is also resolute and loyal to his crew and friends. I know, a typical shonen hero, but Luffy has that something special that makes him more than that. The Luffy we meet in Romance Dawn isn’t the same. He’s not as dense. Visually, he’s the same, except he doesn’t have the scar under his eye. But he is a very different character. He’s less carefree and doesn’t have that same fire. He’s more coherent and…normal. I didn’t really care as much for him.
In this alternate universe of One Piece, there are two kinds of pirates, the Morganians who plunder everything, and the Peacemains, who rob from other pirates and want to explore the sea. Luffy wants to be a peacemain, of course, following in the footsteps of Red Haired Shanks, who was also a peacemain, who based in Luffy’s village when he was young. All the scenes with Shanks remained essentially the same, which is good. I like Shanks. He’s cool. It ends with a glance at the future, but since this isn’t really One Piece, who can say what it really means.
The story is an interesting take on the One Piece universe, and while it’s still a good story, I’m glad we got the One Piece we did. I wouldn’t trade Luffy for anyone else in all the world. If you’re a fan of One Piece or a completist, then this issue is a must have. Just avoid all the spoilers about the story arcs. If you can resist.