One Piece Episode 235 is one of the most underrated episodes in the series, coming at an incredibly high-stress time for both fans and the series’ main cast. Amidst Robin’s disappearance and being told that the Going Merry is damaged beyond repair, fans and the Straw Hats must watch as Luffy and Usopp fight each other.
While Episode 236 is what sees the two begin their fight, it’s Episode 235 which masterfully builds the conflict, completely and positively changing the series in the process. Although fans call it one of the hardest string of episodes to sit through in all of One Piece, this is almost exclusively meant as a compliment from fans for the quality of the installments.
One Piece Episode 235 sees series elevate itself to emotionally realistic heights in masterful manner
One Piece Episode 235 begins with Usopp regaining consciousness on the Going Merry, prompting the rest of the crew (minus Nico Robin) to go and greet him. It’s here that, after exchanging pleasantries and discussing the day’s events, Luffy tells Usopp of his intention to buy a new ship to replace the Going Merry.
He initially thinks that his captain is joking, but it becomes clear to him after some time that Luffy is serious, sending Usopp into an uncontrollable rage. Even after being told that the Merry is incapable of repairs, Usopp not only remains angry, but is sent into an even further rage by this news.
He even begins questioning Luffy’s devotion to the ship, saying the ship must mean so little to him, and that he misjudged his captain. He begins saying he can’t leave his friend, the Merry behind, prompting Luffy to fly into a rage over the implication that he doesn’t view the Merry as a friend.
Eventually, Luffy begins telling Usopp to leave the crew if he doesn’t like how Luffy does things, prompting Sanji to intervene with a kick before he can finish. Usopp’s insecurities about his own strength and reliability are discussed, clearly being what’s actually bothering him. Unfortunately, the scene still ends with Usopp leaving, setting up their fight in One Piece Episode 236.
While seemingly just a set up for their fight, this scene elevates the series in so many ways up to that point. Whereas the Straw Hats had been fighting external enemies up to this point, this marked the first internal conflict the crew had engaged in. It adds emotional depth to everyone involved, even Sanji, who shows his affection for his male crewmates via his kicking Luffy.
In a world which is anything but realistic, this scene also helped to ground the main cast at their essence, showing a group of friends in a room arguing with one another. Luffy’s letting his words slip out before instantly showing remorse for their being said is also grounding, demonstrating the realistic concept of saying something one doesn’t mean in the heat of the moment.
Luffy’s friends being shown to mean more than anything else to him since the beginning of the series adds further depth to this scene. While Luffy cares for and loves each crewmate, it showed he was willing to leave behind anyone who would abandon the crew for the sake of continuing his journey. He even says as much at the beginning of their argument, proving the sentiment.
The conflict in One Piece Episode 235 also plays on fans’ subconscious as they wonder if the Straw Hats would win and how they would win up to this point. Furthermore, their unity as a family-like group was something fans took as an immutable fact, which was shown to clearly not be the case in this episode.
The crew’s being the closest they have ever come to breaking up during the events of the Water 7 arc was not only shocking in and of itself, but also as to what brought them to that point. It subverts readers' expectations by showing internal conflict as the wedge between them, while also making complete sense in the moment.
Without a doubt, One Piece Episode 235 marks an incredibly significant event in the series’ history. While many moments since have also helped elevate One Piece to further heights, it’s truly hard to argue any one conflict, episode, or action did so more impactfully and effectively than One Piece Episode 235.
Be sure to keep up with all One Piece anime, manga, film, and live-action episodes as the year of the series’ 25th anniversary progresses.