One Piece fighting animation has never been as stellar-looking as most of its fighting anime competition. Yet despite that, One Piece is still considered to have one of the best collections of fights in all of anime. This is because what One Piece lacks in good animation, it makes up for its stellar storytelling; every fight always has huge engaging stakes and well-placed moments. Every time Luffy beats the bad guy, it always feels like the most important thing in the world, like a huge weight has just been lifted off an entire country's shoulders.
We assemble all the best battles to see which is the king.
Whitebeard Vs. Admiral Akainu
Admiral Akainu just killed Ace and is about to kill Luffy too. Whitebeard appeared behind Admiral Akainu, mad as ever.
On the first attack, we know Whitebeard is serious when he literally flattened Akainu's face to the ground. For the most part, it is not even a battle, it is Whitebeard letting off some steam on a punching bag. That is until we all remember he is fighting an Admiral, and Akainu fills his insides with magma and blows up half of WWhitebeard's brain off.
Whitebeard wins this round, though, with a crushing earth quack directly at the Admiral Akainu's ribs.
Luffy Vs. Rob Lucci
Visual-wise, the appeal of this battle is seeing how much of Luffy's gear transformations can hold up to Rob Lucci's Rokushiki martial arts and leopard form. When Luffy unleashes his Gear 3rd for the first time, it feels powerful, and it brings the battle in a refreshing setting as both fighters transfer to a battleship, instead of the tower that has gone static at that point.
In character-development-wise, Luffy has found his calling as the Straw Hats captain. He may not know how to use a sword, cook, navigate or even lie, but after fighting Admiral Aokiji, he realized that his role is to be the crew's protector, hence developing his gear transformations.
So, Rob Lucci makes ways to threaten the other Straw Hats while fighting Luffy. In this way, we have our emotional conflict. Not only does Lucci try to drown the Straw Hats, but he also made it clear to Luffy that he will kill all of them after their battle.
What really makes this battle is the ending - When Luffy can no longer get up, Usopp, the friend Luffy just had an emotional falling out with, removes his Sogeking mask to desperately tell Luffy to get up and win. Here, Luffy finds his final surge of energy to beat Rob Lucci with the most impactful jet gatling barrage ever fired.
Zoro Vs. Mihawk
Zoro Vs. Mihawk is the first biggest character development Zoro has in the series. He came on in with the ambition to be the world's strongest swordsman, thinking he already has what it takes.
He challenges Mihawk to a duel, all guns blazing cocky, only to be effortlessly beaten with the smallest sword in the world despite giving it all he's got.
Suddenly, Zoro got his heavy dose of a reality check, and the peak of the mountain feel even higher. When Zorro gets defeated, yet shows no sign of giving up on his ambition to become the best swordsman, we learn to admire Zoro. Zoro is known for his unmovable iron will, and this is one of our first tastes of it.
Luffy Vs. Doflamingo
Doflamingo is one of the most hyped Shichibukai, already appearing in One Piece's early days, and only entering the Straw Hats' radar once they got into the New World. When Luffy finally goes into battle with him, it is worth the wait.
Doflamingo is just so tough to take down. Even before the one-on-one battle with Luffy, Doflamingo already suffered a huge punch from Luffy, while also fatally wounded when Trafalgar Law cuts through his internal organs. Yet when he and Luffy go toe-to-toe, Doflamingo still looks like he is the one with the advantage.
This battle is also worth the attention for being the first time we saw Luffy's Gear Fourth, yet even with all those building-crushing hits from Luffy, it is still not enough to take Doflamingo down. Not to mention, there is a ticking time bomb where everyone in Dressrosa will die by Doflamingo's birdcage technique, so Luffy needs to take him out as soon as possible.
When Luffy finally does defeat Doflamingo, it is very proper to the theme of the story. Dressrosa seems like a beautiful country on the surface but is actually full of secret evils underneath. So, Luffy's final blow in the fight is to punch the guy responsible for those secret evils, destroying the building structures of Dressrosa in the process to be rebuilt with good foundations absent of all its previous evils.
Straw Hats Vs. Oars and Gecko Moria
Battling Oars and Gecko Moria was the first time we ever saw the Straw Hats all together teaming up for a serious battle, minus Luffy. While it is normal for the Straw Hats to take down giants with ease nowadays, back in the Thriller Bark arc, that was still considered a huge challenge. And Oars is the biggest enemy they have ever seen at this point, that also has Luffy's skills as a fighter.
If there is an enemy worth teaming up for, Oars controlled by Gecko Moria is it. In the process, we see example after example of creative battle moves only possible with the Straw Hats teaming up. It is rewarding - like it is a build-up of their bonds, and all the fighting techniques they have accumulated throughout their adventures. We even have many good comedic moments, like The Straw Hats trying to fuse like in a mecha anime.
Despite all that, none of their combined attacks work on Oars or Gecko Moria. When all hope is lost, Luffy arrives to save the night.
Straw Hats and Other Pirates Vs. Bartholomew Kuma
What really makes this fight is the timing. Just after the Straw Hats have defeated Gecko Moria and can finally breathe a sigh of relief that they all have their shadows back, here comes another Shichibukai to make the Straw Hat's lives a living hell.
Bartholomew Kuma arrives on the battlefield when everyone is already tired, throwing everyone around like they are nothing. Not even Zorro and Sanji have a chance on him.
In the final moments of the battle, it is only Zoro that is left. He tries to beg for Kuma to take his life over Luffy's leading to the fight's ending, where... nothing happened.
Luffy Vs. Usopp
Where other battles are usually between the Straw Hats and an unbeatable enemy, this is a battle between Luffy Vs. just Usopp. But because this is between two Straw Hats that are best friends, the emotional stakes in this battle are higher than any battle in this list.
In a surprising turn of events, Usopp stands his ground in the battle with his resourcefulness and knowledge of all of Luffy's moves. But while he lasted as long as he can, all it takes is for Luffy to land one solid blow on Usopp for the battle to be over.
When all is said and done, no one is the winner, and the Straw Hats all experience the saddest day in their lives the morning after. While this fight is painful for the Straw Hats, this event also sparked the Straw Hats to move away from just playing pirates as friends, and take their roles within the team seriously. By the end of the arc, they are now a real pirate crew, and Luffy has become a real captain who issues commands as a leader.
Straw Hats Vs. Pacifistas, Sentomaru, Admiral Kizaru, and Bartholomew Kuma
There is no other event that feels direr than the events in Sabaody Archipelago. When Luffy punched a World Noble, an Admiral is on their way. The entire island is in panic and the Straw Hats need to run away before Admiral Kizaru arrives.
But on the way to the Thousand Sunny, they are met with a robot that looks exactly like Bartholomew Kuma called a Pacifista. It took the entire Straw Hat team and everything they've got just to beat it. But just when they are about to get a chance to rest up, another Pacifista arrives, and with a guy named Sentomaru who can face Luffy without any powers.
When they decide to run away, Admiral Kizaru arrives. Then the real Kuma arrives. The situation just gets dire and dire, and we genuinely do not know how the Straw Hats are going to get away from this mess.
One by one the Straw Hats disappear with a touch of Kuma's power, and Luffy looks at all the friends he gathered through his journey disappear. For the very first time since the series has started, we see Luffy, a man who never gives up, utterly without hope until he himself disappears from Kuma's touch. A total defeat for the Straw Hats that made them realize they are not ready for the New World.
Luffy Vs Katakuri All Rounds
Post-time skip One Piece has a problem in that the pacing of the battles are too stretched out to the point of frustration. The Luffy Vs. Katakuri battle solved that problem by being about endurance, making their battle one of the best fights in the series.
Here is Luffy, who never gives up no matter how many times he goes down, fighting an enemy that is a version of him but is better than him in every way, in speed, in strength, and in all techniques. Over and over, Luffy faces him, yet does not give up.
As Luffy grows as a person in the battle, Katakuri too grows. When he only started the fight with Luffy to protect his family, as the battles go on, his motivation in fighting Luffy becomes all about the pride of beating him. When he found out that their battle has been perverted by outside factors that put Luffy at a disadvantage, he hurts himself with his spear to make the battle fair.
For the first time in a long while, Katakuri's focus is on himself and not on his family. So now he can go all out in battle without any of his insecurities and does not care anymore if anyone can see his face.
By the time Luffy unleashes Snake Man, both of them are giving it their all. Making this section of the brawl hard-hitting in every punch and kick. When the fight ends, it is Luffy who is left standing. Not because he is stronger, but because he has more will to stand last. If the fight continues, it is possible that Katakuri would just beat up Luffy over and over again. What makes Katakuri go down is the knowledge that Luffy will keep on standing up no matter how many times this scenario plays out.
Luffy Vs. Crocodile All Rounds
As all 3 rounds of Luffy Vs. Crocodile tell a 3-act structure story, all 3 rounds are considered as one epic battle for this list.
Crocodile really did seem like a villain of another level than any of the enemies Luffy has fought before. Luffy always proves himself to be the strongest fighter on any island, but here is a guy he cannot even touch.
When Luffy finally did land a hit on Crocodile in the second round, it felt like the most satisfying hit in the world; a mini-victory on its own.
While in the new era, it is the norm to see Luffy fight the big bad multiple times before he gets to beat them, this is the first battle where it happened, so when Luffy finally beat Crocodile, it feels so satisfying.
Related: When Will More Seasons of One Piece Arrive on Netflix?
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