One of my many obsessions, alongside law geekery, 80s references and all the other stuff you’ve probably picked up by now, is manga/anime, and specifically the Eiichiro Oda magnum opus “One Piece”
“One Piece” is the longest running manga series, telling stories set in a world of what can best be described as super-powered pirates. As well as fight sequences which are so pacey and dramatic that they make X-Men and Avengers look flat footed and pedestrian, One Piece’s over-arching theme is that of the importance of nakama. Nakama is a Japanese word meaning “True Companion” – a friend, but much more than that, a friend who you can completely count on, and they can count on you.
The nakama in One Piece are the Straw Hat pirates, the heroes that we follow. They consist of :-
Monkey D Luffy, the captain who is made out of rubber and is a formidable fighter (but cannot swim, something of a failing in a captain of a pirate ship) and has literally no common sense. I love Luffy because he is fiercely loyal to his friends, is hugely impulsive and is the only fictional character I know that has less common sense than me.
Roanora Zoro, the green-haired master swordsman, who practices Three Sword Style (yes, he fights his foes with three swords at the same time – left hand, right hand and one between his teeth), who has no sense of direction and once famously got lost walking up a flight of stairs
Sanji, the chain-smoking, high-kicking chef, who set off on the journey around the world so that he could catch and cook new kinds of fish, and who is such a ridiculous womaniser that when faced with beautiful mermaids got so excited that he got a nosebleed that almost made him bleed to death.
[Sanji is my favourite]
Usopp, the pinocchio-nosed sharpshooter, who is a teller of tell tales and an inveterate coward, who still manages to follow his nakama into life-threatening situations even though his knees are knocking.
Nami, the navigator extraordinare who wants to map the world and steal everything that isn’t nailed down
Chopper, the ship’s doctor, who also happens to be a reindeer who looks like a racoon and who adores compliments
Nico Robin, the ship’s archeologist (I know), who is like an even sexier version of Catwoman, she used to be the right hand woman of a really evil warlord, and she can sprout copies of her hands on any surface.
Franky, the shipwright, who is a cyborg who powers up on cola, and has a penchant for dancing around in Speedos.
Brook, a skeleton swordsman with afro-hair, who is a colossal pervert.
This crew are actually quite normal compared to many of the bad guys that they face.
I have my own nakama. The people who I work with are True Companions. We face stuff together, and sometimes things are tough, but we have each other’s back. I’m lucky to have found them. They may not have super powers, but they are super people.
All of us need nakama, people around us that we can count on, that help us out, that make us smile when things are hard, that can sense when you need a kind word or a hand. I’ve always pretended to be a lone wolf, travelling from town to town, place to place – the sort of person who doesn’t need anyone else to get by. I’m Cain out of Kung Fu, David Bruce Banner out of the TV version of Incredible Hulk, “The Littlest Hobo” – I go to a place, help out and move on.
But it isn’t true. I have my nakama in my home, and I happen to be madly in love with her, but I also have and need my own nakama, my crewmates. We just happen to be lawyers rather than super-powered pirates.*
My best nakama leaves the team for a while today, starting a great adventure of her own. I will miss her very much. The ship won’t be quite the same without her, and when she comes back, she won’t be quite the same either, because there will be a new nakama in her life too. She won’t be quite the same, she’ll be better. And it will be up to me to make sure that I’m better too.
* We would, if any mad scientists are reading, be amenable to discussions about becoming super-powered lawyers. Well, at least, I would.