EDITOR’S NOTE: What Are You Watching? is a feature series that dives deep into why we love the anime we love. You told us what you were watching, and now we’ll dig into why.
Eighteen months ago I began what many consider an impossible task: I started watching One Piece for the first time. It was daunting, as you might know if you yourself have ever considered it.
This legendary anime series, based on Eiichiro Oda’s hit manga (and the top-selling manga of all-time), began in 1999 and has been running weekly almost uninterrupted since then. That’s 20 years’ worth of episodes for a bonafide global phenomenon! If you’re wondering how many exactly, 937 and counting.
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But, what I quickly discovered is that One Piece is not a race to catch up, it’s a marathon–to experience a masterpiece.
The story of Monkey D. Luffy
At the very beginning of Episode 1, we are presented with One Piece history: we hear Gol D. Roger, the King of the Pirates, whose dying words drove countless souls to the sea: “You want my treasure? You can have it.”
All the treasure he gathered was hidden in one place, including the One Piece. All the next King of the Pirates has to do to claim the treasure is find it. These words launched the Great Pirate Era, where our story begins. In one minute of running time, there is already a lot to unravel, and then we meet Monkey D. Luffy.
In the seas of the East Blue, a crew of pirates found a barrel floating in the ocean. A shy boy appears to be working against his will for this crew, until Luffy jumps out of this mystery barrel announcing, “I SLEPT GREAT!” and beats everyone up.
He doesn’t fight them because they were bullies…no, he just wakes up and doesn’t really know what’s happening. But because they disturbed him (very rude tbh) as he asked for food, they needed a beatdown. This scene is a great intro to one of Luffy’s quintessential traits: he will always care about what’s happening right in front of him.
Of course, his number one goal, as he will remind you several times an episode, is to become the King of the Pirates. And yet, Luffy will never ignore someone who needs help, no matter how urgent finding the One Piece sounds. This ends up taking us on many sudden, unimaginable adventures.
And through every arc, Oda-sensei weaves a story within a larger story. He drops hints and tiny bits of information about the truth of the treasure for us to keep in our pockets, only to make sense three, ten or one-hundred anime episodes later. It’s like you’re piecing together history as it happens.
The most epic fights
At its core, One Piece is a shounen. And it’s presumed that a protagonist with an impossible dream who is way stronger than he looks will lead us to some epic showdowns.
In this universe, people can get special powers from rare items known as Devil Fruits. These powers vary in the most unimaginable ways, which allow for very creative fight sequences.
From the Bubble-Bubble Fruit that allows its user to create and control bubbles that can “clean off” power, to Fruits that transform their users into animals, the possibilities the next fight might bring are endless!
Also, these powers can be developed further by training. Watching Luffy train through his adventures and find different applications for his Gum-Gum Fruit power of elasticity is just pure joy.
🎶 Fantastic music 🎶
I can’t overstate just how great the music in One Piece is.
Starting with the very first OP, the instant classic “We Are!” to the recent “DREAMIN’ ON,” each song and the animated mini-story that comes with it is unforgettable. Up to Episode 278, One Piece also had EDs, so there are 18 additional songs and tiny stories to explore.
A treat for dub watchers, the first four OPs and 13 EDs were dubbed in English, with amazing voices like Brina Palencia in “BON VOYAGE!” and “Memories,” Stephanie Young in “Tsuki to Taiyou,” and Caitlin Glass in my personal favorite, “RUN! RUN! RUN!”
Everyone’s dreams are valid
No one becomes King of the Pirates without a crew, so from Day One, Luffy sets out to recruit the best of the best. In the most unconventional ways, he actually succeeds in staffing up, starting with the best swordsman, navigator, sniper and cook.
With every addition, even the honorary ones (*cries in Princess Vivi*), One Piece takes the time to see us through the essence and story of each crew member in a way that makes you feel like they were always meant to be a part of their captain’s story. Their struggles become Luffy’s struggles, and though he’s never deterred from his ultimate goal, Luffy takes whatever time is required in order to defend his friends. In turn, this makes their bond indestructible.
And while joining Luffy might make you think these crew members have given up on their own personal goals, each of them still clearly has their own destiny to fulfill, from charting every sea to finding the All Blue. It’s here that the heart of One Piece is revealed: everyone’s dreams are worth pursuing.
Even if your dream is the same as Luffy’s and you want to become King, he will encourage you to go for it. If you’re his nakama, he will do what he can to support you in achieving your goal, even if that means going your separate ways. That’s because being friends is not about how close you are to each other, it’s about the bonds that tie you together.
Becoming a nakama
There are a lot of main characters in One Piece, and each one has a unique personal story that you get to know so well, because they feel so true. Whether it’s lying to make someone happy, losing a home, trying to become the best at something…each and every character is someone you’ll relate to in some way.
And then, when you meet someone else who watches One Piece, there’s an instant bond that now connects you. The answer to “Who’s your favorite?” becomes everything you need to know about each other. I never thought I would connect with so many strangers in this way, but I have.
One Piece may seem endless, but isn’t that the dream? I’m talking years’ worth of content to consume at the pace you choose, as well as an incredibly layered world to keep re-discovering through rewatches. And in addition, in the end, just like a dear co-worker of mine wonders, “What if the One Piece turns out to be the friendships we made along the way?” I’d say it would have been totally worth it.
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