Monday, June 15, 2020

Now is the Time to Watch One Piece!

The news is in, the first 130 episodes of One Piece have hit Netflix! That's just enough to get you through the Baroque Works arc, and this makes me ecstatic! I have long been a One Piece fan, since before the anime had even been released in the west, I was reading the manga in the US Shonen Jump print magazine (RIP). As a quick aside if you aren't aware, Shonen Jump now has a vault service for $2 a month with an insane backlog, and the most recent chapters of ongoing manga series' are free to everyone!

Anyway as someone insane enough to well, own all the FUNimation DVD volumes for One Piece from 2008 to the most recent release that came out June 9th this year, I figured I should write something to encourage newcomers to enjoy this fantastic series, that just so happens to be my personal favorite anime of all time.

I have an unhealthy obsession, send help.
So just what IS One Piece anyway, you may be asking. The short answer is it's an adventure story about pirates that is equal parts action, comedy, and intense drama. The story is set in a world ruled by a World Government, who enforces its will through the Marines, a sea faring military organization. They typically fight against Pirates, and most notoriously before the series begins, the King of the Pirates, Gold Roger (His name is actually Gol D. Roger, but most call him Gold Roger).

However, while the great Pirate King had obtained the greatest treasure of all, The One Piece, he was eventually caught by the Marines, who promptly set about executing him. What the Marines could never have expected was that his final words would inspire an entirely new pirate era. *que intro*

Our story focuses on Monkey D. Luffy, a young man who ate a Devil Fruit, a mysterious fruit that grants special abilities at the cost of the ability to swim. It is said that the sea hates those who have eaten Devil Fruits, and it will try to drown those who do. Luffy ate the Gum-Gum Fruit, which made his skin become as rubber. In effect, he's a living Stretch Armstrong.

Luffy has one major dream, to become King of the Pirates by finding the One Piece. To that end, he recruits many people to help him along the way, mainly because the poor bundle of positivity doesn't understand the word 'no' and reads it as 'yes'.

You may be concerned that Luffy and his crew, The Straw Hat Pirates will be hard to root for, given that the show makes no bones about the fact that pirates are not good people. But worry not, because Luffy and crew may say they're pirates but, as much as I love them, they're well...

Honestly, while Luffy does call himself a pirate, and he does love the romantic side of being a pirate, his crew are more like a ragtag group that's formed a second family with eachother off in search of adventure, kinship and treasure (although I haven't seen the entire show, only the 587 episodes that have been dubbed, but I think that's a good sample). They don't exactly going around robbing people, that said they DO run afoul of the Marines eventually, even getting wanted posters (which makes our protagonist, Luffy, waaaay too happy).

The show can be very lighthearted and comedic, especially early on, but the true strength of One Piece is in its depth, which usually ends up delivering intensely emotional scenes and narratives. I've only been focusing on Luffy so far, because I don't want to spoil you, but I think the character most likely to grab a new viewers attention early on is Nami. There's a lot going on with this thief who exclusively steals from other pirates, and I strongly encourage any new viewer to make it through 45 episodes to see her story fully fleshed out. I realize that this is a huge amount of episodes, but when considering the full show is 900+ episodes, I feel like it's a reasonable sampling size.

When you get context for this your heart will break.

If you feel like that's too long to give as a starting sample, that's fine there are other places to help judge whether you'll like the series or not, but bare minimum I will beg and plead with you to at least make it to Roronoa Zoro's flashback in episode 11. All of the crews flashbacks have pretty strong emotions running through them, and while I find Nami's to be by far the most potent (at least until much later), Zoro's is also pretty strong, and is the first one beside's Luffy's that you see. As much as I love and adore Luffy, his flashback isn't the best barometer of what to expect from the series in terms of depth.

Zoro's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Speaking of expectations let me set some here for newcomers in general. Somehow, in the anime community there's been a myth that the only English dub of One Piece is the first one, that 4Kids Entertainment put out, heavily censored. This has been a barrier to entry for many, and it shouldn't be. FUNimation began dubbing One Piece in 2007 with no censoring, and began re-dubbing these very 130 episodes back in 2008, and have continued to dub the series all the way through to today, where we're on episode 587. Do not let fear of a censored dub stop you, the dub on Netflix is the uncensored FUNimation dub.

The second expectation I see frequently is due to the series length, people fear they won't be able to commit to such an expansive series. Because Netflix has only put up the first 130 episodes of the series, that helps somewhat here but I also want to reassure you of something. While One Piece is long, carries themes and ideas well past their original story arc (fans often jokingly say the manga author, Eiichiro Oda never forgets anything), and there are many overlaying themes, One Piece storyarcs are fairly self contained.

If all you do is watch a storyline to its conclusion, you will not be left hanging. I frequently recommend newcomers take One Piece, one piece at a time (pun definitely intended). Take a story arc and run with it. Especially early on when they're short. While I am sitting here recommending 45 episodes and begging at least 11 to get a broader picture of what One Piece can really do, you needn't be concerned about 'having' to continue past a story arc, they generally end conclusively, and for what's on Netflix, I can safely say they all do.

Lastly, let's say you just downed these amazing 130 episodes and want more, but you see my massive DVD collection up there and are (understandably) unwilling to commit to a huge DVD library to see the rest. I have good news for you, ALL 587 dubbed episodes, and 900+ Japanese episodes (with subtitles) are available over on FUNimation NOW for as little as $5.99 a month (though they will try to push you to the $6.99 tier, its largely unnecessary).

So what else can I say my friends? Let's set our sails to ADVENTURE!!!

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Thundercats Roar is Bad, and it's NOT the Fandoms Fault

So, the buzz around Thundercats Roar has started back up with it being released (or at least two episodes of it). Surprising just about no one, after watching it I don't much care for it, but I will say it's not for the reasons I would have assumed. It's not disrespectful per se, it's just not funny, and most of its jokes come from knowing how the original series went. I completely fail to see how this would work for kids, it doesn't really explain itself or its jokes, and most of the jokes aren't funny. But honestly the show itself wouldn't make me write this, it's the defenders who seek to attack those who don't like it that's got me here.

First of all, if you like Roar, cool. Second of all, if you worked on Roar, cool. I'm not here to hate on people for enjoying content and I'm not here to harass creators.

What is NOT okay is the ridiculous levels of shaming and blaming those upset that other people don't like Roar have been doing, and the harassment those who don't like Roar are doing to those who created it.

Harassment is not okay. Don't do it. Seriously. Just because someone worked on this mess of a show does not mean you have the right to harass them. Got it? Good.

To the rest of you, just because SOME idiots who dislike Thundercats Roar are harassing creators this does not mean it is inherent to those that do. Please don't try to link the behavior of some to all who dislike the show, doing such disingenuous at best. I'm not even addressing everyone who likes Thundercats Roar, I'm specifically going at those of you who want to either trash the original, or the fans of the original as a defense for Thundercats Roar. It's not a good sign when your defense is to shit on other shows and people. So next we touch the next elephant in the room, the 2011 Thundercats reboot.

I loved the 2011 show as did a lot of fans of the original series, but some like to go on about how we 'deserve' Roar because we didn't support the 2011 reboot. This myth needs to be put to bed.

Lioconvoy on Twitter thoroughly debunked the crap out of that theory. For those who won't click on links:

link to interview:

To put it simply - Thundercats 2011 was actually doing well, to the point it had been renewed to be 52 episodes (we only got 26). The series was initially renewed so clearly this wasn't a viewership failure, but they then decided Lego Chima was cheaper to produce, and so they dropped it.

This then leads to another claim that can again be debunked thanks to Lioconvoy. There's an accusation going around that no one tried to petition the return. Not only is this incorrect, the creators themselves created a petition that went nearly 10,000 strong, but in addition, there was something screwy going on with the petition being silenced when it would be turned in. Once again, Lioconvoy's got the facts.

Okay, so clearly this is not a failure of the fandom that 2011 Thundercats failed. We supported the show, and we even supported a petition to bring it back. CN/WB don't want to make it. There's literally nothing we can do here. So that's not an argument for Roar.

The last argument I see is shitting on the original series. If you don't like it, that's fine but that's first of all no defense for the absolute snorefest that is Thundercats Roar, but it's also not a good argument against those that don't like it.

The original Thundercats may indeed be dated but it wove both a compelling narrative and taught important life lessons, and I don't mean to brush your teeth.

Issues of slavery and freedom were discussed, for example, in one episode, Lion-O saves the Brutemen, who had been enslaved by the villains. Lion-O initially complains that they didn't thank him for this, but the point of doing the right thing because it is right, not for praise is brought into it.

In another instance, there was a story about not jumping to conclusions and the value of talking things out instead of assuming the worst in others, especially your friends, and how doing so is disastrous. If that's not a good moral lesson for today, I don't know what is.

There's several instances like this, and Lioconvoy does go into this in his twitter thread I linked to in the start as well.

Ultimately, even if you don't like the original Thundercats, that's no defense for stripping it down to an unfunny self referential comedy.

If you LIKE the comedy, power to you. A lot of us do not, and it's also a shame that neither Warner Brothers nor Cartoon Network know how to capitalize on what they have, but it's certainly NOT the fandom's fault.