Now that Naruto and Bleach have wrapped up, there's no question as to which Shonen Jump series reigns supreme. One Piece, written and illustrated by Eiichiro Oda, is the longest-running Shonen franchise, with the manga going strong since 1997. The anime is a hit in its own right, and is over 800 episodes long.
If you still haven't given the Straw Hat Pirate crew a shot, then get ready to binge, as there are a ton of reasons why you should watch One Piece. The series brings to life a world filled with strange creatures and dastardly villains, most of whom possess extraordinary powers. On top of that, the tone strikes a perfect balance between comedy and tragedy, and raucously funny moments are often followed by stories of genuine human pain. Whether you're a young anime fan or a seasoned adult viewer, everyone can find something to love about One Piece.
One Piece utilizes its characters to the fullest, and never kills off fan-favorites for shock value. Even if the character is a villain, they still are often allowed to survive beyond their initial story arc, which gives them room to grow and mature.
Since death is infrequent, they carry real emotional weight. In shows like Dragon Ball Super, characters die and come back to life all the time, so it's hard to feel concerned when a hero goes down in battle. In contrast to this, when characters in One Piece die, they're gone for good, forcing their friends and viewers to move on without them.
Compared to overtly-gritty Shonen Jump series like Naruto or Bleach, One Piece sticks out like a sore thumb, since its cartoony aesthetic can cause new viewers to think the show is meant for younger audiences. While the story has a playful demeanor, it still manages to include some crushingly heavy subject matter from time to time.
Many characters' backstories are filled with cruelty and tragedy. A young Nami watched her adopted mother die at the hands of pirate invaders, and Brook witnessed all his compatriots slowly waste away from a deadly poison, then awakened a year later in a pile of their rotted corpses.
The show's battles are no less grisly. Who would have thought a rubber man could bleed so much? Villains are appropriately brutal, and the Straw Hat Pirates aren't afraid to break a couple necks if it means stopping a power-hungry dictator from taking over the World Government. If the show didn't understand how to perfectly interweave moments of comedy and tragedy, it might be too bleak to watch.
The Straw Hat Pirate crew is composed of dreamers. Luffy wants to be King of the Pirates, Zoro vows to become the world's greatest swordsman, and Nami dreams of charting the entire world. Each member has endured personal tragedy, and it's inspiring to see them rebound and strive for new heights.
Despite their successes, the crew's journey is loaded with heart-breaking moments, such as when they lose their prized ship, or when they're forced to split up for two years. These tearful moments don't dissuade them from pursuing their dreams, and when they do triumph, their victories feel well-earned.
One of the things that helps One Piece stand apart from its competitors is its constant introduction of fascinating new settings. While exploring the remote corners of the world, the Straw Hat crew comes across places like Alabasta, an Arabian-themed desert kingdom, and Skypia, an island that floats above Paradise in the Grand Line. Each new island feels like a totally different world, as they all come complete with unique quirks, obstacles, and fascinating local residents.