This, the initial telling of "Romance Dawn," is 50 pages in length, and was first published as a one-shot in the Shōnen Jump 1996 Summer Special (an issue dedicated to the work of up-and-coming artists) on 4 August. One Piece fans sometimes refer to it as "Chapter 0" in the context of the series, because it is called this in One Piece Red: Grand Characters, where it is reprinted in its entirety along with a page of commentary by the author. An animated version of this story was made as part of a special OVA commemorating the 40th anniversary of Shonen Jump, in which One Piece is serialized. In the December 2009 issue of Shonen Jump, the one shot appeared in the magazine translated legally for the first time in America.
- Monkey D. Luffy (モンキー・D・ルフィ Monkī Dī Rufi?);
- The protagonist, an aspiring pirate with the power to stretch like rubber. His boat is called the Märchen (メルヘン Meruhen?), the German word for 'Fairy Tale').
- Red-Haired Shanks (赤髪のシャンクス Akagami no Shankusu?);
- Luffy's role-model, who saved his life and entrusted him with his straw hat. Now one of the most well-known pirates.
- Crescent-Moon Gally (三日月のギャリー Mikazuki no Gyarī?);
- One of the most fearsome pirates on the sea.
- Silk (シルク Shiruku?);
- A young girl who lives in the village attacked by Gally, and the abandoned child of a pirate.
The story opens with young pirate Monkey D. Luffy spotting a pirate ship in the distance, and setting his skiff, the Märchen (adorned with 4 different pirate flags), after it. Meanwhile, the residents of a town on the shore are panicking as they realize that the pirate ship of "Crescent-Moon Gally" is approaching. The mayor advocates paying off the pirates to save their town without a fight, but the townspeople argue that money will not be enough. Still, armed resistance would be too reckless to try. A young, sword-carrying woman named Silk speaks up, saying that they should fight, but the townspeople dismiss her, telling her that it would only make the problem a larger one. She resists this argument, but the mayor tells them that he will attempt to speak to the pirates while the rest of the town stays safe.
As the pirate ship arrives, the townspeople panic at the figure, whom they believe to be Gally. Luffy, however, has subdued Gally and his crew, and is now looking for somewhere to eat. Gally claims that he was only caught off-guard, and demands to know what Luffy thinks he's doing, but the young man replies that he did not want to fight, but Gally's men gave him no choice. Gally responds by saying that Luffy's made an enemy of one of the three most fearsome pirates there are, but realizes mid-sentence that Luffy is no longer there.
Luffy walks through the streets of the village, commenting on the lack of people. The mayor approaches him, asking for what he can do for the pirate, and Luffy asks where a restaurant is. The mayor hurriedly directs him to one, but panics after Luffy goes in when he realizes that Silk is also inside. Silk attacks him immediately, but Luffy hurriedly explains that he is not a pirate, but a candidate for one. As Luffy begins to eat, Silk comments on how weak he looked, and asks about Gally's ship. Luffy's attention, however, is solely on his food. Between bites, he begins to tell her how he's going to become a "Peace Main". He explains that there are different kinds of pirates in the world: the ones that go around indiscriminately plundering are called "Morgania," while those who go on lots of adventures are called "Peace Main". He wants to recruit Peace Main crew members, but the world is full of Morgania types, who just want to loot and plunder. He then asks Silk if she has any treasures. When she questions what he means, he tells her that his hat is his treasure, but it's not really his. A long time ago, a Peace Main pirate made the town where he lived his home port...
Luffy, as a child, is being made fun of by Red-Haired Shanks and his crew, who tell him that to be a pirate would be fatal for a Hammer like him. Luffy shouts that he will be okay as long as he does not fall overboard, so they should take him on their next voyage. Shanks tells him sure, in 10 years. Shanks admits that Luffy has guts, going out day after day in a boat, but... just then, Luffy eats a fruit he found, and Shanks & crew react with horror. It turns out that the fruit is none other than the "Gomu Gomu no Mi," the fruit of a mysterious tree that grows (or does not) once every 50 years, and which they stole from an enemy ship. Luffy is indifferent until Shanks reveals that because he ate it, he will never be able to swim. Luffy is shocked, but later (after regaining his composure), he rows out into the sea, telling himself that he will be all right as long as he does not fall into the water. Unfortunately, his ship is attacked by a shark, and Luffy calls out for help. He seems just about to be eaten, when Shanks steps in, and tells the shark to get lost. Luffy looks on in horror as he realizes that Shanks also lost his left arm in the process. When it comes time for Shanks and his crew to move on, Luffy begs them to let him come too, but Shanks tells him no. Instead, he leaves his straw hat with Luffy, and tells him to give it back, after he becomes a pirate.
Back in the present, Silk reveals that she's heard of "Red-Haired Shanks," one of the most famous pirates in existence, but that she has not heard any negative rumors about him. She also tells Luffy that she, herself, is the child of a pirate, though she was abandoned.
Although Gally escapes his bonds and attempts to do away with Luffy, he manages to overcome him and sink Gally's ship. The townspeople wish him well as he sails off with a new Jolly Roger atop his mast.
Some time later, on a grand-looking pirate ship, two people resembling Silk and Gally wake up their captain and inform him that they've spotted an island. Luffy, looking relaxed as ever and sporting several days' stubble, tells them to head ashore. The narrator informs the reader that the name of "Straw Hat Luffy" will spread far and wide, but that's for another story.
- An anime adaption appeared on November 24, 2008. This version follows the original story, but also includes the whole current Straw Hat crew (Zoro, Nami, Usopp, Sanji, Chopper, Robin, Franky, and Brook), as well as the Thousand Sunny.
- Shanks' crew are seen linked arms dancing together in a line. In the final version of the storyline, this scene is repeated again with an updated crew.
- Early versions of Yasopp and Lucky Roo can be seen on Shanks' crew.
- In an episode of the anime, a character known as Gally appears very briefly in Loguetown before being arrested by Captain Smoker. He also has a hat and beard shaped notably like a Crescent Moon.
- Luffy's own Jolly Roger is less "cartoonish" than the version that appears in One Piece, and his collection of flags from pirates he has defeated is something that One Piece's Luffy does not have (although he does at one point redraw the flag of a pirate crew he defeats). It is unclear whether this Luffy drew his own flag (and thus can actually draw), or whether it was the work of someone else (just as the Straw Hat Jolly Roger is drawn by Usopp in the series).
- Ultimately, it seems Oda took older Luffy in a slightly different direction for the main storyline to the one he was heading towards in this version.
- The One Shot was officially released in the USA on Shonen Jump issue 12 of 2009.