Since Netflix’s live-action version of One Piece is coming out in just a few short weeks, many fans, including myself, are rereading the series to prepare for it. Doing so is no easy task, given how long the manga is and how complicated the story Eiichiro Oda is telling. There are a lot of turns and twists, decisive moments, tasty bad guys, and creative skills that make each chapter and episode a joy to read or watch. One day, someone will ask, “Which arc in One Piece is the best?” How could someone list all the story arcs that happened in One Piece and rank them? Is it even possible? We’re going to try, though.
Before we get into the world of One Piece, there are a few things we should talk about.
First, there are too many story arcs in One Piece, which are not all the same. Some arcs go on for a few volumes and build up to a climax, while others are only a few chapters long and may not accurately show where the manga is at. Also, ranking every single arc of One Piece would be a massive job because there are so many of them. This means that some places on that hypothetical list might be based on a lack of interest in the series rather than an authentic look.
So, we’ll rank the sagas, the major plot lines in One Piece. Each saga can have more than one arc, but they usually have a primary goal and purpose, such as to defeat a big enemy, save a person, or carry out a big plan to change the world’s foundation. If we look at the sagas, that leaves us with only 11 entries, but since the Final Saga is still going on, it won’t be counted, so there are ten. From there, we’ll have clear criteria, and I’ll be able to explain the big ideas behind each arc and why it works or doesn’t. So, keeping that in mind, here is how we rank the big story arcs in One Piece!
Best One-Piece Sagas Fish-Man Island Saga (No. 10)
Putting the worst arc at the bottom of a list is usually the norm, but I don’t think I’m the only one who thinks the Fish-Man Island Saga is the weakest One Piece has been in a while. We catch up with the Straw Hat Pirates after a long break. They’ve grown much more vital and are continuing their journey by going to Fish-Man Island, an underwater kingdom. When they get there, they get caught up in a revolt by extremist pirates and have to defend the country from them. This shows how much stronger they have become.
The problem is that they don’t get much attention from the plot. In many of the best One Piece arcs, the crew watches the place they just got to. But here, they don’t play a significant role at all. Instead, much time is spent developing the Fish-well-established Men’s metaphors about racism and slavery. When fighting does happen, the stakes aren’t very high because the arc’s lousy guy, Hody Jones, isn’t very good and is just there to be hit to show how strong everyone has become. The arc sets up a few things for what will happen next, but what arc in One Piece doesn’t do that? I won’t say that the Fish-Man Island Saga is evil, but it comes closer to being wrong than any other arc in One Piece.
9) Saga of Sky Island
The Sky Island Saga is strange because it differs from the rest of the series. The Straw Hat Crew hears rumors about a treasure floating on an island in the sky and tries to sail up to it, getting caught up in a game between a group of guerilla warriors and a despotic ruler with a god complex. At times, the arc doesn’t matter much, and even now, at the start of the Final Saga, it doesn’t have a big impact on what’s going on. There are some great fights, like the one between Luffy and the Lightning-User Eneru, and probably one of the best moments of catharsis in the series up to this point, but it mostly exists without doing anything remarkable or terrible.
8) The East Blue Story
The different parts of the East Blue Saga, called “arcs,” set the stage for everything that came after. In it, we see the first things our crew did together and how they got to know each other. These early parts are funnier than later ones because they show that Luffy and his friends are unimportant in a world where dangerous pirates rule the seas. This saga does a lot of heavy lifting to set up the forces that will be the backbone of the series and the relationships between the first five Straw Hat Pirates. But the best thing about these arcs is how well they show who Nami, Zoro, and Sanji are as people. That’s not to put down Luffy and Usopp’s experiences in the East Blue Saga, but the things that happen to these three and the dangers they face hit you hard and show you right away that One Piece isn’t like other manga. But when you think about how big and exciting later arcs were, it can be depressing to look back and see how small everything was. But I wouldn’t change a thing.
7) Saga Thriller Bark
One Piece is boiled down to its most essential parts in Thriller Bark. Unlike most major sagas, Thriller Bark is just one story arc, though it’s told throughout five books. In it, the Straw Hat Pirates stop at the island-sized ship Thriller Bark, where the captain, Gecko Moria, makes an army of zombies to make an unbeatable crew. The fights in this arc are a lot of fun, especially the one where the whole Straw Hat Crew works together to defeat a single enemy. It’s not very complicated, but it’s a lot of fun to watch because the ghostly style is used in such a lighthearted adventure show. This makes the arc stand out from others like it. Thriller Bark is the place to look if you want to understand the appeal of One Piece in a single, five-volume arc.
6) The Saga of Whole Cake Island
I had difficulty deciding where to put the Whole Cake Island Saga, even though the beginning is pretty standard, and I love the ending. The main idea is that Sanji, the ship’s cook, has gone to see Big Mom, one of the most dangerous pirates in the world, to marry one of her daughters. Nobody knows why he left, but Luffy won’t let Sanji go, so he goes to Big Mom’s stronghold on Whole Cake Island to get him back.
The beginning is slow as we get to know this new island and discover why Sanji left the crew, including a heated fight between Sanji and Luffy. This makes the story’s first half feel scattered, with too many things going on at once. There are fight scenes; Big Mom is shown to be a real threat, the world is built, alliances are made, and so on. There are too many. But when the rescue mission is going on, it’s a thrilling ride that keeps you on the edge of your seat. The crew doesn’t even fight Big Mom. She is shown to be all-powerful, so the rescue mission turns into a chase across multiple islands. All the crew can do is run away from Big Mom and try to fix the damage she causes. Even though there are some problems, this is still one of my favorite story arcs because of the unique way it ends and how well it is done.
5) The Wano Country Saga
The Wano arc is hard to put because it is so big and the end of a storyline that has been going on for years. Wano is almost all action. The fight at the end of the arc involves a lot of side characters and almost every member of the Straw Hat Pirates fighting against an impossible enemy. It has the best Shonen action and is a pleasure to read. The story is so long that it moves at a snail’s pace. Even though the arc has some great moments that show how strong the Straw Hat Pirates have become, more than half of it is just one big fight. The first 30–40% of One Piece’s biggest arc to date is good. It sets up the stakes and shows how badly Wano is doing as a country, but it’s quickly drowned out by the nonstop action between villains who, for the most part, seem like another lousy guy every day to the crew. To give you an idea of how long it took, the manga took over two years to get to the end of the arc. It’s strange to say that a Shonen action manga has too much fighting, but Wano gets old after a while, no matter how good the action is.
4) Saga Dressrosa
Dressrosa is what you get when Wano is less wild, in my opinion. Structure-wise, this story’s first half is about setting up and ensuring we know who Don Quixote Doflamingo, the main bad guy, is and why he’s so bad. Then, once everything is set up at the halfway point, everything goes to hell in a fight to the death. But unlike with Wano, everyone’s powers are fun to watch, and there’s a good mix of action in the present and backstory for Dressrosa as a country and Trafalgar Law, who was once Luffy’s ally. Also, it moves along pretty quickly!
The arc just does a great job of showing again how bad things are in this country. The mystery around it makes it more fun to watch. Dressrosa is a land of love and toys with a Spanish theme. The people love Doflamingo even though he does terrible things in Wano, which was a samurai-themed land. It asks the reader several questions that make them more interested in the story as they find out the answers. Dressrosa beats Wano on this list because it does what it says it will do better.
3) Saga of Alabasta
There is a “THAT” arc in every Shonen series. The part of the story defines a lot of the series and that even casual manga fans talk about when they talk about some of the best manga stories ever. Soul Society Arc is a part of Bleach. The Namek Arc is in Dragon Ball Z. The Dark Tournament Arc is a part of Yu Yu Hakusho. And Alabasta is in One Piece. After the East Blue Saga, our crew is ready to take on the world, and their first opponent is a famous pirate who runs a secret criminal group that wants to overthrow a kingdom. In later arcs, this arc would be compared to Dressrosa, but there’s something interesting about how bad things are for the crew in Alabasta.
In Alabasta, our heroes must deal with the evil Baroque Works and their shady leader, Mr. 0. No matter where our heroes are, Mr. 0 will send other assassins and criminals to attack them. The fights here show how creative One Piece can be, and they all lead up to a civil war between five different sides that will decide the fate of a country. It’s a great arc with all the dramatic tension you’d expect from something so big, making it one of the best in the series.
2) Saga of Water 7
Even though I’m sure many fans will miss Alabasta, Water 7 is not the same thing. It goes against a lot of the series rules. Instead of a well-known pirate, the main bad guys are a group of elite Marines ready to kill anyone in their way. Not only that, but the Straw Hat Pirates also have to get Nico Robin back from the Marines, where he went willingly for some unknown reason. Again, this and a later arc called “Whole Cake Island” are similar, but “Water 7” is better because of Robin and Usopp.
Until this point, neither Robin nor Usopp had a lot of growth, but Water 7 makes it a point to give both of them some powerful growth. From Usopp’s fight with Luffy to Robin’s statement that she wants to live, Water 7 has some of One Piece’s most powerful moments and best fights. At this point, none of the characters feel too strong or too weak. They are on the same level as their opponents, which makes for interesting fights that could end in a win or a loss. This arc is easy to choose so close to the top because there isn’t much wrong with it.
1) The Summit War
Longtime fans of One Piece shouldn’t be surprised by the best story arc. The Summit War Saga is the most important part of the first half of the series. It starts with Luffy and his crew fighting the Marines in a hopeless battle that ends in a terrible loss that forces them to split up. Then we find out that Luffy’s brother Ace is going to be executed and Luffy has to save him. This leads to Luffy trying to get into the prison where Ace is being held and then escaping that prison to go to the public execution where Ace is going to die, only to get caught up in a huge battle between the Marines and Ace’s crew. It’s chaos, and it’s so much fun to watch.
This was the turn that turned things upside down. Here, our heroes were beaten badly. Some of the most impossible things in the series are done by the bad guys, leaving us with a lot of dead bodies and the feeling that the world will never be the same again. This story arc completely changed the goal of One Piece and the way the world worked, for better or for worse. It’s a great story arc that deserves all the praise it gets for how much it changes things and takes big risks. And because of that, it’s easy to say that the Summit War Saga is the best storyline in the whole of One Piece.
And that’s how we ranked all of the major arcs in One Piece!