Previous Saga Blogs
Water 7 is the best One Piece saga so far.
I’m spoiling the whole blog post, but it must be said. Baroque Works may have the best action and Skypiea the thematic complexity, but Water 7 is certainly the best all-around. It’s got the action and humor that define the series, but its character drama elevates it to greatness. Some have said you can start One Piece at Water 7. After reading this saga, I have to disagree. It is only by reading the previous 300 chapters that it left the impact it did. That is tons of chapters, but it is well worth it, my Straw Hats.
Long Ring Long Land Arc
Water 7 gets off to a light-hearted start when they land ashore on the Long Ring Long Land islands. Leave it to Oda to make an island that’s themed entirely around length. There’s long trees, long hills, and… long stilts! Tonjit and his horse, Sherry, don’t get much screen time, but leave a lasting impression. It’s funny that Tonjit was so scared of heights he couldn’t come down. On an island named Long Land, no less. It does weird me out that Sherry has long eyelashes and human female eyes, though. The thing that started getting on my nerves was the extensive puns about lengths. They got long in the tooth. They almost extended beyond their welcome before Foxy showed up.
I have to say, Foxy may be the ugliest One Piece character. He looks like a gargoyle who rammed their face into a door multiple times. Then it’s coupled with the Slow-Slow fruit, a great power making him a formidable opponent. Why do you make me have to look at him so much, Oda?!
But what he brings is worth the looks: The Davy Back! I love this idea; I don’t want to lose a crew-mate! Not when they’re basically family. Missing out on them for just a chapter would be a weird experience. It makes the Davy Back Games exciting, and Oda adds lots of humor to make it fun, even when your hair is standing on end. It is also preparation for what’s to come in future arcs.
The best game has to be the Groggy Ring. It’s a fun setup made better by the Sanji-Zoro pairing. These two never get along: Zoro thinks Sanji is too posh and Sanji can’t stand Zoro’s stoic nature. Their misgivings reach a climax in this event. Despite the initial bickering, they become a team for the sake of their crew-mates. They don’t like each other, but they also can’t stand to lose the other. The size of their giant opponents gives the action a grand scale, even for a soccer game.
I also need to highlight the Luffy and Foxy fight. If it wasn’t for the dramatic, “For friendship!” messaging, this would feel right at home in a Looney Tunes short. With every room in a ship a new weapon or visual gag, as if Oda switched the Bugs Bunny-Elmer Fudd dynamic. I also love the afro. It’s now up there with Zoro’s sense of direction as the best running gag in the series.
Foxy loses, everyone keeps their crew-mates, and Foxy sails away. You’d think that would be the end of the arc, but that was just the first half. From here, we take a 180 that sets the tone for the rest of the saga going forward: the introduction of Vice Admiral Aokiji.
There are characters that demand immediate respect, and that includes Aokiji. With his great height and sullen eyes, he’s immediately imposing. I like fancast voices in my head, and Lex Luthor from the old Superman and Justice League cartoons is super fitting. But it’s Robin’s reaction that makes him terrifying. For over a hundred chapters now, Robin has been stone faced, not giving a word of her past. Now she cowers in fear at the sight of him as he digs up memories of her past. It’s a scary moment made more terrifying when Aokiji shows the power of the Chilly-Chilly Fruit. Seeing Luffy get defeated so easily really puts Aokiji’s and the Straw Hat’s power into perspective. Not even Luffy can protect Robin from her cold past.
Water 7 Arc
In search of a way to fix up the Merry Go, we set sail to the saga’s namesake, Water 7! This is a truly great arc. It’s got everything: political intrigue, strong emotions, and a huge cast to love. Speaking of, you know when you’re introduced to a bunch of characters and you're an immediate fan of all of them? That’s this panel.
Every character has a unique look and, dagnabbit, Oda just knows how to visualize the concept of Cool. I especially like Kaku with his long nose and weird eyes. These guys could probably have their own spin-off, but luckily for my wallet One Piece spin-offs aren’t much of a thing. This introduction of awesome is met with bad news: Robin has disappeared, and the Merry Go is broken beyond repair.
Everyone takes it hard, especially Usopp. Why wouldn’t he? For him, Merry Go is the last piece of home. It was given to him by his crush and they’ve been through thick and thin. Usopp was there for Merry for makeshift repairs, and Merry Go responded by carrying them across continents and above the sky. Nami has her tangerine trees, Usopp has the ship. Now it’s being ripped away. It’s not something Usopp can handle. So when Luffy decides they should get a new ship, Usopp understandably freaks out. This conflict reaches a breaking point with the most emotionally-charged fight in the series: Luffy vs Usopp. Even though the result is obvious, Usopp will fight for Merry to the bitter end. With that, Usopp leaves the crew, something unthinkable just an arc ago.
Now, where did Robin go? Lurking in the shadows, it’s time to talk about CP9. Oda does a great job building up this mysterious group of the World Government's best spies and assassins. Simply hearing the name “CP9” forces Robin to ditch the Straw Hats and join the group, then frame the Straw Hats for an assassination attempt on Mayor Iceberg. Then you get to actually see them in action.
The next time you see them, it’s under the shadow of night, dressed in a cosplayer’s ultimate dream. They infiltrate Iceberg’s home, defeating all guards swiftly. They even got the Galley-La crew. Speedy Kaku didn’t even see them coming! So who are these super powerful, evil villains?
People joke about Top 10 Anime Betrayals, but can we talk about Top 10 Anime Betrayals? How could you do this to me, Kaku! This twist is so good! So far, One Piece has worked a certain way. Villains have been characters that are introduced as villains and obviously evil. Then this arc comes in and finger pistols the status quo. My expectations are flipped, and I couldn’t be more excited. What’s coming up next? Oh, a flashback? Maybe things aren’t that different. Super!
It’s time to talk about Franky, the cola chugging excavator. At first I wasn’t a big fan of cyborgs in the One Piece universe. Then I remembered a man ate a fruit that allows him to detach and control his body parts; maybe cyborgs aren’t such an outrageous idea. Plus we need more surfer dudes in manga.I did enjoy his backstory. It’s able to serve as both a backstory for Franky, Iceberg, Franky’s gang, Water 7, and that sumo frog all at the same time. That’s impressive when you think about it. It's sad, but one that pales in comparison to what comes later. But first, it’s time to hit the tracks on Rocket Man!
After all that character drama, it’s a nice change of pace to return to some action as they survive the Aqua Laguna and infiltrate the enemy train. The biggest by far is Luffy’s and Zoro’s Gomu Gomu no 300 Pound Cannon splitting a wave in half. Sanji’s fight with Wanze is fun and tests the star chef’s mettle. Though Wanze being able to spit noodles out of his nose is extremely gross. Who would even think to do that? It must hurt so much. Then a new character joins the fray…
Usopp is dead, long live Sniper King. Usopp has been the Saga’s MVP, and this change of face makes it more obvious to me. I don’t get the Usopp hate I see from some fans. Since panel 1 he’s been the Straw Hat’s everyman, and he’s filled that role well. Sure he lies a lot, but that’s Usopp trying to cover up his cowardice. Usopp so desperately wants the lies to be true, but he can’t overcome his cowardly nature to make the stories a reality. During this saga, Usopp is having an internal fight with the man he was and is (represented by the Merry Go) and the man he wants to be (represented by Sniper King). It’s similar to what Robin is going through as well. They’ve both abandoned their friends because they can’t let go of their past selves. It makes their conversation on the Sea Train more powerful, as she once again rejects their help. Now she must face her destiny on the Sea Train’s last stop: Enies Lobby.
Enies Lobby Arc
If you thought Water 7 was emotionally taxing, have I got an arc for you! But before we get to the emotional showdown, The Straw Hats, Galley-La Crew, and Franky’s Family must infiltrate the seat of World Government justice. Which means ramming through every gate and punching every enemy in sight. During this all-out assault, we get another great moment with Usopp. Turns out the Little Island arc has some importance as some enemy giants were crew-mates of Brogy and Dorry. Now Usopp gets to stand on the shoulders of giants.
Meanwhile Luffy fights ahead, reaching the courthouse before running into Blueno, the bull of CP9. The fight looks bad for Luffy, until…
...huh? The steam makes it look cool and makes for a fun if confusing surprise. Anime community has shown there are a bunch of other gears, so this is only the beginning. As long as it doesn't turn into “Super Saiyan Goku Super Saiyan” levels of confusion, it should be fine.
I also need to highlight a favorite moment before we get to the heavy stuff. One of my favorite scenes in movies is when the main cast are in a dangerous situation, and they all scream as they accomplish some impossible feat. I think the Rocketman flying over the bridge to Enies Lobby tower counts as one.
Now, the Straw Hats stand on top of the courthouse, staring at Nico Robin across the gap. Again they plea to Robin, but she continues to resist. This is after the crew finds out the reason Robin joined CP9 was to keep them from calling a Buster Call, the ultimate show of force by the Navy, capable of apocalyptic destruction. But why would Robin do that? Why not let them face a Buster Call together? Why does Robin keep rejecting their love?
I don’t think I can properly convey how heart-breaking Robin’s backstory is. It was like how I felt about Chopper finding out he gave Heiliuk poison, but for 3 hours straight. I can’t imagine reading this as it came out, “Yahoo! Another Shonen Jump issue! I can’t wait to find out how Oda is going to rip out my heart this week! Again! For the 8th straight week!”
Robin is a woman who has always been alone. Her “adoptive parents” ignore her. The only things she has are the scholars at the Tree of Knowledge, the giant Saul, and her mother. Then the people who do love her are ripped away from her, in pools of blood and balls of fire. They died simply because they wanted to learn about the Void Century. The only person left alive to show her kindness is Aokiji, and it was done more out of curiosity. She is labeled a devil by the world government, and is one of the world’s most wanted criminals at a very young age. Continuing her family legacy of hunting for the Poneglyphs, she does it in ways that reinforce her devil moniker, because that’s what she thinks she is. She’s internalized her trauma and abuse. She is haunted by her past. But not with the Straw Hats. They don’t care about who Robin was, but who she really is. They have this unconditional love for Robin. More importantly, they want to be with her to the end. She doesn’t want the Straw Hats to be the target of the government? They’ll burn the World Government flag. They will do anything to make her stay. All Robin needs to do is accept their love, to find out she has a reason to live. That reason: to love herself and be with her friends.
Honestly, after all that, the rest of the arc felt like blur. It became non-stop action, unwinding us from the emotions before. There were some fun bits I wanted to highlight:
- Fukurou is my favorite CP9 member. It could be because I gave him the voice of Lumpy Space Princess from Adventure Time. Cha pa pa…
- Berserk Chopper is like seeing your grandmother angry. Never again, Cute Chopper only.
- I never thought I’d see a fighting giraffe in a manga but here we are, and it’s my favorite fight in this arc.
- I enjoyed the part of Lucci and Luffy’s fight that didn’t have any dialogue or sound effects. The action flowed much better, I hope we get more of it.
- The Sniper King costume gradually falling apart, revealing more of Usopp's face, shows how he changes over this arc.
- The Buster Call was all the hype made it be. I’m glad everyone made it out safe. It shows Robin that things will be different this time.
- Merry Go is my hero.
After all that action, Oda delivers a sucker punch to the heart. After saving their friends, the Merry Go can no longer go on. It is time to say goodbye to Best Ship. Previously in Skypiea, Usopp once saw a shadow fixing Merry. Franky later tells him he saw Klabautermann, the physical embodiment of the ship’s spirit. The Merry Go has always been treated as its own character, but only in its final moment is it given a voice. Its joy, its regrets, it all spills out as the ship becomes engulfed in flames. Like an owner calming down their pet in its final moments, it’s heart wrenching to see them reassure Merry through a flood of tears. By them I mean the Straw Hats and the reader.
Post-Enies Lobby Arc
Phew, after all that, it’s time to return back to Water 7 and close out this saga. Post-Enies Lobby isn’t that great of a name, so I propose the name All In The Luffy Family because they’re all over this arc. First off, he has a living family we didn’t know about. He has a grandfather (who works for the navy!) and a father (who works against the navy!). I thought Luffy’s father would go the way of Ash’s dad and never be brought up, but here he is in the flesh. So Luffy has a parent, but doesn’t talk to him. We also get to see the return of Koby and Helmeppo, and do they get a glow-up. As they say, be careful who you make fun of in the first saga.
After those introductions, there’s still some threads that need tidying up. Number 1: The Straw Hats need a ship! Franky, with some help from the Galley-La, builds his dream ship. The one he has wanted to build for a long time, but the death of Tom guilting him from ever building again. Now that it’s lifted, Franky builds the ultimate ship: The Thousand Sunny! It’s a good-looking ship and a strong symbol for how far the crew has come, and the growing threats they will have to face.
Now all that’s left is for the crew to board. They board initially, but realize there are two people left: Franky and Usopp. Franky wants to join, but he has a family to take care of. Even when the family says it’s okay, Franky refuses to leave. So naturally they steal his briefs. In a sequence out of The Simpsons Movie, Franky runs through the streets half-naked, until he reaches the ship. Even when Luffy asks, Franky refuses, so Robin… uh, holds the Franky Family jewels hostage. Franky, in tears, agrees to join. Robin reveals that she wasn’t holding on to them at all.
Now it’s Usopp’s turn. After Enies Lobby, he is so excited to get back on the crew. He’s almost fully got on Luffy’s good side, but there’s one thing left: Usopp’s apology. For someone who has lied of grandeur, humility is hard to do. Naturally, it’s not the first thing he does when arrives at the shipyard. But as the ship sails away, Usopp breaks down. To truly be a good human, you have to recognize when you’re wrong. Choosing between swallowing his pride or losing his friends forever, Usopp makes the right choice.
The rest is set up, but it’s dang good set up. First, Shanks and Whitebeard meet. Thanks to Oda’s master panelling, you can tell this is a meeting of gods. Every word and action they take will make major waves across the world. We also get to learn more about these gods as people, and hints of their pasts. It’s a great moment with a great ending.
Far away, another major meeting happens: Portgas D. Ace and Blackbeard. We got to see bits of Blackbeard in Skypiea, but now we see his full potential. A war is brewing between Blackbeard and Whitebeard, and Ace has to stop it. But how can he when Blackbeard has the ultimate Devil-Fruit power?
With that, the best saga in One Piece comes to a close. What an adventure that was. It was high stakes, both action-wise and emotion-wise. You laugh, you cry, you root for characters to become better. It’s everything you could want from a story and more. Now it's time for a spooky, scary saga with Thriller Bark! The write-up will definitely be shorter, that’s for sure.
My updated One Piece arcs rankings
- Arlong Park
- Water 7
- Enies Lobby
- Sky Island
- Orange Town
- Drum Island
- Syrup Village
- Whiskey Peak
- Post-Enies Lobby
- Long Ring Long Land
- Reverse Mountain
- Little Garden
- Romance Dawn