Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece manga is the long-running Shonen Jump flagship that shows no signs of slowing down at any point. In fact, it wasn’t too long ago that Oda said we’re likely only a little over halfway through the overall story, and we’re talking about a series that’s been running weekly (for the most part) since 1997. That adds up to around 900 chapters of manga and, at the time of this writing, 88 collected volumes. If that’s not overwhelming enough, this has all made it to the small and big screen along with new material for a whopping 829 episodes of anime.
No, wait, come back! Sure, you may think getting into One Piece at this stage is way beyond a tall order, but it’s not as difficult as it seems. With the right mindset and, of course, some free time on your hands, you can easily dive right in and immerse yourself in the world of Luffy and the Straw Hat pirates. If you’re thinking of taking the plunge yourself, here are a few tips to help with that first step.
Take It One Arc at a Time
One of the quickest ways to burn yourself out on a lengthy anime series is to look at the sheer number of episodes right out the gate. Thinking of One Piece as an 800-plus-episode wall is only going to discourage you from getting started, so try to focus on the individual arcs and take it from there. Like all long-running shows, One Piece can be conveniently broken down into a collection of major sagas and the various plots that course through their veins. One Piece is currently in the “Whole Cake Island” arc, for instance, but the series itself can be divided and sub-divided much further.
The first half of One Piece, which takes up a little over 500 episodes of anime, has been referred to as the “Sea of Survival: Super Rookies” saga. Within this you’ll find the following arcs: East Blue, Alabasta, Sky Island, Water 7, Thriller Bark, and Summit War. With the exception of the epic Summit War arc, none of those individual pieces of the puzzle are over 100 episodes in length. Thriller Bark is under 60 (and it’s also the awesome spooky Halloween arc you should totally watch this October)!
One Piece becomes much more manageable once you plot out your own viewing course. Take your time, enjoy the ride, and split your seas-spanning journey into a handful of merry pleasure cruises.
Know Your Key Players
Even if action is the first feature that comes to mind when you think of shonen series, they’re nothing without solid, well-rounded, and memorable characters. One Piece has star players for weeks, but you really just need to familiarize yourself with the Straw Hats. Each member of Monkey D. Luffy’s dynamite squad of pirates has their own unique tale to tell, and the backstories Oda created for each are some of the highlights of the whole show.
As the series progresses, Luffy meets more key characters and adds them to his crew, but even at this point it doesn’t add up to overwhelming numbers. Once you get to know Luffy, Nami, Zoro, Sanji, Chopper, and the rest of the core players, you’ll be able to appreciate pretty much any situation they end up in. By the time you get to the end of their introductory storylines they’ll seem like old friends, and you might even feel comfortable enough to jump around a little once the filler arcs come into play.
Wait! Filler is Your Friend!
But… you totally shouldn’t skip those episodes. Most fans of a manga series will tell you the real story lies in the content adapted straight from the source material, and they’re not wrong! That’s why all the original, anime-only material in any given TV show is referred to as “filler.” It’s often in place to pad the series and keep it running weekly while giving the manga some time to move on and build up more core material to adapt. While you can certainly take a step back and decide for yourself whether you want to commit to all these extra, technically non-canon episodes, there’s still plenty of fun to be had.
In the case of a series like One Piece, Eiichiro Oda created an immensely rich playground. As previously mentioned, once you know the characters you’ll want to see whatever the anime staff can throw at them, and sometimes that just so happens to fall outside the realm of the story Oda penned himself. If you truly take a hard stance against non-canon material, you can always look up which episodes are considered filler, but I personally recommend soaking it all in. A story that’s below average in One Piece is still better than your typical yarn.
What’s in It for Manga Readers?
As cool as it is to see all the scenes you remember brought to life on the small screen, it’s sometimes difficult to warrant both reading and watching a series. Beyond the new material, though, One Piece has plenty to offer for those who are up to date, or at least somewhere in the middle of reading, Oda’s original manga.
First and foremost, One Piece has one of the finest voice casts in anime. 63-year-old Mayumi Tanaka delivers an all-timer performance as Luffy from the very first episode. Combined with previous roles such as Krillin, this one puts her up there with legends like fellow Dragon Ball star Masako Nozawa, who is still voicing Goku at 81 years young. From Kappei Yamaguchi’s screechingly perfect Usopp to Kazuki Yao’s SUPEEEER Franky, the same level of praise can be heaped upon the rest of the cast. These voices are an integral part of One Piece at this point, and they’ll only deepen your appreciation for the source material.
Speaking of source material, the One Piece staff completely nails all the iconic moments throughout. Toei Animation might not be the most consistent or technically impressive studio all the time, but they know when a particular scene really needs to be driven home and emphasized with great care. Even if you know exactly what’s going to happen, it’s worth seeing how it all goes down in animated form. And hey, there’s also all that new material to look forward to after blazing through the manga!
Sailing Before the Sun Sets
The best advice to give to someone on the fence about starting One Piece is simple: Cast off as soon as possible. Seriously, the longer you wait, the more the episodes will pile up to create a wall of truly dizzying height. Get an arc or two under your belt, let the characters introduce themselves, and you’ll set your marathon sessions to full speed ahead in no time. If you ever get lost along the way, just bust out this trusty Log Pose of an article for a little much-needed motivation.
Get started today and watch One Piece on VRV!