One Piece is set to air Episode 1,000, "Overwhelming Strength! The Straw Hats Come Together!" on Saturday, Nov. 20. Monkey D. Luffy and his crew of dreamers have been sailing the open seas for over 22 years now. This 1,000-episode milestone stands as a testament to the series' quality and success.
One Piece has to have a lot going for it in order to last for as long as it has. Many Shonen Jump series have come and gone trying to reach the same heights as it, but even some of the most successful ones haven't reached 1,000 episodes. Such a series requires a perfect storm of good storytelling, engaging characters, masterful worldbuilding and all sorts of other compelling aspects. It also requires the dedication of the original source's mangaka, Eiichiro Oda, to spend decades writing and drawing it all. Here's an in-depth look at what gives One Piece its longevity and popularity.
One of One Piece's most praised aspects is its intricate worldbuilding. It's clear that Oda has spent a long time coming up with the world. Every angle seems to be covered, including history, geography, climate, culture, religion, government, economy, biology and whatever else makes a setting feel more real. It's not just for the world as a whole, either. Each island the Straw Hats explore depicts unique setting elements, from the canals of Water 7 to the random jungle Zoro finds in the Alabasta desert. Every new arc also introduces new conflicts, which unearth an even deeper history on the islands. By providing these details about the One Piece world, Oda gives it life.
Of course, without the engaging characters who populate these glorious settings, Luffy would never have made it out of East Blue. One Piece is home to a broad range of eccentric personalities that bounce off one another in amusing ways, especially the Straw Hat crew. As far as main casts go, the Straw Hats have some of the best chemistry, and it makes their bonds stronger than family. Watching these close friends go on an epic adventure and meet equally fascinating people is a big part of what makes the journey so much fun.
One Piece's colorful characters also serve to make the series feel more personal to the viewers. Such well-defined characters are easy for audiences to resonate with and become emotionally attached to. Whatever the Straw Hats feel, whether it's joy or anger or sadness, fans can feel it, too. This can be used to ground the story with higher stakes, and make the deepest moments more impactful. However, the plot never loses track of its primary purpose: to provide a fulfilling journey for the main cast and, consequently, for the audience.
Layered across the personal stakes and deep political conflicts, there is also simply a ton of fun in One Piece, which is another notable quality that makes the show so likeable. Whatever the Straw Hats are going through, they retain their ability to be funny, exciting and, overall, emotionally moving. No matter the saga or arc, One Piece manages to be generally entertaining throughout.
Part of making a story this gargantuan is giving it meaningful subplots. Almost every time the Straw Hats stop at a new location, it lasts for years in the real world. While they're anchored there, they will indulge in the culture, get to know the locals, fight some oppressive force in the area and throw a big victory party before finally heading off to do it all again elsewhere. In this regard, each stop feels so big that it effectively functions as its own separate series. At the same time, small details are dropped that will eventually become relevant in the overarching narrative.
What's really unbelievable about One Piece is that, even after so long, it's nowhere near complete. All of the stops in the story thus far are stepping stones to Luffy's ultimate goal of finding the One Piece and becoming King of the Pirates. Kaido is a big deal now, but he too will eventually feel like a distant memory. The Straw Hats still have plenty more places to explore, mysteries to solve, people to meet, infamous foes to overcome and plot threads to tie up before the series can have a satisfying conclusion. Nobody even knows what the titular One Piece really is yet.
One Piece's accomplishments are worthy of everybody's acknowledgment, whether they're fans, naysayers or indifferent viewers. 1,000 episodes and counting is nothing to sniff at. The amount of thought and effort necessary to tell a story this long, while maintaining its quality and intrigue throughout, is nigh unfathomable. It comes as no surprise that Oda has no plans to write after he's done with One Piece; he's clearly putting everything he has into this singular massive story.