It’s a very fun and very complicated time to be a fan of Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece manga. And I don’t just mean the recent events of the Egghead Arc, where the Straw Hats finally met the infamous Dr. Vegapunk, an encounter that has coincided with roughly a million different reveals and plot twists. The last time One Piece had a story arc that seemed to give its readers a chance to breathe was around five years ago, and even then, the plot was consumed with a heated and lengthy battle between Luffy and Katakuri and Big Mom’s delirious pursuit of the Straw Hat Crew.
Oda has made it clear that One Piece is entering a final stage of sorts (though what that entails, and how long he has left, are endlessly debatable) and even chapters that seemed like they might provide a bit of respite have introduced new threats and/or details for fans to mull over. So recently, I’ve seen quite a few readers respond to One Piece chapters with a sense of exasperated confusion, like when you’re lost in a department store as a kid and you can’t comprehend any sort of direction. Fans still love the book — they’re just finding that love to be somewhat exhausting.
And that’s understandable. A fix for this that’s often quoted among One Piece fans is to wait for the arc to finish and then binge it. Oda has a way of threading plotlines that feels really satisfying in the end, but leaves you wondering “Where is this going?” while you’re in the thick of things. Binging also allows you to shrug off bits that honestly go nowhere or don’t really work out — something that’s fairly annoying on a week-to-week schedule, but much more forgivable as part of the bigger picture. This proclivity has only become exacerbated in recent years as the stakes get bigger and bigger and the narrative gets full to bursting with whatever climactic scenario Oda is trying to concoct.
There’s also another suggestion: You might just be kind of tired of One Piece right now. In an era of indefinite storytelling, that’s a real possibility. Now, One Piece isn’t like a Pokémon or a Marvel Cinematic Universe — something where you can clearly compare and contrast the quality of, or your interest level in, each new installment. It is one long story created, for the most part, by one artist. But make no mistake, One Piece is expansive enough as a story and as a franchise that if you find yourself ending every chapter with a frustrated shrug emoji, you might be bored of this Luffy stuff for a while.
Everyone engages with something this big on their own level. Some just read the manga, but others read it, watch the anime adaptation, buy the clothes and merch, debate every chapter with fans, and analyze it in their free time. In that scenario, burnout is inevitable. Of course, tastes vary, and there’s a good chance that you’re watching Dr. Vegapunk’s Wonderful World of Shit You Didn’t Know Yet That You Might Not Like, and won’t dig it no matter how much space you put between you and the Straw Hat Crew. That’s cool.
Getting sick of something, though, especially something that has been going so hard for half a decade (in a story that’s lasted 25 years, as of last July) is cool, too. It’s hard to admit in a time so dominated by IPs slipping into every facet of our lives, when the “ONE MOVIE/TV SERIES/MANGA/ANIME THAT THE WHOLE WORLD IS TALKING ABOUT” comes out twice a week. Being bored means missing out on the thing and the conversation around it, and being dismissive of it means opening yourself up to a wave of people who will heartily disagree with you.
But one can still very much like One Piece and be very tired of One Piece right now. If that’s the case, go away for a few months. Take a vacation from the Grand Line and see what else is out there in the world of manga. Kaiju No. 8 is pretty great!