Romance Dawn refers to two stories written by Eiichiro Oda before One Piece but set in a similar world. While a first-year junior high school student, he began sketching out ideas for a pirate-themed manga in a notebook, in pencil. Years later, as an assistant to Rurouni Kenshin author Nobuhiro Watsuki, he began refining his ideas into what would become "Romance Dawn", and later, One Piece. All 3 versions were published in Weekly Shonen Jump magazine, with the final incarnation published exactly one year after the first. The author made significant alterations to the premise and plot over the course of the three chapters, which are examined in-depth below.
Evolution of Romance Dawn
The Romance Dawn series represents the evolution of Oda's art style from his early works like Monsters to the artstyle used in One Piece. By the time V.2 was drawn, Oda's overall style of drawing was much closer to that of the beginning of the series.
Out of the characters in the storyline, only Luffy appears in all versions. In particular, Luffy's personality also evolves in all three versions; it was much more in keeping with the series by V.2 but ultimately, even in the final version, he was not as smart as he appeared in the first version of "Romance Dawn". Romance Dawn V.2 progresses in some ways towards the ultimate serialized version of One Piece. He also started out with no named attacks in V.1 but had a named attack in V.2 called "Right Hand Stopper" (though it does not fit the formula of his attacks in One Piece).
Only Shanks appeared in more than one version of the storyline. According to the author, having moved from a special issue of Jump showcasing new artists to Weekly Jump proper, he wanted to keep Luffy's backstory with Shanks a surprise, and thus rewrote it (arguably into a less-compelling form) so that Luffy's grandfather gave him the straw hat, instead.
Luffy's grandfather was originally believed to have been solely an addition to this version of "Romance Dawn" in order to keep Luffy's true back story a secret; no mention had been made of him at all in the first nine years of One Piece's serialization. Yet in late 2006, Luffy's grandfather was revealed as none other than the previously-introduced Vice Admiral Garp, bearing the same character design as his "Romance Dawn" predecessor. However, it is unclear how long the author had this in mind, as Garp appeared to be a minor character at best when he was first introduced. It is also worthy of note that, while his personality is the same, his character has changed dramatically: far from being a pirate himself, he is a high-ranking Naval officer, who had hunted down the famed Pirate King on multiple occasions. In this context, Garp disapproves greatly of his grandsons' decision to become pirates, and lays the blame squarely upon Shanks. Nevertheless, regardless of his "apocryphal" appearance in this version of "Romance Dawn", Luffy's grandfather managed to survive as a character in the transition to One Piece.
All three versions of the storyline have a similar looking female character who appears in the storyline. However, Oda's final chosen female Nami does not appear in the final version of Romance Dawn and instead appears several chapters later. The first two are Silk (in V.1) and Ann (in V.2).
Gally would see two incarnations appear in anime format; one during the Loguetown Arc and a second in a special based on the Romance Dawn V.1 storyline. He would later appear several years later in the final version, making a small cameo at the end of the Whole Cake Island Arc. In addition, Silk also appeared in the V.1 anime special, and Ann, Balloon and Spiel made their anime appearance in a special based on the V.2 storyline.
A few of Shanks' background crew members seen in Romance Dawn V.1 seemed to be reincarnated as proper full members of Shanks' crew; Lucky Roux appear to be based loosely on a fat member of V.1 Shanks' crew and Yassop of a headband wearing crewmen.
Even during Version 1 of Romance Dawn, it can be observed that many of the basic elements of One Piece are already present, albeit in a rather undeveloped form. Monkey D. Luffy is already there in his usual outfit, wears the straw hat given to him by Red-Haired Shanks (who saved Luffy's life at the cost of his left arm), and came to have his rubber powers by eating the Gomu-Gomu Fruit. Even in V.2 the Gomu Gomu Fruit is described as the fruit of a particular tree, rather than a Devil Fruit. This, combined with Spiel's use of witchcraft in V.2 (which is not mentioned, at least overtly, within One Piece), can be taken as evidence that Oda either had not yet formulated, or at least wished to keep secret, the larger concept of Devil Fruits as they exist in One Piece. Indeed, some panels from the first chapter of One Piece, including dialogue, were meticulously redrawn with very little alteration from this version of Romance Dawn (it was for this reason that the author chose the second version of the chapter for inclusion in his one-shot anthology Wanted!).
Luffy's chief motivation for becoming a pirate, rather than becoming the Pirate King or obtaining the One Piece, is to have lots of adventures. There is no mention whatsoever of Gold Roger or his treasure in either of the early One Piece pilots. Luffy's self-identification as a candidate for pirate, rather than a full-fledged one, is utterly foreign to the world of One Piece, where anyone who raises the Jolly Roger is considered a pirate. Similarly, the designations of "Morgania" and "Peace Main" appear nowhere in One Piece, where most pirates seem to have a mix, to varying degrees, of adventuring and plundering tendencies. The terminology "Peace Main" and "Morgania" from the first "Romance Dawn" continue to be used in V.2 but were ultimately dropped for the final storyline. These ideas were ultimately scrapped before the final version of "Romance Dawn", and the pirates in the series seem to occupy more of a continuum between the two extremes. Even so, Luffy and Shanks still undoubtedly represent the ideals of the "Peace Main" concept.
The Marines are not even considered as a possible means of repulsing Gally and Spiel; while this does not mean it does not outright exist in this version of the story (since practical concerns, not to mention disgust for the World Government, might override such considerations), it is nevertheless unmentioned in both versions.
- "Dawn" is also the name of Luffy's native island.
- The name of this series has also been adapted into the first serialized chapter of the final product of One Piece; in One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3, the first playable chapter stage from the Legend Log mode also follows suit.
- Weekly Shonen Jump 2019 Issue 18 - The Romance Dawn animated special is first announced.