With over 900 episodes and counting, One Piece is one of the most spectacular anime out there. It started out as a manga series created by Eiichiro Oda before becoming an anime in 1999. In its 20-year span, One Piece has had plenty of opening themes, but which one’s are the best? Before we begin, I should add a disclaimer. This list is not based on conclusive facts, but rather on my own feelings about the songs. It is perfectly fine and expected that some may disagree with this order. I hope what I have to say makes you think and gets you to look at some of these openers in a new light.
For this review, I have looked at all the themes up until this current arc (episode 911) and decided their ranking based on several criteria. The most important determining factors for me are the level to which an opener connects emotionally and lyrically to the arc it is for, and how enjoyable it is overall. Basically, if I don’t feel anything, and I can’t jam out, it isn’t on this list. With that said, let’s take a look at the top 5 One Piece themes!
#5: “Wake Up”
The first song on our list is “Wake Up.” This One Piece opener is performed by the Japanese pop group AAA and features all of the members of the Straw Hat Pirates in the scenes accompanying the song. Normally, despite the upbeat mood and overall enjoyability of this song, I wouldn’t consider it a top One Piece theme song. This is because the lyrics and visuals of most of the openers do not relate at all to the Dressrosa arc that it opens for. It does include some scenes from the arc itself, but for the most part, it features Luffy and his crew in strange outfits they never wore in the show, running around and celebrating.
So, why does it make it to the number five spot on this list? While it may not provide much of an introduction to the Dressrosa arc, it does serve as an important reminder of the tension and overall goal Monkey D. Luffy has of defeating Blackbeard. Though their showdown has yet to actually occur in the manga or anime, given Blackbeard’s hand in the death of Luffy’s brother, Ace, and his position as an Emperor of the sea, we know it’ll happen eventually.
It’s also just a great song to listen to. “Wake Up” has so
much energy, both in the actual music and in what the characters are shown
doing. The song builds through the verse and into the chorus, then takes a
dramatic break for Luffy and Blackbeard to exchange heated words, before building
once again. By the time the “15th Anniversary” title hits the
screen, you’re raring to go.
#4: “Super Powers”
Sung by the Japanese boy band V6, “Super Powers” is super catchy. It has just enough repetition for me to sing along with it, which makes it a lot of fun. The opener lasted for 36 episodes toward the end of the Whole Cake Island arc and provided some great visuals and drama. Several plot points were hinted at in “Super Powers,” including some of the more mysterious aspects of character’s appearances. For example, Carrot’s transformation at the full moon was shown in shadows in the opener. After the episode containing her transformation aired, they then revealed her full form.
“Super Powers” is fast-paced and gives some emotional emphasis to the events occurring within the show. Luffy’s fight with Katakuri is pretty intense but since an anime battle goes on for many episodes, it can lose some of its momenta in the time between the start of the fight and the resolution. That’s what makes “Super Powers” so impactful. The musical timing of the scenes where they do battle keeps the audience feeling tension and investment in the fight.
After a difficult beginning to this arc, “Super Powers” also allows fans to get back into some of the more lighthearted and positive aspects of One Piece. The beginning of Whole Cake Island marked a struggle for survival and an attempt to reconnect a fractured crew. With Sanji back in the fold, “Super Powers” prepares us for an epic fight to take down big mom and rejoin the remaining Straw Hats. Just as it is a song for revealing new abilities and characters, so too is it a revitalization of strength to move forward.
#3: “Fight Together”
Now, you may have noticed that the first few songs on this list are from the later episodes of One Piece. While the earlier music is great to listen to, there just aren’t many that manage to connect, in tone or message, to the episodes they represent. However, “Fight Together” does an amazing job of this—especially given the context of the episodes it opens for.
“Fight Together” by singer Namie Amuro, covers episodes 493-516. Those numbers may not mean much to anyone — after all, there are over 900 episodes to keep straight—but this marks the section of episodes before the two-year time gap in the One Piece universe.
While the actual episodes did not go on a two-year hiatus, the characters in their world did. So, these episodes are pretty emotional for fans to watch. Everyone is separated, and Luffy is struggling through his brother’s death all by himself. “Fight Together” captures those somber feelings perfectly, while also providing hope for when everyone returns. Images of the crew together serve to remind the audience that Luffy does still have a family in his crew, and that they will be together again. The lyrics also give us that feeling of togetherness, despite their physical separation in the show.
“Let’s go find it together, You’re irreplaceable, Don’t forget, We fight together.”
The song and opener also provided a tribute to Ace. Unlike the opener directly before “Fight Together,” these images and memories of Luffy’s sworn brother are not sad images remembering how he died. Instead, there are scenes from their lives together as children. The overarching mood of the song is also more hopeful than sad and prepares fans for the newest chapter in the Straw Hat’s journey.
#2: “We Are! (Straw Hat Version)”
Any dedicated One Piece fan should be able to recognize the “We Are!” opener. The original version was the very first opening song for the anime and many consider it the overarching theme song for the entire series. Since it is so iconic, it has had a few iterations since the first episode aired. None are as awesome as the Straw Hat Version.
By all accounts, it doesn’t make sense. For starters, this theme was used in the earlier part of the show, which is notorious for opening songs that have little to nothing to do with their content. Also, the Straw Hat Version was only actually used as an opener for five episodes! Out of 22 themes in a 900+ episode show, five is a pretty weak number. Despite this, “We Are! (Straw Hat Version)” has something no other One Piece theme has, which makes it deserving of this spot in our ranking. The voice cast of One Piece itself sings this iconic version of “We Are!”
The words they’re singing are also perfectly attuned to the moment in the show. Specifically, these five episodes are a recap after the Enies Lobby arc, where we go back and reflect on how the crew — now officially with Nico Robin — came together. Given that the song is all about friends starting an adventure, it’s fitting to have it at this moment. Having the characters sing it makes it all the more special.
So, regardless of its limited time in the spotlight, “We
Are! (Straw Hat Version) is as much a treasure as the One Piece is.
Before I reveal my selection for the #1 spot on this list, I think it’s important to discuss one very special honorable mention. Anyone familiar with the history of One Piece as an anime has seen, or at least heard of, the 4Kids adaptation. Basically, 4Kids produced a version of the first 140 or so episodes of One Piece in English. It’s famously pretty terrible, mostly due to the characters’ voices and their blatant attempts at censoring the content of the show. In this version, Robin has a ridiculous southern accent, Sanji’s cigarettes are replaced by lollipops, and whole arcs and plot points are cut for no discernible reason.
Despite the terrible content of the episodes themselves, one pretty fantastic One Piece anthem did come out of it all. That masterpiece is the “One Piece Pirate Rap” by Freshco (Shawn Conrad), Russell Velàsquez, and Eric Stuart. Catchy and right in line with the overall fairly lighthearted tone of the show, the “One Piece Pirate Rap” is the only redeemable element from the 4Kids disastrous attempt at producing One Piece. Since it’s not technically one of the official themes for the show, I did not take it into consideration for this ranking, but it is classic and definitely worth giving a listen to.
The song provides some background to our main characters, and some information on the general plot and eventual goal of the pirates’ journey. Each time a member joined the crew, a new part of the song was added. Basically, it’s fun and energetic, and if you’re looking to understand (or explain) the basic plot of the show, the “One Piece Pirate Rap” has you covered.
The number one opener so far has got to be “Hope,” sung by the incredible Nami Amuro. This One Piece song takes place at the beginning of the Whole Cake Island arc and perfectly captures its difficult emotions.
This arc really marked the only time someone on the crew fought Luffy in an attempt to legitimately leave the Straw Hat crew. Vinsmoke Sanji is being forced to marry the daughter of Emperor Big Mom in an attempt to protect the man who raised him back in East Blue. Despite this coercion, Sanji still fights Luffy to try and save his captain and crew from harm. The emotional turmoil of this fight–and of Sanji, Luffy, and Nami–really comes through in “Hope.”
“At the broad blue end of the sea, there is a place I have to return to with you. We will be forever, decided long ago in the past.”
“Hope” Namie Amuro, Toei Entertainment.
We get to see the message carried out by the crew members who follow Sanji. They arrive with a fierceness and dedication to getting him back no matter what. The bond they share cannot be easily broken. “Hope” makes us understand just what Luffy will do to get Sanji back.
The music is more solemn than the other songs on this list, but don’t be mistaken; “Hope” is still killer. It has an intensity, particularly in the interlude, that can’t be forgotten. Not to mention, Nami Amuro’s lilting voice will keep the words in your head – even though the only real English in the song is “We are hope.” So, what do you think? Do you agree with my rankings? Comment on your favorite One Piece opening theme below!