If you don’t know what my Diaries are, please go here. Spoilers ahoy!
Otherwise, let’s go!
Wait, Final Thoughts?! Don’t worry. This segment will still continue until Halloween. Just in a different format.
Anyway, the strongest part of One Piece is Oda himself. You really never know where he’s going to go. But he still sticks to the spirit of the original. One Piece feels like the same manga in the first volume all the way up to the latest, but readers still have a blast following along. Luffy would probably be tempted to surrender if he was offered a lifetime supply of meat, Zolo will still charge head-first to battle (just in the wrong direction), and Nami will charge for her help. The Devil Fruits mean Oda has an easy excuse to why even stronger enemies show up. He can even reuse some Fruits and introduce new models or versions. There’s a lot of gag elements as well, but the world of One Piece also has a solid forward progress. It’s easy to understand why it’s popular with all ages. It’s a nice blind of old and new shounen tropes.
The biggest problem with One Piece is the number of characters. It’s hard to keep them straight, and you never know who is going to return. Oda really isn’t big into recaps or establishing pages; heck, he even redraws flashbacks! Main characters can be abandoned for long periods of time, and lots of new characters suddenly rise to prominence. I think the anime probably fills in these holes. In the manga, however, I feel like readers need supplemental material. It could be fanbooks, websites, or friends (in real-life or on the Internet) to help piece all these hints and references back together.
Reading this series back-to-back would seem like a good idea, as everything would be relatively fresh. (It took me about two and a half months to read One Piece.) In the beginning, I wasn’t expecting so many characters to make a return, so I didn’t put much effort into remembering. But also reading the volumes one after the other was information overload. No chance to let 19 years’ worth of story to sink in or reread parts. (Well, that’s also because I borrowed the series from the library, not my own shelves.) I tried to avoid spoilers on the Internet for the Diaries, but I think most readers would benefit a) from a slower pace and b) finding good sites for more information (preferably spoiler-free, but that’s pretty much impossible on the Internet).
Lots of letters talk about watching/reading One Piece with their friends or family. This is where One Piece shines. As a solitary experience, I found One Piece lacking. I’d rather read something like Rurouni Kenshin or Fullmetal Alchemist which are shorter but less busy in each chapter. Don’t get me wrong; both of these series have significant flaws and One Piece is stronger than these two in several aspects. But a) they’re less time consuming and b) less hectic. I haven’t finished Naruto yet, but I don’t remember it being as overwhelming as One Piece. Some movies and TV shows are just more enjoyable watching in a group and One Piece is a manga that loses something when reading on your own.
I’ve always heard about Sanji, but fans love Zolo more. Huh. I guess Sanji just has more vocal fans?
Oh, yeah. One Piece fans are more obsessed with counting than the Count from Sesame Street. Seriously.
tl;dr: One Piece is good, but don’t read it too fast and find someone (online or in-person) to enjoy it with.