Monsters: 103 Mercies Dragon Damnation Review
Before he became the man who created One Piece, Eichiro Oda was a young man who aspired to become a mangaka. In the 1990s, he cut his teeth in the industry with a series of one-shots that would be published in a collection after One Piece started, but one in particular stood out. So much so that Oda would eventually incorporate it into the overall story of One Piece itself. Almost thirty years after it was published, this one-shot has been adapted into an ONA on Netflix. While Monsters: 103 Mercies Dragon Damnation doesn’t reach the same levels of action and silliness as One Piece does, it demonstrates the groundwork for what would later become Oda’s massive success.
A One Piece Prequel
Taking place several hundred years before the events of One Piece in an unknown location, Monsters revolves around Ryuma, a wandering swordsman with a few eccentricities. Chief among them, he’s constantly begging for food, always repays his debts, and considers anyone who bumps into the scabbard of his sword as challenging him to a duel. That seemingly comes back to bite him when a passing con man frames him for trying to attack him and uses a horn to summon a giant dragon. However, there’s more to the story than people realize…
The main that should stick out regarding this ONA is how familiar the main character, Ryuma, feels. With his appearance, wandering nature, and skill and dedication to the sword, one would assume that he’s the prototype for Roronoa Zoro from One Piece. They’re not wrong, as Oda would refine many of Ryuma’s traits into Zoro. It’s more than that, though. After the end to the Wano Country Arc, Oda confirmed in an OBS that Zoro is, in fact, a direct descendant of Ryuma. This only makes the events of the ONA all the more important to the greater lore of One Piece. In addition, the special ends with the moment when Zoro bested the zombified Ryuma during the Thriller Bark arc, earning his sword and (unknowingly) the right to call himself his descendant.
Not that Zoro would ever care about something like that.
The Seeds to Oda’s Success
Look closer at Monsters, and one will also find some of the concepts and ideas that Oda would incorporate into One Piece. Besides the dragon, there are two main villains. One is a hammy bandit that wouldn’t look out of place next to Buggy the Clown, while the other acts like they’re the good guy, only for it to be a facade. One is a card-carrying bad guy, the other is more insidious, but both are bad news. And both are the kinds of enemies that the protagonists usually fight in One Piece.
The special itself is short, only clocking in at about 25 minutes. However, it makes up for it by capturing the anachronistic feel of the original one-shot, the art style of the anime, and Oda’s sense of comedy. Getting to see a creator’s early work adapted and comparing it to what they’re most famous for is an interesting experience. And while Monsters isn’t as grand, silly, or epic as One Piece would become, you can see the seeds of what Oda would one day create.
Overall, Monsters is less of a must-watch for 2024, and more of a gift for longtime fans of Eichiro Oda. If you ever wanted to see more of what Oda did in his youth and how it would help shape the mangaka he would become, though, I’d recommend giving Monsters a watch.
Also, if you want to read the original one-shot, Viz Media just published it onto their website. Click this link to see it for yourself.