One Piece Color Walk Compendium Review by ZetoSoul
Hello everybody, I am aspiring artist ZetoSoul, and I have a review for something quite nice that I just got in my hands: The One Piece Color Walk Compendium by Eiichiro Oda. A fairly thick art book at about 300 pages that's filled with the color illustrations that appeared in the hit manga.
If you need an introduction to One Piece, I'll make it quick and say it's manga that's been in serialization since 1997 and it's Japan's most popular manga, too. Over 900 chapters compiled in at least 80 volumes, it details the adventures and battles of pirate captain Monkey D. Luffy and his straw hat pirate crew as they look for the titular treasure One Piece, which is said to make dreams come true. The world of One Piece is replete with goofy and tough pirates as well as enormous monsters about. But both luckily and unfortunately, the world has the mystical Devil Fruits that can can grant anybody who consumes them special abilities like elastic stretching, creating and controlling fire or being able to turn into a bird among other things. Luffy, his allies, and many of their foes have consumed these fruits, so that's part of what makes the adventure spicier.
Though Oda's goofy looking art style may come off as a turn off for those looking for a "mature" manga story with conventionally attractive character designs, it's still extremely fun to look at and juxtaposes his energetic, comical looking art with deep stories full of violence, sexuality, and political intrigue. Not to say his manga isn't full of cutesy stuff and funny slapstick gags, but it would be a huge mistake to take a quick glance at One Piece's art style and assume it's nothing but kiddy stuff. Now defunct dubbing studio 4kids Entertainment could've sure as heck told you it's not for really for elementary school kiddos.
Image Source: via Amazon's store page for the book
Back to the actual book itself, one of the first noticeable things is it's hard cover and it's 300 pages of material, which make it feel like premium material at first glance. The art work on the cover itself is adorned by Luffy and his crew having a merry time drinking tea while a kaiju-sized lion is in the back roaring among other creatures hanging nearby. Right off the bat, the cover itself is a good indicator of not just the art, but the raw energy of the One Piece universe.
Image Source: via Commodore Laz's video
Upon turning the first page, you'll notice a fold out spread where the Straw Hat pirates are all hiking to a place presumably full of color form an oddly monochromatic location with the other side bearing artwork of most of them brushing their teeth at a camp where a little duck fellow gazes at them. Truth be told, while I find that spread a fairly neat thing to include within the book itself, the fold out gives me another thing to worry about since it seemingly looks like the easiest thing to tear out. Perhaps don't leave the book by itself near small children if you want it in good condition. Despite my one small hang up about the foldout, you can tell that the paper is of a high quality and the printed artwork looks gorgeous and at home on that very paper.
Getting past the table of contents, we approach close to the real "meat" of the book itself. Every couple of pages or so are broken up into little sections with a time period and a map with different scenes from the comic itself before the main illustrations. (e.g. 1997.8.4-1997.9.29) After that map with the printed date, I see what I sought when I initially purchased the book: the very first color spread.
Image Source: via Reddit from u/Berisha11
While I don't consider the first spread to be among the best, it's still very lovely itself. Without paying much attention to it you can infer that the artist, Eiichiro Oda, was super excited to whip up that particular piece. It features a bunch of excited and hyped up characters hopping up in excitement or tossing, hugging treasure in front of an ocean. And from this work alone, a great quality precedent is set for decades to come. There's literally over a dozen characters and lots of little objects moving around the page and with a composition that's easy to read.
As you go through the book, you'll get to see Oda's techniques develop somewhat since it's six years of collected material. For instance, compare pages 18-19 (late 1997), the second full spread with pages 140-141 (early 2000) which both depict characters flying on dragons. The earlier work in comparison has thicker lines, colors that are a bit more primary, and makes more use of basic highlights making everything depicted look "cel-shaded". It's more cartoony than the latter work, but it is still very pleasant to look at.
Image Source: Viz's Youtube promo for the book
Image Source: via Reddit from u/Berisha11
The latter work shows a big jump in Oda's skills in less than three years of weekly serialization. The lines have gotten thinner, his color work now leans more toward secondaries or less basic colors, and with deeper shadows that are beginning to depict a nice painterly quality that adds a nice bit of texture. It should also be noted that the dragons/pterodactyls and clouds are getting more lifelike. But most of all, out of all the qualities of his growth, the thing that impresses me most is his use of perspective, with the giant dragon up close taking a large portion of the foreground and the dragon far off in the distance displaying the grandiose scope that One Piece has become known for.
The story itself in it's regular serialization are in black and white, but on occasion, some of the pages are presented in color, so those are collected here. It's a good refresher to see what happened thus far or maybe bask in nostalgia, but it certainly wouldn't amaze the average reader like the spreads, but I appreciate their inclusion because the artwork is still good and it helps complete the product.
Sprinkled throughout the book are "author's comments" and little notes from Oda himself. In those written sections, Oda talks about his creation process, his interests, or little musings he's had on his mind like a journal or a diary. Usually for the shorter written stuff, there's always a corresponding image to it, though the book itself trades off whether it's something from the manga itself or a unique illustration, which isn't always completely One Piece related. For instance, next to one of his author's notes is a drawing of Snoop Dogg and the only connection to the manga itself is the fact Snoop is wearing a Tony Tony Chopper hat.
Image Source: via Reddit
One of my favorite author's comments from near the end of the book (page 285) is when he was asked about a tough period in his life. A time early in his career where he kept making things he was super proud of but it never got the praise he would've liked. It made him super sad, but his editor trying to cheer him up comes up and says "I've never seen someone work as hard as you and not get rewarded for it eventually." So if you're struggling, remember that hard work, passion and business smarts will always reward you at some point.
Image Source: Viz's Youtube promo for the book
The last significant recurring thing in the book are his pieces of concept art which could be titled "Imagination" or "Early Days". I don't have too much to say about this, but I will say he does have some great quality sketches and the "Early Days" stuff is an interesting peek to what could've been and yet another reminder to how far Eiichiro Oda's art style has evolved.
At the very end, the actual "color" material basically stops and is replaced with the fittingly titled "Monochrome Talk" section. Monochrome Talk is a set of interviews where Eiichiro Oda talks to other artists and this particular book contains interviews with Akira Toriyama (Dragon Ball), Fujiko A. Fujio (Ninja Hattori) and Yoshitaka Amano (Final Fantasy). Oda is a big shot now, but it's fun to know that he is ultimately a fanboy too the moment he gushes at the chance to meet Toriyama and regards him as a god. As a fan of Toriyama's work myself, I would probably be a bit excited too. I am not familiar with Mr. Fujio's work, but once again, Mr. Oda meeting another one of his idols is a good time and his bit gave me a little insight about the "classic" 60-70s era of Shonen manga. Yoshitaka Amano's work is great too and he has an interesting process of making art (lithography - a method of stone painting), and I think it's a crime we still haven't gotten a 3D Final Fantasy title in his style. These interviews aren't what I came for, but I consider them a very welcome addition and it got me thinking about my own creative process as well as learning some fun facts about the creators that were interviewed. After the interviews, there's nothing really of note left besides an index with thumbnail sized versions of all the art in the book in cyan monochrome.
Overall, I think very highly of the book I purchased and I'm glad I was able to add it to my library. I respected Eiichiro Oda's work, but I appreciate it a bit more after thumbing through the book and seeing all this crazy, colorful stuff makes me want to make a bunch of crazy, colorful stuff myself. So if you see anything remotely resembling the high energy, perspective bending visuals of One Piece, then this article should be a confirmation to any suspicions you may have. The author notes and the interviews also further enrich the whole package and I highly recommend giving them a read, especially to any artists that are worried they aren't going to make it in the industry.
If you're interested in the book, it has a recommended retail price of $39.99 USA, but I snagged it for around 22 dollars on Amazon and it dropped to about 19 dollars days afterward. If you are into collecting art books, then the Color Walk Compendium is a nice addition to your collection. If you're a One Piece fan who still hasn't purchased any of the Color Walks, this volume comprises three of the original Color Walks in one hard cover book and it's going super cheap lately, so maybe snag a copy for yourself.
One Piece Color Walk Compendium: East Blue to Skypiea is available for purchase at the following stores according to publisher Viz's web page:
To top this whole article off, here's some of my favorite color spreads in the book.
Source images: via Reddit from u/Berisha11