February 24, 2014

The fruits of boredom

Continuing from last week, perhaps what really makes One Piece click with me is Eiichiro Oda's unbridled creativity, which he credits to being easily bored.

So if my manga was just about the action, or comedy, or tear-jerking moments, I would get bored. I change the style of the series to keep up my motivation to draw.

And the product of Oda's flights from boredom? To start with, incredibly intricate plotting that still manages to make sense: flashbacks within flashbacks, cliffhangers that careen off on episode-long tangents, like Melville going on about whales and whaling in Moby Dick.

It's the kind of thing that would be annoying as hell, except the tangents are so interesting. One thing's for certain: narrative complexity sure isn't what's keeping kids from reading books.

Visually, Oda often seems inspired by a Tex Avery vibe not commonly found in anime. And then there's the psychedelic pop art imagery reminiscent of Yellow Submarine. A good example of this wackiness in the "Water 7" arc is Kokoro, the train conductor, and her granddaughter, Chimney.

One Piece is a show worth watching just to see what visual nuttiness Oda will dream up next.

The anime (I haven't read the manga) does have its flaws. Typical of anime produced in quantity on Japanese television, it skimps mightily on inbetweening, reducing the final product at times to an animated slide show.

And practically every episode has the holy living snot getting beat out of about half the cast. Despite the violence mostly being on a Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner level, it gets wearisome, especially when the stories can be so smart as to almost qualify as "high brow."

Not that Oda won't embrace the low brow in a heartbeat. Like many (if not most) in the manga world, he pays little to the demands of political correctness, and a prodigious amount of smoking and drinking goes on in the world's most popular kid's comic.

Though these I consider definite pluses.

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