Saturday, April 27, 2013

Art What I Like: One Piece Is Awesome, Example #33

Eiichiro Oda has more on his mind in One Piece than pirate fights and the bonds of friendship, as we saw in the Skypeia storyline, which incorporated some commentary on religion, looking at its negatives and positives. He's at it again with the lengthy Water Seven arc, with the subject this time being technology and how it can be used for destruction, but also for life-changing progress. Much of the intrigue this time is based around the plans for an ancient battleship which is so powerful that it could destroy the world. Considering this comic's nation of origin, this might seem like a commentary on nuclear weapons, but some complications are added to the viewpoint in a multi-chapter flashback that describes the relationship between the characters Iceberg, Franky, and their mentor, Tom. We learn that while Tom and his company of shipwrights were spending years developing the sea train which bring about the economic recovery of Water Seven, Franky was spending all his free time building battleships that he could use to hunt sea monsters, which didn't sit so well with Iceberg:

And what's more, he gets proven right when a government agent, intent on getting his hands on the plans for the ancient weapons which Tom has been hiding, has his men steal Franky's fleet of battleship prototypes and attack the judicial ship which was there to render judgment on Tom for building a ship for the legendary pirate Gold Roger (he had been granted a stay of execution in order to build the sea train), causing untold death and destruction. When confronted with what his hand had wrought, Franky tries to renounce his creations, but he gets upbraided by Tom for it:

This speech tends toward "guns don't kill people, people kill people" rhetoric, but even if you don't agree with it, it's a thought-provoking look at the technology that people create and how it can be used for good or ill. I'm not sure I buy the idea that innovators don't bear any responsibility for their creations, but Tom has shown that he has people's best interests at heart, even if his creations can be twisted into something they weren't intended for. I expect there will be more examination of the concept to come, especially involving the condemnation that has been levied (in the "present day") upon Straw Hats crew member Nico Robin for having the ability to translate the ancient language and actually bring the legendary weapon into existence. Is there knowledge that is inherently evil? Are there concepts that humanity can't be entrusted with? That's heady stuff for a shonen manga, but Oda incorporates it into his story with flair, adding nearly unthinkable stakes to the battle that his heroes are fighting. I can't wait to see how it turns out.

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