So it’s come to this. You’re interested in catching up on One Piece. And why wouldn’t you? It’s the highest selling manga of all time in Japan and one of the most beloved anime franchises in the world. Personally speaking as a fan, One Piece is also one of the most moving and ambitious works of high fantasy ever created.
There is one little hurdle, however, and I’m sure you’re familiar with it: One Piece is nearly 700 episodes long and nowhere close to the finish line. The initial push to getting caught up with the series is only getting more and more difficult as the episode count keeps going up. So, what can we do about that? Is penetrating this massive adventure just too much for newcomers? Well, I don’t think so!
One Piece is a series near and dear to my heart. I’ve been with the genre of long-running shonen for about my entire life, and the ride of catching up with One Piece I find to be surprisingly doable and especially rewarding. So, if you’re interested in checking the series out, I’ve compiled a list to help make some sense of your little mountain climb.
There’s a lot of conversation over what the “perfect” way to experience One Piece is and, not surprisingly, you’ll find a lot of people vouching for the experience that they personally had, be it the manga, the anime, the dub or sub, etc. The reality is that there are a lot of tradeoffs between the different versions, and no one true way is actually better than the other (in my honest opinion.)
The anime is more of an experience with its slower moments and great music, whereas the manga has great art and is a good way to gorge on large chunks of story in a small amount of time. Either way, you’ll still be getting the same story. I’m a nerd so I’ve gone through both versions several times, but even I didn’t get through the series my first time by sticking to only one format.
There’s a secret to all of this, though: the manga and anime (at least, the manga canon episodes of the show) are basically interchangeable. If you read faster than you can watch an episode of anime, you might want to switch back and forth. Find yourself bored with an arc in the anime, but want to find out what happens? Switch over to the manga and blast through it. Enjoying the manga but want to see some of these fight scenes animated? Hop on over to your preferred streaming service and change course for the anime version instead. It’s a pretty unique position to be in: you have two interchangeable versions that you can get through at your own pace, and it’s up to you to decide which one works best for you in any given moment. Maybe you notice the DVDs on sale at Right Stuf or you happen to be browsing your friend’s manga volumes. If it’s within reach, don’t be afraid to dive right in.
Here’s another little secret: You’re not going to appreciate every little detail no matter where you start. There are later events that work better because you’ve seen the earlier stuff, but there are also earlier events that work better because you’ve seen the later stuff. Nobody’s experience is going to be the same anyway, so feel free to mold it how you like.
Personally, if you’d like to dive in without the ominous feeling that watching “One Piece episode one” might bring (heck, 10 hours later you’re still in the first season of the show), I personally recommend giving the Water 7 arc a shot. It’s a little darker than some of the other big story arcs, but it features some incredible moments with the show’s principal cast, has some amazing fights and is emotionally satisfying in the way the best One Piece material is. It’s not a bad place to start, but the choice is yours.
If a long-running series does its job right, it should engage you no matter how lost you are among all the lore. Take a chance on a random episode or start at the beginning of an arc that sounds interesting to you. Most fans of the series became hooked because they just saw it on TV one day or opened the pages of Shonen Jump.