One Piece creator Eiichiro Oda originally planned for his magnum opus to only last five years. I’m curious to see what that restrained five-year plan looked like, but I’m glad that it didn’t come to fruition. Instead, we got a sprawling epic that has lasted over twenty.
And I can’t really imagine my life without it.
I started watching One Piece in the Fall of 2008. The show had been around for a while at this point (Sadly, I didn’t start reading the wonderful manga until about two years ago), but I’d ignored it simply because I just didn’t really care all that much about anime. Batman? Great. Spider-Man? Bring it on. Naruto?
Let me stop ya’ there, buddy.
I had a rough time making friends growing up and my undying devotion to American comic book characters wasn’t exactly greasing the wheels. I couldn’t imagine adding a “But they’re from Japan!” option to my list of potential social contributions.
Aside from stuff like Pokemon and Digimon, which I consumed (and continue to consume) with cult-like intensity, my anime intake didn’t really start until I got into college. A lot of my middle school and high school pals had been into Dragon Ball Z, but whenever that came up, my fight or flight instincts kicked in and I evacuated the friend group for fear of being associated with the friend group. But in my freshman year of college, a guy loaned me a thumb drive with a bunch of episodes of Bleach, Death Note and Samurai Seven loaded up on it. Samurai Seven was okay, Death Note was stellar until it got about two dozen episodes in and became noticeably un-stellar, and Bleach was fun in a “We’re dating, but when we go to this party, don’t tell anyone that we’re dating” kind of way.
And that was it until the next year, my sophomore year, when I discovered that my roommate was quite into anime. Once again, he gave me three choices:
- Naruto, which I like in the same way that I like hot dogs. When I eat hot dogs, I unfailingly eat about 6 at a time. Then I forget about hot dogs until I get another chance to devour an unhealthy amount of them.
- Yu Yu Hakusho, which I have fun with. It’s a neat show.
- One Piece, which this article is about. You can guess how it affected me.
I watched three episodes of One Piece with my roommate, episodes that took place during the Davy Back Fight arc, which, from what I’ve heard on the internet, is one of the worst One Piece arcs. I disagree heartily. I get why it might come off as underwhelming to people: It seems like filler and it’s sandwiched between an arc where protagonist Monkey D. Luffy fights the “god” of an island in the sky, and the Water 7/Enies Lobby arc, which is one of the best pieces of storytelling in any shonen (Japanese for boy) anime ever. But I think it’s great, especially since it provides a bit of a One Piece breather before you cry your way through the next 100 episodes.
I was hooked, and since my classes didn’t start until two in the afternoon, I had the perfect time to binge watch it: the middle of the night. I caught up with it in no time, and have spent the years since watching it on a near weekly basis. It was there, no matter what, like a little gift for completing the week. “I know your depression has been kicking your ass this week, Daniel, but here’s some One Piece. Great job on making it through.”
And it’s still that way, to an extent, except now I actually pay for it (God speed, Crunchyroll.) Along with staying up to date with the manga, I also began reading it from the beginning. At first, I did this out of obligation, to satisfy the voices on the internet that had become the voices in my brain: “THE MANGA IS BETTER. YA’ GOTTA READ THE MANGA, YOU HEINOUS CREATURE.” And I am here to definitively say that…I like the anime and the manga. The anime has given me too much joy for me to discount it as the for-sure lesser of two great options. If anything, the anime and manga serve as a tag team, making up for any flaw that the other has. The manga has better pacing, but the anime adds the cherry on top of the cake at times. They’re a unit. And as we speak, I just ordered a box set of One Piece manga volumes 1-23. Sorry book shelf, but this is just how it has to be.
My favorite things about One Piece? I love how much love that series has for the underdogs, for the people that are seemingly outmatched. For the people that logically shouldn’t be heroes. Most of the crew are underdogs. They aren’t fulfilling prophecies or being the “chosen ones.” They’re just trying to accomplish impossible dreams. Don’t get me wrong, Eiichiro Oda loves having super powerful people punch other super powerful people through things. He adores monstrous displays of strength. But he also cares deeply about the people that can’t punch as hard, the Usopp’s and the Tony Tony Chopper’s and the Nami’s of his world.
Because in the end, they’re just as important as Luffy.
That focus on teamwork is what separates One Piece from its peers, that focus on the family (the nakama) being more valuable than any one character. As someone that had a rough time making friends for years, that theme resonates with me. Because when you feel undesirable in social situations, it’s easy to decide “I guess that’s just how I’m meant to be.” Combine that with a sprinkling of social anxiety, and you have a great recipe for alienating yourself from the world.
“Nah, bro,” One Piece says. “You can be part of a crew. You deserve a crew.”
It’s a message that I needed to hear at the time, and it’s a message that I continue to need to hear.
So carry on, One Piece. Go on for as long as you want. I can’t wait to see how you end.
But I’m eternally thankful for the journey.
Daniel Dockery loves his dog, his tequila, and his anime. He has a Twitter.
Support us on Patreon and we can make more hilarious content!