Secrets to Success: One Piece

When it comes to anime, Pirates have definitely beaten Ninjas.

It’s far from hyperbole to say that One Piece has conquered Shounen Island, going from best selling manga of all time to one of the most-watched shows on Japanese TV. It’s not just kids watching this fun, fast-paced romp on the high seas; adults are cueing up to nibble alongside them. With over 700+ episodes under its belt and movie number 13 slated for this month, One Piece feels like the anime that will always be tied to the upper tier of the anime fish tank.

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This is not a toy. This is a lifesize Going Merry. You may be thrilled now.

And yet, the fans couldn’t be more thrilled: why? I even admitted in one of my own posts that most series have a shelf-life, and yet One Piece has left that little “limit” crying in a corner two streets back. How does this show continue to move forward and be decent quality despite its absurd length?

By keeping things connected. One Piece’s  greatest strength is the open world feel of it all. Instead of setting one straight line for the audience to follow, giving a narrow view of the setting, One Piece drops the viewer into a world as large and intricate as our own, and we follow Luffy as he explores every inch of it. It’s a character-driven story of discovery and exploration, something most shounen can’t boast.

620f762550850f2a9d487d8b13bc6204This is the face of “winning.”

And the characters, as it turns out, are One Piece’s greatest strength. The greatest sin of stagnation is character overflow: when you’ve introduced so many people that the audience no longer cares to remember names or faces. One Piece hovers dangerously close to this problem, unavoidable when you truck on for 600+ episodes, and non-fans of the show will gleefully tell you that this makes it an over-bloated cash cow meant to print money.

But fans, like myself, don’t mind the character abundance because each character is interesting and intricate. And, even better, side characters come back as main characters all the time. You never know who’s gonna get a promotion on this show, or whose gonna be one of the most well-loved characters in the entire show.

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First villain, destined for greatness

But all the good characters in the world can’t help a series that moves at a snail’s pace. When shounen gets into seasonal rot it will linger on plotlines, taking up 5+ episodes just to resolve one fight. This DBZ-style stretching is used to draw in more money for a series that’s dying, when the idea bucket gets a hole and runs dry. I’ve heard critics accuse One Piece of doing much of the same, that the series has so many episodes just to draw in all the money. To this I say they have a point: You’d be blind to say that Oda wasn’t pumping out episodes to pay his mortgage.

Then my response would be thus: it’s okay, because he’s giving us new content in return. One Piece keeps the new material coming, and doesn’t linger longer than necessary to get things settled. Each new piece of the story builds on this massive world and, once again, gets called back later on to accent new plotlines. In short, this cash-cow still provides enough good milk to avoid getting a bullet between the eyes, unlike other popular shows

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All I’m gonna say is cough cough.

So you have your great pacing, great characters, and a story that feels more like open world exploration. But we could still get stale if we weren’t careful; the story could still feel like it’s going on and on, and a bored audience with a short attention span will quit the field. How in the world can Oda-Sensei keep these fans watching his glorious brain-child without foaming at the mouth?

By making them laugh like a hyena, then cry buckets down the line.

No ifs, ands, or buts, this show is funny. But the comedy almost always has this sad, dramatic lining underneath it, with some genuinely sad backstories, great tragedies, and super high stakes. But those who aren’t a fan of sad stories can rest assured, the show doesn’t let the sadness sit for very long. Even when someone’s tragic backstory has been dropped neatly in your lap there’s a bunch of jokes waiting in wings.

I’d go on forever if given the chance, so let me just end it with this: Yes, One Piece is a cash cow in the same vein as Pokemon, a monster of a story that can go on forever and keep the money coming in. But the show is going forward with quality material that demonstrably stands heads above your average shonen, and fans are a-ok if the writing stays as good as it’s always been. The show is good, no arguments about it, and I highly recommend it to everyone I meet. In fact, all of you who haven’t seen the show and read this post, go watch it.

You won’t be sorry.

What’s your favorite anime? Do you think One Piece comedy gold or overrated pyrite? Feel free to comment whatever below, and don’t forget to like and follow for more content!

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