One Piece is hands down one of the most impressive comic accomplishments in the modern age. We can go through the numbers, saying that it’s the best selling manga series of all time. Or that Eiichiro Oda has been doing One Piece since 1997, almost completely without break. It’s an astounding accomplishment.
If you take a quick glance at One Piece, you might not understand. Which is why it’s helpful to have an entire collection of Oda’s art next to you. This particular volume, One Piece: Color Walk 2 collects all of Oda’s work since the first Color Walk volume, up until 2003. Like most books in the “Art of Shonen Jump” collections, this compilation is largely cover work for the manga.
While there’s definitely improvement in Oda’s visual execution since volume one, visual execution really isn’t One Piece’s strength. Which might stun you, since it’s the most popular manga on the planet. If you page through and see unconnected lines, color that bleeds across characters’ clothes into their skin, or lines with no weight variation – congratulations! You have found the right comic. It can be shocking how bad Oda can be on artistic mechanics, but that doesn’t stop the readers from loving his work. Do you know why? Because he loves his work. There is not a blessed page of One Piece where Oda’s complete enthusiasm for the art form does not shine through. Even of this collection of covers, there is no opportunity missed to show the characters interacting with each other. They don’t get to just flash a pose. They’re talking with each other, asking directions, getting dressed – they’re always interacting. The idea that any of Oda’s characters could be static is impossible.
If being amped up all the time wasn’t enough to put a smile on your face, then you have to see the surroundings that Oda tosses his characters into. There are their everyday settings, such as their absurdly designed boats and clothing. Then there are the imaginative places they end up. Sometimes they’re talking to giant bears with skull tattoos, or asking their whereabouts from unreasonably confused-looking waterfowl. Every empty space, be it beach, tree, or a head, has the space for Oda to draw something more on it. So yes, they might be talking to a duck, but it’s a duck with a turtle shell and a set of aviator headgear.
The page of a manga is where Oda can put down frenetic battles with impossible angles. He can make you laugh and cry and scream within pages of each other. His manga is where he gets to show you the complete range that the story of One Piece has to offer. This art collection, however, shows you something else. These are the breaths between chapters where Oda gets a moment to draw whatever scenario he fancies. It’s a collection of his unbound imagination, and it takes you to so many impossible places. There’s snow dragons, and giant pteranodons, and some war whales. It’s unbridled and fantastic.
The end of this collection has an interview between Oda and Motoo Abiko, one of the pair that made up Fujiko Fujio, the creative duo best known for creating Doremon. Oda requested to interview with him, since he was such a huge influence on his own manga career. Their conversation is delightful, and cements Oda’s attitude towards manga in the minds of the readers. “I just can’t fully draw something that I don’t want to draw” pretty well sums up Oda’s approach to manga. He gets four hours of sleep a day because he is wholly committed to manga. For every piece he puts out, he is giving it his all. It’s an energy that fuels Monkey D. Luffy, and captivates his audience. That’s just as true in this collection as it is in his manga. So whether you’re a curious bystander or a committed fan, One Piece: Color Walk 2 is worth your time.
One Piece: Color Walk 2
by Eiichiro Oda