When I say I was dreading writing this piece, I mean it. I know how beloved One Piece is to anime fans all over the world. It’s just one of those franchises that you either love with the passion of a thousand suns or never engage with because the stans are frightening. And I get why. But the one reason that personally turned me off? It’s the animation style.
Look, I’m sure the story is amazing. I mean, it has to be, if it has been running for over 20 years and still attracting the same kind of hype it did at its peak. But, lord, does the animated style just not do it for me. And I know that’s not a universal opinion. Many people consider One Piece’s art as being very uniquely done, different from other Shonen of its time. But does different mean good?
With Eiichiro Oda, the mangaka and creator of One Piece, I can see how his art style is so distinct. In the manga, it works with the powers and abilities shown. Whereas in the animation, the style is so loopy and zany elevates rather than deprecates. Honestly, it does end up working in its favor and gives the anime a very specific feel. It stands out from the crowd over ‘pretty’ anime.
But is that always a good thing? Is the problem with the animation not its aesthetic, but how it can be hit-or-miss during its various arcs? And, in the end, does it even matter for a franchise as big as One Piece? There’s a lot to be discussed here when talking about animation quality, so let’s keep an unbiased opinion and dive right in!
Good Animation: One Of Shonen’s Finest!
When the current Wano Arc came to its conclusion in the anime, it recorded some of the highest viewing numbers in all of One Piece’s history. And there is a good reason for that.
Simply put? The art and animation for everything, from the mundane to the final battle with Monkey D. Luffy at Onigashima have been exquisite. This is amazing considering how the climax has also broken records as being the longest battle sequence by run time in One Piece. That means the quality of animation was consistent throughout the arc, which is a feat unto itself.
Every little scene, from the bombastic fight scenes between the Straw Hat Pirate Crew VS Kaidou and Big Mama to the quieter, heartbreaking moments like when Toko can be seen mourning her father, Yasuie, flows so dynamically. It isn’t just the action that gets a spotlight, but the emotion too.
I mean, it isn’t the first time we’ve seen Toei Animation go full steam ahead on providing us with amazing visuals in the show. But it has been remarkable as of late, pulling even more fans in. Which, for an anime this old? Amazing. Kudos where kudos needs to be given.
Bad Animation: The Problem With Long-Running Anime
It’s easy to forget how long One Piece has been running. I mean, it has remained so popular, for so long, that it’s hard to remember how the style and quality do dip in certain places. Sure, the animation style has evolved over the past 2 decades and so will automatically be better than it was during those first few arcs. But that doesn’t excuse how often this issue happens in One Piece.
Already the art style is an acquired taste for many. That isn’t an insult, it’s just how the art is. It’s both over-the-top and extremely dynamic which can be overwhelming or misconstrued as childish. And now that fans have grown up and are seeing all these new anime coming out, the original animation for One Piece isn’t enough to make it worth binging.
But this is truly an issue throughout Shonen anime of the era, where quality would take a step back to quantity. We saw this with Naruto Shippuden and Bleach as well. So, I can’t fault One Piece here alone.
Why is One Piece Animation So Good (To Fans)?
Again, looking at it from an unbiased viewpoint, it’s easy to see why fans love the show despite its faults. The art and animation style, despite dipping in quality sometimes, remains interesting and fun. The first 200 episodes of the series are arguably not great, but the quality does start getting better the longer the show went on. And then after episode 700, it became pretty good with the Wano Arc being called a masterpiece.
But the animation has always been stellar when it comes to the movies. That is exactly why so many fans are excited for the upcoming One Piece: Red movie. The trailer looks promising but here’s hoping the fans get a true cinematic wonder to look forward to!
In the end, animation nowadays is very subjective. To non-fans of One Piece, the animation might not be the greatest thing. But that hardly matters to the loyal stans of the franchise because to them, the animation has only gotten better over the years.