One Piece. I’m going to assume that if you’re on RightStufAnime.com, you know I’m talking about the shounen pirate series currently celebrating its 20th anniversary and not a bathing suit. The series is wildly popular, but with over 90 volumes of manga to read and nearly 900 anime episodes already out there, where does a new fan start? Is it even worth it?
This isn't even a complete collection.
Is it worth starting One Piece 20 years “late”?
I’ll be honest with you, it depends. Do you like fun, adventure, and the vicarious thrill of watching really bad guys get punched in the face? Then absolutely, get started today. How about loveable characters who are a little bit broken inside pursuing their dreams and standing together against oppressive rulers? You’ll adore the Straw Hat crew and their family-like bond as they defy the World Government. Do you exclusively read the romance genre? Stick to shoujo unless you’re willing to do a lot of extra-curricular reading via fanfiction and doujinshi. How do you feel about heavily stylized character design? If you need realism, One Piece is probably not the show for you.
I could go on, but it really comes down to this: One Piece is an adventure. Either you want to join the Straw Hat Pirates on their journey or you don’t. Some people just don’t and that’s okay. For everyone else, there’s
Mastercard this guide.
Where to start?
Alright, so you’ve decided you’re ready to give piracy (the good kind!) a try. Great! Now where do you start?
Anime or manga?
Before you figure out where to start One Piece, you need to decide how you’ll start One Piece. Anime or manga? Most people can read manga a lot faster than they can watch anime (even if you pull the classic trick of watching at 1.5 speed with the subtitles on), so you’ll probably get through the series a lot faster if you choose to read. You’ll also skip the filler episodes, some of which are better than others. Plus, each chapter has a cute one-panel comic at the front that seems like some nice little, unimportant bonus story until it becomes very relevant to the plot 200 chapters later. (The anime handles these in varying ways, usually via quick “flashbacks” when they eventually become relevant or by collecting them into interstitial episodes.)
This scene becomes relevant precisely 294 chapters later.
On the other hand, you’ll miss the color, the dramatic pacing, the music, and the expansion of some plots. I myself usually prefer reading manga, but for One Piece I’m strictly anime only. Fight scenes in manga are often a literal blur for me. In the anime, I get the music underscoring the weight of each action. The kinetic movement of Luffy’s rubber powers is perfectly suited to animation. The bright colors pop out. “We Are” and “Bink’s Sake” get stuck in my head for days. (Wait, maybe that’s not a good thing...) For me, One Piece is meant to be animated, so that’s how I personally prefer to experience it. I have the advantage, however, of only needing to devote 22 minutes of my life to it every Saturday rather than getting caught up on well over 300 hours of content.
Obvious hybrid solution: Read the manga, then go back and watch your favorite scenes in the anime (and make sure episode 396 is first on that list). There are guides all over the internet that will help you match up each chapter and episode. Just remember that they’re full of spoilers since, you know, most of these storylines came out years and years ago.
Trust me, this sequence gives you the chills with music.
The Beginning - For those with time on their hands
The most obvious starting point in One Piece is the beginning (episode 1 or volume 1, natch). You’ll get all the content in the order it was meant to be experienced. You’ll watch the Straw Hats grow stronger both individually and as a crew. If you’ve managed to avoid spoilers for the last two decades, you’ll be surprised and shocked by some of the twists the stories take. If you’ve got the time on your hands, this is definitely a great choice.
On the other hand, some of the early arcs suffer from pacing issues, most notably Usopp’s arc. Coby, the first character the audience is introduced to, doesn’t top a lot of favorite lists for good reason and can make the first couple episodes feel a little grating. So don’t feel too bad if you prefer to jump into One Piece somewhere else.
The Reverie Arc - Jump in right now
As it happens, the perfect place to jump into One Piece came out just a couple months ago in the anime: the Reverie Arc (episodes 878-889 or volume 90). It features important characters in the One Piece world reminiscing about how they met the Straw Hats and what crazy things they’ve done to become the wanted pirates they are now, so you’ll get the most important plot points right away. It also introduces more intrigue on the part of the World Government, which adds an extra layer of depth to the main plot.
Right after the Reverie comes the Wano arc (episodes 890-?, volume 90), which has been hotly anticipated for literal years and is just now getting started. The Wano arc features the whole crew reunited for the first time in three very long arcs and promises to be one heck of a story. There’s genuinely no better time to get invested.
Water Seven - Jump in like it’s 14 years ago
One thing the One Piece anime is notorious for these days is drawing out every beat from the manga so as not to catch up too fast. There’s some debate over whether this is better or worse than inserting filler arcs in-between main arcs, but it definitely leads to certain scenes feeling dragged out and can be off-putting, especially for newcomers.
For an example of old-school One Piece in its prime, start with episode 230/volume 34, the beginning of Water Seven, and watch through the end of Enies Lobby (episode 312, volume 44). The crew has just finished up an adventure in the sky and is ready to trade in their treasure for cash and make repairs to their boat. This leads into one of the best storylines in the whole series (although Wano may give it a run for its money), and you’ll be given all the context you need to fully experience One Piece’s emotional heights.
Ask a trusted friend - The guided tour
Confession: I actually did not start One Piece from episode 1. I was first introduced to the series waaaay back in my university’s anime club, and our prez showed us a few episodes from near the beginning (Luffy meeting Zoro, the Buggy arc), then skipped Usopp’s arc and introduced us to Sanji’s arc by simply saying “They have a boat now.” We skipped some of the Sanji fights, too. And you know what? It was great. There was absolutely no trouble having missed episodes because One Piece, like any self-respecting, long-running shonen manga, reminds you of any important plot points as necessary.
If you’ve got a friend who’s seen the whole show and knows your tastes, this is by far the best method for getting into One Piece. (I mean, at the time there were only like 100 episodes out and we thought it was long then!) Maybe you like when a whole bunch of characters with crazy powers square off. Then your friend will help you find the best fights in the Paramount War. Maybe you couldn’t care less and just want to see what’s up with Ace. Let your friend show you the five relevant episodes and then move on to 3D2Y. Do you really like zombies? Your friend will sit you down for a Halloween marathon of Thriller Bark. Don’t know what these arc names mean? That’s okay, your friend assuredly does.
Jump in anywhere - Explore like a pirate
But honestly, you can start One Piece from just about anywhere. One of the movies or the beginning of an arc are always good choices, but even in the middle of the longest arc there are recaps at the beginning of the episodes to get you up to speed or a quick “where is everyone now” at the beginning of each manga volume. Give it a couple episodes and you’ll be completely immersed. I guarantee it.
One Piece makes sure you're always in the loop.
-Lisa Marie Cooper
Lisa has been a fan of One Piece for longer than she cares to admit, owns more Portrait of Pirates figures than she cares to admit, and has lost at One Piece: Pirate’s Carnival to her younger brothers way more times than she cares to admit. Long-time Right Stuf fans may recognize Lisa as Marie from the Anime Today podcast or as the OG RightStufSpecialsMinion on the Anime News Network and Fandom Post forums. Her non-anime articles can be found at PositivelyEditorial.com.