One Piece is one of the most beloved anime in history, but at close to 1,000 episodes, it’s tough for those who haven’t been watching from the start to jump on board. One Piece Diaries tracks one writer’s experience with this daunting rite of passage. With hype for the highs and critique for the lows, this column will help you decide whether to take your own One Piece journey – or let you relive the one you’re already on. It will update biweekly every other Thursday.
Episodes Watched: 19 – 30 – Baratie Arc
For the first time, One Piece has made me cry. Not full-on bawling the way the characters were, but I did tear up. I’ve been hearing a lot about how emotionally moving the series can be, but up until now, I haven’t experienced it.
Before I get into that, let’s back up and discuss this arc more broadly. In this arc, Luffy and his crew discover a restaurant at sea called the Baratie. Unfortunately, they discovered it because they nearly destroyed it with a cannonball, so Luffy is going to have to work off the repairs. While there, they meet Sanji, a talented cook who Luffy hopes will join his crew. Sanji has his own reasons for wanting to stick around, so he refuses at first. But when the Don Krieg pirates attack, he gets the chance to see what Luffy is all about. The arc also dives into Sanji’s backstory and his relationship with the restaurant’s owner, Zeff.
So far, I really like Sanji. I like his steadfast dedication to feeding everyone, regardless of their means or their history. He knows the pain of nearly starving to death, and he doesn’t want anybody else to suffer that way. But he’s not a bleeding heart, either – he’s constantly fighting with his coworkers, he doesn’t take shit from customers, and he can’t express his emotions.
The one thing that I’m a little wary about is the part where he got heart eyes around Nami. I’ve heard that he fills the ‘pervert’ archetype, which I find wildly annoying and offensive. That said, all he did was flirt with Nami – he didn’t try to grope her, look up her skirt, or do anything inappropriate. If he sticks for a Brock-from-Pokemon level of horniness, I don’t mind terribly. But if he powers up to Jiraiya-from-Naruto or Master-Roshi-from-DBZ levels, I’m going to find him intolerable. We’ll see!
Sanji aside, let’s talk about this arc’s villains. I could not have been less interested in Don Krieg. From what I could gather, he seemed to have no motivation other than amassing power. Unless the ‘might makes right’ mentality stems from a cohesive backstory, it’s not compelling to me. The fact that he was willing to poison his own crew shows that he not only lacks compassion, but he’s also incompetent.
But while Don Krieg was boring, Ghin was interesting. Ghin had such a strong moral compass that he couldn’t betray the person who saved his life, even if it meant sacrificing everything. But he wasn’t willing to go straight to being a good guy either. Whatever he planned to accomplish by serving under Don Krieg was still important to him. The fact that he didn’t change his allegiance even as he disobeyed his boss made him feel more like a real person.
Owner Zeff wasn’t exactly a villain, but he did serve as an antagonist. He’s the one who made me cry. The contrast between his willingness to sacrifice his leg and his food in order to save a child and his unwillingness to explicitly praise or show affection for that child was devastating. It was both heartening to see that they truly did love each other underneath all the bluster, and painful that they couldn’t actually express it until they were never going to see each other again.
When Sanji verbally expressed his love for Zeff, I cried. Both for the characters, and for moments in my own life where someone who loved me expressed it in ways I couldn’t read, and for moments when I couldn’t tell someone how much they meant to me. Their parting is a scene that grabs you by the feelings. I loved it for that.
The next arc is supposed to focus on Nami – I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next.