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[Essay] One Piece: The ultimate, superior shonen series. (Warning: Contains Heavy Spoilers) · 1:02pm Aug 1st, 2018

It's easy to write One Piece off as being loud, goofy, or weird, or if you're one of those people who's generally derisive of shonen anime (like Naruto and DBZ), to dismiss it as "just another thing where people yell and punch each other a lot".

I'd like to take some time to talk about why One Piece is superior to every shonen series in history, and why it deserves its worldwide popularity.

For this essay, I am going to exclusively reference the Summit War Saga (anime episodes 385-516), though I'm more specifically going to reference the Impel Down and Marineford arcs (anime episodes 422-489), and compare them to the longest story arc of Dragonball Z, the Majin Buu Saga (anime episodes 208-291).

First, let's talk about DBZ and what gives the series its bad reputation. Beyond the "five minutes" that took about 20 episodes to finish happening, the Buu Saga is the single worst offender in terms of unnecessary padding:

Several years after the Cell Game and the death of Son Goku, Mister Satan revives the Tenka-ichi Budokai. The return of the Budokai attracts all the Z-Senshi, including Goku, who uses his one day allowed to return to Earth to compete. At the Budokai, a competitor named "Shin" is revealed to be Kaioushin, the supreme god of the universe, and he has come to Earth in pursuit of the Wizard Babi-di, who plans to resurrect his father's great living weapon, Majin Buu.

Due to circumstances largely involving the Saiyajin lust for fighting and some spectacular arrogance on both the part of Son Goku and Vegeta, Majin Buu is revived. Various fighters risk their lives against Buu, who goes through a number of changes and evolutions even as the Z-Senshi train to fight him. Repeatedly, Buu is confronted by Z-Senshi, but few gain more than a temporary advantage against him. During the course of Buu's reign of terror, Earth is destroyed, then resurrected with the Dragonballs, and Mister Satan proves instrumental in helping Goku destroy Majin Buu.

The entire Buu Saga lasts about 80 episodes. It could have been condensed down to about 40. A lot of it is tense standoffs, unnecessary fight padding, and tension building. Through it all, while a number of different mini-plots emerge (Babi-di's spaceship, Fusion, Gohan's special training, Super Buu, Kid Buu, etc.), the bottom line is it's 80 episodes dealing with a single unstoppable monster villain and everything that happens during the entire arc is about Buu.

Now, let's examine what One Piece covers in the same number of episodes...

Having been separated from the rest of the Straw Hat Pirates at Sabaody Archipelago, Monkey D. Luffy landed on Amazon Lily, the women-only island of the Kuja Tribe. He gained the favor of the Pirate Empress Boa Hancock, one of the Shichibukai. Upon learning that his brother, Portgas D. Ace, had been captured by the Marines and was scheduled to be executed, Luffy decided to break into the prison stronghold, Impel Down, to rescue Ace.

With the help of Boa Hancock, Luffy infiltrated Impel Down. Each of the prison's six levels is an immense, unforgiving hell, heavily fortified, heavily guarded, and with dangerous environmental hazards. As Luffy fights his way to Ace, he encounters old friends and old enemies who are imprisoned in Impel Down, and releases many prisoners, some of whom join in his rampage--most of whom have their own agendas.

As news of Straw Hat's rampage in the prison spreads through its ranks, Ace is transferred up from Level 6 to the docks, where a Navy fleet waits to transport him to Marineford for his execution. In the meantime, the chaos inside Impel Down intensifies as dangerous criminals are released: Buggy the Clown, Bon Clay, Mister Three, and others.

Eventually, the Warden of Impel Down, Magellan, confronts Luffy, and using his unbeatable poison powers, leaves Luffy for dead. Luffy is delivered into the hands of Ivankov, the leader of a secret village of "free prisoners" in the bowels of Impel Down. After administering a potentially lethal treatment to save Luffy's life, Ivankov joins the effort to rescue Ace. The party arrives at Level 6, only to discover Ace is no longer there. Now faced with a desperate race against time and a long slog back to the top of Impel Down, Luffy adds former Shichibukai Jinbei, a Fishman pirate, to his rescue crew, as well as former enemy and former Shichibukai Crocodile, who Luffy defeated at Alabasta shortly after first entering the Grand Line. Crocodile's lieutenant Mister One is also freed, and joins the fight to escape Impel Down.

Ultimately, Luffy fails to reach the top of Impel Down before Ace is loaded onto a ship bound for Marineford. However, with the aid of his new allies and a cunning plan by Jinbei, the entire rescue party along with a collection of some 240 assorted inmates succeed in escaping Impel Down, creating the single greatest incident in the prison's history.

At Marineford, Fleet Admiral Sengoku announces to the entire world that Portgas D. Ace is the son of Gold Roger, the notorious pirate whose execution kicked off the Great Pirate Era.

While Luffy's temporary crew and their stolen Navy ship are stuck in the World Government's "Tub Current" trying to figure out how to force the Gates of Justice to open so they can reach Marineford, the Whitebeard Pirates invade Marineford in force to retrieve Ace, who Whitebeard has been grooming to become the next King of the Pirates. All-out war erupts between the Whitebeard Pirates and the Marines. When Luffy finally joins the fray with his temporary forces, their addition to the chaos angers Sengoku, who engages a plan to eliminate every single pirate in Marineford and orders the immediate execution of Ace. The executioners are taken out before they can kill Ace, which buys some time until backup executioners can be summoned; in the meantime, the war rages on, with losses and betrayals on both sides.

After fighting his way past his grandfather, Vice Admiral Monkey D. Garp, Luffy finally reaches Ace. The execution scaffold is destroyed, and after a few false starts, Luffy is able to remove Ace's sea prism stone handcuffs, allowing him to use his Devil Fruit powers to join the fight. Whitebeard orders everyone to return to the ships and retreat, since they have Ace and have thus fulfilled their objective. However, during the retreat, Admiral Akainu starts trash-talking Ace and Whitebeard, angering Ace and goading him into a pointless fight. Luffy can only watch in horror as the unthinkable happens:

After everything he and the others have gone through to rescue Ace, after all the deaths on both sides, Ace is ruthlessly murdered right in front of him.

Enraged, Whitebeard sets off an earthquake that crushes Marineford, then orders his crew to get the hell out of Marineford while he makes his last stand. The Marines are determined to murder all the pirates, and the retreating pirates are reluctant to leave their father behind. Meanwhile, Luffy has completely shut down in the middle of the battlefield, reducing him to a catatonic load that Jinbei has to carry off the battlefield.

With all hell breaking loose, the Blackbeard Pirates arrive. Blackbeard has broken several dangerous inmates out of Impel Down during the chaos Luffy created, and has come to Marineford to watch Whitebeard die. After what would be the final battle of his life, just before his death, Whitebeard announces in a loud voice, to the entire world, that One Piece is real, words which threaten to set off an entirely NEW Great Pirate Age.

Following the death of Whitebeard, Blackbeard shocks the world by doing the unthinkable: taking Whitebeard's Devil Fruit power for his own, becoming the only man in the world who can use more than one Devil Fruit. With his new power, Blackbeard rampages, destroying Marineford. The surviving Marines, hell bent on revenge or mindless violence, relentlessly pursue the escaping Whitebeard Pirates, most of whom have little fight left in them.

During the intense final battle of the Summit War, Trafalgar Law and his submarine show up, and Law takes Luffy aboard his ship to treat his wounds. As Admiral Akainu pursues in a towering rage, Marine cadet Coby screams at everyone to stop fighting, making a desperate plea for all the killing to end. Admiral Akainu very nearly kills Coby for his insolence, but is stopped by the sudden arrival of Red-Haired Shanks, who even Akainu doesn't dare go up against.

The arrival of Shanks effectively ends the war, as Shanks calls for everyone to either stop fighting, or turn their weapons on him if they really still want to fight. Law's submarine narrowly escapes, the Admirals stand down, the Whitebeard Pirates make sail with every man they still have, and the Marines begin tending their wounded while Sengoku declares a Navy victory to the entire world.

See how much shit happens there? In the same span of episodes?

One Piece is an adventure that never stops. One Piece isn't "let's move on to the next really strong guy we have to fight and then spend 100 episodes trying to get strong enough to fight him". One Piece is "let's move on to the next adventure, where we'll fight really strong guys and get stronger while we try like hell to SURVIVE what we're going through this time". The story never stops expanding, never stops growing, never stops evolving, but at its core, it remains true to its original premise: a quirky pirate crew having ridiculous, over-the-top adventures in a world full of wacky, insane characters. And when One Piece gets serious, like it does during the Summit War? It does so magnificently. There are moments in One Piece you never forget, like:

- The Straw Hats' badass walk to Arlong Park to crush Arlong for making Nami cry.
- Luffy declaring war on the World Government by ordering Usopp to burn the flag at Enies Lobby.
- Luffy punching Charloss.
- Ace's death.
- Whitebeard yelling "THE ONE PIECE IS REAL!" just before dying.

All of the above is just from the first HALF of One Piece to date. Most shounen series can't boast an "iconic moments" list like that for their entire run. Hell, off the top of my head, the only equivalent moments I can name in DBZ are Goku going Super Saiyan for the first time and Gohan going Super Saiyan 2 against Cell. Oh, and Vegeta's sacrifice against Buu. It's not that moments don't exist, it's just that they're not iconic. If you've watched through the Marineford Arc of One Piece, you can recall each of the scenes I just described in vivid detail.

But the most important thing, in the long run, is that One Piece never slows down and never stops. Even when the big dramatic fights are happening, the kind that take 5-10 episodes of tension building in other shows? One Piece keeps right on moving, never lingering too long on any one fight. There's ALWAYS something else happening. There's ALWAYS multiple threads weaving together. There's ALWAYS somebody running somewhere. There's ALWAYS somebody rampaging.

DBZ would grind completely to a halt for one fight between two characters and spend entire episodes building tension. Bleach and Naruto were often guilty of the same thing, although in Naruto's case it liked to pad things out with endless reams of flashbacks in the middle of a fight.

One Piece doesn't stop. It does SOME tension building. It does SOME flashback padding. But it doesn't get nearly as out of control as other shonen series does, simply because there is always so much happening that there isn't any ROOM for all that padding nonsense.

Report MythrilMoth · 542 views · #one piece
Comments ( 21 )

This honestly describes one of the many reasons why One Piece is my favorite anime better than I could. The other reasons being the world-building, how memorable damn near EVERY character is, & how thanks to said world-building, every crazy thing Oda does like the variety in Devil Fruit doesn't feel like bullshit.

Pretty much sums up why One Piece is the best shounen series to date, there's no contest. DBZ was first, Naruto was more popular in West, Bleach... exists, but One Piece just keeps getting better. And it rewards those who pay attention, by bringing plot points, characters and elements introduced way back and doing crazy amazing stuff with them, while those who didn't remember them can still just enjoy the ride, without getting confused or lost.

And when One Piece drops the ball (Davy Back fight, ehem), it's relatively painless and still has at least a few good gags or moments to lessen the pain.

My biggest problem with One Piece is Oda's obsession with superqueers. One-offs like Two Bon Clay are one thing, but everything ABOUT Ivankov and the two entire superqueer civilizations is offputting and drags on uncomfortably long. There's such a thing as too much queer, and Okama/Newkama goes WAY over the line.

(Clarification for those who don't know what I'm talking about: the Okama and Newkama societies are chiefly comprised of ugly drag queens who have flaming Camp Queer personalities, throw around terms like "candy boys", and think EVERYONE needs to be a drag queen. It. Gets. Old. Fast.)

While I love Bony Clay and Ivankov is interesting enough that he/she/it/hir/they doesn't bother me too much, anyone else from NewKama is just boring and annoying with nothing to add to the story. The good news is, there's almost none of those in New World (at least not that I can remember). There's plenty of other creepy stuff, but I'll let you find out yourself.

Wanderer D

>MFW not sarcasm.
That's a damn good arc, but the rest of OP is not necessarily on that level. Especially if you're up to date on the manga.
Also, "Best Shonen series of all time" is a very big claim that you cannot objectively make in a world where Saint Seiya existed. (Especially since Bleach and many, many other Shonen series were influenced/inspired by it, and it remains to date the best series of that genre, bar none.)

You make very excellent points. One Piece really is an epic adventure. That being said though, I still love Dragon Ball and don’t think any less of it.

you know, you do have a bit of a point, except that the reason Dragon Ball Z dragged on for far too long with filler and such is because of the fact that it was being made while the Manga was still being written, and it ended up finishing out a year after the Manga finished it's run in 1996, so that's one reason why many arcs got padded out for far too long.

that said, you're pretty much right that the Buu arc still ran far too long in the anime and could have been at least 20 episodes shorter.

I'm well aware of the effect lead times between manga and anime can have on the anime production in regards to filler and padding (see also: the last 70 episodes of the first Naruto anime). The problem is in how filler pacing is approached: One Piece takes frequent breaks to let the manga overtake the anime, Naruto did TONS of filler, Bleach had long filler arcs of dubious quality...

DBZ primarily went for tension padding.

My first (and, to date, only) shonen anime is Bleach, which I discovered through Adult Swim. I started at the very beginning, and I hung on through most of the arcs. The first filler arc happened, and I hung on. The second filler arc happened, and I hung on. The third filler arc happened, and I hung on. I hung on past the point most of the rest of the fandom bailed, then I got tired. I let go. I haven't been back to shonen since.

One Piece may be a masterpiece, but I don't have it in me to make that kind of commitment again. I'm glad all of OP's fans enjoy it, but I won't be joining you.

You're doing yourself a grave disservice. Bleach is the second worst shonen series of all time, the absolute worst being JoJo. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by watching at least a few episodes of One Piece, Naruto, and Dragonball.

That makes me worry a bit about how My Hero Academia is going to handle it. So far, they've expanded a few panels from the Manga and developed the side characters of Class 1-A to pad for time. The internship episode was pretty well done. I suppose if nothing else, they could cover Vigilantes or just go on hiatus for a few months for the manga to get ahead.

In that case, I'm going to recommend My Hero Academia. Most of the fights don't stretch over multiple episodes, and so far, there haven't been any full filler arcs.

What got me with Bleach is how unwilling they were with letting go of characters. The Soul Society arc may be one of the better ones, but seriously, how many times does Renji need to be stabbed before he's gone? The guy gushes blood like a fountain, but by his next appearance, he's totally fine. Just needed to wrap a band-aid around it I guess...

So far MHA is handling it by simply coming out in "seasons" with gaps between. And yeah, that's one of the more ridiculous things about Bleach, but for me personally? I got sick of how it completely abandoned its original premise in favor of "one on one superfights forever".

If it's any consolation, it at least inspired a great EQG Fic,


If it's any consolation

In what way, shape, or form do I appear to need to be consoled?

Learn what words mean before you use them, please.

It probably doesn't help that the awful butchered 4Kids dub is how many people were familiar with this series for years until Funimation bought the license from them and made a much better dub. Unfortunately, its reputation still suffers thanks to the memory people have of the 4Kids dub.

Do you mind doing one of these about why you think JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is so bad? I’ve heard so many people praise it, and seen some long videos on why they think it’s so good, but never seen anyone actually go out of their way to explain they think it’s bad. In fact you are the first person I have heard say it’s the worst Shonen series.

I'm not going to waste five seconds on anything related to JoJo. I just think there's nothing special about the show itself (I have literally not watched a single full episode, just maybe about five minutes of it) and the fandom is RIDICULOUSLY toxic.

They haven't even done the Buu saga yet, though.

Oh wait, you mean the actual obscure Japanese cartoon acting as raw material for world-famous critically-acclaimed web series 'Dragon Ball Z Abridged'. But who cares about that?

Well okay then, thanks for replying anyways.

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