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Analysis: Romance in One Piece

Note: I’ll be posting condensed versions of this analysis in other sites

A) Relevance of plot and characterization AKA Unbiased Readers Vs. Delusional Shippers

“Who lives on ilusions dies from disappointment” – An old Puerto Rican saying

Most of us know One Piece is a very popular manga. Its high quality and popularity depends on several factors, among them we could name memorable and likeable characters along a deep, compelling, fun and action-packed story. The One Piece many know and love wouldn’t exist without the balance between these factors

When talking to at least 3 different One Piece fans, each of them non-shippers who analyzed the manga they all enjoy, I found interesting and pretty sound perspectives of the One Piece story and its nature. All of them value characters, story, development, consistency and logic; something I can totally relate to

But I also found a pattern; these 3 guys shared one single outlook on the very same subject: shipping. Regardless of their expectations, all of them expressed distate for shippers’ general mindset and “odd” viewpoint:

One of them called shippers out for ignoring characterization and very clear and direct statements made in the manga. His attention was centered on a Luffy pairing and how it contradicts his own character. Oda once explained that he writes Luffy as someone pretty straightfoward when it comes to expressing his thoughts and feelings, and this non-shipper said with brutal honesty that for the discussed ship to happen we would need to disregard and/or discard the very core of Luffy’s character. Meaning Oda would need to stop being consistent and faithful to his own story and characters

The next one explained how shippers tend to turn a characters’ relationship into a sappy teen love fantasy that doesn’t match One Piece at all. His analysis also exposed how integrating this kind of underdeveloped “love” into the story would severely damage One Piece originality, ruin the series and needless to say destroy the likable dynamics between several characters as well as their own development. This fantasy, this so-called “love”, is what the vast majority of shippers support and defend. The same kind of “love” most non-shippers, fans and critics dread

The third non-shipper gave me a more detailed explanation: this is even more rough than the other two as he describes that the common shipper mentality of “he/she likes her/him so they should be together” can “only be likened to that of elementary schoolers”. And how shippers take every little meaningless detail and blow it out of proportion with no regard for context, legitimate bonding or the canon story!

But we can’t put all the blame on shippers. Many manga authors seem to have no idea how to write a character-driven series or complex character relationships. In fact, mainstream shonen writers have their fair share of guilt into promoting this common shipping mindset by being notoriously bad at writing romance. Which results in underveloped premises that leave your average fan skeptical, and your average critic disappointed at a poor portrayal of emotional bonding and a severe lack of cohesive narrative in the “romantic love” department

This is the reason why many fans, critics and non-shippers hold the shippers’ perspective in a very low regard. Just like the third non-shipper states: “The blushing, longing stares, corny ass lines etc. That kind of poorly portrayed romance is the kind of thing dreaded by the average fan because it reduces the quality of One Piece to the level of such poorly written series”

So an author needs to build a relationship the same way one person would construct a building: stablishing a strong foundation on companionship, respect, trust, signifcant moments, and emotional bonding. All of this must come before reaching the status of “romantic interest". In relation to this subject, there’s a trope called “First Girl Wins”, a portion of its description truly fits this criteria:

“From a [extradiegetic] point of view, the Law of Conservation of Detail suggests introducing the Love Interest early. An early introduction allows you to get the audience interested in her and rooting for her, gives you space for Character Development, and gives her relationship with her (eventual) partner the most time to develop organically. And with all that said, it’s such a common device that in all likelihood, it sometimes gets played for its own sake.” – tvtropes.org, 2017

Notice this isn’t a cliché, this is a literary device to enhance the story. Pairing up two characters without meaningful moments, emotional build-up and development, is the equivalent to lazy writing. Having such elements firmly stablished for two characters and then deciding to go for a different “route”, pretty much wasting a well-developed relationship for the sake of a “weaker” premise, would be the equivalent to bad writing

Is Oda, the man who’s willing to die for One Piece, a lazy writer? Of course not! Is he, a man who planned the ending years ago and is still sticking to said ending, a bad writer? Being number 1 in Japan and having such a loyal fanbase all around the world prove he’s not!

Do shippers want Oda to be a lazy/bad writer? Facts already answered this question as many (although not all) fans value their own fantasies and delusions over the manga canon and/or the author’s take on the characters and their relationships

Many (but not all) shippers now have a war. Not only against rival ships but mainly against One Piece story and consistent development. Yet as the old saying goes, those who live on delusions will have to eventually face reality and disappointment, because Oda is not a lazy/bad writer like some people here would want him to be

B) Romance Dawn AKA The not so secret origins of One Piece

“If we don’t know where we are going, it can be helpful to know where we come from” – Jostein Gaarder

When debating posible outcomes, fans rarely look back at the time when One Piecewas a still a work in progress. Taking a look at Romance Dawn V.1 and Romance Dawn V.2 helps us to see there are constants present in all versions of these Works that made it into what would later become the most popular manga in Japan

But before discussing those constants I would like to clarify the meaning of the word: “Romance”. There are people who doesn’t really grasp the concept of “Romance” both One Piece and Oda work with. Luckily the first two non-shippers I meantioned shed some light on this subject:

Romance:

“A mysterious or fascinating quality or appeal, as of something adventurous, heroic, or strangely beautiful
“A long fictitious tale of heroes and extraordinary or mysterious events, usually set in a distant time or place”
“A narrative in verse or prose, written in a vernacular language in the Middle Ages, dealing with strange and exciting adventures of chivalrous heroes

– thefreedictionary.com, 2016

“A prose narrative treating imaginary characters involved in events remote in time or place and usually heroic, adventurous, or mysterious
–  Merriam Webster, 2016

Romantic:

“Marked by the imaginative or emotional appeal of what is heroic, adventurous, remote, mysterious, or idealized
“Having an inclination for romance: responsive to the appeal of what is idealized, heroic, or adventurous

–  Merriam Webster, 2016

These definitions match pretty well One Piece and Oda outlook on this concept. Even Oda lampshaped this by giving his own translation to the title: 冒険の夜明け (“Bōken no Yoake”, “Dawn of the Adventure”)

So Oda’s “romance” covers a wide variety of themes: Adventure, heroism, mystery, virtue, idealism… we can find comedy and tragedy, happiness and sadness. And among the virtues and the idealism we find companionship and love. As the second non-shipper I mentioned explained One Piece is pretty much like an “Adventure novel”, which is why we’ll find in One Piece many of the tropes commonly used in those books

Among those tropes, we find a couple of constants in all versions of “Romance Dawn”

The golden-hearted protagonist and the “First Girl” who doubles as a female lead. Think about this “what if” scenario: If things would’ve played different back then and One Piece never went beyond “Romance Dawn V.1”. If that story were to be elaborated futher, which two characters would had shared the most moments to become endgame? The answer is pretty simple: The golden-hearted protagonist and the female lead!

But when debating, the weight of the argument depends on edvidence so we need to rely on what we can confirm. And we confirm this, what’s the constant in Luffy’s story in all versions of Romance Dawn? a Nami-like character

This becomes even more interesting when we discover that at an interview at “Manga no Chikara” and others, Nami was supposed to be the first one to join Luffy but her debut was postponed by Oda’s editor at that time. Edvidence of this being a last minute decision remains on the first color cover:

Yet as the second non-shipper noted: “her role as secondary protagonist was not altered” for “Nami shares with Luffy the largest character development in the entire series”. And as explained here we already know how the trope goes when someone seeks to write a natural growth for an emotional connection between two characters 

In fact, the relevance of Nami to Luffy’s story is implied in what Oda himself said about Strong World: “I really wanted to make a ‘hero saves the heroine’ story (ヒロインを助けるヒーローを描きたい the japanese sentence). [….]. You might think otherwise, but I had no intention of bringing in someone new to fill that [heroine] role. So when I had to think about whom to use for it amongst the straw hats of course that meant Nami

In Oda’s mind, Luffy is the hero and Nami is the heorine! We can tell that the hero and the heroine are meant to be the driving forces of the series, and therefore putting them together makes the most sense from a storytelling perspective

C) LuffyxNami AKA LuNa/LuNami

“Logical consequences are the scarecrows of fools and the beacons of wise men” – Thomas Huxley

Many shippers tend to ignore and disregard the importance of staying faithful to the canon story, and the author’s take on the characters and their relationships

To makes matters worst some of them even deem as illogical any argument solidly based on these factors. While considering stuff like lines, frogs, sweat, fire, nonexistent sexual tension, assumption of sexuality, and even assumptions of pregnancy, as legitimate proofs of a plausible outcome! In fact they even value comparisons to other series with a different tone, themes, and characters over anything that the One Piece author conveys through his work

There’s even people who goes as far as editing the wiki as if that would change the story to match their preferred pairing!

But in order to reach a conclusion that remains true to One Piece and its nature we have to rely on the very same foundation that was already described several times: mutual trust/respect, faith on one another, significant moments, stress in their relationship and emotional development. If the story doesn’t let you build your premises on these elements, the conclusion you’ll reach will obviously be flawed and stray away from what One Piece really is

So here I’m not only defending the premise I strongly support; I’m defending the very same story and build-up that contributes to this bond’s natural growth:

As explained before there’s nothing explicitly romantic about major interactions. But given we’re dealing with a good and dilligent writer, what we’ll get to see is how big to small moments stablish an emotional connection between two characters, and how that becomes the base for a even greater growth

First we have the themes of trust and faith: At first Nami doesn’t trust Luffy very much, out of her clear distate for pirates, until witnessing how far was Luffy willing to go to selflessly help others. Even then Nami treated their relationship as a mere business and later betrayed the crew

Still Luffy always trusted Nami to the point of putting blind faith in her. Even when given reasons not to do so. One remarkable example is when Luffy was informed by someone trustworthy (Johnny) that Nami apparently “killed” to Usopp, and Luffy not only kept holding onto his blind faith in Nami but he also threatened Johnny for saying such things about her


This becomes something remarkable when we take into consideration that Zoro quickly gave up on Nami and later tried to attack her without even a second thought! While Usopp just wanted  the Merry back…

And it would later become even more impressive in the Whiskey Peak Arc when Luffy came to doubt Zoro because of the words of wounded man he didn’t even know, and even doubted Robin during Water 7 until Nami told him and the crew the truth behind Robin’s desertion:

But what else makes this situation with Nami any different from others we see in the manga? Some might point to the saga where rescuing Robin was the primary objective; but in Robin’s case Luffy knew her life was in danger for Robin was planning to die for the crew, and he got the resolve to save her only after learning the truth. Others might point to the current arc, but he saw right through Sanji’s act and got desperate to rescue him only after hearing his life is in danger.

Here, Nami’s life wasn’t in danger as far as Luffy knew. And he constantly try to reach out to her despite her harsh attitude and the fact he knew next to nothing about her past and her current circumstances. It was only when he saw her cry he got enough motivation to beat Arlong, and it was only when he got a small glimpse of what she went through that he lost it!

How does Nami respond to this? Initially she wanted to get Luffy out of her villaje and her life. While Nami indeed grew fond of Luffy and the others she wasn’t willing to bond with any of them; she held on her distrust of others. But that changed when she finally hitted her lowest point, when she finally lost all hope. Then it comes Nami’s first major development as character: she realized she needed to rely on someone else, she realized Luffy was her only hope Nami decided to rely on him. The following scene marks the first time of many when Nami relied on Luffy to a emotional level. And the first of two times when Luffy entrusted his treasure to her in a touching gesture to provide comfort and hope:

From the very beginning the emotional build-up between Luffy and Nami was a key factor for one of the most meaningful and memorable moments in One Piece. The moment when Luffy becomes Nami’s “emotional anchor”

The effect Luffy had on her character was also quite powerful as we could see during the 2nd pass of the hat: back then at Skypiea arc Nami could still panic at dreadful situations: 

But as soon as Luffy gave her his treasure, the panic stopped and when he was later removed from the battle field, Nami was capable of drawing enough courage from Luffy to face the big bad from that arc:

Not to mention Luffy’s final move against Enel was combined effort of the two as well as an impressive display of mutual trust/faith

We can continue to appreciate their development even futher as the story goes on. As someone already pointed out, Nami during Water 7 displayed an impressive resolve and determination, but as soon as she got the chance to explain Luffy their situation she opened her heart to express how she felt, her anguish and her distress. When Luffy reassures her that he will save Robin, she doesn’t cry anymore until she reunites with Robin

Their bonding is even futher explored in the only One Piece movie fully written by Oda: Strong World. As this is the author’s take on their relationship is still a valid argument to support Luffy/Nami development:

We already considered how impressive Luffy’s blind faith in Nami can be. So after listening to most of Nami’s recorded message, Luffy gets enraged! Why?

Well, after all that time Luffy relied on his navigator without ever doubting her. He was likely expecting all his trust and faith in Nami to be reciprocated

Turns out Nami does return that feeling! And why can we say that? Remember the movie’s ending: Nami finds out everyone in the crew got her hidden “save me” at the end of her message… everyone but Luffy. Then when Luffy is about to play the recorded proof of Nami’s unwavering faith in him, what does she do? She tries to get rid of the “edvidence” out of embarrassment 

It’s easy to see then why Nami seeked out Luffy for hope and comfort during Zou. And how she did something similar to what happened in Water 7: she opened up to Luffy

I said it before, since Luffy is Nami’s “emotional anchor”, it makes sense for her to keep strengthening her bond with Luffy. And given Luffy needs a guide to new adventures and someone “mature” enough to sometimes keep him in line, it makes sense for Luffy to grow closer to Nami

She once summed it up pretty well: “He always talks big, but when it comes down to it, he knows nothing about the sea! He’s severely lacking in the ‘sense of danger’ area! And he always overdoes it…if I left him alone, he’d die. And he’s stupid, so I have to take care of him. That’s why I’m gonna help him!” - Nami, chapter 596

Still, none of this is explicitly romantic in the traditional sense of the word. But just like someone who’s contructing a building, we start dealing with the foundations to then proceed to make a solid structure: a well-written relationship that enhances the story

As someone once reviewed, Luffy and Nami dynamic doesn’t need to chance for them to become endgame for they already have anything they need to finish that “building”. And that’s what’s being a potent pairing means: having everything to your favor for futher development and growth. Luffy and Nami definitively have the major moments and the emotional bonding while remaining consistent to the One Piece canon to be considered a Potent Pairing

Bonus:

It’s interesting we find other interaction that proves how comfortable is Nami around Luffy: 

She doesn’t mind having Luffy around her, what she really minds is Luffy wanting to go to dangerous places But why is this relevant? In Thriller Bark we had a clear showing of how she reacts to pervs trying to accomplish what Luffy did here. She electrocutes them. We can confirm she haven’t changed in this regard because at the end of Fishman Island arc Nami electrocutes a perv for trying to peek at her while she was taking a bath

Another interesting detail about Nami’s attitude toward Luffy is a change we see in WCI. Of course we have the remarkable faith and trust Nami puts on Luffy by even boasting how him being the future Pirate King ensures their victory over Cracker’s ability.

But the real change is when Sanji brutalizes Luffy. Nami already stated she felt guilty for what happened when Sanji got taken. But when Sanji did his “little” number on Luffy her attitude changed, she not only begged him to stop but was also promising they’ll leave if he did (Luffy clearly disagreed on that)

After seeing the way Sanji treated her captain, Nami did something the could seem pretty justified because of what happened: she slapped Sanji and then sarcastically played along Sanji’s “royal” act.

When she goes to Luffy and finds out her captain is not relenting on his effort to get Sanji back, she gives us this little gem:

The Japanese text for Nami’s dialogue reads: “Luffy!! Why?! No matter what his reasons are, after he did all that to you…”

The term she used here for the line in bold conveys the idea of severe mistreatment. She was obviously mad at the way Sanji attacked and badmouthed Luffy and his dream. Ironically Luffy is the one who shows far more emotion to the prospect of getting Sanji back than Nami, she kept displaying far more concern for Luffy as the chapters went on

Nami is now showing, little by little, more of a emotional attachment to Luffy. Which makes a lot sense given what we saw in their story

5

“World of Color” 2009

Something changes when the sun goes down at a theme park. As the popcorn lights lining Main Street twinkle on, or the Hogwarts torches ignite, the mood changes and an exciting change of perspective takes over. Many parks, particularly Disney, incorporate nighttime spectaculars to make this nighttime experience even more unique. Disney California Adventure’s stunning lagoon show, World of Color, is easily one the best. Set to an updated version of the Sherman Brothers’ “Wonderful World of Color” theme song, this joyous union of water, color, music and Disney favorites became an instant favorite upon its 2010 debut. Since then, the show has been edited for various holidays, seasons, film releases and park-wide campaigns.

Art ©️Disney

WDW TBT - River Country in Florida

February 5, 2015

Today’s Throw-Back-Thursday is for a now abandoned water park here in Central Florida.  River Country at Walt Disney World was a seasonal park located near the Fort Wilderness Lodge. This first water park at WDW opened on June 20, 1976 and ceased operations on November 2, 2001. Four years later, Disney announced it would stay closed permanently. With Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon now open (they both opened in the ‘80’s), one more water park, especially a very old and small one, just isn’t necessary. In the almost 15 years since Its closure, the park is decrepit and falling apart; an epitome of a ghost park.

(Above: River Country when open)

Surprisingly, while I was raised here in Central Florida and went to WDW a lot, often camping in Ft. Wilderness, I never went to River Country. The water park looked like it was designed as some kind of cross between Tom Sawyer and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad; “an old-fashioned swimming hole” was Its theme; right down to the tire swings and rope bridges. Of course, back when it was created, the Imagineers didn’t understand the possible repercussions of some of their design choices. Such as, damming Bay Lake and using untreated, though filtered, fresh water for the park. This resulted in a water-born disease (with a 95% fatality rate) that killed at least one child.

(Above: Goofy was the official River Country Mascot)

(Below: The same slide today)

The park continued struggling on, barely making a profit with the competition of the two, newer water parks. Then, citing declining tourism rates everywhere after 9/11, the decision was to close the park, with a possibility of reopening at some point. However, that idea was abandoned in 2005 when Disney announced it would not reopen. It may also have had to do with “a change in Florida laws, which prohibited unchlorinated natural water bodies from being used for water park attractions”. [Wikipedia] It would have taken major overhauling to accomplish this change, and it just wasn’t worth it.

(Above: Main swimming hole then, a fresh-water lake… Below: and today)

Want to hear something REALLY creepy? The park has been closed 14 years. Occasionally, people sneak in to the park, taking pictures or video. Let’s face it…who ISN’T intrigued by abandoned amusement parks? I’ve got a whole board on my Pinterest page dedicated to just that subject! ( www.pinterest.com/guinnesswench )More than one person reports that path lights, water fountains, and plumbing still work and the park’s banjo MUSIC IS STILL PLAYING. Here’s a video of two guys who snuck in at twilight. Eerie. 

(listen for the music about 3 minutes into the clip)

I haven’t been able to find any reason why the park was simply abandoned instead of being demolished. Most of the park was left in place, even towel boxes, rafts, etc., as if it fully planned to reopen for business. You would think that demolishing it would be preferable both for a liability issue (you just know at some point, some idiot is going to sneak in and get killed) and an environmental one. I can tell you, it doesn’t take long for things that are left neglected in Florida to be reclaimed by swamp. I just can’t believe the deterioration doesn’t hurt the environment. And why not use the land to create something useful?

(Water slides and pool then and now)

At any rate, if you never made it to River Country, it has to go on the “Things you’ll never see again at Disney” list. Then head over to Blizzard Beach or Typhoon Lagoon for a bigger and better water park.

(Above: What remains of River Country)

The Water at Disneyland....

Did you know that the water at Disneyland isn’t just water? The water is dyed a greenish/brown color and circulated throughout the park - to mask the depth and keep it fresh respectively through the use of a “green water” system. But few people know
the system would more accurately be referred to as the “green tea” system due to the way the water gets it’s color. As environmental regulations became more stringent, in 1979 Disneyland started using a mix of green and regular tea leaves as a natural way to dye the water throughout the park. In fact approximately 1,955 pounds (nearly a ton!) of ground tea leaves are circulated through the system each year. While it’s hard to quantify the following claim, this is said to contribute to the calm and tranquil atmosphere of the park especially near the Rivers of America. Stray cats ,wild ducks and other birds can be seen congregating around the waterways engaging in regular, what cast members call, “tea parties”. In fact the birds are a bit too regular - their overly relaxed bowels have been the bane of many a custodian and guest hairdo alike.

In recent years the use of so much tea as a natural colorant has become problematic. With the rising popularity of green tea as a gourmet drink served in coffee bars around the world, and especially in California, the cost has risen steeply. It’s risen so much that ticket prices have increased drastically to cover the growing expense. Park Managers fear that the method of obscuring the shallow depths will soon become unsustainable - revealing the emu leg bones, lost sunglasses, and (most disturbingly) remains of children turned into small world dolls.

Clearly another solution must be found. Some speculate that the construction of Star Wars land, and the draining of the Rivers of America has been an elaborate coverup while researchers try to find an affordable replacement colorant. After all, it does seem very unlikely that Disney would otherwise be laying out such a large sum of money for a new attraction.

We’ll know soon enough as the River will be back shortly. Recent changes in LA law regarding the growing and selling of the cannabis plant have lead to rumors pointing to this as a suitable replacement. Keep an eye out for any changes in hue or particularly hungry, philosophical ducks.

Next up in our series: How DO they create that perfect Disney grass.