No Guest Found in this category
One Piece is one of the longest-running (and best) anime of all time, and as we just saw with the ending of the Wano Arc, it is more popular now than ever before! It’s humbling to think that something so legendary and long-standing is really going to end in our lifetime. Episode #1071 literally crashed Crunchyroll and several other streaming sites, with countries around the world holding screening events for it; this went far beyond an episode of anime, this was a global event! Back-to-back generational, genre-defining episodes are a rarity for any anime, but if any series deserved the star treatment, it’s One Piece. So what exactly made the Wano Arc episodes so amazing that they broke the internet? Spoilers from here on out, Supa-Fans!
Sure, the debut of an iconic new form is always gonna be huge, especially at such a pivotal moment in the narrative, and with Eiichiro Oda announcing that, after Wano, One Piece is officially entering the ‘Final Saga’. But, even more than that, people were excited for the animation, and the staff. You’ve probably noticed that, since the start of Wano, One Piece looks good, as in, really good. This level of quality sustained for so long, and with episodes week after week constantly striving to one-up the previous one, is almost UNHEARD of for a weekly anime. This is normally the kind of stuff you see in movies! And because of the insane quality, fans have started to take notice of individual contributors; who directed this, who storyboarded that, who animated what. The collective shift to learning the names and idiosyncrasies of people behind-the-scenes is a joy to see; they are, after all, the people responsible for the big hits that get your blood pumping, the scenes that make you laugh out loud, and the moments that make you cry. Today we wanna highlight some of the real anime celebrities; the incredible staff that have made One Piece so special recently!
Ota is the rockstar of One Piece right now, this is the guy Toei calls when they want an action scene to make a statement. His work is extremely recognisable for his wild, loose linework, and BIG character acting!
In Episode #1049, Ota animated Luffy’s dramatic return to the battlefield in Fourth Gear: Snakeman!
Here, he and veteran storyboarder Katsumi Ishizuka turn one panel of the manga into a TWO MINUTE feast for the eyes. Backgrounds, effects, clothes, hair… Ota cranks up everything in this scene to the absolute maximum!
Luffy’s hair and cloak whipping around in the intense wind, Yamato’s lightning, their auras, the Earth-shattering speed of Snakeman’s Jet Culverin. It’s impossible to convey in words the intensity of this cut; it has to be experienced firsthand. It demonstrates so well how far Luffy has come in terms of raw power, he simply has no equal. My personal favourite moment is when Luffy and Yamato’s attacks finally land on Kaido, Ota and Ishizuka really make the hits feel ridiculously powerful, and Kaido’s reaction to getting schmacked is exactly what you love to see!
And if we’re talking Ota, we can’t go past this scene in #1072:
Note: The first 33 seconds are what we’re talking about, the rest was done by Bahi JD, Julian Bentley, Masami Mori, and Yen BM!
This scene is unique not only because of how good Ota’s work is (and he hits the iconic Second Gear pose, c’mon now), but because of the animator that is smartly sandwiched between Ota’s cuts, Shinya Ohira!
Ohira is a legend, one of the most recognisable animators of all time, famous for working on a tonne of Studio Ghibli films as their ace guy, and for amazing scenes in Space Dandy, Mind Game, Redline, Ping Pong, and more! His beautiful style, signature “camerawork,” and his iconic “wobble” are awesome to experience in a long-running show like One Piece, where consistency is usually key. Guest animators are always awesome to see work, and Ohira’s appearance here solidifies why One Piece is so GOATed: it has the star power like no other shounen, it draws in unbelievable talent, and it’s been on a tear of letting brilliant artists show off their stuff!
Another GOAT animator, Vincent’s inhuman skills push the boundary on what can be achieved in a weekly show. His work frequently gets mistaken for CG, but Chansard is simply built different! In Episode #1048, Vincent demonstrated that he gets Kaido more than any other animator.
His cut opens with some absolutely bonkers acting from Yamato, having to animate a non-human mouth with such detailed movements, and from such an unconventional camera angle, is extremely tricky, but the result is amazing. The star of this scene however, is Kaido. The way Vincent portrays him is nothing short of demonic, an uncomfortably, constantly shifting mass of hair and scales, cast in shadow except for those evil, glowing eyes and teeth. This is the scariest, and most exciting, a One Piece villain has ever been rendered, eschewing a literal reading of the manga in order to capture how Kaido feels to the other characters and the audience. This is what an Emperor looks like.
But Chansard isn’t done showing us what he’s got! His impact frames (his favourite tool in his animator’s arsenal) are next-level; in one cut, Yamato leaps into the air and winds back his club, and from that point, the screen explodes into a gigantic blue wolf for a split second (definitely worth going through frame by frame for)! Later on, after a massive attack clash between the two, Yamato and Kaido are rendered in wild blue and orange impact frames for several seconds, but it also depicts Yamato in his normal form holding back tears; a dynamic way to illustrate an emotional moment right in the middle of an intense fight!
In Episode #1038, Chansard and Julien Cortey do double duty on another excellent confrontation between Yamato and Kaido.
The opening shot of Kaido behind that veil of smoke, with nothing but those eyes piercing through the fog, as his fur whips around, shows off once again how well Chansard understands this character. Chansard has an exceptional talent for drawing faces too, he insists on the characters always moving, even in dialogue, they’re always twisting their heads around, and moving their lips with uncharacteristic detail for anime that isn’t pre-scored, perhaps just to show off how well Vincent can draw a character from the most unconventional of angles and keep them perfectly on model. It’s especially impressive on Kaido, who is covered in scales! When Kaido opens his eyes and raises his head, the level of detail is insane, you can see the light behave realistically over all his scales, which remain consistent the whole time, it’s actually inhuman levels of skill.
For Cortey’s part, there’s exceptional detail on Kaido’s outstretched hand, which curls and uncurls, and Yamato’s full body movement of winding back their club is unbelievably realistic. When Kaido and Yamato’s attacks meet, there’s some sick background animation as well, and an amazing rotation shot that blows out to show the floating battlefield, and the devastating power of the two attacks colliding, before the “TO BE CONTINUED” hits!
Yong-Ce has been doing incredible work on One Piece for a while, but like Chansard, Ota, and Cortey, his scenes have only been improving. This hilarious scene in episode #1072 shows off Tu’s excellent sense of timing, for action and comedy, and how well he sells the impact of a punch.
We were also lucky enough to have Yong-Ce treat us to the climactic final attack of this epic, years-long battle between Kaido, Shogun of Wano, and Luffy, the Fifth Emperor. This arc started four years ago, with episode #890. The alliance between Law and Luffy to take down Kaido started ten years ago, in episode #594, and, in 2023, Luffy finally defeated Kaido, in spectacular fashion:
The whole sequence is amazing, but at 1:18, Tu shows us why he’s become one of One Piece’s stars. How do you end a fight that’s been built up for a decade now? How do you sell the impact of a punch so powerful it frees a country from tyranny? You call Tu Yong-Ce. He’s been using and perfecting that gorgeous ink brush style for ages, and here, it’s used so effectively. A perfect, flashy way to close out a legendary fight, one that will probably go down as the Super Saiyan Goku Vs. Freiza of this generation.
RAPID FIRE ROUND!
Jakisuaki, Michael Sung, Shoutarou Ban, Yen BM:
What a way to really introduce a new transformation. Oda always said that Gear 5 was inspired by Tom and Jerry, and scenes like this nail exactly that vibe. Eyes and faces popping out of Luffy and Kaido’s heads, the insane exaggerated squash and stretch, the stars-spinning-around-the-head gag, everything in this feels like a high-quality Looney Tunes bit! Go through this frame by frame if you have the time, because every second is phenomenal, and filled with fun details.
Keisuke Okura, Shuu Sugita, Sota Shigetsugu, Vincent Chansard, Yen BM, Yuu Yoshiyama:
Possibly the strongest three minutes of action animation ever in One Piece, this nonstop slugfest has absolutely everything you could want in a fight, the creativity and kinetic energy that Gear 5 allows for is nuts!
Weilin Zhang, Vincent Chansard:
One last one and we’ve saved the best for last. You can really tell that every animator is having the best time with Gear 5; this transformation is so silly, and it lets everyone bring their craziest A-Game to the table! It’s a celebration of creative freedom, and no scene embodies that better than Weilin Zhang’s cut of Luffy sending Kaido’s fireball back at him. Gear 5 represents joy and freedom, and it’s impossible to watch Luffy be so silly and goofy without a big smile on your face. Zhang’s decision to just completely break the whole show and portray Luffy as this crazy little gremlin with in-universe cartoon powers is so smart. The sound design, Mayumi Tanaka’s voice acting, and Zhang’s wild animation, culminate in a scene that shows off why Gear 5 is the best transformation in anime.
There’s so many more great One Piece animators we could talk about, but now you know a little bit more about some of the legends making this show as good as it is; generational talent that are constantly striving to improve their skills, and doing it! From one week to the next, these guys get better and better every time they appear, and they’re not gonna stop! While we hope this article has shed a little bit more light on some skilled individuals, even more than that, we hope it serves as a reminder that animation is a beautiful medium because it’s hand-crafted by real people with a passion for what they do. Every movement and attack, every emotion, every landscape, every storyboard, every compositing choice, every chord and sound effect, was meticulously, deliberately placed by the hand of an artist. Their differences in experience, knowledge, style and sensibilities make animators irreplaceable, along with all that other good stuff that makes people unique.
Let us know what your favourite piece of animation in One Piece is!