One Piece, Naruto and Bleach are well-known in the anime community as the "Big Three" of the shonen anime genre. While Bleach is a slightly older series, both One Piece and Naruto began serializing in 1997 and are prone to be compared. That brings us to the question: which one is truly better?
A comparison between Naruto and One Piece
1) Plot and theme
In terms of plot, One Piece takes a much more lighthearted approach compared to Naruto. The story of the former is closer to the stereotype for an adventure shonen than the latter, whose plot resembles the 'hero's journey'. While both series have distinct protagonists, the treatment they get from their creators is drastically different.
Naruto also develops a more serious ambiance as the series deals with more mature themes than One Piece. While no less enjoyable, Naruto is more emotionally and philosophically appealing to most viewers than One Piece.
One Piece easily outdoes Naruto in terms of both quality and quantity. While Naruto has several fan-loved, compelling characters, the cast of One Piece is much more extensive and diverse. The same goes for the designs for said characters as well. The villains and heroes all have trademark looks, but they are very standard, with the various shinobi nations and even villain organizations like the Akatsuki having uniforms.
One Piece, in sharp contrast, does not shy away from wacky and unique character designs at all. A lot of its teenage audience often loves fan service, but even without it, One Piece character designs are eye-catching and appropriately bold.
Worldbuilding is another aspect where Eiichiro Oda far exceeds Masashi Kishimoto. Compared to the entire world of One Piece with its various oceans and continents, the political escapades of Kishimoto's shinobi nations seem too restrained.
Moreover, Oda's worldbuilding goes beyond just the setting for the story, extending to various species and races of individuals and anthropomorphic animals.
4) Animation and voice acting
Animation is one place where Naruto takes the cake. With its fluid execution of fight scenes and attention to detail, the series is a treat to lovers of anime battles and smooth animation in general. Studio Pierrot has also worked on the third member of the 'Big Three', Bleach.
One Piece has been airing on television since 1999, and its animation suffers due to its age. Of course, the animation in recent seasons has improved dramatically, with Toei Animation doing a fantastic job, but Naruto still outshines its peers.
In terms of runtime, even veteran anime watchers consider One Piece a nightmare. Having aired 996 episodes and still going strong, the manga and, consequently, the anime is nowhere near its conclusion. Despite its massive fanbase, it is very daunting for fans who don't follow the series religiously to dive into it.
Despite often facing criticism due to its staggering number of somewhat pointless and ridiculous fillers, Naruto has a much more manageable runtime. Combining Naruto and Naruto Shippuden, the total number of episodes in the series comes up to 721 and is more approachable for anime enthusiasts just getting into shonen.
6) Critical acclaim
Critically, One Piece is a step ahead of Naruto. Oda is a master of connecting plot points and skillfully weaving together a dense narrative, with detailed arcs for all his major characters. The manga has even broken the Guinness World Record for the highest sales, with 490 million copies being sold worldwide. The series has also been praised for its balanced narrative, juggling comedy, action and more serious moments.
In conclusion, One Piece takes the lead over Naruto overall. Both series have strong and weak points, but their popularity is evidence that fans love them for their specific quirks. Nor is it true that there aren't any in the anime community who doesn't love both series. With One Piece still going strong, let us wait for more content from this timeless series while watching over the adventures of the next generation of the Naruto universe.