The Latest Episode of ‘One Piece’ Might Be the Greatest Anime Episode of All Time (Or at Least High on the List)
I CRIED AND I'M NOT ASHAMED TO ADMIT IT
I’ve gotten used to trying to convince friends to start One Piece—and losing them, when I sheepishly admit there are over a thousand episodes/chapters. When you’re outside the world of One Piece, it can be difficult to imagine HOW such length can possibly be justified. I know the feeling. I only began One Piece in fall of 2019. But this weekend’s episode of the anime, which adapts the manga’s 1000th chapter, condensed my argument for One Piece‘s length into 23 minutes of perfect television. And it looks beautiful.
The aesthetic beauty of episode 1015—nicknamed “Roof Piece” by fans—is another One Piece stereotype-buster. Many manga fans in particular have taken (understandable) umbrage at the anime’s less-than-detailed art style in the past. I’ve personally found it charming—One Piece started in the ’90s, after all—but the Wano arc introduced an elevated animation style to the series. Suddenly, One Piece looked downright stunning, and manga fans have been enticed to give the show another shot. Even among this new praise, Megumi Ishitani has stood out as an especially accomplished director. Episode 1015 is Ishitani’s third One Piece episode. It is a masterpiece. Here’s why.
Ishitani took a few artistic liberties with Eiichiro Oda’s 1000th chapter. For example, the episode drew out Yamato’s remembrances of their time with Luffy’s brother, Ace. In an incredibly emotional and poetically animated segment, the viewer is embodied by Yamato as they realize the depth of Luffy’s parallels to Gol D. Roger. We’ve been hearing Luffy say, “I’m gonna be King of the Pirates!,” every so often for 1,015 episodes. As One Piece has progressed, the statement has fundamentally changed. It has gone from some kid’s outlandish fantasy to a statement with real weight, even a threat in the right company. When Luffy landed on Wano, that new weight began to feel incredibly palpable. And now here’s Yamato, realizing the statement’s weight even when Luffy was still just some kid.
The Character Development
Episode 1015 is officially named, “Monkey D. Luffy! The Man Who Will Become King of the Pirates!” This is in direct reference to episode 1, which is titled, “I’m Luffy! The Man Who Will Become King of the Pirates!” As is even more obvious in the Japanese titles, episode one is a quote from Luffy himself, stating his ambition. Episode 1015 places this as an inevitability, a fact. To watch One Piece is to experience that shift. The series’ deliberate slowness and length is exactly what makes its characters’ growth so convincing. One Piece is long because it is so character-driven. Oda gives his protagonists the space to grow, really grow, and become the accomplished people they set out to be in the first place. There’s something nothing else like One Piece in this matter: its length is a luxury for character development.
The enormity of the feat pulled off by episode 1015 cannot possibly be overstated. Ishitani emotionally summarized Luffy’s journey in 23 minutes. And Ishitani masterfully carried that momentum to build into the enormity of the moment we’re at: Luffy and his allies facing two of the Pirate Emperors at once. We have watched Luffy struggle, fight, grow, and go through terrible loss. He was not the Pirate King in episode one. But, when he said it at the end of episode 1015, I started crying. My boy’s grown so much. I’m so proud of him.
The Emotional Response
And in case you’re wondering, it’s not just me who’s having this reaction. The entirety of the One Piece internet was freaking out. Episode 1015 feels like an epic tale’s Big Turn, and it was told with the most thoughtful and beautiful animation in the series to date. And this is all while there’s no other serialized story as long as One Piece. It’s a monumental achievement for the entire anime genre. Hell, for animation. Hell, for humanity, why not?
I also want to make sure that I celebrate the fact that the director of this historic episode, of one of the “Big Three” shounen series, the director that the entire fandom is basically worshipping at the moment, is a woman. There have been an increasing number of female anime directors in recent years (thanks, Yuuri!! On Ice!), but it’s still unmistakably a male-dominated field. Ishitani’s accomplishment here really is historic. There is now a widely-accepted Masterpiece Episode of a mainstream anime that can serve as inspiration for a new generation of women in the field. (Maybe that’s why Ishitani added more Yamato moments to the episode? Because, like me, she has an empathetic soft spot for them?)
Anyway, if you’re new to One Piece, my hope isn’t that this piece convinced you to watch Episode 1015. My hope is that it convinced you to watch episode one. And that yes, it will absolutely be worth it.
(Image credit: Toei Animation)
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