Let’s just get this out of the way: One Piece is long. Okay, got it? Now deal with it. Because it’s really good, and it’s filled with some of the best story arcs that anime and manga have to offer. So if you’ve tried for years to get your friends into One Piece but to no avail, here is every story arc ranked by level of hype to issue out.
#28 — Whisky Peak
One of the most inconsequential arcs in the series, Whisky Peak just kind of… happens. Sure it has some key moments like Vivi meeting the Straw Hats, the introduction of Baroque Works, and a ham-fisted “fight” between Luffy and Zoro, but it’s mostly just a blip on the radar as a part of the larger Alabasta saga as a whole. Not really one you want to lead with when telling a friend to check out One Piece.
#27 — Little Garden
Another arc that is just kind of a lead-in to Alabasta, Little Garden introduces us to something very important to the worldbuilding of One Piece at large: giants. Yes, the giants who hail from Elbaf– where we are totally going to at some point! It’s also got dinosaurs, which is something pretty unique to the rest of the series, and a couple of somewhat less-interesting fights against Baroque Works members. I’m glad it’s here, but it’s not really One Piece at its best.
#26 — Punk Hazard
I think even the biggest die-hard fans of One Piece can admit that Punk Hazard is a bit of a slog at times. Most of the arcs post-timeskip are pretty long, and this one is no exception. Granted it does have some pretty cool setpieces, such as the island being half fire and half ice after a battle that occurred there using Devil Fruit powers, but having to hang around those giant kids for so long got real old, real quick. “It gets better I swear, hang in there!”
#25 — Amazon Lily
In a surprising move, the Straw Hat crew was dispersed and separated following the events of Sabaody Archipelago, so we follow Luffy on a solo journey into the Amazon Lily. It’s been a while since we’d spent time with Luffy alone– since what, the first chapter maybe? So it definitely was a little strange to not have the supporting cast around here. That being said, there are some fun comedic antics, but its defining moment is the introduction of Boa Hanock, who’s one-sided love for Luffy will never not be perplexing and hilarious.
#24 — Drum Island
No disrespect to Chopper, I love the little goofball, but Drum Island has always felt like kind of an anomaly to me. It feels like it’s very much its own thing, independent of other stories, but it’s also so tied to the long lead-up to the Straw Hats getting to Alabasta. It’s an unconventional structure, which I don’t mind, but the arc itself is just not one of my favorites! It does have some really strong heartfelt moments though, which are core to what makes One Piece a tremendous series.
#23 — Syrup Village
I like this arc because it’s simple and to the point: bad guy hiding in plain sight, introduction of a key player to the series (Usopp), and bad guy gets wrecked by Luffy. I’ve heard people say that Syrup Village can be the biggest hurdle to get over in the beginning chunk of the series, otherwise known as East Blue, but I still kinda like it! The story would really hit its stride just shortly after this, but Kuro is enough of an engaging villain to hopefully carry new readers long enough to get there.
#22 — Romance Dawn
“Is this really an arc?” I can hear you asking yourself, out loud, while reading this list. Well, the One Piece wiki says it is, and it’s important enough since it’s what kicks off our whole journey! Luffy gets his iconic Straw Hat, beats Alvida, and meets Zoro. Three super impactful moments are right here at the beginning. While it’s not exactly the craziest or most engaging entrypoint to a series, I still marvel at the simplicity and confidence of it, and I think new readers will do the same.
#21 — Dressrosa
I am very conflicted about this one. Because it can sometimes be a real slog to get through (especially if you’re watching the anime version) but it also has one of the greatest villains of the entire series who had been built up for ages: Donquixote Doflamingo. It’s worth noting that One Piece finally gets its obligatory “tournament arc” here in Dressrosa, so anyone looking for some familiar anime tropes can cross that one off the list here.
#20 — Skypiea
One of the most disconnected arcs in the whole series… or is it? The verdict is still out on whether or not Skypiea is actually “the most important arc” or not, but it does appear so far to not connect to very much of the story at all, but that’s likely to change as Oda dishes out further developments and worldbuilding bombs. Still, there’s a lot of great fights and setpieces here. Most of all, new readers/watchers can finally see where that “shocked Enel face” meme comes from.
#19 — Loguetown
Loguetown is short and sweet, but very effective. It brings back previous villains like Buggy and Alvida, introduces new characters like Smoker and Dragon, and sees the Straw Hats set off on the Grand Line once and for all. In some ways, Loguetown is where the series really begins. You know, nearly 100 chapters in. That being said, it’s still sort of a transitional arc, but its one that cements its place in the series by showing what’s come beforehand and what’s to come still, showcasing the tremendous scope that One Piece has to offer.
#18 — Fish-Man Island
I’m just gonna say it, and I know some people out there are gonna agree with me on this: Fish-Man Island gets a lot of unfair hate! I never understood it. Maybe it was just hyped up for too long, and it just didn’t live up to people’s expectations or something. Regardless, there are some really incredible locations and setpieces here that stand out greatly from the rest of the series, due to it taking place on the ocean floor, once again expanding the size of our big world. The villain, Hody Jones, is admittedly one of the weakest in the entire series, but it’s still a fun enough ride that showcases a race of people we had been dying to know more about: the Fish-men.
#17 — Alabasta
Alabasta is the first really big arc in One Piece, but honestly I feel like it only gets better on delivering longform stories later on. Still, there is a lot of build up that is paid off in this arc. As I had mentioned previously in this list, several arcs simply act as lead-ups to Alabasta, showing you just how big of a deal this actually is. Crocodile is an excellent villain in his own right, and his fight with Luffy is one of the best in the series. If someone complains that One Piece stories just aren’t committed enough, tell them to hold on until Alabasta.
#16 — Reverie
Some of the best moments in One Piece are the lore dumps at the end of a story arc, and Reverie is just one big pure-unadulterated dumping of lore. Seriously, so much happens in such a short amount of time here. We’re shown Kuma’s tragic current fate, Sabo gets into some serious trouble, and tons of world leaders are shown, further expanding this already massive world! This brief arc really feels like Oda’s declaration of war: this series is big, but its pay-off will be massive. New readers can get hooked on knowing that level of hype alone.
#15 — Impel Down
This arc really switches things up big time, and shows that One Piece has legs beyond just its main supporting cast. This follows Luffy’s solo journey as we find him breaking into prison to save his brother. Instead of his loyal pirate crew the Straw Hats by his side, he’s now joined by previous antagonists from throughout the series. Everything is unpredictable in this arc, ranging from the prisoners, the prison guards, to the giant underwater prison itself. I think switching up the formula here really did a lot to help One Piece from becoming stale over time, so new readers can take some solace in that.
#14 — Orange Town
It’s a short one, but again, a very effective one. Orange Town feels like we get our first real look at the Straw Hat pirates as a crew, now with three whole members! Luffy, Zoro, and Nami square off against Buggy the Clown and his crew, which feels like the first major threat in the series. Buggy is one of those characters that comes back from time to time throughout the series, so looking back on the original punchline of that joke here really just makes it hit even harder.
#13 — Zou
Zou is comparatively short when put up against other story arcs post-timeskip, but it’s honestly a welcome breath of fresh air after Dressrosa. In true One Piece fashion, the audience is kept guessing on what could possibly happen next as our crew now finds themselves on the back of a gigantic 1000-year-old elephant. Oh, the elephant’s back is also inhabited by a bunch of anthropomorphic animal people, by the way. Zou also acts as sort of a crossroads in the series, due to the crew splitting up after some serious lore dumpage.
#12 — Jaya
I would have ranked this one even higher if it weren’t mostly a gateway into Skypiea, but it does include some of my very favorite moments in the entire series: Luffy’s initial meeting with Marshall Teach, AKA Blackbeard, and the bar stand-off in Mock Town where Bellamy and his crew relentlessly mock Luffy and Zoro for being foolish dreamers as they endure every punch and broken bottle thrown at them. It’s short, but it showcases some key moments about what makes One Piece work at its core. Plus, I remember watching this as one of my friends was over who never had seen One Piece before, and he was just as enthralled as I was.
#11 — Thriller Bark
Thriller Bark is one of those arcs that doesn’t seem all that important until it is way later on (manga readers know what I’m talking about) but it’s still a ton of great fun. Seeing One Piece’s take on zombies is expectedly hilarious, yet also creepy in new ways not seen before in the genre. The lovable skeleton musician Brook is introduced in this one, and there’s a really great fight that sees the Straw Hat crew pitted up against one gigantic villain together.
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