Despite what the more artsy and selective anime fan may tell you, creating a battle shounen is an art form. Choreographing a fight in animation and on paper is a testament to the refined skills of talented artists and just getting someone invested into the meaning and storytelling of who'll win and who'll lose takes great writing. Some of the industry's best moments involve over the top fight scenes, such as the yelly moments of Dragon Ball and the absolute destructive spectacle that is Akira. However, today's list will be looking at the fights of a series known a little bit more for its adventure. That series is Eiichiro Oda's One Piece, Shounen Jump's lead series that has managed to captivate its fans through detailed world building and consistent character work. Unlike its contemporaries, a lot of the One Piece story doesn't focus on fights, but that doesn't mean that they're not interesting in one way or another, as the series adds its own characteristic eccentricity to an anime trope that many may have thought was one and done. This list will be running down the Top 10 fights within the series. Some of them have earned their spot for pure spectacle. Others for story importance. And there's that grand few that are here just for their ridiculousness and intrigue. Prepare for SPOILERS below.
10 Whitebeard vs. Akainu
Here's one of the shorter entries on this list that proves even small skirmishes within one episode can accomplish so much. The Admiral of volcanic anger, Akainu, takes on the Strongest Man in the World, Edward "Whitebeard" Newgate, in the middle of one of the greatest battles in One Piece canon. To save the captain of his second division, Whitebeard has lead an all out assault on "Firefist" Ace's execution day and is charging through the battlefield himself like the human earthquake that he is. Trying to stop him is one of the more callous Marines within the One Piece world, the strong believer of justice at any cost, Admiral "Akainu" Sakazuki, who like other Marines believes that Ace's execution is a message to the entire pirate world that the World Government stands above all else. What ensues is a fast paced, incredibly dynamic fight that sees Akainu put Whitebeard through one of the grittier moments in the manga (Let's just say that the anime burns just half of Whitebeard's moustache.), and Whitebeard shatter and bury the red dog of the Marines.
9 Ace vs. Blackbeard
Acting as the catalyst for the war above and several other moments in the One Piece story, the fight between Portgas D. Ace and "Blackbeard" Marshall D. Teach is both a pivotal moment and a well choreographed fight. Ace has been hunting down Blackbeard throughout the series up until this point, wanting to punish him for murdering Whitebeard's Third Division Captain, Thatch, and betraying the Whitebeard Pirates. Blackbeard reveals that he did it to take the Darkness Darkness Fruit away from Thatch, launching his own long running plot for pirate supremacy. From here, the two begin a fight that tears up and entire town. Ace uses a variety of fantastical fire attacks to burn Blackbeard. Blackbeard uses his mysterious black holes to devour everything in sight and dish out pain on a Devil Fruit user in a way that only his Devil Fruit can do.
8 Cyborg Franky vs. Senor Pink
This one really snuck up on fans. Who knew that Oda could even make people feel for man in baby wear and a speedo? In what initially seemed like an offhand fight became one of the major highlights of the Dressrosa Arcs, as Eiichiro Oda really showed off what it means to be hard boiled. Despite how they look, Franky and Senor Pink are both stoic, tough characters. After firing an onslaught of missiles and bullets at the evasive land swimming of Senor Pink, Franky decides to bring the fight to pure, physical action. Whoever can survive the others' biggest attack wins. While both deal incredibly dramatic attacks, the major highlight is the middle of the fight as Senor Pink sinks to a flashback of his lost love and child, the very essence of his baby demeanor and hardboiled nature.
7 Roronoa Zoro vs. "Mr. 1" Daz Bones
The Alabasta Arc was a major turning point for the sense of scale and storytelling that One Piece would come to be known for. For many fans, this is the arc where One Piece really kicked off and for good reason. It was home to a grand Egyptian adventure, plenty of new friends, and, of course, some really cool fights. One of which earned Zoro his first bounty. Taking on the bounty hunting organization that is Baroque Works, Zoro goes one on one with the organization's #1 assailant and hallmark bounty hunter, Daz Bones. While Zoro has been building up sword fighting skills up until this point, he hasn't quite fought off someone as versatile as Daz, who has eaten the Dice Dice Fruit, allowing him to turn any part of his body into a blade which subsequently makes his entire body into steel, a real stepping stone for Zoro's cutting ability. What follows is an over the top fight that sees the two chop up buildings like vegetables and each other like buildings.
6 Luffy vs. "Mr. 0" Sir Crocodile
Perhaps even greater than Zoro's fight during the arc was Luffy's conclusive battle against the 80,000,000 bounty man of Baroque Works, Sir Crocodile. Crocodile has been plotting to usurp the Alabasta regime and has launched an entire conspiracy to create civil war. Monkey D. Luffy tries to stop him in protection of his newfound ally, Princess Nefertari Vivi, and the good of the entire kingdom. It's Luffy's biggest battle yet, as he faces off against one of the Seven Warlords of the Sea and a greater master of their own Devil Fruit. This fight sees Luffy's first loss, an evolution of Devil Fruits, and Crocodile getting straight up punched through a city and into the sky.
5 The Straw Hat Pirates vs. A Pacifista
Despite what some people may think, the Straw Hats don't often fight together, which makes the few that they do harrowing experiences, as is the case with their introduction to the Pacifista. A newfound technology by the World Government, Pacifistas are pirate hunting cyborgs designed after the Warlord Bartholomew Kuma and equipped with enough technology to value a battleship. They're super strong, have pirate seeking targeting systems, and destructive lasers coming out of their mouths. This battle pushes the Straw Hats to their absolute limit, as each one uses some of their best moves to take down just one of the World Government's robot army.
4 Luffy vs. Usopp
There are few fights in One Piece, let alone in the entirety of anime, that feel as close and personal as the infighting between Luffy and Usopp. Having reached the island of miracle engineers and shipwrights Water Seven, the Straw Hats find out that their loyal ship, the Going Merry, will need to be put out to pasture. Luffy makes the executive decision to do so and find a newer ship, much to the disgruntlement of Usopp. Not only was the Going Merry a present from his hometown and first love Kaya, but the seemingly blasé decision to throw out the ship seems like a calling card for Usopp himself to later be replaced. What ensues is the heart shattering break up of a family, as Luffy and Usopp come to deathly blows to the horror of the rest of the Straw Hats. It's a hard one to watch and to miss.
3 Zoro vs. Kaku
Bringing things back to the lighter side of the fight scene spectrum, One Piece reaches a fight that not only elevates its chief swordsmen but encapsulates the unique balance of spectacle and humor that only One Piece can achieve. During the Ennies Lobby arc, the Straw Hats are hunting down different members of CP9 to get a hand of any of the one keys that can free a chained Nico Robin. Zoro's responsibility is to take on Kaku, a secret assassin, master of the Rokushiki martial arts and four sword style, and a giraffe man. Surprisingly enough, that last bit turns out to be the most dangerous, as they come to a fight that is equal parts epic as it is hilarious. Please, do not underestimate the power of a giraffe!
2 Luffy vs. Rob Lucci
Usurping Zoro's fights one again, Monkey D. Luffy takes the major highlight of the arc, as he fights the leader of CP9 and prodigy weapon, Rob Lucci. What really makes this fight so special despite what it stands for in the arc as a whole is that it is the first of Luffy's fights to be purely decided by physical action. All of Luffy's past enemies have used some special power to gain an advantage on him, but Rob Lucci is the first to purely outclass him in physical strength and fighting style. This fight sees Luffy dish out new powers and techniques and come to a pure fist fight match that many may not have been expecting but assuredly wanted more of in the future, as it perfectly and intimately captured the drama and conflict of a person's vie for freedom as it comes to beings of absolute justice.
1 Luffy vs. Katakuri
There have been some doubts around One Piece following its time skip. Some fans have argued that it's the best the series has been, while others have cried for a drop in quality. What there's no debate in however is that the fight between "Straw Hat" Luffy and Sweet Commander Charlotte Katakuri is one of the major highlights of the series as a whole and a major upset for the latter half of the series. As Luffy tries to rescue Sanji from Whole Cake Island, he comes face to face with someone that he deems his greatest test for advancing as a pirate, Charlotte Katakuri, someone who's Devil Fruit not only mirrors Luffy's but also carries a heightened form of Observation Haki that lets him see into the future. This fight sees an incredible rise for Luffy as he battles a seemingly indomitable force overmatch him blow for blow as well as a battle of philosophy, as both fights for their respective families. It's an amazing fight in the manga and a major upset for the animation that is definitely worth any fan going out of their way to see.