Rating - ⭐⭐⭐⭐
"Monkey D. Luffy meets the Red Hair Pirates as a young boy living in East Blue, swearing becoming the next Pirate King. 10 years later, Luffy sets sail and experiences first adventures, recruiting the first members of the Straw Hat Pirates."
The East Blue Saga is the first saga of One Piece, Eiichiro Oda's epic fantasy manga series.
I have been meaning to start this series for years, I am talking more than a decade here, but I knew that it was going to be a huge commitment considering there are currently over 1100 chapters and counting. It is a pretty daunting task trying to catch up on the series, but the Netflix adaptation sparked a fire in me and I finally decided to dive headfirst into the series.
The East Blue Saga covers a total of 6 story arcs and 100 chapters. Originally, I was going to break down this review arc by arc before covering the entirety of it in the conclusion, but there just wasn't enough to cover to do that. So I will just cover the whole saga in one shot. Do be warned though, naturally there may be some spoilers if you haven't read the entire saga (or the series at all).
Let's get into the details.
The East Blue Saga more or less serves one purpose, to introduce the main characters as well as their backstories and motivations. Each of the arcs introduces and establishes a member of Luffy's crew until the bulk of the Straw Hat Pirates are formed. We are also introduced to side characters such as Koby and Mihawk, as well as villains such as Buggy who will play more of a role down the line. As for how effectively this saga establishes them, well, it does a decent job of doing so. This is only just the beginning though, so their motivations are rather simple and they have a long way to go in terms of development which I will go into more detail in a following section.
ART AND WRITING
Seeing as this saga started in 1997, one year after I was born which is insane, I wasn't sure what to really expect. Usually, series that old tend to be a bit dated, but to my surprise even from the get-go the quality was pretty good. I liked the art style and the writing was pretty good as well, except for some cases where the text was a bit hard to read due to the font.
In terms of the fight scenes, well, I always have a bit of an issue with them due to the lack of actual motion. That being said, the way the fights were written did help as they had high enough stakes to feel the tension.
A few of the characters are a bit annoying at the moment (I am talking about Nami and Usopp here). They are pretty much useless so far and do nothing but stand in the background and scream. I will give them the benefit of the doubt though since there is plenty of room for them to develop (hopefully). As for the other main characters (Luffy, Zoro and Sanji), the three of them are kind of goofballs which is slightly unexpected on Zoro's part. Maybe it is because I watched the live-action first and he is more stoic there, but I wasn't expecting the man aiming to be the greatest swordsman in the world to be a bit of a dummy. The same goes for Sanji but I was expecting it from him. I do like their dynamic though as their bickering is amusing.
As for our main character, Luffy, he is also a bit of an oddball. Like most shonen protagonists, he has one hell of a saviour complex. Like Zoro and Sanji though, he is also a bit of a dummy and doesn't tend to think much which gets him into trouble. I will say though, he does have one of the most unique powers, and the same can be said for the entire magic system of this world, which brings me to the next section.
The magic system is odd, to say the least, unique, but odd. I like the idea of gaining power through eating a devil fruit, and I also like how it means that there, at least I think so, are no similar powers. The powers themselves are also odd, as who would have thought that someone whose body was rubber would end up being one of the most famous anime characters?
In terms of the world-building, well, I do love a good pirate story. Countless of time spent on ships sailing the seas and facing foes is a win for me. Something this saga did well was setting up the world in terms of how big it can get. The crew is heading for the Grand Line, and where they are now poses significantly fewer threats. You do get a taste of that once Mihawk is introduced as you quickly realize how out of their depth they are and just how much they need to grow in order to face what is out there.
I am a simple person who loves pirate stories, so of course, I end up enjoying reading this saga. That being said, I do think that despite that there is nowhere to go but up. This is the beginning of an epic series spanning quite literally a thousand chapters, so naturally, a good chunk is going to be put towards setting up the characters and story just as this saga did. It is because of that I didn't rate this any higher. I do look forward to how the story progresses though.