With the One Piece manga reaching its 1,000th chapter, there's no better time to look back on the Shonen Jump's staple's run and determine the 10 best arcs of this legendary pirate manga. We'll be looking at each individual arc's internal pacing, conflict, theme and art to decide the rankings, each one of which offers unique something to enjoy -- so don't feel bad if your favorite storyline didn't make the cut.
10. The Thriller Bark Arc Brings a Spooky Atmosphere - and Brook
One Piece's Thriller Bark isn't without its issues, primarily with the perverted invisible Absalom who brings out the worst parts in Sanji. What it does well, however, it does really well. With the spooky haunted atmosphere that Thriller Bark brings, creator Eiichiro Oda's able to craft some especially frightening characters like Perona, Moriah and, of course, Straw Hat newcomer, Brook.
From that outset, Brook may feel like a goofy one-off character, but when you peel back the skeleton's boney exterior you find a man with a troubled past, and that's what sticks out about Thriller Bark. Brook is what makes the ending to the Thriller Bark arc so memorable, as the performance of Binks' Sake cuts between the crews of different eras.
9. Reverie Is a Straw Hat-less Arc
While short in length and missing the anticipated World Summit Meeting, Reverie stands out as being the only arc in One Piece without the Straw Hat Pirates. It's a warm reunion with many familiar faces like Vivi, Rob Lucci and Garp, while also introducing some mysterious new lore as a mysterious crowned figure is shown gazing over a massive straw hat.
Furthermore, we know Reverie's ramifications will be waiting for us once Wano is over. Ironic that the world is in a state of change while the Straw Hats are fighting their biggest enemy yet on a completely isolated island.
8. Punk Hazard Foreshadows Wano and Aligns Luffy & Law
Often overlooked by the heavier packed arcs of One Piece's time-skip like Dressrosa and Whole Cake Island, Punk Hazard offers nothing if not a different experience for the Straw Hats. Stuck on an island that's half on fire and half freezing cold, they must navigate through an ex-government laboratory run by the 'mad scientist' Cesear Clown.
The events of Punk Hazard set the gears in motion for Dressrosa all the way to the present-day Wano arc, beginning with the alliance Luffy forms with Trafalgar Law. We also see the return of two of One Piece's most beloved characters, Smoker and Tashigi. It's always fun to see "forced team-ups" between characters established as enemies, which Luffy is all for.
7. The Jaya Arc Underscores One Piece's Core Theme
The theme of the Jaya arc is dreams and also where we can very much see Shanks' influence on Luffy as a pirate. When the crew dock in the pirate-infested port town of Jaya, they encounter Bellamy The Hyena, a pirate who sees the fabled One Piece and dreams as nothing more than a fools' fantasy of a bygone era.
He and Zoro don't waste a single punch on the spring man until Bellamy goes after Cricket for his gold, which is when Luffy finally puts the spring man in his place. Luffy socking Bellamy at the end of the Jaya arc is still incredibly cathartic.
6. Alabasta Bids a Fond Farewell to Vivi
The buildup to the Alabasta arc is what makes it stick in so many One Piece fans' heads to this day. There's a lot to love about Alabasta, from its antagonists to its thrilling pacing, which takes our crew on a journey across this desert country from its wastelands to a casino oasis to a city capital in the middle of a revolt, as well as to its most endearing character, Nefertari Vivi. Vivi's biggest strength isn't her combat prowess or magical Devil Fruit ability, but her willingness to others before herself.
Crocodile and the Baroque Works agents make for wonderfully devilish villains in the Alabasta arc, which is also truly the first time we see each crew member square off against their own foe. The ending of the arc, with Vivi calling out to the Straw Hats as they depart, asking if they'll still be friends, is still one of the all-time saddest but uplifting endings to an arc of One Piece ever.
5. Arlong Park Cements the Straw Hats' Bonds
Arlong Park feels like the kind of story Oda was waiting to tell since he started One Piece. The arc explores Nami's tragic past coupled with the strength of the bonds Luffy and his crew have with one another. Shonen heroines may get the short end of the stick at times in terms of development and role, but not Nami -- and Arlong Park proves it.
The scene of Nami stabbing herself is emotionally hard-hitting, and Luffy's response is equally meaningful when he gives her his treasured straw hat to keep safe. It's scenes like this, in which she finally asks for the help of her friends and there's no hesitation to do so from any of them, that you realize this is why you love One Piece.
Arlong Park and One Piece, as a whole, demonstrate the trust, loyalty and absurdists lengths this crew goes to not just to protect each other's lives, but their dreams as well.
4. The Impel Down Arc Demonstrates Luffy's Power of Friendship
Impel Down takes away one of Luffy's biggest strengths, his crew, and yet still illustrates his ability to get people to join his side, even when they don't necessarily want to. With the time until his brother's execution ticking away, Luffy must save Ace before it's too late.
Despite this imperative, it's still loads of fun watching Luffy make new allies out of his oldest enemies in Impel Down, such as Buggy and Crocodile. There are also powerful emotional moments, like Bon Clay's unwavering determination to save Luffy in the face of impossible odds. Additionally, Impel Down arc has a very unique story structure along with some terrifying set pieces that introduce some welcomed additions to One Piece, such as Jimbei and Ivankov.
3. Marineford Is All-Out War With the Series' Most Tragic Ending
Translating something like a war to the pages of manga is a herculean task, and yet Oda pulls it off so seamlessly in the Marineford arc. While not the introduction of the legendary pirate Whitebeard, this arc is where One Piece explores his character and the Whitebeard Pirates' sense of family. Up until this point, a majority of the biggest pirates introduced were scoundrels and backstabbers, so to see this living legend have a heart as big as his crew, is refreshingly endearing.
Following Impel Down, Luffy's final charge to save Ace remains so inspiring. Even when battling multiple characters who are much stronger than him, Luffy never loses sight of his goal, which makes the grand finale to Marinford all the more tragic.
2. The Sabaody Archipelago Arc Is a Rude Awakening For the Straw Hats
Nobody could predict the direction the Sabaody Archipelago arc would go from where it began in One Piece. Starting as a fun romp through a resort island, the crew then comb through the Sabaody until their new mermaid friend Camie goes missing. We learn of the prejudice the citizens of Fishman Island have faced for centuries and the crew must then battle it out against the Pacafistas and a navy admiral.
The crew that we've watched laugh, cry and tear through every challenge the Grand Line has thrown at them are suddenly met with enemies they can't hope to best. As Luffy watches his crewmates vanish one by one in front of them, it's truly apparent they are still not ready for what awaits them in the New World.
1. Water 7 Is the Perfect Blend of Drama, Comedy and Action
Water 7 is a masterfully crafted arc in One Piece that balances its internal conflict and external conflict over a thrilling story of mystery, espionage, disaster and betrayal. At this point, we'd been with this crew through thick and thin and their bond felt unbreakable.
However, when their beloved ship is unable to be repaired, it becomes a point of contention within the Straw Hats, one that can only be resolved by a duel between captain and crewmate. Outside of this compelling drama, seeing the different plot threads being spun on the Venice-inspired island before they tangle together in the bedroom of Iceberg's mansion is comic storytelling perfection in Water 7.