subjective objective Sanji rankings
Looking at the worst Sanji arcs is pretty depressing, isn’t it? Thankfully, there’s some good stuff out there, too.
For those thinking there are notable exceptions: firstly, you are correct, and secondly, there are 23 years of One Piece.
Let’s get into it, shall we?
Honourable mention: Dressrosa
Now, you may be thinking: hey, Katie! This is an awfully high ranking for an arc where the character is basically absent!
To which my answer is: yes.
Not only does Sanji benefit from staying the hell out of Dressrosa, he also does so after exhibiting Skywalk and going toe to toe with Doflamingo, one of the biggest bads seen thus far. Add in his calling Law’s motivation about 40 chapters ahead of his flashback (Observation Haki for the win again?) and you have a character doing in two chapters what others would take months to achieve. See you in three years, Sanji!
Falls into the same boat as Fishman Island in that I remember precisely 0 things about the arc, but I do remember the line ‘I needed a light’, which somehow makes up for it.
The more you look into Sanji, the more you find the character composed of singular badass moments you half-remember and a thousand micro-cringe moments you’ve steadily repressed.
This is a great introductory arc. I’ve always been somewhat unusual in that I tend to prefer the simplicity of early character-focused manga to the complex all-out battles they tend to turn into, but it’s easy to forget just how good Oda is at it. And, while Zoro’s initial characterisation has had a tendency to fall by the wayside (rereading the first five chapters is an… unusual experience, as much as I love the man), the central tenets of Sanji’s have actually held up pretty well. It’s a great character design, it a great intro, and the 5-piece early crew actually feels pretty well-rounded.
Amongst it all, you also have… the sheer horror of the backstory (remember the cannibalism?), and one of the most touching father-son relationships, one which really rubber-stamps the ‘found family’ dynamic core to the series.
There’s no way a backstory can get more horrifying than this, you naively think!
Whole Cake Island
We get full Sanji backstory! Something like twenty years too late, we get Sanji backstory! To be honest, I’m not too bothered about the wait – it’s a pretty ballsy move, and fulfils the long-running Mr. Prince theory that’s been rattling around the forums for a while.
(Apparently everyone saw this coming. I did not see this coming, because when I looked up the evidence for the Mr. Prince theory, it was a) that he’d used a codename, b) came from North Blue, and c) was blond. I’m evidently no Sherlock Holmes.)
High points? Plentiful. I’m including that one Zou chapter, because why the hell not, and the mafia-style offer-you-can’t-refuse raises the stakes like no one’s business. There’s also the reverse Inigo Montoya (who isn’t a sucker for retribution?). We get to see actual chivalry saving the day, and we get a throwback to The Matrix which hypes up Sanji’s future Observation-focused role.
The downside? We don’t get to see Sanji kick his dad in the face. Yeah, we don’t get to see Sanji kick many people, full stop, and that’s sort of the point of a retrieval arc, but come on, this is the one we were all hoping for.
But we do get to see Sanji v Luffy. We get tears, we get drama, we get endless power level speculation, we get the setup for ‘I wanna go back to Sunny’. Sweet, sweet drama. Best chapter full stop.
Katie Knight (@codaevermore) is a Classics grad and librarian working in the UK. She spent her first lockdown discovering the Death Note Musical. She’s spending her second lockdown trying to catch up on 5 years of One Piece (before its 1000th chapter).