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FEATURE: 3 Cheers for the Loot Distributing One Piece Episodes!



Hello everyone, and welcome to Why It Works. Have you been keeping up with the One Piece manga? After over a year of climactic Onigashima action, and several times that worth of time in Wano, it appears the end is finally in sight for One Piece’s most ambitious arc yet. And though the battles have come to a close, still to come is one of my favorite segments of every One Piece arc. That’s correct: It’s time to distribute the Wano bounty and see what new riches the Straw Hats have earned!


“Pirate loot” takes an interesting form in the world of One Piece. Though the Straw Hats are ostensibly seafaring thieves, they rarely actually steal anything, and are, for the most part, morally opposed to taking from those who can’t defend themselves. They’re actually more heroes than villains, frequently diverting from their own goals to save random passersby (much to the chagrin of more traditionally pirate-like allies like Trafalgar Law).


One Piece


In spite of this, One Piece’s “loot distribution episodes” often count among the franchise’s high points. Though the team is rarely paid in outright gold and silver, they’re frequently given rewards that are even more meaningful than wealth, both to them and to us in the audience. And no, these rewards aren’t just “friendship,” though useful friendships often do count among them. Banking off both One Piece’s gamified, almost tabletop RPG-style storytelling, as well as its clearly defined scale, Oda is able to offer his heroes prizes of genuine dramatic value, making the conclusion of each arc both a payoff and a promise of excitement to come. So how does Oda manage this?


RELATED: How Does One Piece Keep Both Its World And Its Drama So Big?


First of all, One Piece’s bounty system provides a clear payoff with genuine meaning beyond other shows’ simple power scaling. By only pinning down the “power levels” of its players through their renown rather than their direct physical strength, Oda is able to maintain a crucial degree of ambiguity in how his monsters actually stack up against each other. But more importantly for the purposes of looting, having their “power level” instead be renown means that every time our heroes complete an arc, we get to see just how much more significant they are on the world stage. Through the bounty system, Luffy’s ascendance within and beyond his generation is made abundantly clear, giving us one clean number that signifies his fame, and thus making the process of becoming a world-renowned figure easily parsable.


One Piece


Of course, power levels are only really significant within a closed system — if there’s no roof to compare to, these numbers are meaningless. Accordingly, I am continuously tipping my hat to Oda for creating a system and sticking to it, making sure even the most powerful figures in this world stand on mountains of specific, clearly established height. As a result, you can really feel Luffy and his friends growing to match those powers, if only in global significance, rather than physical strength. In One Piece, seeing how the world reacts to Luffy’s exploits can be just as exciting as witnessing those exploits ourselves.


The importance of this “closed system” is also reflected in the political “loot” the Straw Hats acquire. With each new island they save or kingdom they restore, they are in fact establishing key political ties across the Grand Line, creating a network of allies that spans from the East Blue all the way through the New World. It is indeed fun to see the Straw Hats make friends, but it’s even more fun to be able to slot those friends directly into the world crisis that’s currently brewing, and think on how each new allegiance bolsters their eventual moves against the navy and emperors. With the scale of the world essentially set by the world summit, we now know that the Straw Hats will be firmly supported by at least half a dozen key kingdoms, as well as the many informal groups composing the larger Straw Hat Alliance. With every arc they complete, the eventual shape of their global alliance comes more fully into view.


One Piece


On a micro level, this founding of alliances is illustrated in a very different way: the addition of new crewmates. Oda is very judicious in how he doles out new crewmates, as they are one of the most vaunted and consequential categories in his bag of treasures. Each new crewmate will fundamentally bolster the team’s base capabilities in some way, while also changing the overall group dynamic. Early on, you could find yourself on the Straw Hats with a good joke and a pocket of caltrops — at this point, they’re recruiting legends and heroes directly, giving each new arc the subtle seasoning of “who might join the Straw Hats this time?” And after a full arc of journeying with this or that new companion, is there any better feeling than knowing they’ll be joining the team for good?


RELATED: One Piece Develops Its Story Like a Roleplaying Game


Along with all of these personal, political, and renown-based prizes, Oda also frequently just gives the team some precious new treasure, something that both embodies the characteristics of its arc and also meaningfully supplements the Straw Hats’ abilities. Skypiea handed Usopp the dials and Nami her wave rider, giving two of the Straw Hats’ more utility-oriented members some character-appropriate new tricks. Water 7 gained them a new ship with a bevy of exciting features, while Whole Cake Island continued Nami’s ascension into some kind of electric warlock through the acquisition of Zeus. As for Wano, have you seen Zoro’s new sword? Though Oda mostly dabbles in big conceptual upgrades, he also seems to appreciate the appeal of old-fashioned treasure and makes sure to regularly supply the Straw Hats with meaningful, class-relevant goodies.


One Piece


Collectively, all these forms of treasure and renown ease the passage from one arc to the next, solidify the significance of each arc within the greater One Piece universe, and give each victory a tangible indicator of reward and accomplishment. Oda is tremendously generous to the Straw Hats, and his generosity makes the end of each new arc one of my favorite One Piece experiences. I’m eager to see what spoils Wano will provide, and please let me know all your own favorite One Piece looting episodes in the comments!




Nick Creamer has been writing about cartoons for too many years now and is always ready to cry about Madoka. You can find more of his work at his blog Wrong Every Time, or follow him on Twitter.

Source: Crunchyroll


“If you’re not remembered, then you never existed.”

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