One Piece History and Overview: Everything You Need to Know About the Straw Hat Pirates

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When it comes to manga out there, there is simply nothing like the One Piece series. With an unbelievably long period that it has been going for, there is no denying that the One Piece history and overview is one of the most storied and essential of them all.

This One Piece history and overview is here for everyone ranging from fresh newcomers to long-time veterans. With such a long and detailed time since the start of its 1000+ chapters, it can be overwhelming. That is where we come in with our guide to the characters, story, setting, and more.

Bottom Line Up Front

One Piece is one of the most influential and most prominent manga series ever to be released. There is no denying the success of its record-breaking ongoing manga run. The story revolves around Monkey D. Luffy, a young aspiring pirate who wishes to find the One Piece treasure.

Throughout his journey to get the treasure, he meets a colorful cast of characters who he befriends and/or fights. With more than 1000 chapters and anime episodes to date, it is one of the most extended series ever created.

What Is One Piece?

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One Piece is a manga and anime series created by the legendary mangaka Eiichiro Oda. It has won records in the past for being one of the most extended manga series ever. While not containing the most chapters in a manga (but certainly close), it is renowned in its way.

It holds the record currently for the longest manga and comic book series from a single author. Since its beginning, One Piece has been a staple in manga and anime. Whereas almost all other series have finished or gone on hiatus, One Piece remains steadfast.

The story of One Piece follows the famous shounen protagonist, Monkey D. Luffy. Luffy is an aspiring pirate who wishes to have his crew take the seas. His ultimate goal, though, is to obtain the titular One Piece, which is the greatest treasure in the world.

With One Piece in hand, Luffy will be able to become the King of the Pirates. This, in turn, would make him the greatest pirate in the world and an important figure. Unfortunately, as you can see, that journey has taken quite some time.

Almost 25 years later and Luffy has still yet to acquire the One Piece item. Even still, the series is quite entertaining and successful for a reason. One Piece is a shounen series, meaning that it is meant for kids but it is great for anyone. No matter what age you are, there is fun to be had with this series.

Much of the appeal comes from the fact that One Piece eschews the seriousness and dark style of many series. It comes from a simpler time and, therefore, features a colorful world with goofy characters. Many of them are references to real-life or cultural icons, keeping One Piece’s joyful spirit intact.

That said, while much of the series is lighthearted, there are more serious moments, too. With so many different iconic fight scenes and plenty of action, there are some more serious moments, too. There are plenty of twists, turns, and heartbreaking moments throughout the many chapters.

One Piece Manga History

One Piece was created by Eiichiro Oda and started its run on July 22, 1997. Before the beginning of the series, Oda was a young artist who had tried a few other works. These included Wanted!, Monsters, and God’s Present for the Future. These series and other one-shots would prove instrumental in the eventual arrival of One Piece.

Oda has noted in the past that pirates are a huge part of his childhood with a love for series like Vicky the Viking. Couple this with his adoration for the legendary Akira Toriyama and his wonderful Dragon Ball manga, and you have One Piece.

Before the series began, Oda started by making Romance Dawn. This was a one-shot series that featured Luffy, who would become the main character in One Piece. Many parts of this one-shot manga were used to craft the story that would become his popular series.

He then came up with the full series idea and pitched it to publisher Shueisha. It would take several tries before One Piece was finally picked up and began serialization in Weekly Shonen Jump magazine. The magazine has been the home of the manga series for almost 25 years now.

The general rule of thumb is for Oda to release three new chapters of the series in a single month. This gives him one week to have a little bit of a break and focus on the next month’s work. This schedule has been something that Oda has mostly stuck to, which is astounding compared to other manga.

Because of this, One Piece is one of the longest-running series of all time. When it comes to series from one artist alone, Oda holds the record, too. To date, there are about 1040 chapters in circulation. More than 1000 of these chapters have been compiled into 101 volumes and counting.

These are enormous numbers compared to most other manga out there that will usually reach a slim fraction of that. To make matters more interesting, the series is just now arriving at its conclusion. Oda presumes that the series will finally end sometime in 2024 or 2025. This means that we still have more than 100 chapters left to go.

There is a reason that One Piece is still going, too, with an unbelievable amount of success. The series currently holds the record for the highest-selling manga and comic series at almost 500 million copies sold. There is nothing that can even come close to this record. Oda has even surpassed his role model Toriyama and Dragon Ball in this regard.

One Piece Anime History

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When it comes to the anime adaptation of One Piece, it did not take too long to begin. Once the successful weekly run of the manga began, the anime version soon followed. Just over two years later, the anime began on October 20, 1999.

Just before the turn of the century, this anime was created by Toei Animation. This is the same fabled studio that created brilliant, iconic series like Dragon Ball and Sailor Moon before it. Weekly episodes have been almost entirely consistent since their start.

As such, we are sitting at now more than 1000 episodes of the series with no signs of stopping anytime soon. More than 20 years later, Toei still leads the charge on this series and has ever since. Like the manga, it is one of the most popular of its kind in the entire world.

Even just a few years ago, One Piece was the most popular and watched anime of the year. It likely retains that today or is at least in the top few shows. There are well over a million average views of the series per month most of the time. This allows it to top all other animated series in the world and most live-action TV shows, too.

With more than 1000 episodes, it is currently sitting about a year behind in the manga. It has kept pace with the manga pretty well, only catching up occasionally. This led to filler arcs and episodes in the past, and will possibly require that in the future, too. But at this rate, it should end soon after the manga’s conclusion.

In addition to the ongoing anime series, there are animated films, too. There are 14 from Toei Animation at this time and likely more on the way before the series’ end. There is also a long-awaited live-action adaptation from Netflix that is coming in the future.

Setting

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One of the low-key best parts of the One Piece series is its well-defined setting. It has a clear and defined world that is interesting and fun. Whereas other series will simply use a weird version of Earth or a made-up named place that is just Earth with an asterisk, One Piece does a great job of establishing its world.

It is an interesting one, too, featuring a single major landmass continent known as the Red Line. Four major seas split the continent via the Grand Line and throw in some interesting islands along the way. There is an Old World and a New World, taking some cues from actual Earth.

At the same time, the setting for One Piece is wholly unique. The world is a significant part of the experience, too. This is because Luffy and the gang are pirates traveling the world so it needs to be intriguing. The world has its intriguing elements, too, like fantastical creatures and intelligent species.

Some animals have novel uses in the world and people have interesting powers.

Devil Fruit Explained

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Much of the powers in the series come from the signature Devil Fruit. These special fruits are unique in that a person can only eat one ever. If they try to consume another one, they will die. There are three main types of these Devil Fruits and they determine what power someone receives.

The first of these is the Logia, which allows someone to control certain elements. For instance, someone might be able to use fire in battle or water and so on. The second is the Paramecia version, which is the one that the main character Luffy consumes.

This one will change the abilities of a person’s body to allow them to do unique tasks. In the case of Luffy, for instance, he can stretch his limbs like they are rubber to fight. Last but not least, there is the Zoan Devil Fruit, which transforms someone into an animal.

This can be just a part of their body or their entire body at once. The possible animals vary from existing creatures to ones from before time itself. With these Devil Fruits, the citizens of the One Piece world can gain powers and dominate as pirates.

Main Characters

The main characters in the series vary depending on their affiliation. Some of them are pirates while others are associated with the World Government. The crux of the story, though, follows the members of the Straw Hat Pirates crew.

Straw Hat Pirates

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The Straw Hat Pirates crew are the main characters in One Piece. The leader of them is Monkey D. Luffy, the hero of the story. This crew grows throughout the different story arcs as more members join. Each person has their motivation and backstory, but they are one as a team. They always stay true to themselves and lend a helping hand to anyone in need.

Monkey D. Luffy

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The hero of the One Piece story is Monkey D. Luffy. With a family history that links with the future of the world, he has a unique childhood. His goal from a young age is to become a pirate but gets rejected at his first attempt.

He can steal a Paramecia Devil Fruit in the process, which gives him his signature power. Luffy can modify parts of his body to act as if it is rubber or Gum Gum after the fruit’s name. He soon comes up with the idea to create his pirate crew and find the legendary One Piece treasure.

The hope for finding the One Piece is so that he can become the new King of the Pirates in the process. His grandfather (more on him soon) takes him to be raised by Curly Dadan. After he grows up to become a teenager, he eventually sets out on his journey.

Through this journey to find the One Piece, he assembles a crew that he names the Straw Hat Pirates. Luffy is a goofy and loving character, who cares about his friends. While a pirate on the run from the World Government, he has a heart of gold.

Nami

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One of the first members of the Straw Hat crew is Nami. She joins the Arlong pirate crew as a cartographer where she meets Luffy. After events occur, she joins with him in pursuit of her dream. She wishes to make a map of the entire world alongside the crew of the Straw Hat Pirates.

Roronoa Zoro

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Roronoa Zoro is one of the fan favorites and my favorite character in the series. He has a strong personality and his own goals like the other members. A talented swordsman, Zoro wishes to become the greatest swords fighter in the entire world.

Early on in the story, Zoro is scheduled to be executed for his crimes. Thankfully, he was saved by Luffy, and joins him as his second-in-command.

Sanji

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Sanji is a powerful fighter and member of the crew with a long past. He went through a lot before joining the crew, starting with running away from home. He finds joy and purpose in cooking and eventually develops multiple powers. Unfortunately, tragedy strikes, which eventually leads him to join the Straw Hat Pirates.

Usopp

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Usopp is a long-time member of the Straw Hat Pirates from near the beginning of the series. He has a tragic past of his own involving his father leaving him and his mother dying. Despite this, he finds purpose in becoming a pirate. He most notably has an insanely long nose that is an “on the nose” reference to his Pinocchio-like lying.

Tony Tony Chopper

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Lastly, for a handful of the early crew members of the Straw Hats, we have Tony Tony Chopper. One of the most memorable characters visually and personality-wise, he has the power to transform. He can become a reindeer character (not a tanuki!) due to the Devil Fruit. Tony Tony Chopper is an intelligent doctor and goofy and loving member of the group.

Other Pirate Crews and Characters

Other characters in the series are other pirates or supporting characters.

Ace

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One major supporting character who has a role in some significant story beats is Ace. Ace is the son of Gol D. Roger, the same one who found the One Piece. Growing up, he was seen as the adopted older brother of both Luffy and Sabo. Though he is an ally at times for Luffy, he is not a formal member of the crew. Even still, he plays a considerable role in Luffy’s life.

Sabo

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Sabo is the last one to round out the trio of brothers between Luffy, Ace, and him. At present at the start of the series, Sabo is serving in the Revolutionary Army. This group’s goal is to take down the World Government. While he is serving his own goals, he does help Luffy at times in the story.

Monkey D. Dragon

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Luffy’s father is Monkey D. Dragon. Initially, he is a mysterious figure as an absent father for most of Luffy’s life. It turns out that he is the leader of the Revolutionary Army. This puts him at odds with the World Government as his sworn enemy. Even still, it appears he cares about his son even though they have not seen each other yet.

Four Emperors

The Four Emperors are the four most powerful pirates in the world. They each have their own huge crews that they lead. They try to organize the world and keep it as peaceful as possible. The Four Emperors at the start of the series are Big Mom, Kaidou, Shanks, and Whitebeard.

Big Mom

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Charlotte Linlin or Big Mom is one of the Four Emperors. She is the leader of her Charlotte Family and lives with them in Totto Land. As one of the most powerful pirates around, she is also a powerful foe. She is, at times, a major enemy in the various story arcs.

Kaidou

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Next up is Kaidou, another of the Four Emperors and leader of the Beast Pirates. Himself a beast, he is one of the strongest fighters in the world. He is a fearsome foe and an ally to Big Mom. He is also a dangerous enemy in some of the major story arcs.

Shanks

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Shanks, or Red Hair as he goes by, is the leader of the Red Hair Pirates. He is one of the few to previously be part of the Roger Pirates. With that, he was able to reach Laugh Tale. He plays a central role in Luffy’s life, being a role model for the young boy. Shanks is also the reason for the signature straw hat that Luffy wears.

Whitebeard

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Whitebeard, or Edward Newgate, is an imposing figure in the pirate world. He is the strongest pirate in the world and one of the Four Emperors. Leading the Whitebeard Pirates, he is a defining force. Even in his old age, he can pose a threat.

World Government Explained

The World Government is the collection of almost all countries in the entire One Piece world. This World Government represents and makes decisions for everyone. They are also at times at odds with many pirates and set bounties on them. The World Government is led by the Five Elders.

The descendants of the founders of the World Government are the Celestial Dragons, who are selfish and power-hungry individuals.

Navy

The Navy is one element of the World Government. They are the naval force that traverses the seas and takes down some pirates. Throughout the series, the Navy is a prominent force and an enemy at times for the Straw Hats crew.

Monkey D. Garp

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Monkey D. Garp is the grandfather of Monkey D. Luffy. In the Navy, he is one of the vice admirals, being among the most important there. For a time, he raised his grandson until leaving him with Curly Dadan. As a leader in the Navy, this does occasionally put him at odds with the pirates.

Main Villain: Blackbeard Explained

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Marshall D. Teach is the devious and troublesome main villain of the series, Blackbeard. Sharing a name with the real-life pirate, Blackbeard is an infamous enemy in the series. He is a primary enemy of just about everyone out there in the world. Blackbeard is also able to somehow use the powers from two Devil Fruits.

Where to Read the One Piece Manga

If you are ready to start reading the manga, here are the places you can do so. For digital fans, Viz Media will be the place to look. There, you can find all of the chapters from the start to the most recent one. For physical fans, take a look at just about any bookstore, physical or online. Another great place to read is at your local public or school library. I know this is how I began reading One Piece as a kid.

Where to Watch the One Piece Anime

For the anime side, there are a couple of main places to look. We recommend checking either Crunchyroll or Funimation. For the most recent Japanese episodes with subtitles, Crunchyroll is quick and easy. But if you like the English dub version, you will want to head on over to Funimation for that.

What Manga Chapter to Start With for Anime Fans

One Piece is an ongoing series with almost 25 years of history. Despite this, the anime remains behind the manga. So, if you want to see the latest storylines, you will need to pick up the manga. For anime fans that are up to date on the anime, you are still dozens of chapters behind. We recommend picking up with around chapter 990. This will give you a quick recap of the current state of the Wano Country Arc. From there, you can check out the latest chapters.

FAQs

Question: Is One Piece based on a real story?

Answer: One Piece is not necessarily based on a real story by itself. There is no treasure that we know of that is like the One Piece, after all. However, what is great about this series is that the characters are based on real people. Many of the pirates that you meet are from real-world history.
For instance, the most notable that you likely already know is Blackbeard. One of the most famous pirates in history is Blackbeard and he has his stake in One Piece. The main villain of the series, Blackbeard, is smartly based on the most infamous pirate to sail the seas.
Another one, though, that some fans may not know about is Roronoa Zoro. No, Zoro is not the sword-wielding swashbuckler Zorro but someone else.  It has been noted in the past that Oda created Zoro based on the French pirate Francois L’Ollonais.
There are other real-life inspirations for the characters, too, such as the powerful Silvers Rayleigh. He is based on the famous Englishman Sir Walter Rayleigh. There are even more characters than just these.

Question: Who originally owned the One Piece?

Answer: In the history of the One Piece setting, it is known that the character Joy Boy was the first to seemingly discover the One Piece. It was found on an island at the end of the Grand Line, essentially at the edge of the world.
Joy Boy is cited as the first to have this treasure. However, it would be Gol D. Roger of the infamous Roger Pirates who would make it famous by finding it. The One Piece is located supposedly on this final island still that has come to be known as Laugh Tale.
Little is known about what the actual One Piece treasure is but there is plenty of speculation. For one, it is possible that the treasure is not even on the island anymore. Or, there is a chance that the treasure was divided up into multiple pieces (ironically) and set around the world. For now, we will just have to wait and see when Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates find it.

Question: How far behind is the One Piece anime?

Answer: How it works is that the manga, as mentioned, puts out three chapters a month. On the other hand, the One Piece anime is consistent about releasing four episodes a month. While this is the case, the manga is still decently ahead of the anime.
For the most part, the manga is typically around 40 to 50 chapters ahead of the anime. This means that the manga is at least a year ahead of the anime. Events that are happening right now in the manga will not likely occur in the animated series until about a year from now.
The reason for this is that manga is the source material. There needs to be enough time for Oda to create more series chapters. As such, the anime is almost always behind the manga. Even if it somehow gets close to catching up, filler arcs will begin to buy time. We have seen this happen many times throughout the long-running anime series.

One Piece History and Overview: Conclusion

One Piece is one of the essential manga series ever released. With such a storied 25-year run and counting, there is a lot to love. This history and overview guide was only able to cover just a handful of the parts of it. As such, there is more to find on One Piece here on Manga Insider.

We have already created a detailed guide to the One Piece characters. This will help you find out more about everyone you need to know about. From more about Luffy and his pals to the main villains, it is a great guide. Be sure to take a look if you want to find out more about One Piece.

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