A One Piece Prequel Just Hit Netflix, And It’s Essential Viewing for Fans
Monsters 103 Mercies Dragon Damnation is a thrilling companion to the legendary anime.
One Piece is one of the biggest anime and manga around; a simple yet complex story of adventure that juggles all kinds of genres and tones seamlessly — going from a Scooby-Doo horror-comedy story, to a samurai tale in a land full of dinosaurs, and more. The secret ingredient to what makes One Piece so great, however, is its incredible worldbuilding. This is one of the biggest and most detailed anime universes in fiction, up there with Tolkien's Legendarium.
That is what makes Netflix's latest anime release Monsters 103 Mercies Dragon Damnation not only a great watch for newcomers but an essential watch for One Piece fans. The 25-minute anime adapts One Piece creator Eiichiro Oda’s 1994 one-shot manga Monsters, which predates One Piece by three years. It follows Ryuma, a wandering samurai on a quest to become the world's greatest swordsman, who stumbles upon a village terrorized by a dragon.
As a standalone anime, Monsters is short, brisk, and memorable. Regardless of your level of familiarity with One Piece, it’s an engaging watch: This is but a simple and effective folk tale about a heroic swordsman achieving a great feat. It helps that Ryuma is an archetypical anime hero — an endearing, cocky, funny guy with a heart of gold. E&H Production, led by Seong-Hu Park who directed Season 1 of Jujutsu Kaisen, gives the one-shot a worthy anime adaptation, with some fantastic visual choices — such as a sword duel that briefly leaves all color behind to become a moving sketch, bringing forth the sheer power and speed of the warriors.
For longtime One Piece fans, however, Monsters is full of great references and connections that enhance the experience of watching the main series. After all, the character of Ryuma was carried over to the main One Piece manga in chapter 450, with creator Eiichiro Oda confirming it is the same character in a Q&A segment of the manga.
We first meet Ryuma as a zombie in the Thriller Bark arc, referred to as a legendary swordsman from the distant land of Wano. By the time the story finally reaches Wano, we learn Ryuma is revered as a swordsman so great he is called a Sword God, as a legend who fought a dragon, and who turned Wano into a world-renowned land of samurai. He is also important to the main story by being an ancestor of Roronoa Zoro, the first mate of One Piece protagonist Monkey D. Luffy.
Watching Monsters does for Zoro what One Piece constantly does for Luffy and the Pirate King Gol D. Roger: it draws a line between legends of old and the newcomers inheriting their legacy. The one-shot anime is full of parallels between Ryuma and Zoro. They are both out to become the world's greatest swordsman, are driven by unwavering resolve to become masters of their craft, and also delight in meeting a challenge. Having the voice actor for Zoro narrate the short legitimizes this as a One Piece spinoff and gives the story a nice little bow as context for Zoro's ancestry, while possibly teasing his future achievements.
For the longest time, it was only the character of Ryuma that was canon, not the story itself. This makes sense given the big discrepancies between them, such as the location of Ryuma's fight with the dragon. The anime adaptation changes some details, which in turn gives the story an air of a legend that is passed down and changed over the generations. The result is a retcon that turns the one-shot into a proper prequel to One Piece, including an ending tag that ties into Ryuma's first appearance in the Thriller Bark arc and Ryuma admitting defeat to Zoro and giving him his sword. After watching Monsters, that moment takes a new meaning as a passing of the torch, an acknowledgment from one generation to the other. Even the title of the anime supports this, as "103 Mercies Dragon Damnation" is the name of a finishing move Zoro uses against one of his strongest opponents during the Wano arc of One Piece.
It is also fun to see how Oda liked the designs from this one-shot so much he reused them in One Piece. Zoro looks just like Ryuma (including how post-time skip Zoro is missing an eye just like Ryuma) and even how Shirano's design is reminiscent of the design of Mihawk. Having both sets of adversaries look so alike connects to the inherited will theme of One Piece: It’s about stories that carry on from one generation to the next, and from one anime to another.
Monsters 103 Mercies Dragon Damnation is now streaming on Netflix.
This article was originally published on