My Journey with One Piece
When I first heard of One Piece, it was from the catalogue of upcoming Netflix shows I was reading maybe five years ago. I looked at it a little more, realizing it was a live-action anime and delved a little into the story, thinking that it seemed cool and worth checking out when it came out, before I moved on and forgot all about it. Occasionally I would check up but didn't see any updates.
Then, about three years ago, I first ventured into the world anime by watching the first few episodes of Sword Art Online. It was decent enough but I lost interest after a while and discontinued it. Still, the style and storytelling intrigued me enough and I'd often heard about anime and how good it was that I decided to check out more. But, I put it on the back-burner as there were still many shows I wanted to watch.
Skip to two years ago, I decided to try again with anime and I started out with a show I'd heard a lot of good things about: My Hero Academia. I have a lot of things to say about this but I'll get to that another time. Let's just say it's a fantastic watch that I became obsessed with. After binging that, I definitely wanted more and I anxiously searched for my next anime endeavour. At that point, I'd learned more about One Piece, hearing about the casting for the live action series and genuinely interested in seeing what would happen. So, I checked it out. That's when I learned it was over 1000 episodes long and still going strong.
For most people, this would be a turn-off. I think that's probably why most people are now checking out the Netflix series instead, for a more condensed and accessible version while still having all the quality of the original. Still, I was curious, and honestly, I'm one of those people who actually enjoy long-form storytelling. When I read books, I always make sure they're more than 300 words long otherwise I'm not interested. I like shows that go on for many seasons and I stay away from comic miniseries. And every time I watch a good movie, my first thought when it ends is when will the sequel come out. So, to me, as long as One Piece was good, 1000 episodes was perfect. Still, it was a massive undertaking so I took it one episode at a time.
Now I wouldn't say I got hooked one episode 1, but it definitely more than caught my interest. I didn't binge the series. I watched a few in rapid succession before taking breaks, like between the Orange Town and Syrup Village arcs, and it took me a while to get through the Baratie arc. But, like with most viewers, it was with Arlong Park that I really started binging the series. From there, I truly was hooked. That really is peak storytelling there and props to Eiichiro Oda.
Sidenote, I'm also the kind of person who watches all the filler arcs as well. Of course, it took some time before I realized they were fillers as I wasn't aware those existed. Still, it was an interesting experience.
After I finished the East Blue saga, part of me thought that I would still take my time and not let myself be consumed by the series. That part of me was quickly smothered by the other part of me yelling at me to just binge it all as fast as possible. So that's what I did instead. All the way through the Alabasta saga and into Skypeia and beyond. I knew the whole Water 7 saga was long and at that point last year summer was ending and I had to go to work soon so I tried to force myself to take a break and save Water 7 for another time. Again, that part of me lost as I soon found myself watching the first part. And then the next and the next until I was right in the middle of it. The way Oda managed to make each scene so addicting is something every writer is jealous of and one I hope I can master someday. From there I just gave up and resigned myself to the fact that I was just going to binge the whole thing as fast as possible. I think it took me a day and a half to watch all of Amazon Lily and Impel Down. Then I finished Marineford and Post-War in one weekend. I had tried to restrain myself from watching the time-skip arcs, wanting to try and take a break, but it was in vain and I was soon watching those as well. Now here I am, one year later, waiting anxiously for each new batch of episodes to drop (I watch dub, not sub).
The live action series dropped a little more than a week ago. I binged that in a day and loved it. It was so faithful and yet so new from the anime in the best way. A fresh experience in the world of One Piece. After I was neck-deep in the anime, I became more excited for the Netflix series, but also apprehensive. Unlike other anime fans, I didn't have any real experience with live-action adaptations apart from Alita: Battle Angel which was pretty good. I had heard of the critically bad Dragon Ball Z films and I actually did briefly check out the Fullmetal Alchemist trilogy on Netflix after I binged that anime though it was clear to me how terrible those were just from a few scenes. And One Piece is a difficult world to capture in live action. Yet, they did it. I was ecstatic with each trailer that dropped, more and more excited, and they did not disappoint. Luffy's powers are just as cool and goofy and Zoro's swordsman skills are just as epic. Hopefully they can keep it up for later seasons. It is the perfect show for old fans and newcomers alike which was its intent.
I remember when I first said I was going to start it, someone online said to me 'better get some tissues ready cause you're going to cry.' Well, I never did get those tissues out. I just used my hands to wash the tears away. I don't remember the last time I cried so much after watching Robin's backstory. And don't even get me started on Law's. I think I was dried out for a few days after that. Honestly, all my favorite stories have three important things: heart, humor, and action. I want to cry, laugh, and cheer all in the same story. And One Piece is one of those that has all three in spades in the perfect balance. I will always laugh at Zoro's sense of direction, cheer at Luffy fighting the latest baddie, and cry at someone's latest backstory.
Of course, one can't talk about One Piece without mentioning the characters. Monkey D. Luffy, the main protagonist who always has a goofy grin on his face, so easy going and happy that it's hard to take him seriously when he says he'll become King of the Pirates. But that's just what makes his serious moments all the more poignant. Every step of his story is carefully plotted out so that you truly do believe he will become King of the Pirates, even when the odds seem insurmountable. Oda just gave him that right kind of aura.
Of course, naturally, Zoro is my favorite character. The three-sword wielder whose every fight is nothing short of epic and whose sense of direction (or lack of it) is without a doubt one of the best running gags if not the best. Zoro and Luffy's friendship is one forged over time and hardship and he's clearly got his captain's back no matter what. His long-awaited rematch with Mihawk is something I cannot wait for.
There are too many characters to really go into detail about but I love all the Strawhats from Nami and her money-rubbing hands, Usopp and his everlasting negative personality, Sanji and his constant flirting, Chopper who still can't get a decent wanted poster, Robin and her calm and steadfast attitude, Franky with his SUPER poses, Brook and all his skeletal jokes, and Jimbei with his actual maturity in the crew. Each one awesome in their own right with truly standout moments. Here are my personal favorites for each Strawhat:
Jimbei: arrival in Wano
Brook: taking on Big Mom solo
Franky: taking down Senor Pink
Robin: declaration at Enies Lobby
Chopper: Actually being a doctor in Wano
Sanji: standing up to Eneru
Usopp: taking out Sugar
Nami: taking down Doublefinger
Zoro: 'nothing happened'
Luffy: Gum-Gum Jet Gatling
Then there are some of my other favorite characters like Hawkeye Mihawk whose entrance was surprising and nothing but epic and whose every appearance just elevates his character. There's also Law who is one of the more fleshed out side characters but is easily one of my favorites because of his cool attitude and totally awesome abilities. His tag team fight against Big Mom is something I cannot wait to see. I also love Sabo and his new flame powers. Past that, there are too many to track.
There's a lot that I can say about One Piece but the thing I most admire about it is how Oda managed to infuse so much depth in his worldbuilding, truly creating all the different settings and people so that they feel so real. It's so good that it's inspired some of my work. He is truly one of the greatest storytellers of all time because of One Piece and now, with the story coming to a close soon, I cannot wait to see how he wraps it all up.
So, in celebration of the live action series coming out, I decided to rank my favorite arcs of the series. I'll be posting them up five at a time each week so be sure to check those out each time they drop. I highly recommend both the live-action series and the anime, though the Netflix one is more accessible so it might be better for all. Trust me, you won't be disappointed. A meme I recently saw sums it up pretty perfectly where you start out thinking there are too many episodes, but finish begging for more.