There have been many series throughout the years of anime that have taken the audience by storm. Series like Dragon Ball, Bleach, and Naruto have all been viral during their duration. You see them everywhere in toys, anime clothing, and video games. However, One Piece has become one of the most popular. It has remained one of the top trending anime even after 23 years of airing.
Despite the massive popularity of most recent animes such as AOT, or Demon Slayer, One Piece has been able to withstand past all these animes and keep a loyal audience glued to their compelling story. So the question is, how has a series been able to attract a vast audience and retain them for over 2 decades?
The world of One Piece is massive. The first segment of One Piece, the East Blue, is already a relatively large region with many structured systems and ideas being shown within this place. Each island in the east blue has its own costumes, culture, and social power dynamics, with many villains plotting to gain power over the ordinary people. This segment continues for 2 years and 100 chapters, demonstrating how big this place really was. This was the beginning of the journey before the straw hats even began to make their way to the Grand Line.
The Grand Line can also keep the content fresh and exciting on the seas. Throwing in massive oceanic creatures in the Calm Belts that go perpendicular to the Grand Line makes it challenging to get there. The Grand Line is a scary place in and of itself. The erratic climate throws the characters into many problems, from good weather one minute to frosty crazy storms the next. The islands within the Grand Line are also affected by the weather. Each island is eternally stuck with the same temperature all year round.
In addition, each island can be anything the author would like, creating many variations of different islands such as Dressrosa, Alabasta, and Fish-Man Island. Each island has its own political systems, culture, wildlife, transportation, and corruption, just like it did in East Blue. Still, due to the crazy nature of the Grand Line, Oda can make them even wackier than before without losing its immersion. All of this sets up a world in which anything is indeed possible.
Most islands are dependent on and protected by the government’s marines and world leaders. Sometimes, the average folk depicts it as the good guys serving a means of leadership and protection for the good of the people. However, the world leaders have their own goals that they wish to achieve, often at the cost of someone else. A perfect example is Wapol, the former leader of the Drum Kingdom.
Wapol is a fat and greedy tyrant that uses his rule to his advantage to take the kingdom’s resources from his people. The people complied with his power due to the claim that Wapol at least was able to protect them. That was until the Blackbeard pirates came along. This is a recurring issue with every island under the world government’s control. They believe in their propaganda and comforting lies to support the idea that they live in a safe and righteous world. Through many examples, we learn that it is simply not true and that all that they’re trying to do is keep their power. This corruption becomes even more profound when we realize that Crocodile, one of the evilest villains during that time, has the full support of the world leaders.
The government has a group of powerful and infamous pirates called the Seven Warlords of the Sea. The Marines allied with them with the means to increase the firepower for the government. The Warlord’s purpose is to have the most potent pirates deal with the other pirates. In return, their bounties would be stripped, and they would be allowed to get away with any crime as long as it’s not against the government or at least not be able to find out about it. Suppose they commit atrocities and crimes that are way out of bounds. In that case, the government can simply revoke their status and blame the pirates for their chaotic actions, taking no responsibility. This shows how unjust their justice system really is. And to add to that, they have several ways they can keep their image.
The government has complete control over many aspects of One Piece, and the press is one of them. No matter what tragedy occurs within the world, the government can write the story how it wants to. Any genocide, execution, war, or action can be justified entirely through the press since it’s the only source of media the public consumes. It also encourages the Warlords and other leaders to commit more crimes since it will be covered up anyway. They can also justify sending anyone to jail. The process can undoubtedly become much smoother if they can control the justice system. So anyone that they send to court will be marked as guilty with no evidence to back it up.
They also have a monopoly on the trade. Since going through the Grand Line is very dangerous, many people can’t trade internationally consistently. The government, however, has built ships that are way more stable than usual that can travel through the Calm Belts and have even found safe routes that they can take to travel through the Grand Line. They also had the Puffing Tom, the only full-functioning sea train that could trade effectively. Although it benefits the public, the whole system was created to help those at the top of the pyramid, the Celestial Dragons.
This complexity within the world government separates the anime from becoming an episode-to-episode storyline. Along with their quest to find the One Piece, they also deal with the immensely corrupted economic and political system in which the world operates. This keeps the story compelling and justifies a thousand chapters necessary to correct the system. Oda also has an excellent way of making this matter very personal. The government is a vast antagonistic force that constantly collides with Luffy’s dream of freedom, making the audience invest much more into the story.
Along with the very convoluted corruption, a vibrant history shows how the world government was founded. However, the celestial dragons try their best to keep it hidden. This history is written down on large cube stones called poneglyphs. Due to the poneglyphs being very old, the record has been written in an ancient language that nobody else but Robin can read and understand. These poneglyphs contain history about the Void Era, which was 800 to 900 years away from the current time in One Piece. Along with the world’s true history, it also contains directions toward the Laugh Tale. In this place, the One Piece is supposedly located.
This adds another layer of storytelling that the author can use to create even more content and ideas. Since the poneglyphs also tell where the end goal is, it also implies to the audience that the anime is not just aimlessly going from island to island. The plan seems tangible now, and they’re not just wasting their time on an anime with no end. Eventually, they will find the One Piece; it will take a lot of time to unravel the whole mess.
So to sum it up, One Piece has become one of the most trending anime even after 23 years because of its exciting, dangerous, and convoluted world. Oda has masterfully set up this world so that anything can exist without losing its immersion, as long as it fits on an island. The world is also under the submission of an immense evil force, the World Government and its complicated systems, so the heroes will always have some action. And to add a sense of direction, he has used the world’s history in the form of giant cube rocks to reveal the truth of the world and the location of the One Piece, which is the end goal.