"One Piece has had so many absolutely incredible moments for me that stand out as some of the best things I’ve ever seen in anime and manga." So, I'm not asking for an exhaustive list, but what are some of those moments in your opinion? And, if it's not too much to ask, do you think they've become more or less frequent over time?
Ok, so this is in relation to something I said on my personal blog the other day. Picking out the best parts of One Piece is difficult, but I’ll try to list a good handful. Also, calling them “moments” isn’t exactly a good way to frame it, because the best parts are always great because of how well they were developed prior to that. So, for most of what I think I’ll be listing here, I’ll need to talk about more than just one single scene. These won’t be in a specific order, but here we go:
- Merry’s Funeral - even though I was never terribly in love with Merry as a ship in terms of design, I grew to have a great fondness for the ship because of how much the crew themselves loved it, especially Usopp and Luffy. And seeing all the damage it took, seeing it fly up into the clouds of Skypiea, the foreshadowing with Merry’s Klabautermann, finding out that Merry was too damaged to keep sailing and how that sparked the fight between Usopp and Luffy, seeing Merry get washed out to sea… only to return to save them all when all hope of escape seemed lost, and to exchange fond and thankfully farewells with the crew that it loved just as much as they loved it. Everything that went into developing the the story of that ship was amazing, and culminated in one hell of an emotional farewell.
- Robin’s moment of “I wadda live!” - Like Merry, Robin’s development was wonderful, and this was the moment where it all came to a head. Her starting out as the mysterious, dangerous 2nd in command of Baroque Works, to her first speaking of her seemingly unattainable dream, the time she spent with the crew in Skypiea, the betrayal on Water 7, her sacrificing herself for the crew, her utterly tragic history, and then that final moment of accepting that she has a right to live and wants nothing more than to live aside her friends. All of it was building to that very moment, and it was incredible.
- Kuma, on both Thriller Bark and Sabaody - He crushed them. He. Crushed them. Kuma reappearing on the scene the very chapter after Moriah’s defeat, and immediately instilling this overwhelming fear and concern for the crew, was such an intense experience. And then, so soon afterwards on Sabaody, to see the crew in this desperate, hopeless situation, and for then all of a sudden for Kuma to reappear and seemingly annihilate the crew Straw Hat crew… damn, it was so freaking emotional and painful, and shocking and mysterious and interesting. I’ve never been so much on the edge of my seat as I think I was the first time I read those scenes.
- Ace’s and Whitebeard’s deaths - I don’t even think I need to describe how crushing these scenes were, so I won’t.
- Blackbeard’s whole character - It has been so interesting to me to see a character and villain that has been developed as well as he has. From starting out in Mock Town as Luffy and Zoro’s enthusiastic supporter–preaching the undying nature of dreams and respecting the two of them for winning by choosing not to fight, to the evil bastard who captured Ace and murdered the man who treated him like a son for over 20 years to steal his power and proclaim this age as his own. It is often so so hard for writers to develop original, interesting villains, but Oda did it in spades with Blackbeard, I feel. Blackbeard is a character who we actually got to see develop over the course of hundreds of chapters, experiencing setbacks and victories as the hero of his own story, one entangled with and opposing that of Luffy himself. Mocktown, Impel Down, Marieford–Blackbeard’s just has so many great scenes and been very well developed.
- Jaya and Skypiea - In my opinion this saga had the best narrative arc in the story. The setup that started before they reached Jaya with the amazing appearance of the ship falling from the sky and the shadow giants reaching up to the clouds… Skypiea had a great setup, and then the arc itself felt like such a real adventure and Enel was such a good villain and the backstory was one of the best. The climax had me jumping out of my seat with excitement, and is just an arc that I have so much love for.
And unfortunately, I think that One Piece has gone downhill since the time skip. There have been great parts to the story since the time skip (Otohime and Fisher Tiger’s story, the exciting end to Punk Hazard and the captivating start to Dressrosa, etc), however I don’t feel that anything after the time skip has reached the heights of impact that the best parts of the story pre-time skip has. Law and Cora’s backstory together was very good, but the climax of the arc failed to incorporate Law’s feelings and create a resolution between Law and Doflamingo that gave the arc the kind of massive weight and closure that it was capable of. Basically, it was a let down. (You can read about my thoughts on this starting with this post, and really I am not interested in debating with people further about this.) In the first third of the arc I felt that Dressrosa had the potential to become the best arc in OP’s history, but it wound up falling very fall short of that. Bigger things are certainly on the way in the story, but whether or not they are better things as well is something that remains to be seen. Regardless, at this moment in time, I feel like post-TS One Piece is not fully up to par with the majority of the sagas that preceded it.