One Piece Diaries #43 – Thriller Bark Arc #1
by Anna Lindwasser
One Piece is one of the most beloved anime in history, but at over 1,000 episodes, it’s tough for those who haven’t been watching from the start to jump on board. One Piece Diaries tracks one writer’s experience with this daunting rite of passage. With hype for the highs and critique for the lows, this column will help you decide whether to take your own One Piece journey – or let you relive the one you’re already on. It will update biweekly every other Thursday.
Episodes Watched: 337 – 347 – Thriller Bark Arc
This will be the first of several Thriller Bark arc reviews. There’s so much to talk about that there’s no way I can possibly cram it all into one – you’d get tired of reading and my fingers would fall off.
In this arc, the Straw Hats are tricked into visiting a seemingly haunted mansion. The mansion is home to Dr. Hogback, a renowned medical professional who disappeared from society, and a ton of zombies who all seem to have been created from living people and animals.
They also meet Brook, a living skeleton who came back from the dead thanks to his Revive-Revive Fruit but wasn’t able to find his body before it decomposed, and who is now trapped in the Florian Triangle because Gecko Moria stole his shadow and he can’t leave until he gets it back.
There are a few other notable characters too – Perona, a girl dressed in lolita-ish outfits who controls ghosts, Absalom, a man with a lion’s face who wants to marry Nami and is a total pervert about it, and Cindry, Dr. Hogback’s resentful zombie assistant.
The overall atmosphere of Thriller Bark is a joy. I started it just before Halloween, so the timing was perfect. Not to say that it was scary, per se. The zombies were hilarious, as was Luffy’s completely nonchalant reaction to them. The guy literally tamed a Cerberus through mild intimidation and pushed a zombie back into the ground! I still laugh whenever I think about it. Scary or not, they were still on theme.
One of my favorite things about this arc so far is that Dr. Hogback seems to be based on Dr. Moreau from H.G. Wells’ classic sci-fi horror novel The Island of Dr. Moreau. I read it for the first time earlier this year after realizing that No Spill Blood by Oingo Boingo was based on it. I spent the summer totally obsessed with it, so it was delightful to see something that reminded me of it in any way. I’m really glad I read the book before watching this. If you like the parts of the Thriller Bark that involves weird experiments on animals, I recommend reading it – with the caveat that it’s an old book with a lot of totally outdated and horrendously offensive views about race.
A piece of art being offensive isn’t necessarily going to make me avoid it. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be watching One Piece. Because oh wow have these episodes been offensive.
I was really disappointed by Brook. His introductory scene, which involved his “yohohoho” laugh wafting spookily off of his ghost ship, was so much fun that I called my sister over to watch it with me. But the whole thing fell flat when he asked Nami if he could see her underwear. Way to make the concept of a giant skeleton who plays music feel gross instead of delightful.
I’ve talked before about why I don’t like perverted jokes in One Piece or in general. They’re a big fat middle finger to the female audience, most of whom will have experienced at least some street harassment if not a whole bevvy of other traumatizing events. I don’t watch pirating adventures to be reminded of what it’s like to be treated like garbage by men in the real world.
These jokes are there for the enjoyment of the intended teenage male audience. I don’t expect a show aimed at Japanese teenage boys to cater to me as an American woman in her 30s, but I think jokes like these are also harmful for those teenage boys. They teach them that it’s okay to be disrespectful to girls and women, or at least not to take them seriously when they talk about their experiences. Because it’s a joke.
These jokes are also bad from a story perspective. It makes Luffy look like a jerk, which I’m pretty sure isn’t the intention. What kind of leader insists on having someone join his crew when the first thing he did was sexually harass one of his crewmates? I know that Luffy can be selfish and that he doesn’t always think things through, but sexual harassment is serious. Just because Nami can deal with it by kicking the offender and doesn’t seem too shaken up afterward doesn’t make it okay to force her to live with someone who degrades her like that.
I don’t want to harp on this too much, but I couldn’t let his introduction pass without saying anything. I’ll probably find some reason to like Brook in the end, because if I couldn’t overlook personally offensive sexism I wouldn’t be able to enjoy most forms of media. But I don’t like it one bit.
I’m also pretty pressed about Absalom groping Nami in the shower, but oddly that bothers me less. That’s not because groping is somehow more acceptable than rude comments – it’s because Absalom is supposed to be a villain, so I’m not as mad about him doing terrible things. Brook, meanwhile, is supposed to be one of the good guys. Good guys don’t have to be flawless, but if they’re sexually harassing people in a series that does absolutely no work to interrogate that concept, we have a problem.
Hopefully, the next batch of episodes will have more non-gross things to talk about. I much prefer talking about what I liked than talking about what pissed me off, but I’m committed to being honest and doing both.
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