Alright, I'm going to end up going off on a tangent, but I don't care… Just a warning for those that might try and read everything that follows.
Okay, so originally, I didn't like One Piece. Then, I heard some things and my opinion changed... I HATED One Piece. Never could bring myself to pick up the books because of the fact that the art style was a little too quirky for me (I'm really liking how Oda's style evolved from making Luffy's mouth ten times the size of fist... Seriously, his early smile kind of freaked me out), and every time I tried to read it, I found the humor kind of lame (from four pages or so of reading, mind you). So I decided that OP was one series I was never going to read.
Until I came across a certain thread. I'm not sure how many people here know about Gaia, but on one thread on that online forum I came across, people were boasting about how Luffy was stronger than Ichigo. I entered the thread and originally intended on disproving them effortlessly as, well, from what I'd read (four pages, give or take a few from skimming various volumes) Luffy wasn't too impressive. But since people went on about how he owned Blueno (this was right around the intense moments of the Lucci fight in the manga, by the way) and Crocodile and the like, I figured I should at least check out the fights.
Originally that's all I intended to do, but, the first video I saw was the famous Gear 2nd Luffy vs. Blueno. Basically, my head exploded. The action, I figured, would be worth the pain- I figured I'd end up skipping most of it anyway (the 400+ chapters that I saw was also a turn off I forgot to mention- catching up on a series that long wasn't appealing to me).
I proceeded to play catch up, and at first the series was nothing spectacular. I thought Luffy was a lamer, greatly annoying clone of Son Goku from DBZ. Nami was as annoying as any female manga character, and, while I thought Zoro might be cool, he didn't really do that much. The Captain Kuro arc was when I first started to feel a flutter of interest. Usopp's character was such a deeply flawed one when contrasted with the others that I was interested. But I figured Usopp would soon be forgotten like most of the 'lame' characters in manga (Kuwabara, comes to mind…) But no, after the decent (in my opinion back then) Kuro arc, Usopp continued to get an equal screen time with the other members and by GOD did I love Sanji. If Sanji had shown up even a chapter later I might've dropped the series. I know it's pretty lame to think of one of the more cliche characters in OP as the best part of the early days, but I really liked Sanji's unique style of fighting and, even more, his unique path and goals- Luffy, Zoro, and Usopp were all "become something I'm not and become stronger while doing it" while Sanji just wanted to find All Blue. The fact that Baratie had the Mihawk vs. Zoro fight GREATLY improved my interests.
Afterwards, though, the Arlong arc took me a while to read. The exposition was, looking back, well done, but I couldn't've imagined reading that arc week by week, as even while I had the chapters laid out at my disposal by volume, it was a pain to have to read the exploits of Usopp, Yosaku, Johnny, and Hachi. I also thought Arlong was too much of a cookie cutter villain right after we'd had some variety in motive with Kuro and Gin (though, admittedly Don Krieg was pretty bland as a villain, I mostly focused on Sanji's fights as Luffy's still weren't that amazing to me for some reason- I didn't appreciate the marvel of his rubber abilities back then, I guess). Anyway, after the heart wrenching flash back involved with the Arlong Park arc, and the incredible fights, and then the final wrap up, I was pretty sure I could take back my hating OP, though I still didn't think it was as great as series like Hunter x Hunter, Bleach, or even Naruto at the time.
I read further, and once again, the exposition of the arc began to irk me. I really liked Luffy's shout at the execution stand, and it turned my opinion of him around 180 degrees (well, more like 80 degrees as I had changed my views a little during the Arlong Park arc). Laboon's little story was fun, but not really that great to me. Whiskey Peak was the coolest part of the manga for a while, though. Little Garden and Drum Island were both pretty lame, and I was interested in Chopper for the same reason I was interested in Usopp earlier, but, overall, I was losing interest in reading the series (the afformentioned thread was canned a while ago, so now I was just plowing on because I hate to start something and not finish). And then, the second best arc of the series revealed itself.
Alabasta just blew me away. Luffy was definitely a great main character after this arc, but, more so, I was amazed by how much emotion ink and paper could make one feel. I was astounded by the depth to which Oda must have planned out the story. I couldn't believe how well developed the supposed side characters, like Pell, and Kohza, were developed. The fight between Luffy and Crocodile was definitely epic, and the end result of the arc was something I would've clapped about had it been a movie. I thought the ending of the arc was just so well done. How Vivi thought Luffy and co. didn't consider her a friend after she turned down the offer to travel with them, but in truth, they were trying to protect her so they held up their hand symbols was INCREDIBLE.
Then, just when I was hooked and decided this series completely pwn'd Naruto (though I still thought Bleach was better), the exposition reared its ugly head again. Bellamy was cool as a throw away villain, but nothing else of the Jaya arc was that great. Skypiea was, likewise, not that cool to me. But that may have been because I cheated and watched a few vids of Eneru before hand so I'd seen almost all of his fight with Luffy. Skypiea's overall ending was cool in a dreamy way, but I didn't really like how Luffy basically went to Skypiea for nothing- well, I liked it, just not as much as how he was fighting for a greater purpose in Alabasta, like stopping a war.
The Davy Back fight was really cool and funny, and I was suprised that it didn't carry a deeper meaning or more emotion behind it, but then I was glad that it didn't because I'd had enough of all the deep stuff for a while (I think I was simultaneously on a Detective Conan kick while I read this part of the series, so deep thinking wore me out). And Aokiji is still the "coolest" part of the manga. Raises hand for a high five... Anyone?! Anyone?! Come on! That was an excellent pun! Ah well...
Finally, Enies Lobby showed itself. Ah, the greatest arc in the manga! It was weird because I didn't actually care about the exposition in this arc. Then again, it was performed monstrously better. Usopp vs. Luffy was just amazing. Emotion and coolness overflowed during that fight. And, while I kept hearing about Lucci vs. Luffy, I was pretty stupid and didn't even pick up on Lucci being the Pigeon shipwright. You know, until after it was revealed.
And I made the mistake of saying Enies Lobby had come, but above was actually just Water 7. After the pimpest train ride EVER (courtesy of Sanji, Franky, and, of course, SOGEKING!!!!) Enies Lobby REALLY showed up. And MAN was it awesome! The fights were only about 1/5 of the uberness. Robin's whole emotional turmoil was another fifth, and Franky's speeches and overall how his character was handled was another fifth. The next fifth of the epic came from Sunny's ending, and the final part of this epic arc that made it epic was Luffy and the Crew gathering and waging war on the fucking World Government "just" for the sake of getting Robin back. This is where the series shot up and made me realize how much of an idiot I was for not giving it a chance in the first place. I'll never make that mistake again (though how I wish I did, as no series since OP has ever made me realize how wrong I was- though Reborn comes close, I don't count it because I was going to read it eventually). This is also where it sailed into my top spot. Ichigo's promise to his soul to save Rukia was previously the most emotional part of any manga I'd seen, but Luffy's shout and Robin's response easily blew that moment out of the water.
So, in a more condensed version… I like One Piece because it's an action manga with lots of fun comedy that can be just what a person needs. However, just because it's lighthearted, doesn't mean that it can't have an intense moment that really makes you feel. Honestly, I like it for the same reason I like a series like Scrubs (weird comparison, I know, but it's on my mind since it comes back on in an hour). Oda is capable of tying up a huge arc in such an incredible, fast paced, emotional, funny, and action packed way. The really awesome artstyle (which I can now understand as being awesome over 'weird') and the backdrop of an everevolving world that's so radically different from our own and yet quite similar, then the insanely awesome characters who always end up fitting together like peas in a pod (I was so amazed at how, even after having 9 crewmembers join, Oda keeps the crew fresh and makes them mesh- Brooke didn't seem out of place at all when he started fighting alongside the crew, and, if I'd not read the series in a while, I'd probably forget he joined after over 480 chapters!) and the cool ideas like Devil Fruits are only icing on the cake.