On October 20, 1999 — exactly 22 years ago — Eiichiro Oda‘s hit manga One Piece aired the first episode of its TV adaption. It’s aired a new episode almost every week since that point, and over two decades later, its episode library is about to roll into quadruple digits. What is the secret of its staying power?
Well, there’s really no anime like One Piece, even after all these years. Its look and feel is distinctly Oda: big mouths instead of big eyes, exaggerated and rubbery physics (sometimes literally), characters that are purposely silly yet surprisingly deep, an engaging plot that stretches for years yet is simple enough to jump into at any point…all these things have helped One Piece become an anime classic. And yet it still can’t maintain a reliable toehold on American television.
It had a disastrous US premiere on the Fox Box in 2002, hacked and censored by 4Kids. Toonami picked it up later, but it was the 4Kids version and didn’t win over any fans. Several years after that, the episodes were redubbed in uncut form by Funimation and Toonami began airing it again, starting with the non-manga-based Foxy arc….and though DeMarco fought for it, the ratings just weren’t good enough to keep it around.
One Piece has had the most success in the US through nontraditional means (like bootleg fansubs), but today you don’t have to settle for that. Funimation has the whole show on its app in both sub and dub form, and now that the big 1000 is coming soon, they have some festivities planned.
On November 20, Funi will hold a virtual live stream event on the Funimation and Toei Animation YouTube channels. YouTuber RogersBase will be your host for a free stream of episodes 998 and 999, plus prize giveaways and more. It starts at 3 PM Pacific / 6 PM Eastern. Toei is also teaming up with Fathom to screen “One Piece Film: Strong World” over two nights starting November 7. This will be the first time the 2009 movie has been shown in the US on the big screen. Visit fathomevents.com/onepiece for showtimes near you.
As for the one thousandth One Piece, that will appear on the Funimation app November 20.