The latest chapter of the One Piece, the manga series that has been running weekly for the past 22 years, has fans bursting with excitement.
This morning, One Piece chapter 955 began trending on Twitter in the United States. For fans of the series, it was a milestone installment that was packed with not just one but three blockbuster moments years in the making. This may be the first time an individual chapter of the manga has ever garnered this much excitement and praise on social media.
And for good reason. For a series that has been running for as long as One Piece, its major events need to be used sparingly or else they lose their impact. Typically, series creator Eiichiro Oda will drop milestone reveals well into a story arc’s life, often at the end of months or even years of build up.
Those payoffs are usually singular moments, like a character demonstrating the culmination of their training by showing off some new power or technique. In other cases, characters will discover new weapons or skills that radically change our expectations of who they are. And One Piece is at its best when the story drops the needle on its most spectacular storytelling element: an all out war that changes the fates of all the characters involved in the story.
One Piece chapter 955 was the first time a single story installment has featured all of these elements.
The latest arc of One Piece is presented like a kabuki act. It’s filled with the same theatrics as the Japanese stage shows and is even set against a world similar to a classical Japanese village. The manga’s current story line is basically an epic samurai drama, much like Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, except with nine samurai, a villain who can turn into a dragon and dozens of other super powered characters fighting over the fate of a small island and its people.
While the series has explored many themes, settings and cultures, this is the first time it has taken inspiration from its own Japanese roots for an entire story arc. And Oda is particularly skilled at remixing classic ideas and putting his own twist on them.
Now, Oda isn’t just shaking up the setting, but the plot. One Piece’s second half began in 2010, when the story’s timeline jumped two years forward, with many of the story’s protagonists parting ways to strengthen themselves before they regroup. In this chapter, one fan favorite, the sword swinging Zoro, received his biggest boost to date.
In this chapter, appropriately named after the sword he receives, “Enma,” the hero finally gets an opportunity to show how much he’s changed. In a monstrous display of power, he not only subdues his new sword — think of it like proving he’s worthy to wield it, like Thor’s Mjölnir — he then proceeds to cut a huge chunk off a cliffside while trying to chop down a tree. Gargantuan feats of strength are not uncommon in One Piece, but the surprise of Zoro’s leap in power was a welcome shock for fans who have been waiting to see the swordsman back in action.
A smaller, but equally important reveal occurs for the story’s main character, Luffy. He’s always growing and becoming stronger throughout the series, but it’s still a welcome surprise when he gains some new skill. It’s never clear how he’ll use his new skills in battle and that unpredictable aspect is always a treat to see realized. It means he’s more powerful, but it also means the story can become grander.
Finally, the chapter marks the beginning of the all out war that’s been in the works since the arc began. Will Luffy and the gang succeed in overthrowing the dangerous shogun that’s terrorized the small island they find themselves on? Will the samurai who have lain in wait for over 20 years succeed in their revenge plot? How will Luffy and Zoro’s new powers come into this, and how will everyone fare against the strongest enemies ever seen in the series? Chapter 955 lays these questions out and promises to answer them all in the upcoming chapters.
It’s an exciting time for the series as these tent-pole story arcs are when One Piece is at its finest. It’s been several years since the manga has setup such a large scale story, and for fans the wait is finally over.
You can read all of One Piece’s latest three chapters for free on Shonen Jump’s digital service. Subscribers to the new Shonen Jump can also read all of One Piece’s chapters as well as several others on their website.