If you talk to someone who has never read One Piece, the first thing they’ll probably say is, “It’s long.” Fans of the series will not contest this fact, but we also happen to be filled with an existential fear knowing that it will one day end.
One Piece is nearly 1000 chapters at this point which means reading through the entire series can easily take a few months or even years. Thankfully, for those of us going through our second, third, or twentieth readthrough, it’s broken up into reasonably-sized arcs so you can pick a certain part to revisit—although in my experiences, I cannot stop myself after just one arc.
One of my favorite arcs to return to is the Davy Back Fight. Perfectly sandwiched between the extraordinary adventure that is Skypeia and the intense emotional affair of Water 7/Enies Lobby, we get a mini-arc that almost serves as a bit of comic relief, while not avoiding the high stakes and seemingly insurmountable foes that make One Piece so hard to put down.
The Davy Back Fight involves two teams of pirates wagering their crewmates and flag in a series of games. This concept neatly divides the arc into three parts, each focusing on a different group of Straw Hats and game. Oda sometimes struggles with giving each member equal airtime, but through this format all the characters are able to shine in their own way, even with Chopper getting taken hostage after the first round.
The first game serves as a bit of a taste of what’s to come, letting us know that the Foxy Pirates do not intend to play fair, as well as introducing us to Foxy’s devil fruit power: the Slow-Slow Fruit. Robin gets to demonstrate various techniques of her power, while Nami and Usopp get to show off their intelligence and cunningness.
In Round Two, Oda gives us one of the things he does best: a battle of scale. Zoro and Sanji are up against three huge opponents, which allows a ton of fun artwork from various angles to accentuate this. We also get to witness how strong these two can be together if they manage to stop their incessant bickering for just a couple minutes.
And finally, Luffy gets to have center stage in the third round, donning a giant afro to fight against Foxy. Foxy’s unclever tricks, previously completely dismissed by the more intelligent crewmates, are able to shine in a new light due to Luffy’s lack of anything resembling a brain. As I mentioned, one of Oda’s greatest storytelling abilities is to be able to create villains time and time again that seem completely unsurmountable. Foxy is no different, with his insane power of his Slow-Slow Fruit, but of course in the end Luffy is able to come out victorious.
Despite the fun and comedic elements of this arc, Oda still delivers an emotional punch to the gut. While the Davy Back Fight is sometimes described as “canon filler,” those who understand Oda’s writing style know that nothing Oda ever does is without reason, which is one of the reasons many fans speculate the Davy Back Fight may one day come back in a big way.
Of course, just as it’s over and you feel that you can move on with your life, a Navy Admiral shows up in pursuit of Robin, ensuring that you will not be putting down this comic anytime soon.
My name is Maddie and I post a lot of art on Twitter at @othatsraspberry! I do the art every week for the One Piece Podcast and I’ve also done art for and been on episodes of Talking Simpsons Network Podcast.