Is it a hot take to say that this arc still has the best fights in the series? Or is that a popular opinion? I dunno, I figured everyone would have started saying Whole Cake has the best fights after Luffy VS Katakuri. But that’s a topic for another day.
Enies Lobby has it all. Badass action. Tear-jerking moments. An epilogue that sets the stage for tons of future events. This is easily one of the most insane and engaging story arcs in all of One Piece. And in terms of overall quality: it is my favorite, beyond any doubt.
Although Marine Ford makes a strong argument. And Wano is really starting to build up momentum…
Robin has been taken by the World Government to Enies Lobby; in order to protect the Straw Hats from the Buster Call, the Navy’s deadliest last resort, she has thrown herself upon the sword. But Luffy and the gang aren’t having it! Can the Straw Hats fight their way through one of the most well-guarded islands in the entire world?
Where. The. Fuck. Do I begin?! There’s so much here and all of it is incredible!
We’ll start with our villains: CP9. In terms of personality and depth, these guys aren’t super interesting. But their designs are great and each one makes for an incredibly memorable opponent for the Straw Hats. They really feel like the greatest threat the crew has faced yet. Or at least the greatest one that they can actually handle.
The fights they present are easily some of the best in the series. Zoro gets a cool sword duel with a giraffe man! Nami comes up with new uses of her Climate Baton to defeat a soap woman! Sanji fights a wolf man! And Luffy gets one of his absolute best fights ever against Lucci; it’s an all-out brutal slug fest only matched by his later battle against Katakuri!
Even before the fighting starts, this arc is incredibly exciting! We’ve got trains flying over walls! We’ve got Sogeking making friends with giants (an excellent payoff to his earlier friendship with the Little Garden giants and nice setup for the inevitable Elbaf arc). We’ve got that legendary shot of all the Straw Hats lined up and ready to fight! It’s a thrill to read from start to end!
Luffy even gets a Kaioken style powerup with Gear 2 and Gear 3! I love both of these! They’re so weird and creative and make for some truly incredible battles! My only real problem is that eventually, Gear 2 just becomes Luffy’s new standard and it loses all of its luster. But here, when it’s brand new, it’s the coolest thing yet!
If you want exciting shounen action, this arc is for you. And if you want something to rip your heart out, this arc is also for you!
Robin’s flashback is among the best in the series. It’s nice and short but it comes packing one of the biggest emotional gut punches yet. Seeing just how hard Robin has had it over the years not only helps us empathize with her and pays off the mystery behind her excellently, it also re-contextualizes her actions back in the Alabasta saga, before she joined the crew. And it all culminates in one of the strongest moments in the entire series: “I want to live!”
But that has nothing compared to Merry’s funeral.
It doesn’t matter how many times I reread or rewatch this scene. It always hurts just as much as the first time. The flashbacks to the ship’s previous adventures with the crew. All of the Straw Hats lined up to see her off. A simple “I’m sorry” and a “Thank you”. Fuck dude, I’m tearing up just describing it! One Piece’s character writing is so strong that it will make you cry over a god damn boat!
Then, once you’re done cleaning up the buckets of tears you just poured out, you get the epilogue of the arc. Hoo boy, Oda decided to drop some bombs this time! You’d think that all of the Straw Hats getting their own bounties would be enough, especially since it’s fucking hilarious (and Sanji’s poster is actually set up for not one, but two plot twists). Or them getting a new ship, Franky joining, and Usopp’s apology would be enough. But no! He doesn’t stop there!
First, we meet Garp, Luffy’s grandpa who reveals the identity of Luffy’s father: Monkey D. Dragon, the dude who saved Luffy way back in Loguetown! Then motherfucking Coby and Helmepo return, looking cool and acting badass; after not seeing them for so long, it’s great to see them return so strongly! All of this sets the stage for events to come perfectly!
And to top it all off, we get one of the shortest but most important fights in the series: Ace VS Blackbeard. Seeing both of these characters go all-out in a battle of fire and darkness is short lived, but it’s also pretty fun and it perfectly establishes how truly dangerous Blackbeard really is! Not only that, but it sets up the single most important event in the series yet: Marineford!
But we’ve still got a while to go before that.
This arc really is the complete package. It’s got tons of memorable fights, tear-jerking moments, and tons of payoffs and set-ups. This is easily my favorite saga in all of One Piece, one that I’ll be coming back to time and time again.
And now, we can move on to spooky scary skeletons!