24 May 2017



I'm up to my eyes in animé at the moment, but that's okay. The more I watch the more I learn, and my animé -and- Japanimation-obsessed kids are always happy to fill in any gaps in my education.

I'm pretty knowledgeable off my own bat these days, though, and now I'm going to attempt to review for you all two of the longest-running animé series in living memory, the other two being BLEACH and FAIRYTAIL. Look at me and how knowledgeable I'm being, haha. (That snippet of gossip came from my kids...!)

ONE PIECE has so many episodes in it that, if you're new to it and fancy a good old binge-watch, you'll be here till Kingdom come, which is great. There's nothing like a good old binge-watch and, sadly, most of them are over far too quickly. That's why ONE PIECE is such good value for money. Here's an overview of the plot, as far as I understand it to be.

The animé adaptation of the ONE PIECE manga series (written and illustrated by Eiichira Oda) started broadcasting in Japan in 1999. It's produced by TOEI STUDIOS and it's the story of a cute little fellow called Monkey D. Luffy. He's the leader of an adorable raggle-taggle motley crew of pirates known as the Straw Hat Pirates, so called because of Luffy's choice of headgear.

As they're pirates, you'd probably expect them to do piratey stuff, right? Well, there wasn't much evidence of plank-walking or a parrot that repeatedly squawks 'Pieces of eight! Pieces of eight!,' but their main interest is definitely piratey. 

They're treasure-hunters, see, just like true pirates, and they sail the world looking for the world's ultimate treasure (known as One Piece) so that Luffy can become the pirate king of the world or some such title.

It's great for Luffy, of course, but I'm not sure what's in it for his team-mates. Besides, treasure is a mug's game, isn't it? Look what happened to the Nazi treasure hunters in that INDIANA JONES film, or to Homer Simpson of THE SIMPSONS any of the times he's chased fool's gold to a pointless or ignominious conclusion. Anyway, it's not our place to judge. The Straw Hat pirates are on the hunt for ONE PIECE and that's that. Who are we to stand in their way?

When we come in (Collection 16: Episodes 371-393), the gang are battling a pair of hideous monsters called Oats and Moria, two of the Seven Warlords (apparently that's a big deal in this universe!), who've stolen everyones' shadows and won't give 'em back. No, I haven't got a clue what they want 'em for, but they've nicked 'em and they're intent on keeping 'em. Until Luffy and his gang decide they're not gonna take this rank insult lying down...

The crew just want to get their shadows back and set sail again on their travels, much like Jason and his Argonauts going off in search of the Golden Fleece. Luffy activates his special super-power, which is that his body took on the properties of rubber after he ate something called a Devil Fruit. I always knew that no good would ever come of eating fruit. Like broccoli in THE SIMPSONS, it even tries to warn you itself with its disgusting taste and smell...!

A battle ensues for the 1,000 shadows stolen and seemingly ingested by Moria. Didn't his mother ever tell him that eating a thousand of anything at any one time could cause major indigestion? There's a chance that Moria might just self-destruct with the burden of everything he's got inside him. That's if Luffy and his Rocksteady Crew don't get to him first...

GATCHAMAN CROWD INSIGHTS is the story of a group of Earth-defenders known as 'Gatchaman.' They're ordinary human beings initially, I do believe, but when they're chosen to be 'Gatchaman,' which is a great honour, they change appearance and are gifted with super-powers that enable them to battle against any threats to world peace. 'Gatchaman' are really big on world peace, which is nice. It certainly beats the s**t out of world war, anyway.

In these episodes, a bright, bubbly and enthusiastic young high school student called Tsubasa is chosen to be a 'Gatchaman.' She initially wanted to go into the fireworks festival business, but her destiny decrees otherwise. Good job the two professions are so similar to each other, haha.

She's thrilled about her new role in life, although she finds it hard to manage the 'change-over.' She's supposed to hold up her smartphone thing and utter the immortal words 'Bird, Go!' It's a bit like the Power Rangers saying 'It's Morphin Time!' 'Morphin Time...?' Surely 'Morphine Time' would be much more fun, haha. Ooops. Are there any kids reading this...?

Anyway, after she's said the words, Tsubasa is supposed to 'change' into a glamorous 'Gatchaman' with special powers. Unfortunately, she takes her sweet time getting the hang of it. All I can say is that it's a jolly good job that Clark Kent didn't 'take his time' when he was changing into Superman, or that Lynda Carter (aka Diana Prince) didn't take her time when she was morphing into Wonder Woman. God alone knows how many crooks and evil-doers would have evaded the long arm of the law if they had...

The villains in GATCHAMAN are a terrorist organisation known as VAPE, nothing to do with a method of stopping smoking as far as I know...! Describing themselves as 'violent pacifists,' an obvious contradiction in terms, they want to replace the good blue 'CROWDS' with bad red 'CROWDS,' which is something that the GATCHAMAN must prevent at any cost. I know what you're thinking. What the bloody hell are the titular 'CROWDS...?'

The official definition is as follows: 'CROWDS' can materialise their consciousness anywhere in an instant. The users' thoughts appear on their faces, looking like a fuzzy LCD monitor. Use with extreme caution.' 

In other words, they are our thoughts and emotions given a physical form. They are mostly good and often volunteer to clean up after major disasters and suchlike. 'CROWDS' can be used by the public and are a positive force, a force for good.

Unless they're red, in which case they are rogue 'CROWDS' let loose by VAPE to play pranks or commit evil deeds in order to give 'CROWDS' a bad name and turn the public against them. The GATCHAMAN are very much a force for good themselves. They want to protect the Earth and promote peace. How will they react when they see the good blue 'CROWDS' having to battle the red rogue ones for the safety of the Earth?

There's a cute alien in this who can make peoples' thoughts appear in bubbles above their heads. Everyone in the show seems to welcome this gift but I can't think of anything worse than having other people knowing my innermost thoughts, especially if they're mucky, haha.

There's also an adorable talking panda who runs a daycare centre, there's some gender-bending and some cross-dressing and there's even a smartphone governmental election, by which I mean that people could download a voting app and cast their vote for various government officials via their smartphones. 

Funnily enough, that sounds to me exactly like the shape of things to come, and not just in Japan, either. There's a gloomy thought. Let's all bow down to our smartphone overlords. As if we don't already, haha.

Finally, the GATCHAMAN have an overlord themselves, a boss who leaves them vague messages and obscure prophecies for them to decipher. Like Charlie from CHARLIE'S ANGELS, haha. Wouldn't a yellow post-it note stuck to their computers work just as well...?

Both ONE PIECE (UNCUT) and GATCHAMAN CROWDS INSIGHTS are out now on special release from MANGA UK and ANIMATSU, which is great news for any fans or wanna-be fans of the two series. There's so much in them that they're great value for money and they're terrific fun in any case.

I must go now and, erm, defend the planet from marauding, um, zombie pirates like the ones from ONE PIECE. Let me just activate my superhero alter-ego. 

BIRD, GO...! BIRD, GO...! I said, 'BIRD, GO!'  Why won't it work for me? I'm as good as those flippin' GATCHAMAN kids any day. Aren't I? Ah, feck it. I'll just take a cab. Taxi...!


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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