This anime is over a decade old and is still half-way through. All the analysis will focus only on what I have watched so far, which is up to the end of the Punk Hazard arc.
One Piece was for many years unnoticed by the majority of the anime community. It began airing around the same time as Hunter X Hunter, which was the fad of the year. Even after HxH ended, One Piece still didn’t manage to make an impression because immediately then began Naruto and Bleach. Also, the American dub had so many ridiculous changes that made many to believe it is a show for 5-year olds. It took for the Big Two to enter filler mode, as well as for some dedicated fansub groups to distribute the original version of One Piece before it was noticed in the west. After that happened, it quickly climbed all the way to the top of popularity and remains there to this day. Its manga sales have also blown out of the water any other title of its era.
The reason it achieved all that is because it had a great feeling of adventure with hundreds of recurring colourful characters who are constantly appearing and disappearing from the main story, as well as a constantly expanding world full of islands, each one with its own distinctive look and society. As far as slapstick humor goes, it is also quite funny for a younger audience.
The setting is quite imaginative as it seems to blend all sorts of themes and eras, with each area having its own unique features and climates. It even makes various tributes to fairy tales, real life pirates, real life actors, and historical cities. It also plays the switcheroo card in a proficient way, since by the time you get fed up with the same jokes repeating in one area, the cast is sent to another place, where you are again kept interested just to see how they will adjust there. Of course this is just a gimmick to mask the complete lack of actual development. We gradually learn more about the world but there is close to zero character growth, or a feeling they are getting closer to their objective. Heck, said objective is more of an excuse to be kept on the move than something specific and understandable. You are never let to know what the main objective, the One Piece, really is or how far it is from them at any given moment.
So like all standart shonen do, they keep their characters the same since their introduction, with the only flavour being a few character quirks, and a sad background story that is forgotten and means nothing after their introduction is over. You are prevented from getting bored by constantly introducing more characters instead of changing the older ones.
This trick, although effective, can only work for a certain amount of times before it gets old and 600 episodes is more than enough time for that to happen. The official claim is that the series will reach 1000 episodes (WUT?) and I don’t see how it can remain interesting after its problems become so apparent. The main two problems being:
1) It is long. Most of us followed it after the first 200 episodes had aired and it was fun to see in fast forward the entire journey up until that point. But after that we had to wait for each episode to air every week. It made the pacing feel slower and the story itself is also slowing down as it goes on. So I must say that the feeling I had when the show began and the one I have at the point it currently reached are miles apart. It really feels like it now drags like any other typical shonen. Also, the longer it becomes, the harder it gets for newer people to get into it. Who would be willing to watch so many episodes?
2) Lowered production values. At first, the show had a simplistic albeit likable style of animation. It improved as it went on up to a point but after that, it started to decline more and more to the point it is now worse than when it began. It feels lazy and ugly, with characters and motions looking bad.
Let me explain how my perception changed by presenting each arc individually.
- The first arc is called East Blue and it is pretty much the introduction of the main cast. The main hero starts alone and along the way his core crew joins one after another, for various reasons. All that happen in roughly 50 episodes (plus 10 fillers) in which you also get all sorts of villains standing in the way of their journey. It may feel like it is slow and simple at points but the amount of time it spends on getting to like and attach each new crew member makes it all worthwhile. Very few parts feel like they were pointless action or aimless strolling; most are about the characters getting to know and trust each other. It is a fine arc as far as shonen shows go. Mark: 9/10
- The second is Baroque Works, where the crew is thrown in the midst of a grand-scaled conspiracy, set in motion by a shady organization that seems to work for the good of the world but in reality it is nothing but a bunch of heartless thugs. This arc lasts for about 70 episodes and it definitely drags the plot pointlessly at times (especially during their stroll in the desert; that part is overkill). If you take those boring parts out, this arc is also very good as we are introduced to various political and social notions of the world, and how the journey is not about dealing with random autonomous villains but with organized multinational hidden agendas. Mark: 8/10
- The third is Skypiea, where the crew is now taken on a world above the clouds. It lasts for 50 episodes (plus 20 fillers) and this time we are introduced to mostly idealistic notions that are not exactly relevant to the main story. For example, many pirates are now planning to create a new world where the sensation of a journey in order to find treasure and adventure will be obsolete. But this part is thrown to the side as the heroes pretty much beat everyone and move along. Then it is about some sort of world in the stars and weapons of mass destruction. But again nothing is shown; it is mostly hinting possible future events. Even if that is a cool foreshadowing, leaving them aside for hundreds of episodes still feels weak. Plus this arc did not introduce new crew members or sides of the world. Skypiea is pretty much isolated from the rest of the islands and it seems the people there don’t even care about the land below them. What was this entire arc about is kinda blurry. I did like the setting and the broken powers of the main villain but it is otherwise a kinda pointless arc. Mark: 7/10
- The fourth is CP9, which lasted for a wooping 90 episodes plus 30 fillers. This is where you start to clearly see the show getting tiresome, as the plot is definitely slower and the animation lazier. The themes are again about a shady organization but it is hardly as interesting as the one in the second arc. They were never mentioned before, never mentioned again, and were just there to flesh out one of the characters in a fashion that felt similar to the last part of the first arc. So in overall it was a just above average part of the show and a poor excuse to give power ups to the characters in a most lazy way. Mark 6/10
- The fifth is the Whitebeard War which is (believe it or not) 180 episodes and 20 fillers long. No matter how good a story is, this is just ridiculous. Although it spiced thing up by making the crew get separated, as well as killing important characters for the first time (yeah, it took 500 episodes for that) it still felt like a dragged to infinity plot with bad animation and lots of pointless action. They also brought most of the old secondary characters together while introducing a hundred more for a major battle. Yet the battle was boring as hell and the characters didn’t do much, so it only made it look like a poor gathering of cameos. Mark: 5/10
- The sixth is Fishman Island, which lasted for 60 episodes and no fillers. Although that makes it relatively short and full of plot, it was by far the most stupid arc yet. The villains have no appeal, their goals are stupid, the battles are lame, and the only reason this arc was made was just for the heroes to show off their new powers and to win easily against opponents who were nowhere near their level. Mark: 3/10
- Next up is Punk Hazzard and once again it is more stupid than interesting. Everything in it feels like a lamer repeat of previous arcs, and despite the characters training for several years, they still act as stupid as always. I just don’t care anymore; it lost its magic. Mark: 2/10
It is still an overall above average show but it is not like they couldn’t speed up things or have better animation. One could say they have budget problems, another may say they try to keep away from the manga, but I don’t really care about all that, since the final product is just lazy and an excuse to get pissed and go read the manga.
I definitely like the characters for their weird looks and weirder behaviours; they are very humorous and memorable. That still doesn’t hide the fact they didn’t evolve at all. And I am not talking about getting stronger or changing clothes; these don’t count as development of personality. The show doesn’t even bother killing them, no matter how injured they are. And we are talking here about a whole lot of injuries! A few days in bandages while eating meat is all it takes to be completely healed. And sure, I know, many characters die in flashbacks and two major ones died in the end of the last arc, all of which happened just because the author felt like building some drama and not because they couldn’t possibly have survived. There is absolutely no logic behind what can kill you and what can’t. Here is a rundown of the main cast and how I feel about them.
- Luffy is the captain, the stereotypical shonen protagonist who just goes on no matter what happens. The thing that makes him funny is how he is a complete retard who never thinks but just acts based on his moral values. And that is also what makes him so irrirtating because you can never talk seriously to this guy. He will just sleep or eat while you talk and then will do exactly what you were trying to warn him not to do. He has no touch with his surrounds and walks about autistically, which makes him funny but also obnoxious from a point on. Especially after the major time skip, he acts even more stupid than before, which contradicts all he is supposed to have learned, as well as the grief of the loved person he lost forever.
- Zoro is the swordsman and has the most elaborate background and philosophy. He is just trying to be the best swordsman in the world but the reasons who drive him to be as such are pointed out all the time in a significan way. I find nothing bad in him; he was handled nicely. Every arc has a part where he is evaluation his skills and vows to improve further. It is no secret that he is the best character of the whole show because of it.
- Nami is the navigator and the burglar of the bunch. She was interesting during the first arc while her drama was still fresh and a bit afterwards for being the only one who knew how to navigate in the red zone properly. Afterwards her role just didn’t matter. She is just there mostly for fan service, as her clothes gradually get smaller and her boobs grow larger. She is also supposed to be the voice of reason and guidance in the crew but all that mean nothing when herself gets greedy and does stupid things all the time. I don’t care about her anymore; she became obnoxious too.
- Usopp is the sniper and someone who tries to do important things without lying. He is mostly there as a comic relief but occationally gets surrounded by drama; which is cool. His best phase was when he defended their first ship and even clashed wth the rest of the team about it, leading him to create a hidden persona. After that though he reverted to the same scared idiot he always was. Despite the numerous battles and training he hasn’t become any braver at all.
- Sanji is the cook and someone who tries to find an ocean full of fish to cook. He doesn’t have much to do as an individual besides running after women or arguing with Zoro. They hardly focused on him and despite the attempt to make him some sort of a tranny as part of his development, he still reverted back to a womanizer idiot.
- Chopper is the doctor and also a reindeer who wants to find his own identity. His drama is weak as it is hardly mentioned after his introduction, so he just becomes another comic relief and the cute mascot of the team.
- Robin is the archaeologist and a sort of an information pool, explaining to the rest what they are going to meet up ahead. Her drama during her capture was cool, even if it was basically a rehash of Nami’s past. She is a sort of mother figure to the crew but she is otherwise doesn’t do much other than being lazy, reading books, and occationally showing some bare skin.
- Franky is the shipwright who wants to… um… He doesn’t have a goal. He is just a robotic parody, plus a deviant for running around in tight pants. A hardly interesting character.
- Brook is the musician who also doesn’t have a goal, other than being a creepy skeleton doing really lame puns and wanting to see women’s underwear. Also hardly interesting.
So basically you are watching this show just for Zoro to do some bushido thinking once every 50 episodes. The anime is focused almost entirely on personality gimmicks rather characterization. This is of course still a shonen series and it still is to its core immature and unrealistic and one should never try to reason it too much. But it also lasted for 600 episodes and it will last for a lot more, which eventually is more than enough to tire anyone’s interest about the frozen still characters. Especially when it is NOT as interesting or as fast as it began. Not that they are as unwatchable as the cast in Naruto or Bleach; but gets closer to them with each passing episode.
Popularity is a very flimsy thing and usually full of stuff that make no sense. For example, there is this consensus that the first 50 episodes of the show are very boring, advised to be skipped and start immediately from the second arc. I have no idea why they believe that; for a perpetual on-going shonen series One Piece’s initial part is fine and in fact the best arc of them all. The same popularity also claims that the show becomes awesome from the CP9 arc and that it is advised to begin watching from that point onwards. I again never understood that; since for me that is the part where production values and pacing started to drop significantly.
So please don’t pay attention to what the brainless fanboys of this show say, since the only thing they managed to do was to destroy its credibility with their stupid claims. I used to be a huge fan of the show while the other two of the Big Three were still far more popular. I felt proud to be part of those who did their best to prove its more than obvious superiority over those two. But after we succedded at that, I stopped being a fan, because the majority of its fandom are now tards of the same and worse volume of the other two series, and they typically refuse to admit the series is getting worse. To them, it is getting better with each passing minute; which is of course a lie.
I admit that in overall it is still far more enjoyable and well thought of that any other perpetual on-going shonen ever made into anime. Also, despite all I said about the slow progression, for a perpetual on-going shonen series it still has to the most part the fastest pace and the least amount of filler episodes. So in case you want to marathon it, you will suffer less than with the rest of them.
Its action is full of wacky ideas and interesting choreography and each island is like a world of its own. What kids won’t like that? But I am not going to spam 10s all over the place because it is not perfect and I don’t enjoy it as much as I did. It lost a lot of its magic along the way.
But hey, it is still the best example of a good long-running series despite its mishaps and I do consider it worthy of mentioning in my Nostalgia series. So there you go; have fun while it lasts (and boy does it last a lot).