From Romance Dawn to Reverie, it's all here!
On July 7th, the long-awaited Wano arc of One Piece begins, and because we're about to jump into an arc that's been building up for eleven years, I think it's as good a time as any to rank all 49 of the arcs that we have already. And I'm going to include the filler arcs, too, because even though many of them can't really hold a candle to the main narrative, I think a few of them are quite underrated.
49. Buggy's Crew Adventures
This isn't really an arc so much as a sigh of relief after the runaway train of emotion of the last few episodes of Arlong Park. You can laugh at Buggy for a bit after watching Nami's soul get ripped apart (and then put back together again).
48. Post Alabasta
You know video game sidequests that are basically around to level up your specific partner characters so that they don't get immediately wiped out in boss fights? This is the anime filler arc version of that. It's fun, though.
47. Foxy's Return
I loooooove Foxy and I looooove the Davy Back Fight arc. But Foxy's Return doesn't quite hit home. It might be because we last saw Foxy six episodes ago, but it truly speaks to Foxy's character that he'd try to make a grand, dramatic return after he got the crap kicked out of him so recently.
46. Spa Island
Foxy returns again in Spa Island, though this filler arc is mostly notable for the fact that Luffy uses Gear Third to split an artificial island in half. That alone wins this arc points.
45. Warship Island
Warship Island isn't a bad filler arc, just a victim of poor placement. It comes right after Loguetown and right after the Straw Hats have each declared their dreams. So it becomes a pit stop arc, like the Straw Hat crew getting gas and snacks before they head out on the Grand Line.
44. Little East Blue
I like to think of Little East Blue as a celebration of pre time skip One Piece, where the Straw Hats get (deservedly) celebrated for a bit. It's cute and it's a nice prologue to the Strong World movie.
43. Z's Ambition
The filler arcs that precede the movies are an odd bunch, as they tend to end with the main villain of the movie showing up in the last five minutes and declaring their plans. So it's hard to enjoy them on their own. That said, Z's Ambition has enough action that even if you don't watch Film Z (but you should, as it's great), you won't really mind the cliffhanger finale.
42. Straw Hat Separation
After Kuma wiped out the crew, this batch of episodes shows where they all ended up. And it's mainly a montage of Straw Hats being confused. And don't get me wrong—the Straw Hats do confusion like nobody's business. But you get more out of their separation in the Post War arc when they finally get around to business.
41. Diary of Koby-Meppo
Koby is a character that has always deserved more time, so getting a few episodes devoted to him and Helmeppo training to be Marines is welcome. Also, my dude Garp shows up for the first time, which means that I've rewatched these two episodes FAR more than I should.
40. Goat Island
Goat Island doesn't feel as "classic" as G-8, nor is it as entertaining as Ocean's Dream. In fact, it's about as fluffy as the goats that appear in it. But a three episode arc where Chopper talks to goats and Luffy doesn't beat up a villain but rather causes him to get shipwrecked? I'm FOR it.
39. Chopper Man Special
Chopper Man has Chopper in a cape. It's worth it for that. Please @ me. Chopper Man, you're my hero, and I hope you one day get a Chopper Man & Sogeking Save The Grand Line special.
38. Romance Dawn
Romance Dawn establishes a lot of things that will become classic tropes in One Piece: Going to a new island, meeting new crew members, helping out little kids, taking out a power hungry warlord, etc. It's a blueprint arc, and it works well as that. Sadly, the anime would not continue the "introduce a Straw Hat character with rad guitar" idea like they do with Zoro here.
37. Orange Town
The East Blue saga only gets better as it goes along, and Orange Town provides a nice counter to Romance Dawn. For example, if Axe-Hand Morgan represented the seriousness of the Marine threat in the last arc, then Buggy represents the other side of the villains that the Straw Hat Crew will encounter: cartoonish, loud, and beaten in a really fun way.
36. Ruluka Island
Ruluka Island feels like condensed One Piece, like you'd just add some water to turn this four episode arc into a twenty episode one. It's a nice arc to stretch your legs in before you go to the big themes of Jaya.
35. Ice Hunter
Ice Hunter is neat because it gives every member of the Straw Hat crew a little time to shine in a story that is action-packed and intriguing. If you miss pre timeskip One Piece and haven't watched the Ice Hunter arc, give it a shot.
34. Marine Rookie
I know that we're all eager to see the Straw Hats reunite in Wano, but if you want to see more of Whole Cake's Sanji Retrieval Team, the Marine Rookie arc makes for a solid bonus round. Also, the only reason it starts is because Luffy eats all of the Straw Hats' supplies, which, logically, should be the beginning of waaaaay more One Piece arcs.
33. Silver Mine
If you didn't get enough Bartolomeo in Dressrosa, then surprise! They made a filler arc just for you.
32. Boss Luffy Specials
You know when you fall asleep watching a show, and then you wake back up and, in your grogginess, suddenly whatever is on TV looks insane? That's what happened to me with Boss Luffy. I had just finished watching Ace's fight with Blackbeard and then, boom. I was out. Then I wake up and see the Straw Hats in 19th century Japan. The Boss Luffy stuff is fun, but I think it's best viewed when you're in a delirious half sleep. That's just my personal preference, though.
31. Caesar Retrieval
Caesar made for a fine antagonist on Punk Hazard, but he's even better as shreiking deadweight that the Straw Hat Crew and Company have to keep alive.
30. Little Garden
Little Garden isn't as cool as Whisky Peak, nor does it provide the emotional gut punch of Drum Island. Instead, it's mainly here to further the theme of what it means to be a true warrior and introduce giants (and dinosaurs!) in the One Piece universe. It gives Usopp some of the character development that he needs and Zoro almost cuts off his own feet in an effort to keep fighting. Any arc that illustrates how hard Zoro goes gets at least one thumb up from me.
Loguetown is a fun arc when you consider just how much it expands the scope of the world. Smoker and Tashigi truly begin the Navy's quest to stop the Straw Hats, Dragon gets introduced in a big, mysterious way, and Luffy takes a massive step in establishing himself in the realm of pirating. However, the Straw Hat side stories in the middle (aside from Zoro's awesome bit in the sword shop) slow it down a little.
Zou might be one of the most visually rich arcs in the series. From the massive elephant to the Mink tribe to the terror of Jack to more lessons about the poneglyphs, there's a lot shoved into this short span. And between the intense epics of Dressrosa and Whole Cake Island, it's fits nicely as 10 cc's of wonder and fantasy injected into the New World.
27. Fishman Island
Fishman Island occupies a weird spot. It's thematically heavy, but also serves as the action-packed Straw Hat Crew comeback tour. It needs to stand on its own, but it also caps off with a declaration of war against Big Mom, a villain that won't be encountered for years. In all, I feel that the importance of the Fishman Island arc is yet to be truly realized.
26. Ocean's Dream
One of the final two filler arcs on this list, Ocean's Dream seems like One Piece fan fiction in the best way. If you were dissatisfied with Luffy's fight with Zoro on Whisky Peak, you get another round of it here while Zoro is being mind controlled.
25. Syrup Village
If Romance Dawn and Orange Town were warm up laps, Syrup Village is when One Piece begins to break out in a sprint. The introduction of Usopp and the Going Merry make for some great moments and it's this arc that got me hooked on One Piece when I first started watching it.
Dressrosa, for better (and sometimes for worse) is massive. Doflamingo is a threat that had been popping up since the Jaya arc, but because of Dressrosa's scope, his defeat can feel a little lackluster, especially when you consider that he's a pitstop on the road to Kaido. But Dressrosa introduces the endlessly cool Fujitora and the Straw Hats' big pirate alliance, and also gives us the dual backstories to Law and Doflamingo, neither of which disappoint. Also, Doflamingo's abilities lead to some of the coolest action scenes in the series.
23. Return to Sabaody
The post-timeskip starts with a bang, as the Return to Sabaody arc is both hilarious and thrilling. The Straw Hats get to show off their newfound strength as they do what they definitely couldn't do in the first Sabaody arc (easily knock out a Pacifista). And we also get to meet the Fake Straw Hat crew, which does a nice job of illuminating just how much the legend of the Straw Hats has grown since they were last together.
22. Reverse Mountain
One of the major strengths of One Piece is that it can accomplish three kinds of storytelling at once—giving us a narrative that is immediately satisying, giving us a narrative that will be satisfying in the near future, and giving us a narrative that will be satisfying in the long term. In the Reverse Mountain arc, we not only get a nice story about Laboon, but we also get introduced to Baroque Works (who will be the main antagonists of the saga), and also, we get hints that will only pay off when Brook is introduced years later. Reverse Mountain is short, but it also displays Eiichiro Oda's wonderful talent as a writer.
21. Long Ring Long Land
I've seen people on the internet say stuff like "WHEN I REACHED THE DAVY BACK FIGHT ARC, I NEARLY STOPPED READING!" and man, why? Quitting a series that you love because it slightly diverts from the hero fighting god-like enemies in order to participate in some fun games? Everyone has their own opinions, but your opinion of what fiction should be is wrong. That said, this arc is hilarious and great.
20. Whisky Peak
Whisky Peak is so cool. It's an anime arc with swagger, the kind that steps into a bar and buys everyone a round. I want to be friends with Whisky Peak but I know, deep down, that Whisky Peak is far too rad to be friends with me.
The best thing about the Reverie arc is that it makes the world of One Piece a little more conveniently manageable (Oh neat. All of the major side characters get to hang out for a while), while also opening a can of worms (What's with the giant straw hat? WHAT'S WITH THE GIANT STRAW HAT?). Because this is the most recent arc, I don't know if we've seen the ripples that it will create across the One Piece world, but I sure am excited to.
18. Post Enies Lobby
This isn't the first time the Straw Hats have been forced to flee a place. However, this is the first time that it's felt like they'd be wiped out if they didn't. The return of Garp (and the spectre of the Yonko) throw the Straw Hats into all new territory, one where maybe being the plucky underdog team isn't enough to save them from the threats that come. Also, goofy Franky joins the team, which provides a nice counter-balance to the hints of oblivion.
17. Punk Hazard
Punk Hazard is home to one of my top 10 One Piece fights (Vergo vs Law & Smoker), features one of my favorite locations (an island that is half fire/magma and half ice/snow and home to an evil science base), and introduces a character that has only grown on me with time (Here's a hint on who he is: He laughs like "SHERURURURURURU SHERURURURURURU). It's kind of a prequel to Dressrosa, but in that spot, does a great job at furthering the menace of Doflamingo.
16. Post War
The introduction of Sabo aka Steampunk Ace aka I'm Just Kidding Sabo Is Kinda Cool and Luffy realizing that he has his crew to keep him going make the Post-War arc into a short but powerful cap to the pre-timeskip era.
15. Amazon Lily
Boa Hancock is a supremely underrated One Piece character, with a terribly sad backstory, amazing powers, and a hilarious crush on Luffy. And Amazon Lily helps further the major trend that will reach fever pitch in Dressrosa of Luffy amassing supporters because he's just such a dang ol' nice guy. Hopefully Hancock will one day meet Bartolomeo and together they will start a Luffy fan club and then argue over who gets to be President.
If you were in the dark as to what the themes of One Piece are, here comes Jaya with a flashlight. This is basically a montage of the things that are important to the Straw Hat crew, and it introduces Blackbeard, a guy that will go from "Oh he seems interesting" to "OH I HATE HIM" over the next few hundred chapters. Luffy saying "Do I know how to throw a punch, you ask?" before absolutely walloping Bellamy still gives me goose bumps.
13. Thriller Bark
There's so much good to Thriller Bark—the spooky atmosphere, the introduction of Brook, the underrated Gekko Moriah, the Binks' Sake song, the Straw Hats teaming up to face a giant zombie, etc. And just when you think it can't get any better, Kuma shows up and rocks the One Piece world.
12. Impel Down
Hey! It's Buggy! And Mr. 3! And Mr. 2! And Crocodile! And our new best boy Jinbe! And Ivankov! As both a launching point for new protagonists and a comeback for old foes (along with introducing Magellan, one of the best villains in the series, and Shiryu, one of the scariest villains in the series), Impel Down succeeds. I love it more and more with time.
11. Drum Island
I've written an entire article about why the arc where we first meet Tony Tony Chopper makes me weep, so I'll try to be brief here. Drum Island is beautiful. It's the story of a little deer guy that couldn't find a place in the world and the loud rubber bro that gave him one. It's an arc about the price of dreams and the power of having someone stand up for you when you need it most. It's about love and respect and kindess. And now I'm about to cry again. THANKS A LOT, ONE PIECE.
The Baratie arc is the first hint that we'll get about how hectic the One Piece world is. We meet Sanji, we meet Don Krieg, and we meet Mihawk (and is stronger than the whole cast of the show combined at this point). Syrup Village is about leaving your comfort zones and Baratie is about finding a home in the chaos that follows.
The best One Piece filler arc and the One Piece arc that I most revisit (it's only 11 episodes, can you blame me?), G-8 is a One Piece Greatest Hits collection and possibly the first thing you should show someone if they want to get into One Piece but don't have long to do so.
Are the Straw Hats ready for the Grand Line? Are they ready to topple evil villains and protect those that need help? That's what Alabasta asks and the answer is "Oh yeah." Luffy punching Crocodile up through the center of the city is an iconic moment, showing us that the Straw Hats, whether they mean to be or not, are forces of good in the world.
Marineford is loud and chaotic and powerful, forcing Luffy into a situation where he is simply an especially energetic pawn on the chessboard of battle. It's just as much of a rescue mission as it is a quest for survival for him, but in the midst of Whitebeard and the three admirals and the Shichibukai, Luffy makes his mark. However, he doesn't do it through displays of awe-inspiring force, but through his willpower. Aokiji is right when he says that Luffy isn't "ready for this stage yet," but the thing that scares the Navy most is that one day, he will be.
6. Sabaody Archipelago
This is not a happy arc. It's a satisfying one (Luffy punching the Celestial Dragon will never get old), and it's an illuminating one (Silver Rayleigh, y'all!), but it's not one that will end with cheering. Kizaru shows up to put an entire generation of pirates in their place and Kuma wipes out the Straw Hats. That said, even if it concludes with the most uncertain moment in the series, it's still a fun ride.
5. Arlong Park
Nami is the soul of the Straw Hat Crew, and learning what she's been through at the hands of the despicable Arlong is heart-breaking. But Luffy doesn't need to know every detail to know that he needs to help and the Straw Hats walking to Arlong Park is another one of those "One Piece is literally the best thing ever" moments. And by the end, every Straw Hat bro gets a victory, Luffy gets a bounty, and Nami gets her freedom. And what does she do with this freedom? She joins a ship full of dummies as their navigator. And I'm so happy about that.
4. Enies Lobby
For many, Enies Lobby is THE arc and I'm not disagreeing with them. It's such a display of raw emotion and exciting battles, a nonstop rollercoaster of everything that makes One Piece great. And it ends with a Viking funeral for the Going Merry, a scene that reveals Oda's true power as a writer: He makes you sob about a ship.
3. Whole Cake Island
If Enies Lobby is about being a hero, then Whole Cake Island is about letting that idea go. The Straw Hats can't beat Big Mom or her crew and will have to settle with getting Sanji and getting out. And Katakuri, the protective brother of the Charlotte family, learns that he doesn't have to be perfect all the time. It's a beautiful arc that shows that Oda is willing to play around with some of the pre-established ideas of One Piece.
2. Water 7
Robin leaves. Usopp defects, Luffy is forced to do things that no captain wants to, and a villainous team shows up that seems unstoppable. Water 7 may be the first half of a story that continues with Enies Lobby, but I find it to be the better one (though not by much). It's an arc that constantly leaves you saying "Well, what else could go wrong?" and then something else does. And it's just so good.
This is it. Everything good about One Piece, from the powerful villain (with a great weakness), to the touching themes, to enchanting locations, to the gripping adventures, is wrapped up in Skypiea. And while I have no problems with arcs being connected, there's just something about the standalone nature of Skypiea that leads me to regularly revisit it. It's an arc that makes me glad that I started this nearly 900 episode adventure in the first place. And that's the highest compliment that I can give.
Want to make your own ranking? Then watch One Piece on Crunchyroll! It's literally the only way.
What is your favorite One Piece arc? How do you feel about this ranking? Let us know in the comments!
Daniel Dockery is a writer and editor for Crunchyroll. He has a Twitter, where you can disagree with him.