Greetings and salutations, dear reader. if you’re an avid watcher of anime, you definitely have heard of Eiichiro Oda’s pirate adventure, One Piece. An unstoppable titan in the anime industry with a 104 tankobon volumes and over a thousand episodes of anime produced in the last 20 years. With such a huge barrier to entry, it can get very overwhelming even for long-time fans, and especially so for newcomers (like myself).
As of writing this, One Piece is currently (supposedly) is in its best story arc to date, and is a good time to start. With some persuading from my cousin and a lot of energy drinks, I’ve somehow managed to reach at least the half-way point in the series. So, if you’re looking to do the same, I’ve made this quick guide for you, dear reader.
For the uninitiated, the One Piece anime is an adaptation of Eiichiro Oda’s manga of the same name, serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump since 1997, aimed at the younger male demographic. Giving its audience what they’ve come to expect from the shonen genre like: action, fantastical fights, elements of heroism, and of course fan-service- the hallmarks of a great shonen series. If this doesn’t interest you, I implore you give it a chance. There is a reason One Piece has remained #1 in the shonen charts, surpassing even my favorites; Bleach and Naruto.
As for the story of One Piece, it follows the adventures of Monkey D. Luffy, the main protagonist of the series, as he sets out to become Pirate King. Set to the backdrop of sprawling and colorful world filled with pirates and a wide array of characters. As the years go on, the cast of characters keep expending with the likes Zoro, Sanji, and Nami joining the Straw Hats, and whole lot more ensuring the story never gets dull. In spite of its overwhelming episode count, the anime is lite on filler episodes (which still amazes me)- making it a very faithful adaptation.
Why Should You Watch One Piece?
I can list a plethora of reasons why, but I’m going to keep it simple. One Piece is a hugely influential, not just as an anime- but rather as a franchise. It has remained relevant in the cultural zeitgeist for over two decades. The series’ ability to appeal to many demographics, not restricted to its core male audience played a huge part in its popularity. While the ongoing length of the series can be seen as a hindrance- it continues to strive with creative and innovative stories to captivate its fans. While Weekly Shonen Jump doesn’t reveal any readership data, we can gauge the series’ popularity by the number of times Luffy appears on the cover of the magazine.
Secondly, while I can’t say for certain of what others might think, but as a newcomer to the series, the storytelling has not dropped in quality. It amazes me how this series is able to stay fresh after 20 over years. Of the Big Three, both Naruto and Bleach which have concluded their respective stories (although, Bleach is still finishing its final arc in anime form), suffer criticism from fans as the narrative gets lots over time or too convoluted. That’s not to say One Piece doesn’t suffer this too- just to a lesser extent, like the Syrup Village or Fishman Islands arcs. Again, twenty years of pumping out consistent content is no minor feat.
Where Should You Start?
While the most obvious answer is to start at the beginning with episode one, and make the slow crawl to the current episode. Many have tried this method (again, like myself) and have either failed or gave up. Of course, a little persistence will pay off eventually- I just don’t recommending undertaking this task alone and binging the series. Watch in small manageable increments. There is an alternative to this, however.
This method doesn’t even involve watching at all, but rather reading. Yes, that’s right, reading the manga is by far quickest way to catch up with the series. The benefit to this is Eiichiro Oda’s fast-paced writing style and every panel is full of action, while it lacks the emersiveness that anime provides, it’ll be a faster experience. Another plus to reading instead of watching is that you skip all the unnecessary fillers that plague weekly shonen anime.
That’s not to say you should avoid watching them entirely, as some are worth experiencing in animated form. The Arlong Park arc (episodes 31-44), where many fans regard is where “One Piece” truly starts (in terms of story pacing), giving the audience some emotional highs, the series is known for. Other than that, it’s a good jumping-on point after reading the manga, and once the main cast is properly introduced. As for the next hundred plus episode on this point (not including filler) are fun to watch, just a slog to get through and where your commitment will be tested.
As for entertaining story arcs the fandom have deemed essential include the Enies Lobby arc (episodes 263-312) and the Marineford arc (episodes 457-489) are the best the series has to offer (as of now). What I’m trying to say its, give them a watch if you’re set on reading the manga. While I’ve yet to reach the more recent episodes, fans have felt bogged down with current entries, but the current Wano Country Saga (the current arc) has been some of the best visuals the series has produced.
Where Can I Read and Watch?
Okay, this where things get a little tricky for those of us in Malaysia, as of now (at least), there is no legal way to watch the anime. While streaming sites like Netflix and Crunchyroll do offer them- unfortunately, they are region locked for us Malaysians. Your only method, that is considered legal, is to use a VPN service, like I did. This problem extends if you plan on reading the manga, too. Retailers like Kinokuniya continuously restock their shelves of One Piece Tankobons, thit’ll definitely get expensive over time. The best and most affordable solution is just to be like a pirate of the cyberseas, and download it- hey, I won’t tell if you won’t, promise.
Well, I do hope you find this guide most informative, and do wish you the best of luck if and when you decide to undertake this endeavor. Till next time, take care, dear reader.