The Early Years: ROMANCE DAWN Nehszriah

Version Three

The final version of Romance Dawn, also the first chapter of One Piece, sets the story for what is this time going to become the world of One Piece. Most of it takes place in and around the East Blue village of Fuchia during Luffy’s childhood.

Years prior to the chapter’s story-line, the Pirate King Gol D. Roger was executed in Logue Town in the East Blue. Before his death he relayed a cryptic message concerning his fabled treasure. This sparked what became known as the Golden Age of Piracy, where everyone embarked on an adventure to find the late Pirate King’s treasure: One Piece.

A time later in the East Blue village of Fuchia, the crew of Red Haired Shanks is relaxing over at Party’s Bar. They are joined by a village boy, Luffy, who has recently sliced his face in order to prove that he is tough enough to go out to sea with them. The pirates scold him for this, amongst other things, while they party. These pirates seem to be nothing more than hardy-party men; they are quite relaxed and do not care they are making a mighty ruckus.

Suddenly a group of mountain bandits walk in, lead by Higuma the Bear. They scoff at the pirates’ presence and demand liquor. The only unopened bottle is in Shanks’s hand, which he kindly offers. Higuma smashes the bottle, furious that Shanks offered them the one measly bottle. Higuma belittles the pirates’ existence as he storms out while Shanks is cleaning up the glass, apologizing profusely to Makino.

Once the bandits were gone, the pirates laugh heartily. Luffy is confused and wants to go beat up the bandits, but Shanks refuses. He grabs onto Luffy’s arm to prevent him from going, only to find that the boy’s arm can now mysteriously stretch. While the pirates had been concerned with the bandits, Luffy had eaten a Devil Fruit that the crew had just acquired: the Gomu-Gomu no Mi… giving the boy stretchy-Gumby powers at the cost of never being able to swim.

Cut to a while later and Luffy has adjusted quickly to his newfound abilities, not minding them one bit. It is business as usual, including putting food on a “Treasure Tab” at Party’s Bar. Shanks and crew are scheduled to come back at any time, making it the perfect time for Higuma and his gang to pop back in. Luffy insults them for what they did to Shanks. Higuma decides that he is going to punish Luffy by beating him in the town square—and is quite baffled by the boy’s rubber qualities. The town mayor, Woop Slap, tries to buy Luffy’s freedom, but Higuma doesn’t bite. He draws his sword, ready to slice Luffy to ribbons.

Cue epic music and Shanks appears, wondering where his welcome party had run off to. He demonstrates his epic amount of power and orders Higuma to release “his nakama” (also translated as friend, comrade, etc. and is an importantly emphasized word throughout the series). Higuma, thinking this as a bluff, has his men attack Shanks. Benn Beckman, Shanks’s first mate, steps in and takes care of all the bandits by himself. Higuma, clearly outmatched, then uses a smoke-bomb and escapes with Luffy. Shanks panics and begins to frantically search for the two.

Higuma has fled out to the harbor, where he plans on escaping after dumping Luffy to become Sea King bait. He throws Luffy into the water, only to be quickly brought to justice by the sea king (being one of the rare deaths in the One Piece canon). Shanks comes just in time to save Luffy from drowning and frightens away the Sea King with a singular glare to boot. He tries to calm Luffy down, for Shanks has lost his arm to the Sea King. Luffy now knows why Shanks never wanted to bring him out to sea; the dangers are not something any man can take lightly.

Back at the village, Shanks prepares his crew to leave port for good. Luffy explains to Shanks that although he is sad that they are leaving for good, he won’t bug them to take him along. Instead, he declares, he is going to become the Pirate King with the best crew and largest treasure horde in the entire world. Shanks leaves Luffy with his trademark hat, instructing the kid to return it when he has made a name for himself. With that, the Red-Hair Pirates are off.

Ten years later, a seventeen-year-old Luffy sets out from the village in a little dinghy. He confronts the same Sea King that bit off Shanks’s arm and blasted it with a powerful punch. Luffy is ready to make it in the world.

As the first chapter of the final draft, this version of Romance Dawn is highly important as a prelude to the style and tone of the subsequent chapters. Although it merely seems like a stand-alone origin vignette, there are clear connections to the rest of the story scattered through the remaining chapters.

Shanks appears repeatedly afterwards to various degrees, at one point explaining that he bet his arm to the “new era”. With his varying connections with other pirates, Shanks has also proven to give much insight when the camera fades away to him for a chapter or so. Not only does Luffy’s Devil Fruit abilities last throughout the time gap and beyond, but as does his trademark scar and even some of his mannerisms. Luffy, as a character, grows up an incredible amount during the final version of Romance Dawn. He acquires his treasure and dream from an early age, amounting to a proud and arrogant claim by a little kid that becomes more realistic as time passes.

The later atmosphere is also set: having fun adventures without allowing the negative side of life to drag you down. Most of the main, secondary and tertiary characters have endured some sort of pain, mental, physical or both, yet still remain positive about their place in the world. (In layman’s terms: we have no stereotypical “emo” characters, where other series would have had to place in at least four or five within the 500+ chapters to date.) The only exception that can really be argued is the negativity of Usopp… but that is Usopp and we are just fine with that.

What is interesting about the final Romance Dawn happens to be often considered “minor details” by many fans. Shanks’s pirate ship shows the influence of the Viking culture on the author and his crew shows a preview of the immense power levels of what is to come. Also Nami appears in the very first color spread along with Luffy, Shanks, Benn Beckman, Lucky Roux, Yasopp and the Red-Hair Pirates… but that could simply be the author’s hyper-conclusive paranoia kicking in again.

The fan-translated editions of all three Romance Dawn installments are available through, translated by various scanlation groups. Remember that although online translations are quick and convenient, there is more than one reason why Naruto, Death Note and Bleach merchandise is ordered before One Piece products. Buy the manga by Viz/Shonen Jump and the anime by FUNimation and support this incredible series.

Date Published
10/01/08 (Originally Created: 09/30/08)
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