Here's the best and the most brutal
We love One Piece because of its themes—the idea that, because the ocean is so vast, you'll one day find a place where you belong. That even though others may tear you down or forget about you, your dreams will never die. That it's your duty to stand up for your friends, because you know they'd stand up for you. Those are all beautiful and well developed motifs in the One Piece world. But you know what else is beautiful and well developed in the One Piece world? Luffy's ability to knock someone out.
Thanks to Luffy's grit and Gum Gum powers, we've been treated to some of the best KO's in anime history in One Piece. And I think, since the 20th anniversary of the anime is October 20th, 2019, we should celebrate twenty of them here. And I think, in the first spot, we should have...
I'm gonna start with this one because it always felt like Luffy, using Gum Gum Gatling, and then Gum Gum Pistol, and then 2 Gum Gum Bazookas, and finally finishing off Krieg with Gum Gum Giant Gavel, was executing a combo move. Like if he'd accidentally pressed X instead of B at the end there, he would've gone for another Gum Gum Pistol and lost the quick time event.
This one earns a spot on the list because of the desperation of it. We don't usually see Luffy go all MMA on someone, but in trying to make his way back to meet Sanji, he chokes out one of the big quintuplets. That's raw, and I hope that, when Luffy finally faces down Blackbeard again, he busts out a Rear Naked Choke on him or at least a Kimura Armlock.
This obviously isn't the first Red Hawk that Luffy's ever used (Other notable uses include his fight against Byrnndi World in the 3D2Y special, against Hody Jones, and in that awesome tag team attack with Law against Doflamingo.) But with work by key animator Takashi Kojima, his Red Hawk against Holdem is especially beautiful. I could watch it all day. And I have.
Luffy gets the chance to knock out not one, but two giants in Thriller Bark, with the first being Oars and the second being a Gecko Moria that's gone all Shadow's Asgard on everybody. However, I'm gonna give this spot to Oars. Not only does this Gigant Bazooka come after a battle with the entire Straw Hat crew, but we also get an X-Ray of Oars' spine as it happens. It's pretty rad.
I can't imagine that, even after evaluating every possible outcome or option, that "Man of a Thousand Plans" Captain Kuro would've thought that he'd be defeated by a goofy rubber head screaming in his face and then caving his skull in. It's not the most humiliating way to go out, but considering Kuro spent years trying to enact the perfect scheme and talking trash about being a pirate, it's on up there.
I'm a Foxy stan, a Long Ring Long Land Big Fan, and a Davy Back apologist. I LOVE this arc, and I love Foxy. But that doesn't mean that I didn't rejoice when Luffy finally got the win here. However, I have to give most of the credit to Bin Shimada, who is the best at voicing truly obnoxious One Piece villains (He also voice Wapol). Heck, he's one of the best at voicing villains in general, as his versatility has also led him to being behind the roar behind Dragon Ball's Broly.
Oh, I picked a sad one. The battle between Luffy and Usopp is the most depressing in One Piece's history, with Usopp pouring everything he has into a fight where defeat is almost 100% inevitable, and Luffy being forced to beat up the crew member that he often relates to the most. As a fight, it's equal parts thrilling and depressing, and as the start of the perfect Water 7/Enies Lobby arcs, it's... also equal parts thrilling and depressing.
This is the battle that would set the standard for inventive conclusions to One Piece fights and even though it's less dramatic than some of the finishing blows to come, it deserves a spot on this list due to how iconic it feels now. It's a final fight that teaches you that One Piece just might be somethng special when it comes to handing defeat to its villains.
I like this fight because it establishes two things: 1) It makes Luffy a genuine threat to the stability and heirarchy of Whole Cake Island (even if he's not ready to take on Big Mom directly yet), and 2) It shows us that the Sanji Retrieval Team can get the job done. Also, I like pairing this fight with the last one with Buggy, because in both cases, it's Luffy getting a crucial assist from Nami and they make a great team.
Luffy's fight against Rob Lucci is one of the most well-constructed fights in anime, a contest that flip flops between a battle of nearly equal strengths, a desperate underdog journey, and an immensely satisfying and almost terrifying conclusion. Luffy closing his eyes and screaming while pummeling Lucci through the wall is such a visceral, violent way to end this fight and shows that while clever inventiveness can be handy in a battle on the Grand Line, sometimes you just need sheer will.
10. Sea King
Not only is this a "Yeah! One Piece is the best!" punch, but it's also an integral part of the "We Are" opening. If I was a DJ, I'd play that song at every club I worked at. People would be like "DJ MERRY, PLAY THE LATEST POST MALONE!" and I'd be like "Right on it!" and then I'd just play "We Are" again.
As I mentioned, Wapol is one of the most obnoxious anime villains out there. So if he didn't get something that would deserve a spot on this list, I would've rioted, or at least been very disappointed on Twitter. Luckily, Wapol, pleading with Luffy, gets rocketed into the Drum Island stratosphere. It's literally the nicest option for him.
Doflamingo's defeat is a long time coming. Shown as a particularly malicious guy back during the Skypiea arc, then shown to be an agent of the underworld with a hand in weapons and trafficking, then revealed to be the false king of Dressrosa, he's needed a punch to the everywhere for almost 15 years of One Piece's run. And Luffy gives it to him, knocking him down through the streets of the city that he terrorized for so long.
Power-ups are fairly expected in shows like One Piece. But that's not a diss on them at all. I LOVE when a protagonist gets notably stronger and can pull off cool new moves and maybe gets a new haircut. But Luffy going Second Gear and then absolutely making a mockery of Blueno is something to behold. Blueno's look of stunned disbelief makes it even better, and it's just a warm-up for the war against the rest of CP9 to come.
For most of the Alabasta arc, Luffy is 0-2 in battles against Crocodile. But, while Dvorak's New World Symphony: 4th Movement plays, Luffy uses the blood that he's shed to counter Crocodile's sand to knock him up through Alubarna. It's rare to hear someone call "rubber bro uses his magical fists to shatter the internal organs of an evil desert-themed gentleman" a truly majestic scene, but this is beautiful work. If there was a Church of Eiichiro Oda, this would be painted on the ceiling. Get lost, Michelangelo.
The trend of "Luffy beats the main villain of the arc by knocking him through something large" that we've seen with foes like Crocodile, Enel, Lucci, and Doflamingo was established here with Arlong. Horrified at the way that he's treated Nami, Luffy uses a Gum Gum Battle-Axe to turn Arlong's vertebrate into chowder.
Luffy using the body of a psychopathic tyrant to ring the Shandorian Bell, thus proving to Mont Blanc Noland's descendent that the City of Gold did exist and freeing the citizens of Skypiea from Enel's reign is both poetic and just a cool looking set piece. It's a reminder of just how fulfilling reading/watching One Piece is, and how the details of the story often culminate in these big, lovely bouquets of fisticuffs and never lose any of their meaning or importance along the way.
No, this isn't a typical knockout, as Luffy falls down first and Katakuri dropping feels like more of a spiritual defeat than a physical one. But with the knockout of Katakuri comes the changing of an ideology, and the allowance of failure, something that Katakuri had never given himself before. So it not only signals the end of the fantastic main duel of the arc, but legitimate character growth for the antagonist. Also, it comes after the Fourth Gear Snake Man fight, which is one of the best animated episodes in the entire show.
The most gif'd moment of One Piece ever, Luffy punching Charlos so hard that it seems to break the anime needs no explanation. It's perfect.
"Do I know how to throw a punch, you ask?" Luffy rearranging Bellamy's skull after Bellamy mocks his belief in dreams and myth is a perfect distillation of one of the themes of One Piece: Those who believe in something VS Those who simply want to tear down those beliefs. And though the fight to follow your dreams and live a free life on the sea would continue, Luffy scored a victory for it here. Dreams: 1, Bellamy's Ability To Go Without A Neck Brace: 0.
What is your favorite One Piece knockout? Do you agree with the placements on this list? Let us know in the comments!
Daniel Dockery is a writer and editor for Crunchyroll. You should follow him on Twitter!
Do you love writing? Do you love anime? If you have an idea for a features story, pitch it to Crunchyroll Features!