This is the part where One Piece goes from ‘decent’ to ‘great’. Unfortunately, we’re not quite at ‘incredible’ yet. That’s not until Arlong Park.
After acquiring the Merry Go, Luffy and the crew continue their adventures. Their journey takes them to the Baratie, a floating restaurant. Here, they meet Sanji, a playboy cook with some killer legs. But when the restaurant is attacked by Don Krieg and his crew, all hell quickly breaks loose. Nami makes off with the Merry, Zoro squares off against the greatest swordsman in the world, and Luffy’s resolve to become Pirate King is truly tested for the first time!
Jesus Christ, where do I even begin with this arc?! This is easily the nuttiest arc in East Blue! So much happens, so many twists and turns, that it’s hard to pick one thing to start out with!
I guess we should begin with the star of the show: Sanji. During his introductory arc, Sanji was easily one of the best members of the crew. His pervert gag hadn’t gotten obnoxious yet, he was totally badass, and his compassion was at its strongest here. This arc did a fantastic job of introducing Sanji and making the audience love him.
Not to mention how effective his backstory is. Even more so after the Cake Island arc. But we’ll get to that in due time.
All the other chefs on the Baratie were pretty great, too. Zeff is a fantastic foil to Sanji, which puts a fun spin on the surrogate father-son story they’ve got going on. All of the others make for a fun little addition, though none of them really add a whole lot to the plot. They’re a fun lot, though only Zeff is all that memorable.
Would you eat at the Baratie? I think I would. At least I’d give it a shot.
As for the villain… meh. Don Krieg is alright. He’s kind of overshadowed by Arlong, but his fight with Luffy is a fun one. Honestly, I find Gin to be a much more interesting character; his willingness to betray those who helped him out of loyalty to his captain but inability to hurt Sanji because of his kindness makes him a fun unpredictable element.
Speaking of fun: we get some peak early-Luffy stuff in this arc. His attitude during his fight with Krieg is wildly enjoyable, featuring some of the most badass and hilarious moments of early One Piece. Even before that, watching him try and fail to work at a restaurant is a fun little change of pace. Thankfully, that gag doesn’t go on long enough to become annoying.
But forget all of that! None of that matters! Because this fucking scene happens this arc!
Zoro VS Hawkeye was one of the first One Piece moments that really blew me away. It works in pretty much every regard. It establishes just how crazy powerful high-level characters are in this world, it gives Zoro a helluva fight scene in an arc that doesn’t focus very much on him, and it paves the way for his entire journey to come. Plus, it’s just so damn badass!
Hawkeye is such a phenomenal character! He’s not some cocky asshole. He ain’t all talk; he can walk every step of the walk! And he’s actually a pretty chill dude! He acknowledges Zoro and straight-up tells him to surpass him. It’s metal as hell, easily one of my favorite moments in the series.
Not to mention how perfectly this arc sets the stage for Arlong Park. Nami stealing the ship just as the action starts is a fantastic way to take certain characters out of the fray and smoothly move us over to the next story. Plus, it adds a layer of mystery, as Nami drops some mysterious dialogue.
This is the first One Piece arc that I’d call truly phenomenal. It’s an absolute blast to read from beginning to end. This is where One Piece truly starts to come into its own.
And to think! It doesn’t even compare to the next arc!