20 Years of the One Piece Anime: How Will It End?
With twenty years of swashbuckling animation under its belt, One Piece packs a treasure trove of characters and stories. Recently surpassing its 900th episode, how such a behemoth of a tale will conclude is anyone’s guess. Eiichiro Oda no doubt has it figured out, but that doesn’t mean us plebs can’t take a stab at guessing. So here’s my take!
What’ll happen to these guys?
To theorize about each and every character would take longer than 3D2Y, but here’re some thoughts on a few…
Shanks: Luffy’s pledged to pummel all four of the super-powered Yonko, even his beloved childhood inspiration and savior. So, the Straw Hats battle the Red Hair Pirates in a Davy Back Fight, with the winner taking the Poneglyphs (Shanks is likely in possession of a Road Poneglyph). This gives the divisive Long Ring Long Land arc added relevancy, and allows Usopp and his father, Yasopp, to engage in a sniper showdown.
Garp: The veteran of justice fights and kills fleet admiral Sakazuki, avenging Ace and liberating the Marines from the magma bodied monster’s reign, but succumbs to wounds sustained during said battle and dies. Koby becomes fleet admiral and promises to make his mentor proud.
Blackbeard: The murderous traitor to Whitebeard with the power of darkness; Luffy races him to the One Piece. Blackbeard claims it first, only to be disappointed. It’s a spyglass that held personal value to Roger, and Blackbeard’s reaction of letdown mirrors that of fans. But knowledge is power, and the One Piece’s value is in its role as a final/ultimate Poneglyph detailing the Void Century. Upon looking through its lens, it answers every question fans could possibly have (and then some). Luffy beats Blackbeard and retrieves the One Piece, becoming the Pirate King, and the truth unearthed holds vital importance in the inevitable war between Dragon’s Revolutionary Army and Im/the World Government.
Kuzan: This ex-admiral and icy geezer joined the Blackbeard pirates as a Marine spy. He eventually dies a hero, and his arc serves as a tale of redemption (take notes Jaime Lannister).
What’ll happen to the Straw Hats?
What’re the finish lines for Luffy and his crew of loveable oddballs?
Jinbei: This fearless fish-man never wholly joins the Straw Hats (i.e. travels with them). It’s too late in the story for him to hop on board as a fully-fledged crewmate. Instead, he gives his life for Luffy to become the Pirate King. His sacrifice, and Luffy’s success, triggers a peace between fish-men and humans, ending the history of discrimination and cementing Jinbei as an icon to his people.
Brook: The Straw Hats’ musician returns to Reverse Mountain, where he sings Binks’ Sake to Laboon. After performing to countless audiences as Soul King, he puts on his best performance for his favorite fan.
Franky: Upon attaining the title of Pirate King, Luffy sparks a peaceful/non-criminal era of piracy, and is hailed as a hero. As such, Franky’s regarded as the world’s best shipwright for building the Thousand Sunny. He returns to Water 7 and reunites with Iceburg and the Galley-La company, but Koby unexpectedly requests the funky haired cyborg designs and constructs the newest iteration of Marine Ships. After Tom was executed by CP5 for building the Oro Jackson years before, Koby pledges to never let the World Government and their wicked corruption rise again.
Robin: After learning the world’s history, she sets to rebuilding Ohara in all its glory.
Chopper: The adorable reindeer returns to Drum Island, where he discovers a dying Kureha. She’s contracted a supposedly incurable disease, but Chopper uses the vast medical expertise he’s gleaned from his journey — most notably his stint on Zou — to save her. She cries, an expression she commonly bottles up, telling him he’s become a doctor capable of working miracles and curing any disease. She emphasizes how proud Hiriluk would be of his ‘son’.
Sanji: the Straw Hats’ cook reconciles with Pudding, and they get married (for real this time, sans betrayal and attempted assassination). He discovers the All Blue, and opens his own Baratie-like restaurant. Zeff visits and Sanji concocts the best seafood meal ever for his mentor, accompanied by dessert courtesy of his new wife.
Usopp: A ship approaches the shores of Syrup Village. Ninjin, Piiman, and Tamanegi bellow to the villagers that pirates are coming (a habit inspired by a certain someone), but said pirates are only the Straw Hats. Usopp’s back from his adventure, and he talks with Kaya. The long-nosed liar tells tales of his travels, but this time they’re true. From fighting alongside the Tontatta Tribe in Dressrosa, to visiting the kingdom of Elbaf and kicking back with the giants; Usopp’s a liar no longer, and is regarded as a fearless pirate throughout his humble home.
Zoro: Dracule Mihawk’s mortally wounded by a ferocious opponent, and Zoro fells the foe in his place, proving his superiority to the Shichibukai in the process. With his dying breath, Dracule Mihawk remarks he’s never seen such swordsmanship, and that Zoro’s indeed the world’s strongest swordsman. Following this, Zoro establishes his own dojo, akin to the one he trained at as a child, in Wano, and Momonosuke becomes his student.
Nami and Luffy: Nami returns to Cocoyasi Village, where she reunites with Nojiko. One day, Luffy visits her in a battered up boat (like the boat he first took out to sea with Zoro, pre Going Merry), asking if she wants to go on another adventure. Commenting she still has some spots on her map in need of charting, and she’ll never turn down the chance to snatch some treasure, they set off. One Piece begins with Luffy and Nami (on Alvida’s ship), and it ends with them too.
The final scene shows the Straw Hats reuniting at Sabaody Archipelago years later, à la a second timeskip. They reminisce about old times, and with that, the journey ends.
With so much at play, it’s tough to hold predictions for everything, so feel free to fill in the blanks, or point out the possible idiocy of my thoughts, by sharing your own theories in the comments. But however this odyssey ends, Toei Animation’s rigorous commitment to animating Eiichiro Oda’s masterpiece for 20 years and counting is worthy of a tip of the (straw) hat!