It was announced back in March that One Piece would be leaving Toonami. It provided an open spot for the series Tokyo Ghoul to join the lineup. It became the end of an era that lasted over three years, and one that fans weren’t ready to say goodbye too. It’s always tough when a beloved series is unable to finish its run on Toonami, making these types of decisions tough to hear. Things weren’t looking good due to the show’s ratings (among other things), and Toonami decided it was better to drop it than to hold on to (I also agree with Editor and Cheif Sketch that the last episode to air was the best one to end off at). It’s a decision that was met with a lot of blowback due to how popular One Piece is. Add on to how Toei Animation series are soon to leave Hulu, eliminating yet another audience that could have viewed the legendary series. Sadly there were reasons that One Piece’s fate turned out this way and it just wasn’t enough to stay on the block for a longer time.

Why are the Straw Hat Pirates leaving Toonami? It’s a question that is asked from time to time but shouldn’t be too hard to figure out (considering what time it aired). It just didn’t get the ratings Toonami needed to continue to air it, as 2:30 a.m. is a tough time slot for any show. Many have said before, One Piece in the U.S. isn’t as popular as other shōnen anime. Due to its past and other reasons One Piece hasn’t caught on to the same extent as series like Naruto and Bleach has. Even with it being one of the most watched animated series in Japan on a weekly basis, it just hasn’t been able to reach the same height in the U.S. Due to it being so popular in Japan I believe that the cost to air it on Toonami became too high for them to hold on. Throw in the fact that One Piece was under performing (ratings wise) it has become clear that a change was needed. Cost and low ratings had to of been two huge reasons why Toonami made a difficult decision (among other things that can’t be disclosed per Jason DeMarco). It’d be silly to hold onto a show that ended up costing more to air than the block was making.

Due to how much One Piece fans love this series (which I totally get), a lot of blame has been pushed around as to why One Piece was dropped. It’s just that One Piece will always have difficult hurdles to climb in the U.S. First, as I heard many times on the Toonami Faithful Podcast, some believe that it would have been better if Toonami started One Piece right at the beginning. I can understand that line of thinking considering it would allow new fans to see how amazing Luffy and his crew are from the start. But there were some issues that Toonami would have faced if they did that, making me think that the show wouldn’t have lasted as long as it had. With one being how long this series is and it airing once a week would make newer fans feel like it would take forever to get to the more emotional story arcs as well as caught up with other hardcore One Piece fans. It would possibly lessen the interest because of how far back Toonami would be, or they’d look for ways to see more episodes leaving Toonami in the dust.

Plus, the old footage was in standard definition (As Jose Argumedo mentioned in his article) in the earlier episodes. I don’t think newer fans would like seeing One Piece stretched out or with borders as they were watching, and I’m sure hardcore One Piece fans wouldn’t find it appealing to watch either. The artwork itself already has a ton of detractors, and seeing it in standard definition wouldn’t help the cause for new fans to stick with it. It made me believe that Toonami did the right thing airing it in episode 207 when it was in HD. Just like Jose had mentioned, it wasn’t as if Toonami hid the fact they were starting out of place too.

So instead of starting at the beginning, Toonami decided to start where it did, which began with the Davey Back Fight against the Foxy Pirates. It allowed the block to jump start the series and air episodes on television that didn’t see the light of day (on T.V.). That being said, as much as I enjoy the Water Seven Arc, I wonder if it would have been better to start even further on the episode count (such as start at the Thriller Bark Arc). I recall telling Patrick Seitz (English voice actor for Franky) about Toonami recently reaching Brook’s first appearance at Anime Boston in 2016. He just busted out laughing thinking how we are all so far behind the story. It might have been better if Toonami started at Thriller Bark, and moved forward from there. We might have been close to the time skip if they did that. Which to me might have boosted the ratings for One Piece.

Another issue fans have had, is how One Piece was pushed back multiple times on the block. Mostly thinking that the ratings would obviously be lower with how late it was airing. It’s true that the later a show is placed, the less likely fans will be awake to watch it. However, One Piece has been given chances with other time slots and fans weren’t tuning in to watch it consistently. I’m sure the hardcore fans were tuning in every night, but it just wasn’t enough to keep it at earlier times. The numbers weren’t pretty, even at the hour it aired. Maybe it’s because many have seen these episodes already due to how far ahead FUNimation is on its streaming platform and home media releases. The subtitled version is close to 800 episodes, with the dub just now reaching the time skip. Being that far behind might have been too much for One Piece fans to stick around and wait for these future episodes to air on the block.

It is unfortunate that it was the 4Kidz dub being the dub that fans were first exposed to for One Piece. And while the dub itself wasn’t the greatest thing in the world, the bigger issue was more about the cutting of entire episodes that would create massive plot holes as well as the edits made to make things kid-friendly (Sanji’s lollipops, weapons looking less menacing). I guarantee that if FUNimation had One Piece to start, this wouldn’t be a problem that it seems to be today. Add on the fact that the art style isn’t everyone’s favorite, and the amount of episodes just made One Piece a hard sell to keep around. Sure it might have been interesting to see One Piece air ahead of Shippuden at one point, but Shippuden has done better in ratings than One Piece consistently, and it’s not something that a simple swap could fix. These episodes have been seen both legally and illegally a lot, and so the new factor had to of diminished. With that and how late it was, One Piece became a casualty.

To make matters worse, the popular streaming site Hulu will also be losing One Piece along with other properties that Toei Animation own. It’s an odd choice considering how popular One Piece is. All this does is take away another place for fans to potentially discover the franchise, which is a huge deal considering all of the subscribers Hulu has. Now it hasn’t disappeared quite yet, but all signs look to it happening. It really feels like this series cannot catch a break considering Naruto wouldn’t have dealt with this and Bleach has gained another service for fans to see full episodes.

However, I don’t think all is lost with One Piece. It will continue to get episodes dubbed (as we reported earlier), and it’s not as if the series was canceled everywhere. It will continue to air in Japan and still be available to stream in the U.S. on FUNimationNow and Crunchyroll. And to keep the spirit of the series alive, fans will also keep One Piece’s presence on social media thanks to fans coming together and watching two episodes before Toonami begins, using the hashtag #OnePieceSailsOn. I applaud that type of effort, and considering how many episodes are on FUNimationNow, it isn’t a hard thing to set up. (I wish I could join fans in their efforts, but sadly I work during that time).

One Piece was given many chances to stay on Toonami, but it just wasn’t enough. It’s tough to say that knowing how famous and amazing One Piece is. The adventure is never-ending, and that’s an appeal to me. But with the block having as many long-runners as they did, made a move easy to spot. To make the block fresher a long-running series had to go, and One Piece became the obvious choice due to ratings. Toonami was just too far behind from what hardcore fans would want to stay up for. One Piece hasn’t been able to outrun its past, and the sheer volume of episodes just made it intimidating for people to stick with it. I’ll miss One Piece and hope to continue the adventure elsewhere, but I understand the decision that was made. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned is that One Piece will always be around, and that could mean that it might return in the future.

C.J Maffris is and editorial writer for Toonamifaithful.com. He will miss the Straw Hat Pirates and hope they will return at some point. Feel free to follow C.J on Twitter @SeaJayMaffris.