One Piece plays out like your typical pirate story in a lot of ways. But there are some things that make it unique.
One Piece can come across as a pretty bizarre series. All of the characters are kind of weird, and they definitely don’t all act or look like traditional pirates. Plus, it’s harder to tell where and when the series takes place, and if it means to actually take any cues from real-life places or if it’s just going for its own thing.
But there are also definitely elements of the series that have clearly taken cues from traditional pirate fiction, both literary and in films and TV. The combination of the two approaches to the story make One Piece the interesting series that it is.
10. Differs: Fantasy Setting
There’s a lot of weirdness to the setting of One Piece. While in a lot of ways, it’s got a lot in common with pirate fiction settings, like taking place primarily on and around islands, featuring the poor or put-upon citizens of island villages that are constantly putting up with pirates, the series is also a fantasy. There are a lot of things about the abilities that people have and the ways people communicate (like using snails as telephones for instance) that wouldn’t exist in traditional pirate lore.
9. The Same: The Way They Fight
While some of the characters in the series do have special powers, discussed more below, a lot of them actually just fight the way pirates would fight in any traditional pirate fiction: with swords, cannons, and guns. Even members of the Straw Hat Crew are often seen in combat wielding a cutlass or manning a cannon against their enemies.
8. Differs: Heroic Pirates
Even pirate fiction that features pirates as the main characters usually positions those pirates as not being great people. Even Treasure Island, which sees the main pirate trying to befriend the hero, with actual feelings of affection, ultimately sees a betrayal there too, since pirates aren’t good people.
But One Piece’s cast is almost all pirates, and many of them are good people trying to do right by others while also getting their share of the treasure.
7. The Same: Looking For Treasure
The series is named after a mythical treasure which a famous pirate hid. Before he died, he said that the entirety of his vast wealth existed as one piece, as opposed to a chest of gold or jewels. As the most legendary pirate, he is believed by all of the other pirates to have left an incredible amount of treasure, and much of the series revolves around the attempts to find this treasure.
6. Differs: Talking Animals
Chopper is the doctor of the Straw Hat Pirates, and he’s also a reindeer. There’s no real explanation for this; it’s just the way that it is. While pirate fiction probably has a talking animal or two, it’s probably a parrot mimicking somebody else, not a walking, talking animal capable of administering medicine to an injured or ill patient.
5. The Same: They’re On Boats
The most important element of a pirate narrative is the fact that the stories take place primarily on a ship. Sure, they stop off in various ports, they land on deserted islands to dig for buried treasure, but for the most part, the intrigue and excitement happens while they’re at sea. One Piece is no different, and the Straw Hat Crew mostly travels on a ship and gets into it with other pirates who are also on ships.
4. Differs: Devil Fruits
It’s important to recognize the biggest way that One Piece is different from traditional pirate fiction and which is also one of the major elements of the series. Many of the characters eat Devil Fruits, which are magical fruits that give them physical abilities that people don’t normally have.
Luffy, for instance, is able to stretch his limbs out to unnatural lengths. While there are sometimes magical elements in traditional pirate fiction, most often they’re straightforward adventure stories.
3. The Same: Putting Together A Crew
Part of the fun of pirate adventure stories is seeing what kinds of strange characters might end up on the ship with the captain to go off and find treasure. One Piece is no different in this regard. As the series goes on, Luffy slowly gathers friends and teammates who join him to become a part of the Straw Hat Crew, and they travel together in search of treasure and adventure.
2. Differs: Non-Traditional Pirate Stops
Pirates often stop at various ports in order to get supplies or generally cause a ruckus, but One Piece often sees the Straw Hat Pirates go to non-traditional places too. For example, the team has visited an island in the sky, which wouldn’t normally appear in traditional pirate stories, since they mostly stick to areas in the Caribbean or on islands off of major mainland areas.
1. The Same: Stopping At Ports
As mentioned above, the Straw Hat Pirates, as well as the other pirate crews that appear in One Piece, often make stops at ports. This is a part of traditional pirate storytelling, and here it also works toward some shonen storytelling tropes. Stopping at ports gives the pirates a chance to learn new information, meet new people, and cause mischief. It also lets Luffy and his Crew potentially add people to the group for their adventure.