It's a story that makes you want to tell stories
Now, there are certain commonalities between some of them, whether they first discovered the series behind the haze that was the 4Kids dub or they just happened to find it in the pages of Weekly Shonen Jump. But each story is nonetheless unique and is always worth sharing. And I always listen, because there's something about Eiichiro Oda's series (one that, as of today, has gone for twenty years in anime form) that inspires the storyteller in us.
I think it's because, at its core, One Piece isn't a story about one person's journey. I mean, technically it is. Monkey D. Luffy is definitely the main character and a little outline of him is a letter in the logo of the title. Hard to get more "main character" than that. But one of the biggest themes in One Piece... heck, THE biggest theme is about how people find each other. Not in a romantic sense, but in the sense that, no matter how alienated or strange you feel, there are other people out there that will see you as beautiful and worth keeping around. One Piece tells us that, even when life beats us down and renders us unknowable, there are still those that want us to join them on their journey, and vice versa.
One Piece inherently fosters community by being about community. There's something about that that's ultimately freeing. Personally, I know that I feel like my truest self when writing or talking about One Piece. I don't have to play the part of anime historian or superhero film analyst or lightweight comedian or whatever my role is supposed to be in the world or on the internet. It's not the only thing that makes me feel that way, but when considering One Piece, I can just be a guy talking about an anime he loves. And while I hesitate to play armchair psychologist with people, hearing people talk openly about how One Piece is the wind in their sails and the anchor in their storms makes me think that it's not that rare of a takeaway. One Piece also makes me wanna use a lot of boat metaphors, which is a fairly underwhelming side-effect.
It doesn't hurt that aside from the Straw Hat Crew providing a sort of Thousand Sunny horoscope (I'm a Luffy born under an Usopp moon, or whatever), that you can identify with so many different specific parts of it. Some arcs hit you harder than others, and some last in your memory while others might fade away. Some you may like more on your first readthrough/watch of the series, while you may gain an affinity for others after you've revisited them a few times. So when people tell you their stories of how they got into One Piece, you're rarely hearing perspectives of a similar timeline. And then the tapesty of those perspectives often make you want to go back and re-evaluate your own. That's rad, y'all. One Piece is rad.
Finally, One Piece offers massive room for discussion. What you bring with you when you finish an arc is rarely the exact same as what another person carries, whether you're talking about what the most thrilling part of the arc was, or fan theories you might have, or moments that hit you right in the gut.
It's likely impossible to find a time in One Piece where Eiichiro Oda has revealed his full hand and you have everything figured out. Usually, talking about pop culture kind of lives and dies by when that bit of pop culture is airing. A season ends, a story wraps up, and even if there's more to talk about, discussion about that show or movie wraps up, packs its bags, and goes on thinkpiece vacation. But One Piece? Talking 'bout One Piece is a 24/7 job. And so you get new fans, new favorites, and new stories, and that's not just because new chapters and episodes have come out nearly every week for the past twenty years.
Telling stories, fictional or otherwise, is part of how we relate to each other. It's an integral element of the human experience, and allows us to gain empathy, wisdom, and a complete knowledge of Gum Gum punches. And whether I'm reading/watching One Piece, or listening to the Grade A hosts and guests of the One Piece Podcast, or reading fan works like the heartwarming comic LutsiLu published last night, I'm hearing new ones. Yes, they're about One Piece, but a series this vast has more than one story to tell.
So thank you, One Piece, for giving us twenty years of your story and twenty years of stories from others. And no matter where each of them goes, I know I can't wait to hear them.
When did you start reading One Piece? What is your favorite arc? Favorite characters? Let us know in the comments!
Daniel Dockery is a writer and editor for Crunchyroll. You should follow him on Twitter!
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