How One Piece & Traveling to Japan Helped My Mental Recovery

With One Piece Film: Gold, hitting U.S. theaters this week, I thought I would share how the anime & manga series has left a positive impact on my life.

“Dreamin'”: My Earlier History with One Piece


Ever since watching the movie Muppet Treasure Island at an early age, I’ve been fascinated with pirates. Near my area, there was even a local pirate themed family entertainment center & restaurant I frequented called Pirate’s Cove, itself taking inspiration from Chuck E. Cheese and the 1980’s classic film, The Goonies. By all accounts, One Piece should have always been one of my favorite anime series as a kid, alongside Digimon, Yu-Gi-Oh, and Fighting Foodons, but for some reason, I didn’t enjoy it much until I was older. I started watching One Piece when the infamous 4Kids English dub was first airing on TV, having previously read about it in Shonen Jump. I grew less interested after watching a number of episodes, and stopped watching altogether for a few years, until I was in ninth grade. Now in high school, I would watch One Piece every so often, just as something to watch. This is when I first learned about Portgas D. Ace, Luffy’s adopted brother, and he quickly became one of my favorite characters.


Amazing (Ace on the left)

After Toonami’s cancellation in 2008, I never went out of my way to watch the series, but started reading the manga a few years later when the Impel Down arc started. Despite not knowing newer characters, I just had to know if Luffy would save his brother from the prison. After finding out Luffy had failed, I stopped paying attention to One Piece for a few years again, until my Junior year of college.

“Hero? No! We’re Pirates!”: When I Really Started Getting Into It


Junior year of college was definitely the worst. I had friends I didn’t get to see as often as I would have liked to, had little motivation to make new ones, wasn’t getting along well with my roommate, and had to deal with obnoxious & loud neighbors. On top of all this, I was failing a class required for my major. I thought I was pushing myself hard enough, and even signed up to get a tutor. After doing this, I thought the situation would easily turn itself around, however, getting a tutor didn’t help me improve, and they didn’t even show up to most of our sessions. I ended up failing the class and having to retake it, and the whole semester I felt awful about my entire school situation.

During this time, a friend back home sent me a clip of One Piece so I would start watching it  again and talking to him about it. It was the moment when Luffy used his Conqueror’s Haki to stop half of an entire army (about 50,000 people, or in this case, fishmen) dead in their tracks. Basically, intimidating them and knocking them unconscious by just looking at them. This is what got me interested in the series again, as I had never seen anything like it before.


After having a terrible first semester, starting second semester of Junior year was tough, as I had to adjust to retaking a class I hated, and to one of my best friends not being around anymore, who left at the end of the previous semester. Having been annoyed by the people I was around, and not understanding why my college experience didn’t feel as fun as it did in the two years before, I started going to the library every weeknight. I would walk up the stairs all the way to the fourth floor, which was the most quiet, where I would finish my homework, and then watch anime without being bothered. This is when I really started watching One Piece again, and the more I watched and learned, the more I enjoyed it.


At the end of the school year, I realized I had not been acting like myself, something a few of my friends had been trying to tell me the whole year. Due to this ongoing conflict, as I mentioned previously, I hadn’t made any new friends either, thinking I’d just mess up my relationships with them as well. Since the year was about to end, I felt there was nothing I could do to understand the problem, and was upset, feeling defeated and like I had wasted an entire year of my college experience. Although I was also relieved this negative experience was finally over, and I did have something to look forward to.

“I Still Have My Crew”: Going Abroad Briefly


In October of that school year, I had been accepted into a three week study abroad program in Japan for the school’s May Term. This was a trip I had felt I was meant to go on, and one of my few motivations to get through that year. During the brief vacation before this trip, I went back to watch some arcs of One Piece I had read about to catch up, but never watched. This included Enies Lobby, Sabaody Archipelago, Impel Down, Marineford, and most importantly, the Post-War Arc. During the Post-War arc in One Piece, after the Straw Hat crew feels weak from not being able to protect each other, they all start training on the various islands they had unwillingly been sent to some time prior. Luffy is heavily injured and feels weak for not being able to save his brother, and does nothing but whine about it, something not normal for his character. His friend, Jinbei, after getting fed up and having and short scuffle, yells at him and tells him to think about what he still has. Luffy then realizes he still has his crew and their support. He then sends a message to them telling them that they will all meet back up in two years, after they get stronger.

I thought of this trip to Japan as my post-war arc, meaning that after enduring the hardships that came with my junior year of college, I would be somewhere new and learn a lot of new things about life and myself.  To provide a short summary: after everything that happened throughout that year, I did still have those friends, and I was still in touch with them on a regular basis. This trip to Japan helped me realize that, and that I shouldn’t be afraid to make new friends and meet new people just because I feel I won’t connect with them as well. This trip got me to feel like myself again, after around eight months of unidentified depression. At the airport, before returning to the U.S., I bought a specific souvenir so I would never forget the lessons I learned on this trip.


This X symbol was used in One Piece as a mark of friendship, as a way for the Straw Hat crew to tell their friend, Princess Vivi, that even though she decided not to join their crew, they will never forget her. Not wanting to forget about my experience, I thought it was the best way to symbolize that.


Being in a different yet positive environment improved my perspective on life, and showed me qualities within me I never realized I had before. With the help of One Piece and a few other factors, my trip to Japan ended up being and enlightening experience, and provided me with the recovery I needed to continue on through my senior year of college.


One Piece Film: Gold will be in select theaters from January 10th to January 17th

Has any anime, movie, TV show, or video game helped you get through and/or recover from a difficult time in your life? Let me know in the comments!


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