Let’s get something out of the way. “One Piece” is quite long, yes. But while that is the biggest barrier to getting started on the anime, it’s also its biggest strength. The beauty of long-running stories, particularly anime and manga, is seeing how the world changes and expands with time and how characters grow and develop. This is why the world of “One Piece” is akin to that of “Star Wars” or “Lord of the Rings”; it feels real and lived-in, and the characters change over time.
The characters also become more complex with time as their arcs progress and we come to know more about them. Every character, no matter how small, has depth, motivation, flaws, and dimensions. They even get some of the most devastating and heartbreaking backstories in all of anime. Take Usopp, the comic relief and designated liar of the Straw Hat Pirates. We watch him go from a useless coward to becoming a dependable (if still cowardly) member of the team and a god of sorts (it’s a long story).
Likewise, the world of “One Piece” grows and changes even when the main characters aren’t around. We constantly see background events slowly take shape even in smaller story arcs, building up to cataclysmic changes that forever alter the world and the people in it. Much like “Breaking Bad,” the world of “One Piece” is one filled with callbacks. Oda is a master at connecting the dots and making each aspect of the story feel important, paying off even the smallest of set-ups years and events decades later. This makes the 1,000+ episode count not just a necessity but a feature, as the long wait to get a resolution makes it immensely more satisfying.