Image from One Piece
One Piece is something that sounds all too familiar if you happen to live in Japan. Unlike most manga, One Piece has sold more than 500 million copies worldwide making it the highest selling manga of all time and the second best selling comic series in existence, recently beating out Batman leaving only the Superman comics before it.
So what is One Piece? What makes it so popular?
One Piece is a Japanese Manga and anime that was created by the legendary Eiichiro Oda that takes place in the age of pirates. Our main hero of the story is the lovable Monkey D. Luffy, who dreams of claiming the title, “Pirate King.” In order to achieve this goal, Luffy has gathered a crew of nine other pirates, some of which include a three-sword wielding samurai, a pantsless cyborg, an anthropomorphic reindeer, and many more.
Each member of Luffy’s crew has a dream of their own which leaves the readers and watchers with a sense of importance for the other characters rather than them just being a bunch of odd sidekicks.
One of the biggest appeals of the series is the sense of adventure. It’s the feeling of seeing these characters gain more and more popularity in the world as they progress through dangerous waters facing all kinds of enemies such as the Marines, rival pirate groups, and large beasts. The main way that the series highlights this aspect is with the bounty system. The bounty system is a way in which every time Luffy and his crew beats a new enemy (specifically one that has a higher bounty than them).
Their notoriety increases as well as their worth. For instance, when Luffy first started his journey 25 years ago in real time, he had nothing to his name except for a small wooden boat and a straw hat. Fast forward to 2022, Luffy has one of the largest and most powerful pirate groups in the fictional world, earning a bounty of $1.5 billion berries (berries being pirate currency). Even today, despite Luffy being closer to his dream than ever before, he still has a ways to go.
Despite One Piece being a story about goofy fictional pirates set in a larger than life world, there are times when One Piece gets real. Eiichiro Oda’s world is one of the largest and most structured worlds ever put to fiction. Each new town or place that Luffy’s crew visits has its own beliefs, racial divides, and military, making each place feel unique and full of life. One Piece tackles these issues in an emotional yet thought provoking way.
Just like real life, there are certain ranks that a pirate can earn. One of these ranks is known as “The Seven Warlords Of The Sea.” These groups of pirates are officially recognized by the world government and in turn for not being captured, they aid the government in different ways. Another rank a pirate can earn is becoming one of “The Four Emperors.” This position is arguably more important than the seven warlords as the people that make up that group are known as the most powerful pirates to have ever lived. It’s these ideas that make One Piece feel multilayered and more complex than most anime and manga.
One of the most important aspects of One Piece is the sense of time and progress. Whenever Luffy and his crew beat a major villain and complete a certain arc, the world around them completely changes based on their actions. After every arc, we get a special episode or dedicated chapter to check up on other characters to see how they react to Luffy’s actions. Almost every action he makes has consequences and those consequences shape the world better or for worse.
The last important thing to mention is every character in One Piece has a backstory to them. And trust me when I say EVERY character. To some this aspect of One Piece might sound like a snore to get through, but Oda has a way of making you feel for every character despite how weird their design might look.
There are so many things that haven’t been mentioned yet about One Piece’s story that make it feel more interesting, like the fact that One Piece has over one hundred plus mysteries, or all the fan theories floating out on the web. The point is, Oda has a really big, almost childlike imagination that allows his work to feel as expansive as ours. The main thing that turns people off from reading or watching the series is the length. One Piece at the time of this article being published has one thousand and forty seven chapters of the manga and one thousand and fifteen episodes of the anime. Yes, that means One Piece is still going strong after all these years. Most people that have gotten through the story up to this point can agree to say that One Piece is one of the greatest reading experiences you will ever have. The same thing can be said for the anime as well.
The question is, will the treasure be worth the 25-year-long wait? We will find out … eventually.