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Why I Stopped Watching One Piece

An opinion piece

By angela hepworthPublished 3 months ago 8 min read

If you know a thing or two about anime and manga, you don’t need me to tell you that One Piece is a legendary series. Deemed one of the “Big Three” alongside two other powerhouse shonen that started around the late 90s and early 2000s, Naruto and Bleach, One Piece is the best selling and arguably most successful manga of all time (to the point where there was a joke circling around the Internet that it had sold more copies than the Bible—not true, but don’t tell the fans that).

The story is centered around a young rookie pirate named Luffy, a cute, silly, dumb little guy with a straw hat. Insert him right here.

Monkey D. Luffy

Luffy here has a big dream: to become the Pirate King. The backstory we get in the very first episodes/chapters of One Piece is that many years ago, an important pirate named Gol D. Roger was executed—for being such an evil pirate menace and whatnot. Before he is killed by the Marines, who are totally the good guys in the story and not at all just as bad if not worse than most of the pirates, he uses his last words to induce fire in the hearts of the adventure-hungry pirates watching him in the crowd. Wealth, fame, power—he states that pirates can attain these things and more on the Grand Line, a great and vicious sea, in the form of the greatest treasure in the world called the One Piece. For reasons still unknown, Roger left it there where he found it for any pirate to find. The one who finds this treasure and obtains its glory will be deemed the next Pirate King.

So of course that’s awesome, and of course Luffy, who comes from a long and impressive line of pirates, wants to be the one to find it. But guys—he can’t do it alone. Throughout the series, he puts together a pirate crew of people he finds strong or cool or interesting to help him achieve his goal. Of course, none of them want to join him at first, but due to his natural charisma and determination, he inspires (and basically manipulates) them all to join him anyway. He is also adamant on having them reach their own dreams, dreams that align with his own.

There’s a wide variety of fascinating figures on the crew, and the fun of it is how vastly different they all are. There’s Zoro, a gruff green-haired swordsman who’s good at fighting, drinking, sleeping, and getting lost. There’s Sanji, the crew’s suave, man-hating, sometimes annoyingly perverted chef (because sigh, this is a shonen anime) who fights with kicks since his hands are for cooking. There’s Nami, a charming, quick-witted burglar with a heart of gold, who has great navigational skills and really, really loves money. And there’s Usopp, the crew’s sniper and a lying liar who lies. But he’s great, I promise.

Twenty years into the future, Luffy has also managed to drag along a tiny reindeer doctor, a mafia-esque cyborg, a classy, beautiful ex-assassin who’s really into archaeology, an immortal skeleton musician, and a powerful and wise fish-man to join what we know as the present-day Strawhat crew. Let’s put them right here.

The Strawhat Pirates

The crew, more of a found family than a bunch of bandits, looking to follow their dreams, goes on various adventures from island to island on a tumultuous, dangerous sea called the Grand Line.

The world of One Piece is so expansive and creative that it draws you in whether you like it or not. There are so many plotlines, and nearly every single plotline has a subplot. The lore of One Piece is thick and brimming with mystery. This opens the doors to some very interesting and immersive conversations and debates to be had about the show. It makes ot a wonderful series to know, to understand, and to be a part of.

Being as famous as it is, One Piece has acquired a die-hard fanbase, and I was one of these fans. To my core, I still am. I love One Piece. I love the beautiful worldbuilding, the amazing story arcs, and the crew. I love the goofy adventures, the hilarious moments, the heartfelt scenes, the devastating backstories. I love so many of the villains; I’m planning on going as Crocodile this coming Halloween. And it isn’t like my love for One Piece had been challenged because the writing has been in a long-lasting slump after so many years. My favorite arc in the entire anime, Whole Cake Island, only ended in the anime in 2019 about five years ago. In One Piece terms, that’s basically yesterday.

My personal problems with One Piece all started with the story arc after my personal favorite—the Wano Country arc. Now—Wano was a beloved arc, and for good reason. There are some really, really good moments within it. Many fans will tell you it is the best arc in the show. But they are incorrect, and I’ll tell you why.

Without diving into specific detail about this 200 episode story, I can address my first complaint off the bat: the pacing. Now—I know. I know that with One Piece, a show with over a thousand episodes and even more chapters of its manga, this is not a new issue. The pacing has always been pretty poor. But even with the slow moving episodes in previous parts of the show, the cool or funny moments always made it feel worth the wait. That was its charm. Even in Dressrosa, a story arc that many despise due to its pacing because so many scenes and moments overstayed their welcome (some even straight up repeated), it didn’t bother me very much because the actual story was so amazing and so worth it. In Wano, it just wasn’t. While the core of the story arc is interesting—the set up for Luffy to fight one Emperor of the Sea and for two of his rivals to fight another—we’re not seeing any of that for episodes upon episodes upon episodes. We are instead seeing a bunch of crap that doesn’t matter with a bunch of side characters. There are just too many characters in general, and there is way too much focus on them.

We’re also getting so much given time with a ton of “important” characters who are all basically the same character—the scabbards were absolutely abysmal, I’m sorry. There’s like nine or ten dudes, and one whole girl, called the scabbards, and their entire purposes and personalities are wanting to get revenge for their master, put to death by the cruel shogun of Wano. And then we get a backstory of the scabbards’ master Oden and of the motivation to overthrow the two villains that terrorize Wano. The Oden backstory had a few really good and interesting moments, but man, it DRAGGED like hell. You can only see the same scene so many times in a row before it drives you crazy. It made me absolutely despise his character for a long while, as well as the characters of all his followers.

All we get from the crew are fight scenes here and there, and all of these fights get a few minutes onscreen before the episode jumps to something else. Not only is the pacing horrendous in this arc, but the cuts in the episodes are absolutely breakneck. Things go by so slowly, yet try to cover so much ground in the complex story, that the episodes end right after they begin, and you’re still left with absolutely nothing. And so much of the content in the episodes feels like filler. There is just so much going on, and most of it is not what we as viewers want to see. It felt like a lifetime to get to the three or four especially good fights in the arc. As someone with a bad memory, this was nightmarish for me. I just could not keep track of the story anymore. It was messy.

Let’s just say I was relieved when Wano finally ended. It had outstayed its welcome. And after all my issues with Wano, the last thing I ever wanted was for Luffy and the gang to book it to a SCIENCE island right after. Oh my god, I was mortified. Here I was, determined to get myself to fall back in love with One Piece, and this is the realization I get when the crew arrives in Egghead—it’s a goddamn science island.

I clocked out almost immediately. There’s always been this barrier between me and sci-fi, and I really want to break it down, but I just can’t. I tried getting into the story, but I couldn’t. So One Piece and me are on a break for a while.

Oda continues to create character after character without developing his own already established characters, once MAIN characters, that readers and watchers have known and loved for decades. He continues to create mystery after mystery without clarifying any of the mysteries he’s had set up from the start. He forgets what made One Piece so special in the first place: the bond of the crew, their dreams and goals, the hardships that they overcame and showing how that has changed them. He’s just stopped developing the crew members, almost completely. The best we can hope to see of their original personalities is them doing something tropey that they’ve done a million times, or them getting a good fight scene. And while I do love the tropes of the crew and a lot of their cool fights, it just isn’t enough anymore. I miss the Strawhats. Oda treats nearly every character besides Luffy, and Zoro and Sanji on their good days, like side characters, because that’s what they have all become. And it’s disappointing to see.

All this being said, I have not given up on One Piece. I don’t think that Wano is a bad arc in its entirety; it’s not. I don’t even think that Egghead is a bad arc; it’s not. As always, the world of Egghead is creative and immersive. We’re finally getting to see an admiral in action, another thing Oda has put off showing us for a long time, and there are hints at mysteries about Vegapunk being uncovered. But I just don’t care enough about Kuma, who has the same backstory as many other characters now that they’ve spent way too much time on to the point where it feels like beating a dead horse, and Bonney, who’s entire previously interesting and strong-willed character has now been reduced to being Kuma’s daughter ALREADY, to continue to watch and read this manga. I want to see the crew come back into themselves and end up being important again. I want the consumption of over 20 years of content to feel worth it. And I want there to be payoff instead of filler. I want answers, Oda. Please.

All in all — I’ve come to the heartbroken conclusion that while I love One Piece, I don’t really like it. At least not right now. And I have to accept that.

Thank you everyone for reading!


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About the Creator

angela hepworth

Hello! I’m Angela and I love writing fiction—sometimes poetry if I’m feeling frisky. I delve into the dark, the sad, the silly, the sexy, and the stupid. Come check me out!

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Comments (2)

  • Angie the Archivist 📚🪶2 months ago

    I love your incisive, entertaining piece on One Piece!😍 ‘ So One Piece and me are on a break for a while... I want the consumption of over 20 years of content to feel worth it. And I want there to be payoff instead of filler. I want answers, Oda. Please.’ Despite loathing: violence, most comics (didn’t store them in libraries, so I had no access to them in my growing up years)… & therefore Graphic Novels… (not used to them & it’s far easier for me to just read a story… I get sidetracked by the graphics)… my son got me into watching & loving the Live Action One Piece!🙃 So, a fascinating read for me! Thanks ✅

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angela hepworthWritten by angela hepworth

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