One Piece (Thriller Bark)

One Piece (Thriller Bark)

One Piece anime logo
One Piece Logo

Overview

Thriller Bark is the fifth saga of the One Piece anime and follows Water 7. Right from the start, I want to say that Thriller Bark is the best saga in the anime up to this point, which should really come as little surprise considering each saga seems to be better than the last.

So why is Thriller Bark so good compared to everything that came before? Is it merely that the story is better than the previous four sagas?

While I did enjoy the story, I don’t think this is actually the case. What Thriller Bark really had going for it was its length. This saga only contains one main story arc, with filler arcs both before and after it. So, not only is it the only saga with one main arc, but it’s also the shortest saga so far.

In my Water 7 review I mentioned that the major issue I had with that saga was that it was too long and drawn out. For comparison, Water 7 was 110 episodes long while Thriller Bark is only 45. This means that the story is able to progress forward before the content gets stale. If the Thriller Bark saga was another 110 episodes, it wouldn’t have been nearly as good.

Filler Arcs

Before getting into the main arc of the saga, let’s take a quick look at the two filler arcs that come with it.

The arc before Thriller Bark is the Ice Hunter arc in which the Straw Hat Pirates find themselves traveling through a winter pass that’s home to a bounty-hunting family. Not only does this family hunt pirates who happen to stray into their territory, but they steal their jolly rogers and keep them as trophies.

The leader of the family is a large man who has a devil fruit power which allows him to heat up anything he touches. While this power is fairly effective against Luffy, there are other, more versatile, powers which can do the same thing, such as Ace’s fire and Eneru’s electric.

The filler arc after Thriller Bark is the Spa Island arc in which our favorite pirate crew, the Foxy Pirates, make a reappearance. This time, however, the Foxy Pirates are only three members strong, after losing all of their members in the Davy Back fight.

Spa Island is an island spa, as the name suggests, and on it there are two girls searching for a secret treasure. Their father disappeared while searching for it, and so now the girls are attempting to find it in his place. In the end, the treasure turns out to be a 360 degree rainbow which holds the secret to manufacturing jewels.

Of these two arcs, I found the latter to be the better one, but this may mainly be due to the fact that it was the shorter of the two. It was also more obviously filler, which means it’s easily skippable if you’re so inclined.

Thriller Bark

And now, onto the main arc of the saga. Unlike the rest of the main story arcs since entering the Grand Line, Thriller Bark doesn’t actually take place on an island. Well, sort of. Thriller Bark is actually a giant pirate ship which happens to be carrying a piece of an island from the West Blue.

The captain of the ship is one of the seven warlords of the sea, Gekko Moriah. Moriah’s devil fruit power allows him to steal, control, and physically manipulate shadows. He typically uses this power to steal the shadows of passing pirates, and then having his ship’s doctor implant them into corpses to create zombie crewmen.

The Straw Hat crew find their ship trapped within the walls of Thriller Bark, and have no choice but to go “ashore” once Nami, Chopper, and Usopp go missing. Unlike the rest of the islands the crew has gone to so far, there isn’t really a point to them going onto Thriller Bark considering it doesn’t even interact with the log pose.

Because of this, the entire arc revolves around the Straw Hats regrouping to leave the island ship. However, a number of the crew also get their shadows stolen by Moriah, and so they need to defeat him and retrieve them before they can leave. This is because anyone without a shadow will be burned up by the sun.

Luckily, Thriller Bark is currently located in a portion of the ocean which is covered by thick fog, so the sun isn’t an immediate threat to anyone whose shadow is stolen. But, leaving this region and continuing on their journey without their shadows would be nearly impossible.

Also, the entire Thriller Bark ship is essentially a Halloween island, which was fairly interesting. Unlike the other islands we’ve seen so far which all seem to have a theme based on where they’re located or the specific properties of the island, Thriller Bark’s Halloween theme appears to be due to Moriah’s personal taste.

Characters

To save time, I’ll just be going over the two major characters of this saga: the new Straw Hat member, Brook, and the antagonist, Moriah.

Brook is a living skeleton who the Straw Hats found on a “ghost ship” which was wandering the seas. It turns out that he and all of his crew mates had been killed in battle, but Brook had the powers of the revive-revive fruit and so came back to life.

Unfortunately for him, his soul was unable to find his body, and by the time it was found, he had completely decomposed and been reduced to nothing more than a skeleton. Of all the devil fruit powers, this has got to be one of the worst, because although it grants the user a second shot at life, it’s not really helpful otherwise.

Yes, Brook got to come back from the dead, but all of his friends didn’t, which means he was left alone. Further, during both of his lives, the only inclination that he’s even a power holder is the fact that he can’t swim. So, in that regard, his power is just a massive debuff.

That said, it seems that the fact that Brook is now a skeleton actually makes his power useful. It’s unclear if it’s even possible for him to die again, and because he’s so light, he can even run across water, making his inability to swim less of an issue.

Brook’s role in the crew is as the musician and a swordsman. While he’s not as powerful as Luffy, Zoro, or Sanji, he’s probably about as strong overall as the likes of Franky, Robin, and Chopper. He’s at least stronger than Nami and Usopp.

Gekko Moriah is the primary antagonist of Thriller Bark and as such is supposedly extremely powerful. However, he didn’t actually seem all that strong to me, as even the likes of Crocodile, and especially Eneru, would have been able to defeat him.

Of all the weird devil fruit powers we’ve seen so far, Moriah’s is my least favorite solely because although his ability has to do with shadows, that’s not how shadows work. In fact, almost nothing about his ability makes sense.

I think the real issue though, is that Moriah’s shadow power had to be extra strange because Blackbeard already has dark power, and the two would have overlapped too much otherwise. So just what about his powers don’t make sense?

First of all, shadows are not the souls of humans. Even if you were able to implant a shadow into a corpse, that wouldn’t do anything because corpses already have shadows of their own. Also, on a similar note, even Moriah’s shadow had a shadow, which makes no sense whatsoever.

Second is the idea that not only do shadows mimic the appearance of the body, but the body mimics the appearance of the shadow. Moriah demonstrates this by compressing a shadow into a ball, and so the zombie attached to it is compressed into a ball as well.

The issue here is that, again, this isn’t how shadows work. If this were the case, then in the middle of the day when the Sun is exactly overhead, you would be a small circle, because that’s what your shadow looks like at this time. Likewise, during sunset when shadows are stretched, you would be elongated as well.

And, along with this same point, Moriah’s shadow is able to break up into hundreds or thousands of pieces and move independently, but this has no effect on his physical body whatsoever. There are just too many inconsistencies with his ability, which is why I disliked him.

Gekko Moriah (powered up version) from the Thriller Bark saga of the One Piece anime
Gekko Moriah (powered up version)

Conclusion

Overall, the Thriller Bark saga is the first 7/10 in One Piece. The combination of the story, length, aesthetic, and new character (Brook) made for this to be better than any of the previous sagas. And, as a bonus, the whale Laboon made a reappearance!

You may recall from my review of Water 7 that I though Laboon was going to make a reappearance at the end of that arc, but it was actually the Merry. Well, we finally came full circle, or at least half circle, with Laboon, because it turns out that Brook was a member of the pirate crew which Laboon was waiting for at the entrance to the Grand Line.

It’s said that “Oda never forgets,” and I think this proves that to really be the case. Also, I’m fairly certain that one of the minor, supporting characters from Thriller Bark, Lola, is going to come back in an important way in the far future. Those who are all caught up with the series should know what I’m talking about.

So what are your thoughts on the Thriller Bark saga? Do you think it’s as good as I do? And, if you’re farther into the series than I am, do you think any of the future arcs are better than it? Let me know in the comments.

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My review of the next saga is available here.

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