If you're a fan of One Piece and you've been keeping up with the current arc, you've probably seen everything from Big Mom to wedding cakes recently. Also, Brook in that weird face mask that makes everyone just a little too uncomfortable. For those who've not caught up to this exceptionally long anime, please beware of potential spoilers.
This recent arc has followed the backstory of the Straw Hat's chef, Sanji Vinsmoke, and the revelation that he comes from a very prominent family. He's recently been forced to marry one of Big Mom's daughters, Pudding, but recent episodes have shown to us that it's been a ruse to kill the Vinsmokes. Oda has created this arc with a lot of symbolism, but one of the important takeaways from it is how we perceive and deal with emotions. Here's four ways it's been successful.
1. Having No Emotions Isn't a Good Thing
Sanji was continuously berated for having feelings. His father despised that his other children were effective weapons and yet Sanji was not. There was so much disappointment that he eventually asks Sanji to leave, never to tell anyone who his real family is. The scene where Sanji is a child and about to leave, his father not even turning to look at him, is exceptionally powerful. Sanji wants to love his family, but knows even that goes too far.
In the last episode, we saw the betrayal finally come to fruition. Vinsmoke realizes that there is nowhere to go and that Big Mom has turned on him. He's facing his death, but as he does, his own sons begin to laugh. Each of them notes that this is definitely the end and there is no point in struggling, yet they don't seem in the least worried about their own demise. Vinsmoke begins to cry, being publicly humiliated in front of thousands, and realizing that his sons were monsters for feeling nothing. Reyju, his daughter, feels he may have realized his mistake in repressing emotions.
2. Friendships Are Worth Fighting For
We often devalue platonic friendships which is sometimes because we see romantic ones being the thing characters fight for. There's always a princess in need of saving or a guy going off to a final fight that leaves their significant other in a position to fight for them. But One Piece has proven that's not always the case.
Luffy is one of the strongest people on the sea, and he has to be if he ever wants a chance at being the Pirate King. Yet, continuously he's willing to fight for his friendships. This has happened in previous arcs before, of course, but in this one he was even willing to starve for Sanji. That's a kind of love that can be rare in friendships and it's one that One Piece loves to stress the value of.
3. We're Often Too Hard On Ourselves
Whether you like her or not, Pudding does have a huge self image issue when it comes to her third eye. Since birth people, including her own mother, have told her how hideous it is and teased her terribly for it. As she states, it's been a secret weapon of hers in order to shock her victims. If you listen to the way she talks to herself, she expects that even Sanji will find her horribly ugly and therefore evil.
Yet, Sanji finds her third eye beautiful when she reveals it to him. This is what makes her incapable of shooting him but also shatters her whole world; how could someone ever see a monster as beautiful? The truth is, while some may tease us or we may even feel disdain for ourselves, that's not what everyone sees. There are people out there who see the beauty in us the way Sanji sees in Pudding and we should strive to see that beauty too.
4. Love Isn't an Easy Thing
Sanji has been kicked around by his family for most of his life. They've been cruel and abusive, and yet he's willing to save their lives no matter the cost. No one can believe their ears when he says he needs to fight to protect them, but his friends support his decision anyways. This is a kind of love that requires a sacrifice a lot of people wouldn't understand.
Jimbei also has this kind of love when he faces Big Mom head on and tells her that he's willing to give it all to be with the Straw Hat crew. Even Big Mom herself is in shock when she realizes that this fishman is not afraid of dying for that right. This is a love that we can't always understand, but it's one that the One Piece characters always seem to have. Each one of them has, at one point, had to make a sacrifice for something they want. Each time the crew has gone above and beyond to not only validate that, but also help with it.
One Piece may be a strange place to learn about emotions and how we deal with them, but it's been one of the longest running anime shows out there that has that kind of time. It has time to build elaborate roller coasters and drawn out character arcs where changes are inevitable, and yet, some things still stay the very same. This recent arc is no different and that is what's making it so deep and entertaining in it's own way.