Hey guys, Justin here and welcome to the Otaku Mind and another edition of Memories of One Piece. A few months ago I talked about what I and many others consider to be the worst arc in the One Piece series. Today, I’m going to talk about the best arc in the series which is a little harder to do. When people talk about the best arc in One Piece it always comes down to two arcs. The first being the thrilling and exciting Enies Lobby arc and the second being the suspenseful and epic Marineford arc which served as the closing arc for the first half of One Piece. Both arcs are incredible from a story and character perspective, have great action, suspense, and a conclusion that leaves everyone on the edge of their seat. Personally, if I had to choose which arc I think was the best it would have to be Enies Lobby which I’ll be focusing on today.
So the overview for this arc is that Robin has been captured by CP9 a secret division of the Marines who do covert missions at the request of the World Government. Not wanting any harm to come to her crewmates, Robin gives herself up because for the first time in her life she’s found people who she really cares about and wants to protect, even if this means that she herself will be killed in the process she is happy knowing that she saved her crewmates from certain. As the arc goes on we find out that Robin is actually the last survivor from island known as Ohara an island which consisted of archeologist and scholars studying and researching the Poneglyphs and the Void Century, something that was forbidden by the World Government. The leader of all of this was Robin’s own mother Olivia. Once the World Government found out about their research they ordered a Buster Call on the island, the strongest military attack used by the Marines. In this attack the Marines unleash an unspeakable attack on a person or place and won’t stop until it is completely destroyed and that’s what happened in Ohara. The island was completely destroyed with Robin (who at the time was a child) being the only survivor who managed to escape alive.
Once Luffy and the others find out about Robin’s sacrifice they hop on a sea train and head directly for Enies Lobby where they fight their way in to meet Robin who up until this point didn’t want to be saved and was okay with dying. It’s only until Luffy and the others declared war on the World Government all for the sake of saving her that she really reveals her true feelings and wishes to be saved and continue living so that she can travel the seas with them and make her dream come true. From there this is where the action starts as each member of the Strawhat crew (and Franky) fights a member of CP9 to get the correct key to Robin’s handcuffs all while on a time limit as Spandam the director of CP9 is trying to get Robin through the Gates of Justice where it will become impossible to save her because at this point there will be only two ways out. Impel Down which is the inescapable super prison of One Piece or Marine Headquarters where the 3 admirals are waiting to execute them. After much fighting the Strawhats manage to defeat the members of CP9 and rescue Robin from Spandam before she passed through the Gates of Justice. They then manage to fight their way out of Enies Lobby and escape all in one piece with the crew getting new bounties, a new ship, Franky joining the crew, and Usopp returning to the crew after giving an emotional and heartfelt apology for his previous actions earlier in the arc.
What I liked about this arc
So where do I begin to talk about why this arc is so great because there are so many things to talk about.
First off, there’s the story. The stakes have never been higher for the crew than they are now. The Strawhat crew has gone up against pirates, warlords, and lesser figures in the Marines but this is the first time they have ever taken on the World Government a government which practically runs the world. They have no ship, have to go up against an army of Marine and government officers, and their first encounter against CP9 didn’t go so well as they were all easily defeated by them. On top of that they’re working on a time limit to save Robin. This is the most intense situation the crew has ever found themselves in up until this point and their toughest challenge yet as everything seems almost impossible for them and there’s a good chance they could all fail to save Robin. In the past, it didn’t matter how bad things looked or how dire the situation was, we always had faith the Strawhat crew would pull through, beat their opponents, escape, and continue on their adventure. But here, for the first time ever we were scared that they were going to fail that for the first time ever the crew was going to lose to this all powerful government that nobody could oppose and we would see the last of Robin.
Speaking of Robin, this arc also serves as the backstory for not only her but Franky as well who has a score to settle as well. Robin, has always been the most mysterious member of the crew. She’s the oldest one there and while not the strongest she’s the one with the most life experience in terms of being of pirate and one could argue she’s the smartest member of the crew. While she’s with the Strawhat crew and has helped them out a number of times, there always seemed to be a wall between them like she didn’t want to get too close to the crew because she was afraid of what it would do to her or them. To finally see her backstory and understand why she keeps everyone away and what she’s been through is enough to bring a tear to your eye. She’s lived her whole life on the run afraid of everyone and everything. Her home, destroyed, and she has no place where she can feel safe or call home until she met the Strawhat crew who gave her that place where she felt accepted and in order to keep that place safe she has to sacrifice herself to her enemies. For Franky, his backstory may not be as painful or sad as Robin but it’s still very heartbreaking. He, Iecburg, and his master Tom were the ones who built the sea train and it was because of Franky’s inventions that Tom got arrested and captured by the World Government where he was arrested for building Roger’s ship and sentenced to death. This led to Franky getting run over by the sea train in an attempt to save Tom which resulted in the front of his body being replaced with cyborg parts in order to stay alive. For Franky, taking on the World Government, foiling their plans, and helping the Strawhats escape is both revenge and atonement. It’s revenge against the World Government for killing Tom even though he did nothing wrong from Franky’s point of view and atonement for his failure to rescue Tom because of his mistakes. Franky’s story is about a man who has committed mistakes in his life and after years of trying to atone for them is finally able to do it and move on with his life.
We already know that the Strawhat crew is awesome but what about the other characters. I have to admit, when I first watched this arc I was worried that the members of Franky’s House and the shipwrights would all be pointless characters who would contribute nothing in the grand scheme of things. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case. While their contributions may not be as big or impactful as the Strawhats, they weren’t just extra luggage. They all get their shots in and help the Strawhats reach Robin by clearing a direct path for them holding off some of more weaker soldiers so the Strawhats can stay focus on the task at hand. They also provide funny moments like on the ride to Enies Lobby their expressions to Zoro’s incredible strength is hilarious and perfectly sums on my reaction as well (scene here: https://youtu.be/XFiyKdFuKHY). Usopp also manages to get a good laugh out of me. After leaving the crew and unable to face them again but wanting to help save Robin, Usopp creates Sogeking a masked sharpshooter complete with his own theme song and everything to help them out (scene: https://youtu.be/VNyP3uzgRhA). Aside from Luffy and Chopper everyone can tell that’s Usopp but keep up the charade out of respect for Usopp and because they have more pressing matters to attend to. He was also the one who shot down the World Government flag and even saved Robin from Spandam (scenes here: https://youtu.be/6CPJMrj2f30 and https://youtu.be/bNwTrSBL_QU).
The villains were also great. Spandam is an asshole but he’s also one of the most hilarious villains we’ve seen in One Piece. Despite being the director he’s incredibly weak, out of his league and yet somehow has a position of power within the World Government and presides over people who are way stronger and more competent than him. The members of CP9 are all great as well. Not one of them is weak, they each have a devil fruit power, and very memorable. Not only that but they come across as real people with some of them not standing each other and just getting along for the sake of the mission or what needs to be done. In a way they’re like a darker version of the Strawhats. But the one character who stands out the most in this is Rob Lucci. He is easily one of my top 11 favorite One Piece villains. His presentation, the way he’s presented, how they handle him, and what he represents is all great. Rob is the final boss of this arc and the guy who was the first to push Luffy past his limits in combat. While it’s true other characters have pushed Luffy past his combat skills even more than Rob, Rob was the first guy to do it and I like to think if it wasn’t for him, we may not have gotten the Luffy we see today.
The fights in this arc are still some of the best fights in the series. Everybody in the Strawhat crew participated in a fight. Nobody sat out and did nothing, they all fought a member of CP9 or helped in bringing down a member of CP9. Some of the highlights that stick with me to this day is seeing Chopper push himself past his limits and turn into a monster all in the hopes of defeating a member of CP9. Even though he became useless after the fight, this was the first time we ever saw Chopper transform into a monster and he did it all so they would come a step closer in saving Robin. Nami stepped up and took on an opponent that not even Sanji could beat because of his code to never hit a lady and managed to beat her by doing what she does best, outsmarting her opponents. Nami knows she’s not the strongest member of the crew if anything she’ll be the first to admit that she’s the weakest so instead of relying on strength and overpowering her opponents like Luffy, Zoro, and Sanji, she instead beats them by outsmarting them. She takes the hits, weather throughs it, catches her opponent off guard and wins. Nami and Usopp show us that you don’t always have to be stronger than your opponent to beat them, if you’re smarter than them and have the better strategy then your chances of winning are never zero. This was also where we got to see Sanji’s first use of Diable Jambe a move that I swear keeps getting better every time I see. Of course the best fight of this arc is Luffy vs Rob which honestly still remains to be one of the best fights in One Piece. Not only is the fight intense and well-choreographed but it’s a fight in which we see two men fight over their ideals of how to live. Luffy is all about freedom and living life to the fullest by doing what you want to do all while smiling and sharing your experience with your friends. Rob is the opposite of that. Rob is a man of justice and rules. We have rules in our society that we must follow and those that don’t follow the rules are scum and deserve to die. He believes in dark justice a justice that should be carried out even if you become evil yourself. The word and interpretation of justice is something that has always been a subjective conversation as everyone in the Marines has a different interpretation of it. For Rob, as long as criminals are punished and stopped in the name of justice than anything is fine. We’ve seen him stick with this interpretation ever since he was a young agent of the government as we saw in a flashback how he brutally attacked the Candy Pirates that was so brutal that even the citizens who watched the assault were horrified by his actions and he didn’t care one bit what they thought of him. In his mind, he was upholding justice and thus everything he does no matter how cruel, inhuman, or wrong it may seem from an outsider’s perspective is right with him.
Finally, there’s the theme of the story. Probably the biggest theme is the line between good and evil. The World Government is considered the bad guys here despite the fact that all they’re doing is following orders and upholding peace in the world. Meanwhile the Strawhats are considered the good guys despite the fact that by this world’s standards, they’re the bad guys who need to be stopped otherwise they will destroy the world and everything in it because of their action and choices. Yet despite all of this we see the Strawhats as the good guys because we’ve followed these guys for a long time and developed a bond with them. We have no ties or bond with the World Government or anybody in CP9. We know nothing about them on a personal basis. All we know about them is that they have lied and betrayed the people who considered them friends in the name of justice and are trying to kill a character who we care about because of where she’s from and her family heritage. It makes you wonder that if the roles had been reverse and we instead followed the members of CP9 and not the Strawhats, would we be cheering on CP9 to win or would we still side with the Strawhats after seeing bits and pieces of flashbacks focusing on their adventure? There’s also the theme of finding a place where you belong. Life is tough, there’s going to be times where you feel out of place and just don’t fit in, but if you keep searching and never give up you’ll eventually find a place where you belong and when you do you’ll find friends to cherish and care about. Robin found her place where she belonged and even when she left to keep that place safe, the people she cared about came to rescue her because to her it just wouldn’t be the same without her.
Good balance of Comedy and Drama
One of the great factors of One Piece is its ability to be funny but never using sight of the drama in it’s sorry. Despite being in a dire situation there are plenty of laughs here. One of the funniest scenes is between Franky and Chopper. We find out that Franky is powered by cola and in the middle of a fight needs to refill so Chopper throws him a different kind of juice which changes his personality all together (scene here: https://youtu.be/44gXbMZ11Lc). Another funny scene is between Zoro and Usopp where Usopp accidently handcuffs them together and Zoro proposes they cut one of their hands off so they can fight and he’s serious. When that plan fails they go to plan B which is Zoro using Usopp as a sword to fight (scenes here: https://youtu.be/BzbIktb1HC4 and https://youtu.be/G0MJzpk4PfU). I also love this scene: https://youtu.be/n4IMSGuS1Cw. But with all these funny scenes we also get our dramatic and powerful moments as well such as Robin finally admitting she wants to live and realizing that for the first time in her life she has people who she can call friends (scene here: https://youtu.be/QWKmIvDvMz0) and the funeral of the Merry-Go. I talked about this in my first memories of One Piece but long story short, the Merry-Go has fallen into disrepair and the crew has to abandon it. Usopp doesn’t like this as the ship is a representation of his character and how the crew will abandon him down the line because of how weak he is. Anyway, when the crew rescues Robin and they’re surrounded by the Marines with no ship to escape in the Merry-Go shows up and sails them to safety before finally succumbing to its damages in the middle of ocean. Luckily, Luffy and the others get picked up by Iceberg and the others where they give the Merry-Go a Viking funeral all while remembering their travels together. We get a touching song, flashbacks, tears from the others, and if that wasn’t enough to make you cry, the spirit of the Merry-Go actually apologizes to them for failing. By God, I am actually cried over the death of a ship. I don’t how Oda did it but he somehow made me cry over the death of a ship. That is good writing right there. The Merry-Go’s death was treated like an actual character’s death and it still remains to be one of the saddest moments in One Piece (scene here: https://youtu.be/nMNEld6hE0M and https://youtu.be/MAytEIgqlPA). After this we also get a few shocking moments such as finding out that Luffy’s grandpa is a vice-admiral in the Marines and his dad is Dragon the leader of the Revolutionary Army who is trying to overthrow the World Government and the most wanted man in the world. There’s also Usopp’s epic apology and return to the crew which was a great and if you want more details about this go check out my first Memories of One Piece.
Any bad in the arc?
Nothing I can think of. There might be one or two nitpicks that people have with this arc but nothing that I would consider a major problem or anything worth talking about.
Why do I like this arc more than Marineford?
I’m going to hold off answering this question as I feel like there’s enough material here to write another Otaku Mind. While it’s true I think Enies Lobby is the better arc I won’t deny that Marineford did a few things better than this arc and deserved to be recognize for it.
So that’s why I think the Enies Lobby arc is the best arc in One Piece. It combines everything we love and enjoy in One Piece. Excellent storytelling, unique and deep characters are introduced, explored and developed, funny moments mixed in with dramatic and shocking moments, good action, along with themes and philosophies that make us think. This arc was a turning point for the series and really served as the catalyst that got a lot of people into One Piece. It’s a great arc and one that I recommend going back and reading when you have the chance. Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next time on Project Nitsuj.
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