I’d say that this is the first proper ‘arc’ of One Piece. Everything before this was mostly setup with throw-away villains. Here? We get actually character growth, a fun and memorable villain that would play a larger part in the story going forward, and it does a great job of introducing one of the series’ best characters!
After their first adventure with Axe-Hand Morrigan, Luffy and Zoro sail out to sea. Since neither of them knows how to navigate a ship, they quickly end up lost and low on food. When Luffy is caught by a giant bird, Zoro sails after him in hot pursuit. This brings the two straight into Orange Town, where a pirate crew led by Buggy the Clown has taken up residence. Here, Luffy meets Nami, a cunning thief with great navigation skills and a strong hatred of pirates. Can Luffy overcome Buggy’s strange Chop-Chop powers and snag himself a navigator?
The relationship between Nami and Luffy in this arc is absolutely incredible! Watching Luffy earn her respect just by being who he is and not even really trying encapsulates his character perfectly!
Plus, Nami herself is such a phenomenal character! When you first meet her, you think she’s a cold-hearted manipulative minx. But as the story progresses, you quickly see that her moral compass is actually one of the strongest out of the entire cast! Her being super weak as compared to Luffy and Zoro is an equally nice touch; I love how not ever member of the Crew is some unkillable god. It makes it that much more satisfying later when she starts developing her own fighting abilities.
It even plays really well into her next arc. But we’ll get to that in a while.
Can we take a moment to appreciate Buggy and his crew? These guys are great! They have such fun designs and they make for an enjoyable foe! It’s even more fun when you know where these characters are going to end up later; seeing their more humble beginnings is equally hilarious and charming!
Then there’s the real best character: Chu-Chu. I’m a sucker for a good dog story and this one is one of the best! The loyal doggo, protecting his owner’s prized shop. It plays extremely well into the themes of personal treasure that are so integral to One Piece. Plus, it makes such a great emotional through-line for the entire arc.
Two arcs in an One Piece is already squeezing out the tears. And it only gets better at it the longer it goes on! Hooray! Fun, totally light-hearted pirate adventures!
This arc’s got some pretty fun action, too. I mean, come on! A rubber man kicking a disembodied clown in the dick (I actually laughed writing that sentence) is automatically entertaining! Watching both Luffy and Buggy get creative with their powers is one of the most memorable pre-Grand Line fights in all of One Piece.
Though this is the point in the story where an annoying problem occurs. See, Luffy has this issue where someone will explain something in no uncertain terms, then he’ll say that he doesn’t understand and force them to explain it in simpler terms. While it’s funny the first time, this particular gag gets pretty annoying pretty quickly. The audience isn’t Luffy; they’re not stupid and they don’t need this information to be repeated.
And this problem would only get worse in the next arc. But again: that’s a topic for later.
Orange Town is a fantastic, often forgotten arc. It’s easy to forget the shorter stories when arcs like Alabasta, Dressrosa, Enies Lobby, and now Wano exist. But this one is still well worth reading. It’s a ton of fun through and through and it’s basically the only arc where we get the original trio being a bunch of idiots together.
Jesus, dude. Remember when there were only three Straw Hats?