Over the last decade, the cast of “One Piece” has grown to the point that there are innumerable characters that fans would love to learn the in-depth pasts of. The truth is, author Eiichiro Oda simply does not have the time to write all these stories himself. There just isn’t a reasonable place in the main story for everything fans want to see.
As a result, the fleshing out of certain characters has been outsourced into other mediums. “Ace’s Story” is the best example of this — a novelization of previously unpublished, canon “One Piece” content. While “Ace’s Story” isn’t directly written by Oda, author Sho Hinata has taken Oda’s character notes and turned it into a story that fleshes out Ace’s pirate journey and explores the kinds of people he met along the way.
However, to be honest, there isn’t a lot that I can praise this first volume for when reading with a critical eye.
Firstly, the prose in “Ace’s Story” is simplistic to the point of boredom. A seasoned reader will be reading down in level, and they won’t find anything compelling in the voice or style of the narrative. For me, part of the prose’s flaw is an effect of the first-person point of view.
The goal of “Ace’s Story” is in part to tell Ace’s story and also to flesh out the characters who were on his pirate crew. However, the story is told from the perspective of a character named Masked Deuce, a weak personality who is easily overshadowed. A first-person story is most effective when the goal is to explore that specific character’s mind, not somebody else’s.
I think using Masked Deuce as the narrator weakened the story dramatically. Had it been written in third person limited with shifting viewpoint characters, the goal of the story would’ve been achieved with far greater effect.
Another issue I had was with the brevity of the story. What I mean by that is that it hit far below my expectations. The novel is not an epic adventure through the Grand Line like we’ve seen in the manga, but instead it consists of three chapters, each a miniscule snapshot into different phases of the journey.
This novel had enough breathing room to extend for many tens-of-thousands of words, but instead provides fans with a venture into a kiddy pool rather than a deep dive into the sea. It reads like it was written in a day.
However, if I look at this from the angle of a “One Piece” fan, “Ace’s Story” does have merit that the “One Piece” films and videogames haven’t achieved, specifically because this story is entirely canon.
This first volume opens up a lot of cognitive doors when exploring “One Piece” as a series because the fates of these characters are yet unwritten, and they could still show up in the manga at some point and readers would already understand them.
With so many characters in the manga, fleshing out canon characters before their potential introduction into the manga would make the story sail along far more efficiently — a boon for a story nearing its thousandth chapter.
Another angle that this story really hit for me was in terms of thematic relevance to the manga. One of the biggest themes “One Piece” explores is that of gray morality, what it means to be a good person in a world of corrupt justice and rampant crime.
“One Piece” films and videogames tend to forget about the bigger messages the manga tells within its pages, but “Ace’s Story” tried to get at the heart of what makes “One Piece” great. Albeit, the story was incredibly brief, but it is not offensive to the franchise and is a decent supplement to the story as a whole for what it was.
For a young fan, somebody reading closer to an elementary level, “Ace’s Story” could provide a decent reading experience. Seasoned readers, on the other hand, shouldn’t expect anything big.
After reading the entire thing, I honestly have to say I don’t think the novel itself is worth the money it costs primarily because of how little content it actually provides. Volume two doesn’t come out in English until September, but the two volumes really should have been released as a single book.
The only thing that justifies spending money on “Ace’s Story” is that Oda’s hand drawn pencil sketches and character notes for all of Ace’s crew are printed into the back of the book. The pure novelty of having a copy of his rough sketches, getting a glimpse at his unrefined, previously unpublished art is something almost every fan would love to have. This is that shot.
At the end of the day, it acts as a decent supplement to the manga, but is unimpressive and is incapable of standing on its own.