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.
In times of extreme cynicism, viewers can look to uplifting heroes like Monkey D. Luffy. Too many series rely on pessimistic characters, and while a rebellious protagonist can sometimes be fun, the archetype is overplayed. By comparison, Luffy's gleeful attitude is a breath of fresh air. Even when he's heading into immanent danger, he does so with a smile on his face, and he always manages to arrive just in time to save his friends and allies.
However, unlike some carefree anime heroes, Luffy knows when it's time to get serious. If he has to deliver an epic final blow to his adversary, or uplift a broken friend with a traumatic past, he does so with reserved finesse.
There are plenty of fantastic villains in One Piece who sport a wide array of powers and personality types. Crocodile is a witty Italian mob boss whose body is composed of sand, making him strong enough to almost kill Luffy on two separate occasions. Arlong is an intimidating fishman who shows no mercy to the people he enslaves. Even the World Government opposes the Straw Hats, as their hunger for power causes them to turn a blind eye to the public's needs. No two villains' motivations are quite the same, and when they're first introduced, some seem impossible to vanquish.
Thanks to the eclectic powers of the Devil Fruit, the cut-throat pirates of One Piece are some of anime's most bizarrely mighty characters. Luffy's Gum-Gum Fruit transforms his body into rubber, allowing him to unleash devastating elongated attacks such as Gum-Gum Pistol or the Gum-Gum Whip. Sakazuki, the fleet admiral of the marines, possesses the power of the Mag-Mag Fruit, which allows him to transform into magma. Another marine admiral named Issho devoures a Devil Fruit that allows him to control gravity.
While the Devil Fruit may seem all-powerful, it also inflicts a terrible curse on its users, as it robs them of their ability to swim. If your goal is to be King of the Pirates, this is a seriously risky Achilles heel.
If free-spirited characters like Monkey D. Luffy aren't your thing, there's no need to worry. The ensemble cast of One Piece is sprawling, so chances are good you'll find some other reoccuring character to love. In the ever-growing Straw Hat Pirate crew, there's the greedy yet level-headed Nami, the strong-willed former pirate hunter Zoro, the suave chef Sanji, and the brilliant, adorable, ferocious reindeer Tony Tony Chopper, to name a few. The supporting casts for each storyline are always filled with winners, and even minor characters can be amazingly memorable.