Considered by some to be the heir to the throne of in terms of Japanese market penetration, is certainly a phenomenon. The manga's print run recently outpaced and the series, at more than 130 episodes, is still going strong. It's easy to see why; follows a very simple and very successful shonen action formula. It worked in the past for and and it's working wonderfully for . The premise is pretty basic. Luffy D. Monkey, an irrepressible youth, ate the Devil's Fruit, which gave his body extra-strength elasticity. He's searching for the , a legendary treasure that will make him the King of all Pirates and finally allow him to prove himself to his childhood idol, a selfless pirate by the name of Shanks. Along the way, he collects an army of somewhat freakish rogues, including a tough swordfighter named Zoro who fights with a sword in his mouth, and Nami, a spunky thief. Together they have wacky adventures, beat up the bad guys, and collect treasure. It all sounds pretty harmless, right?
Well, right, it is. is completely harmless entertainment. The battles can be surprisingly brutal at times, but overall, this is pure shonen action entertainment. It is entirely unpretentious and knows exactly what it wants to be, and excels at that. That having been said, is not a particularly deep show, although the characters are well developed. The focus seems to be on the crazy villains and the endless string of fights the main characters go through. Luffy and his crew of misfits go from town to town, saving the repressed masses and eliminating evil pirates who stand between them and the . In some ways, it's very reminiscent of . Kenshin and Luffy are both laid-back badasses with hearts of gold that surround themselves with surprisingly capable outcasts and defeat circus freak-style enemies in episode after episode. If you like that sort of thing, delivers. If you don't, is going to bore the faith out of you.
So, for fans of formulaic action shows, is a well-animated bit of fluff that sports decent music and some well-done action scenes. Unfortunately, the bizarre character designs are sure to turn a lot of folks off. is not done in a traditional anime style. It's very unique and it's bound to rub some people the wrong way. Otherwise, if you like your anime rife with fight scenes that last several episodes, declaratory statements (“Ore wa Kaizokuo ni naru da!” or “I will become the Pirate King!” is Luffy's favorite thing to say...), screwball humor and a touch of originality, will not fail to please.