One Piece of what?

Since returning home to Ireland from Japan, Latimer has begun to wonder- what is One Piece and why was it stalking her across Tokyo?

Latimer: I am a massive manga and anime (subbed) fan. I follow, what I term, two ‘epics’- Naruto and Bleach.

While some would say, you like cartoons seriously? I would reply; stories are stories, no matter the media… and I love a good story!

Naruto (by Kishimoto Masashi) started out initially as the story of a very annoying child. But as it progressed it turned out to be a very deep story; one of friendship, love, loss and betrayal. Naruto as a main character grows as the series progresses and becomes an actual inspirational figure in his world. No, he isn’t the strongest; no, he isn’t the best looking and NO he isn’t the coolest. But, he is the most courageous and determined. He comes to embody a true hero; someone who never gives up and will sacrifice everything to save his friends and even random strangers. It’s actually a great story about the growth of the individual (not just Naruto, but all the characters, villians and goodies alike).

Then there’s Bleach (by Tite Kubo). The story of an ordinary boy, Kurosaki Ichigo (not that ordinary as it turns out) who becomes a substitute Shinigami (or ‘death god’/soul reaper). He reaps ghosts that have become wild, beast-like creatures called ‘hollows’. The story really comes into its own when the real Shinigami (a woman called Rukia) who appointed Ichigo as a substitute Shinigami, is arrested for doing just that. The story gets some real pace when we are introduced to the Captains of Soul Society (the Shinigami world).

I wouldn’t say that Bleach has the emotional heart of Naruto (Ichigo is typical shounen (boys) manga main character material- he’s strong and keeps getting stronger and has powers likely beyond anyone that’s ever existed).

Ichigo isn’t as limited as Naruto in terms of strength, which lessens his chance of having the same emotional draw. It actually highlights the importance of character flaws. It is often stated in the DC comic and Marvel comic worlds, that all superheroes must have a cap on their abilities, otherwise we can’t understand or respect their struggles- ultimately for us mere mortals to fully connect with a character we must see that they are at least in part, as crap as us!

That aside, Ichigo’s story is very intriguing and when he gets strong enough to stand up to someone- it’s great! But there’s only so many battles that that can stay cool for.

I enjoy both Naruto and Bleach for different reasons. But, as Naruto is my first epic (Bleach is Ridley’s) it has a slightly bigger place in my heart.


One Piece (my Tokyo stalker) is older than both Bleach and Naruto. I know this because Wikipedia told me.

I thought because Bleach and Naruto were massive in the West, we wouldn’t be able to move for Bleach and Naruto junk in Tokyo.

Oh, how wrong I was… instead I was stalked around the city by ONE PIECE… it was in the shops, on the subway… in the cinema… at the airport… it was FOLLOWING me and I knew nothing about it! That always annoys me.

It’s supposed to be a fantastic story. It is extremely popular… and the marketing was working on me… I wanted to know about it.

So, I decided I would A) do a One Piece Stalking me post, and B) in order to do this, I would watch 1 episode of One Piece.

It’s an epic story (551 episodes long TO DATE). The manga is a staggering 15 years old this August (and still ONGOING)!

I can’t commit to this; but I am curious (good marketing Tokyo… very good).

So, I am now going to watch my first episode (before this, I’ll get some tea, in my new Moomin Cup I got in Harajuku’s Kiddyland- that’s a shop, by the way!).

Okay, now I’m ready to go… (I will record initial thoughts):

(Pirates… uh-oh, not a fan of the sea)

(One Piece is some mythical treasure)

(That orange-haired girl has massive hands)

(Damn, this cup is SMALL… but that’s a fine cup of tea if I do say so myself- Lyons Tea, are you listening?)

(I’ve learned new words: Muri desu- ‘it’s impossible’. ‘KAIZOKU’ is a pirate- interesting because ‘kazoku’ is family- so you got to be careful when saying KAIzoku and KAzoku! Makes me wonder; have I ever said; “there are 5 people in my pirate”, in my old Japanese classes?)

(Monkey… the main character is called Monkey?)

(Monkey reminds me of Naruto- he’s pretty annoying… but this likely means he has great potential as a main character?)

(Monkey ate a fruit that makes him essentially elastic… and therefore strong? Yep. Someone (a massive ‘woman’ pirate that looked like a man) just hit him with a giant Morningstar and he was fine)

(He is a lone pirate looking for a crew. Obviously that means the orange-haired girl anyway)

(End: if someone could download the story into my head, then fine, but I can’t watch 551 episodes…)

I’ll tell you what though, I am very interested in something as a result of one split moment… The orange-haired girl was running around in the background of the whole episode, looting from the pirates. Then, she’s escaping off the ship at the end of the episode; Monkey is also. His escape boat crashes down beside hers, spraying her with a wave of seawater (she screams). Then, the camera shot slows down and they look at each other for a brief moment…

My lasting thought… do they fancy each other? Does Monkey have a thing for the Orange-haired girl? I know she’s important because…

she was on the cover of the orange-juice I bought!

Advertising Jungle

Below are just a few of the advertisements here in Tokyo. They can be found on the televisions, large screens on the buildings around the city, in shops and on the subways. It’s not hard to notice that no matter where you go, there is always something for sale or being pushed at you. So here are a few of them….

Ridley: I really don’t know what it is about this video, but it’s just so creepy. The guy playing the tiger is a brilliant dancer, I’ll give him that much. I don’t know why, it’s a combination of the music, the movements he makes and also the little tail movements. Cool, but creepy. And as with all the advertisements over here, we’ve finally worked out what they’re singing (after quite a bit of debate I might add), it’s ‘Ultra Ultra Ultra-book’. The dancer is also in an advertisement that shows in the cinema here (we went to MIB 3 here, for the experience!). The ad is for discouraging illegal filming of the movies. He also dances like this but with a giant camera on his head. That too is creepy. 

Latimer: This ad makes my skin crawl; the sound, the way he moves, the setting- yuck! I feel like my soul has been violated! (He’s a brilliant dancer though!)

Ridley: PonPon girl, as I call her, is everywhere here. There are advertisements in the subways, on little trucks that trundle passed playing her music, in magazines, on TV adverts for fizzy drinks and also on shopping bags carried around by people. I think she’s mad looking, a bit like an Asian Lady GaGa.

Latimer: She’s been following us from station to station and bookshop to bookshop. Leave us be, woman! The song is catchy; but MENTAL… The video is just plain crazy- if I had epilepsy it would give me seizures.

Ridley: I’ve really grown to like this song *rocks side to side with a smile*.

Latimer: No you haven’t, it makes you sick after awhile, that’s not normal.

Ridley: Perhaps….pon pon poooon…

Latimer: Why are the Moomin’s so popular in Japan? A strange Finnish cartoon from the 80’s. Apparently, they now sell Suzuki cars in Japan! Hyaku-pa-cento (100%). That’s all I get out of it. It’s catchy; periodically I will turn to Ridley and sing; “Hyaku-pah-cent-ooh”. It has amused us; the easily amused.

Ridley: I didn’t know what the crazy Moomin witch (and Latimer) were saying for ages. Since I’ve been here, I’ve never had so many words I don’t know spoken at me, I’ve perfected the art of the half smile and non-committed nod. It will get me in trouble one day.

Latimer: There’s a One Piece movie coming out soon and so, it is EVERYWHERE in Japan at the moment. They are in every 7 eleven shop. I don’t watch it, but I am half-thinking I should, but the likelihood is slim. I can’t commit to something that epic any more. I’m not as young as I used to be. 

Ridley: Those twenty-five year old bones of yours are creaking pretty badly these days, Lat! Mwhaa. For the record, I have no intention of being sucked in by the bombardment of all the One Piece advertising, I have no time for it, not when I’m barely getting round to seeing my Bleach and Naruto episodes!

Metro Madness

Ridley: I just had the subway ride from hell. I couldn’t even engineer some of the situations that I end up getting myself into. On the way back from the Alice in Wonderland restaurant in Ginza (more on that later), we took the subway back to our hotel. The carriage was mental, absolutely packed! I was squashed up against two people in particular. There was one boy and his girlfriend to my right and slightly behind me. As the train slowed to a stop, we both moved further in and away from each other to clear some more space for other people, I was jerked backwards. I looked behind me at the same time as the boy did, to find part of my jeans (the loop of material with the brand symbol-see picture) had somehow caught on a zipper on his backpack. (How I ask you!? Only me…) Now, I’m sure as he felt the tug at his bag, he was thinking, who the hell is stealing from me, while I was panicking with ‘aaah, someone’s got my ass, I’ve heard this happens on the subway!’ He slipped off his schoolbag, as I leant round and tried to unhook myself but I couldn’t see properly. So I let the boy have a go. He alternated between trying to help and putting his hands up as if afraid I was going to accuse him of molesting me, which at this point I wanted to tell him I didn’t care as long as he freed me and I got my ass back. I think he even turned to his girlfriend to reassure her that he wasn’t doing just that. She was craning her neck around his shoulder to see what was happening. My face was a bright tomato red by now. As we struggled, the doors opened and a wall of people mashed into us, we were shoved closer together. It was hot, stuffy and we were laughing and saying sorry in English and Japanese all at the same time, as we fumbled down at my backside and the new people frowned and peered over at us. Thankfully, his girlfriend reached round and freed me. Just in time. I turned away with a final sorry and thanks, only to have the train suddenly shoot forward. I fell back on a few people and grabbed a girl in front of me. Her face filled with such panic it was hilarious (well now it is funny, not then), but it was probably a mirror expression of my own face as I realised her arm was like a twig and it wasn’t going to save me. I thankfully regained my balance, on a man’s foot, and then began another round of apologies, while we all kinda chuckled and my red cheeks steamed with embarrassment. Latimer, of course, was in stitches and so far away from me, she could pretend she didn’t know me. At the next stop, I lunged out through the doors, far away from the carriage of strangers that I hope to never meet again!

Latimer: Up until this very moment Ridley had thought I knew what was going on. Let me now enlighten you…. We were separated- Ridley was sucked into a crowd of people. I hung back at the doors of the train. I was bent backwards at an approximate 90 degree angle, grabbing at one of those hanging hoops you use to steady yourself. Behind me, a man sat reading his paper; in my timeline, I was praying “do not fall on the man! DO NOT FALL ON THE MAN!” while Ridley is strapped to some random man’s bag. I of course had no idea. She’d been sucked to some otherworld as far as I was concerned. Then I turned and saw her looking at me, eyes wide as if to say “ehh?”. The girls in front of her were laughing. I started laughing; then we were all looking at each other laughing. I looked and laughed to Ridley, girls, back to Ridley. In my head “yeah, it’s mad, we are all squashed on the train together… it’s mad? Isn’t it mad… Ridley, girls, Ridley?”. Laugh, Laugh, Laugh…. then we struggled out of the train at the next stop. And I learned the truth of why everyone was laughing. Well, at least everyone thought I knew what was going on… I came off pretty good… ha!