Many One Piece fans will argue that the franchise's storytelling and plot structure are excellent, if not flawless. Eiichiro Oda, the creator of One Piece, has a talent for foreshadowing while also constantly expanding the franchise's world and lore. As a result, many plot developments in the series have been predicted by fans. Many people, understandably, believe Oda has the entire series figured out, and perhaps he does. Oda is unquestionably a talented mangaka, but that doesn't mean his creation is without flaws. Some events in the manga's first chapter don't make sense in retrospect.
The phenomenal manga series One Piece first aired in July 1997, alongside other classics such as Dragon Ball, Naruto, and Bleach. While the latter franchises are experiencing a revival, One Piece has never been out of the spotlight. Eiichiro Oda has been consistently releasing new chapters for the past two decades and continues to do so. The manga has long passed the 1000th chapter mark, and the anime has recently done so as well. Throughout that time, the series has continuously improved in many areas, from its art to its story. That being said, One Piece is no longer the same as it was when it first debuted.
The Long Saga Begins With a Young Man Who Wanted to Sail
One Piece literally starts by showing Luffy's backstory. During his younger years, Luffy had already been exposed to pirates -- and not just any pirates, but the Red Hair Pirates. At the time, Luffy insisted on joining the pirates' journey across the seas, though Shanks kept rejecting his application. It came to a point where Luffy stabbed the lower part of his eye to prove his toughness. Needless to say, his effort and pain were futile. At the time, the Red Hair Pirates didn't seem to hold any weight. They looked like a bunch of scallywags who only cared about partying and having fun.
This was proven when Higuma, the leader of the mountain bandits, and his gang demanded booze from Makino's bar. However, the pirates had already consumed all the bar's liquor, so Makino couldn't provide them with any. When Shanks offered the last bottle to the bandit, Higuma proceeded to humiliate him, breaking the bottle on Shanks' head and drenching the pirate in booze. After the bandits left the bar, the Red Hair Pirates simply laughed off the incident. The problem, however, is what happened after.
Shanks Was Good But Not Great
When Higuma next returned to the bar, Shanks and the Red Hair Pirates had already prepared to sail. Higuma once again demanded to be served given that he was at a bar. Makino obliged, but chaos ensued when Luffy decided to pick a fight with the bandit. Higuma mocked Shanks and the others for being cowards, and Luffy took it upon himself to defend his friends' pride. The fight escalated to a one-sided beat-down. Higuma even threatened to sell Luffy to some sort of freak show for his newfound abilities. That's when the Red Hair Pirates returned.
Thinking that Shanks was a nobody, the bandits warned him against meddling. One of them even dared to point a gun at Shanks' head. That's when the Red Hair Pirates started to shine. Lucky Roux immediately ended the bandit's life, while Benn Beckman took care of the rest. Shanks, of course, gave a speech about the consequences of hurting his friends. Seeing what happened to his gang, Higuma cowered in front of the pirates. However, he wasn't simply going to surrender. Instead, he used a smoke bomb and kidnapped Luffy. When Luffy continued to irk him, Higuma kicked Luffy off the boat and into the sea. It just so happened that the local sea monster came by. When it was about to bite Higuma and Luffy, Shanks saved the boy in the nick of time, but at the expense of one arm.
In Retrospect, the Entire Red Hair Pirates Crew Appears to Be Weak
While Lucky Roux, Benn Beckman, and Shanks' achievements were undeniably impressive, they could have handled the situation much better. As it is later revealed that he and Mihawk are rivals in swordsmanship, the Red Hair Pirates had already made a name for themselves. It's just that Mihawk loses interest in Shanks after the latter lost his left arm. It's safe to assume that Shanks' power level during the mountain bandit incident was comparable to Mihawk's. Given that Mihawk is regarded as the Strongest Swordsman, it's also reasonable to assume that Shanks should have been able to use Haki at the time – and this changes how the situation is perceived.
Since Shanks is regarded as one of the future strongest Haki users, coating his left arm with Color of Arms Haki would have saved it from being severed. Even before that, Shanks could have already intimidated the sea monster using his Color of Supreme King or Conqueror's Haki. And even before that, Shanks' Color of Observation Haki could have easily rendered Higuma's smoke bomb useless. Shanks, or any member of the Red Hair Pirates for that matter, should have been able to track and stop the banding from fleeing. After all, based on their bounties, Higuma is only slightly stronger than Alvida.
Given that such a lapse is uncharacteristic of Oda, it is widely assumed in the fandom that this change was made to make a bigger impression on the audience. Because One Piece was still in its early stages, it needed to impress as many readers as possible. Only then would it have been able to withstand the harsh world of weekly manga serialization. Even though the first chapter of One Piece leaves something of an odd taste in retrospect, it still does its role exceptionally well — and the series' popularity is proof positive of that.