roronoa zoro in 'One Piece'

The Best ‘One Piece’ Episodes Of All Time

I have a confession to make ….

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I haven’t seen every episode of One Piece.

I will now accept your shock. Your outrage. Your grief. I understand you may feel hurt and betrayed. You may feel that I have lied to you. You may feel that all of my other anime hot takes are wrong, simply because this ugly little fact makes me unqualified to have any sort of valid opinions about any other anime ever. This is true. You may feel that this is the sort of political scandal that calls for my immediate resignation.

In fact, I am right there with you. Before I started writing this article, I typed up a draft of an email to my superiors at The Mary Sue, explaining to them that I am a fake. A fraud. A phony. After all, the only thing on my resume that qualified me for the job was my assurance that I had indeed seen every episode of One Piece. In fact, this statement was my entire resume. I wrote the phrase “I have seen all of One Piece” in red lipstick on a bar napkin.

I knew this day would come, and I have prepared for it. I said I would write this article, and I will. And so, I asked the internet to come to my aid and help me rank the very best episodes of One Piece.

Overwhelming Strength! The Straw Hats Come Together (episode 1000)

Luffy and the rest of the Straw Hat crew stare confidently into the camera in "One Piece"
(Toei)

If you didn’t think that Toei would pull out all the stops to celebrate the 1000th episode of One Piece, you need to walk the plank right now. Fans who have followed this show from the bygone days of the 90s were rewarded for their dedication with a stirring reprise of the first season’s opening theme song banger “We Are,” except this time with brand new big-budget animation. While the meat of the episode focused on Kaido and his battle with Oden’s retainers, this little addition was enough to trigger a nostalgia explosion in all of our little pirate hearts.

Settling The Score – Whitebeard Vs. The Blackbeard Pirates (episode 485)

Whitebeard stands tall despite the cannonball holes in his chest in "One Piece"
(Toei)

This episode shows the climactic end of my favorite One Piece character of all—Whitebeard. Whitebeard is the man. The geriatric giant holds the title of The World’s Strongest Man. But does he let it go to his head? Does he abuse his power and become a tyrant like so many other powerful pirates? He does not. While lesser pirate captains form crews, Whitebeard forms a family. A family that, in this heart-crusher of an episode, he dies defending.

A Fist Of Divine Speed – Another Gear Four Application Activated! (episode 870)

A beaten up Luffy glares furiously at his opponent in "One Piece"
(Toei)

One Piece is famous for its high-octane fights, but few fights in this series are as devastatingly impressive as Luffy’s battle with Charlotte Katakuri. This grueling battle pushed Luffy to the brink of despair, but the young pirate was able to rally by activating his most badass Gear transformation to date—Snakeman. The ensuing fight is nothing short of stunning.

The Parting Time! Pudding’s Last Wish! (episode 877)

Charlotte Pudding weeps from all three of her eyes in "One Piece"
(Toei)

If there is a God, then I would like to ask him one thing—why did he decide to break my heart with a three-eyed animated cake girl? Why did he not let this cup of pain pass from my lips? In an emotional gut punch that no one expected, One Piece delivers a tear-jerker episode where Sanji’s fiancée Pudding decides to erase his memories of their time spent together. At the end of the episode, Sanji has forgotten all the times they had together, leaving her with nothing but still-warm lips from Santi’s last kiss, and sweet memories in her heart.

My Crewmate’s Pain Is My Pain, Zoro Fights Prepared To Die (episode 377)

Roronoa Zoro stands covered in blood with his clothing ripped in "One Piece"
(Toei)

This episode centers around my OTHER favorite One Piece character, the man who will someday become the World’s Greatest Swordsman—Roronoa Zoro. A normally cool customer, this episode features perhaps the coldest Zoro one-liner ever uttered. After The Straw Hats were knocked unconscious in battle, Zoro volunteered to be tortured by the villainous Kuma in order to save his friends. When Sanji awoke and asked Zoro what happened, Zoro replied “Nothing happened,” AS IF HE DIDN’T JUST SUFFER HORRIBLE PAIN TO SAVE THEM ALL. The definition of a loyal crew mate and friend.

Straw Hat Luffy! The Man Who Will Become the King of The Pirates! (episode 1015)

Monkey D. Luffy at the end of One Piece episode 1015
(Toei)

Oh, One Piece, even your episode titles are long.

And speaking of things that are long, the animation team behind One Piece actually took a long break in the middle of the anime’s run. A veritable six-week hiatus. That’s like three anime lifetimes. Fans were well rewarded for waiting, however, because they got this episode out of it. Even a cursory glance at this episode will show you that it’s in a league of its own.

For one, it’s animated like a damn movie. That animation is buttery smooth and totally badass looking. The episode itself is also super climactic, as Luffy lands a big ass punch on one of the series toughest villains, a real bastard of a guy named Kaido. But wait, Luffy lands big ass punches on suckers all the time and knocks them flat right? Yes, usually he does. But Kaido was an exception. Kaido was so tough that Luffy hadn’t been able to do any damage to him whatsoever. However, like many shonen anime, Luffy gets some extra power through a flashback that happens at the beginning of the episode and is reminded that he will be the Pirate King no matter what. Just like Naruto, sometimes you have to “believe it!” and you can do anything.

A Heartbreaking Duel – Luffy vs. Sanji – Part 2 (episode 808)

Sanji weeping manly tears in 'One Piece' (Toei)
(Toei)

This episode is a known quantity tearjerker, but no one even dies. It’s WORSE than that. Luffy has to battle a member of his own crew, the chef Sanji. Sanji has entered into an arranged marriage because his douchebag father told him he had to. This is sad because everyone knows he’s supposed to be with Zoro. Otherwise, what was all that candlelit tension for!? His father also makes threats against the Straw Hats should Sanji refuse, and therefore he has to distance himself from them in order to protect them. Luffy isn’t having it. They decide to talk it out, and by “talk it out” I mean that Sanji kicks the shit out of Luffy while Luffy pleads with him to return.

Luffy says some pretty heartbreakingly beautiful things in order to get Sanji back, including: “I won’t eat anything except what you cook.” This kid is literally threatening to starve himself in order to convince his friend to come home. Eventually, Luffy passes out from his injuries, and Sanji breaks down and ugly cries. I mean tears, snot, the whole “ugly cry” package. These aren’t “stoic anime man tears,” this dude is really hurting. It’s a rare and beautiful instance where we get to see the normally cool and collected Sanji truly vulnerable. Sanji wept, and the fans wept with him.

A Fist of Divine Speed! Another Gear Four Application Activated! (episode 870)

(Toei)

Uh-oh Luffy gets a new power in this episode!!!!

Power-up episodes are always winners. Since the early days of Dragon Ball Z (and One Piece itself, it’s been around long enough) fans go apeshit when a character unlocks a new power in order to defeat their most formidable opponent yet. In this episode, Luffy is locked in one-on-one combat with Katakuri, one of the Three Sweet Commanders of the Big Mom Pirates. Katakuri is immensely strong, strong enough to flick jellybeans with enough force that they turn into bullets. The man can really flick bean, if you know what I mean. Luffy has been so far outmatched by Katakuri’s abilities, but after taking a beating, he switches into his new “Snakeman” form. The “Snakeman” form allows Luffy to attack with lightning speed, and allows him to change the direction of his attacks as he launches them. This new form allowed him to outpace Katakuri, and no doubt elicited an “OH SHIT!” from the audience as he did so.

Looking for the Answer – Fire Fist Ace Dies on the Battlefield (episode 483)

Fire Fist Ace dies on the battlefield 'one piece'
(Toei)

Like Luffy himself, this episode didn’t pull any punches and created a massive tonal shift in the One Piece series. “But I thought One Piece was a fun little romp about a rubber faced pirate!” thought fans. “I didn’t think anyone was going to die horribly.” Well, they thought wrong.

Luffy and his adoptive older brother “Fire Fist” Ace are locked in combat with a powerful foe named Sakazuki, who can throw a few “fire fists” of his own. Sakazuki has the ability to turn his body into bubbling magma. Combined with his obscene strength, this makes him an extremely powerful foe indeed. Luffy is defeated by Sakazuki, but just before the latter can deliver a killing blow, Luffy’s brother from another mother ace steps in front of him and takes the blow instead … all the way through his chest cavity.

Ace then falls to his knees, thanks Luffy and his comrades for everything they’ve done, and dies wearing his trademark smile in his little brother’s arms. And fans lost it. It’s perhaps the most shocking death in the entire series, and indeed one of the most painful. After all, Ace was a fan-favorite character. It was impossible not to love the guy. Watching him nobly sacrifice himself in order to save his little brother put a proverbial magma fist through the hearts of fans everywhere. It also reminded viewers that this is a show where people can actually die. In one episode, fans were immediately made aware that no character was safe. Especially not their favorites. Traumatizing.

A Barrage of Powerful Techniques! The Fierce Attacks of the Worst Generation! (episode 1017)

(Toei)

This episode is it. The best. The top. The highest rated of the highest rated. Does anyone die? Nope. Does anything awesome happen? Hell yeah. This is the episode where not one, but multiple characters show off their signature powers in a badass combination attack against the fearsome King of Beasts Kaido. See, I neglected to mention this before, but Kaido has the unique ability to turn himself into a gigantic dragon that is practically invulnerable to harm. But does that stop the Worst Generation members Luffy, Zoro, Eustass Kid, Trafalger D. Water Law, and Killer from trying? Hell no.

See, the members of the Worst Generation got that name for a reason. They are some of the most feared and powerful rookie pirates in existence, and have a bounties of over one hundred million each. And in this episode, we get to see why. The five Worst Generationers launch a five man assault against Kaido that is absolutely stunning. The animation is just gorgeous, and we get to see each man use the abilities that made them famous one after another in a glorious tag team assault. It’s that kind of “goosebumps” episode. You just get chills watching it. I have indeed seen this episode, and yes it is as awesome as IMDB says that it is. So I’m not a total fraud, right?

However, I do have another confession to make…

I haven’t seen every episode of Naruto either.

(featured image: Toei)


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Image of Jack Doyle
Jack Doyle
Jack Doyle (they/them) is actually nine choirs of biblically accurate angels crammed into one pair of $10 overalls. They have been writing articles for nerds on the internet for less than a year now. They really like anime. Like... REALLY like it. Like you know those annoying little kids that will only eat hotdogs and chicken fingers? They're like that... but with anime. It's starting to get sad.