Dear God, where do we begin with One Piece?
Since most of the examples will have "Mother Sea" as their theme - AKA the "theme of Tear Jerkers in One Piece" or "Tear Jerker in musical form" - play it while reading to intensify the effect.
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East Blue Saga
East Blue Saga introduces us Luffy, Zoro, Nami, Usopp and Sanji. Every single of them has a tragic backstory and three out of five flashbacks consists of losing a loved one.
At Arlong Park (aside from Nami bleeding and crying as she begs Luffy to help her, of course), Usopp pretending to be dead while fighting Chu, and realizing his own cowardice. This was one of Usopp's many steps into becoming a man and fighting for his friends.
Speaking of, the scene where Nami finally asks for Luffy's help. Moments before, she found out that Arlong hired a corrupt naval officer to steal all the money she had worked for eight years to collect to buy back her village from him. He decided to do this when she had one voyage's worth of money left, just to hurt her more. And then, all the villagers, who she knew couldn't fight Arlong and live, gather to do just that, and she can't stop them from leaving. Finally, she just breaks down in the middle of that dusty road, completely helpless to do anything. She takes the knife she was holding and stabs herself in the shoulder, and rips it open to destroy her tattoo of Arlong's mark. Luffy stops her before she can do anything else, but it's still extremely painful to watch. Nami had just seen Arlong tear down every hope that she had in a single day.
When the officer comes upon her cache of treasure, it is pointed out that a lot of it is covered in dirt and blood, indicating just what those eight years must have been like, in a way that is both subtle and not subtle at all.
The arc in Usopp's village is full of tear-jerkers. First, Usopp is unable to evacuate the village in the face of an imminent pirate attack, because he's a habitual liar. Then, his best friend Kaya turns against him when he tries to tell her about the attack and about Klahadore. Then, Merry is nearly killed and Kaya learns the truth in the worst way possible. She confronts Klahadore, and finds out that he never cared for her (this one brings Kaya to tears). Then there's the break-up of the Usopp Pirates (the author said, half-jokingly, that this part made him tear up). And then we have Usopp's flashback, to the death of his mother no less. True, it's not to the level of Arlong Park, but man.
Woah, woah, what? What about Shu Shu guarding his store? That was the hardest one for me, actually, complete with flashbacks and such, while he's getting totally owned by a giant thingy ma-jig. Then, at the very end, he protects Luffy's escape and seems to have found one last treasure to protect. Bonus points for the fact that the episodes goes into ads with a dog's scream and a bunch of blood as he jumps to bite the trainer, leaving us to think that the dog died. However, the dog is still alive. That was one of the few moments that made me cry like a little girl in a movie/anime/manga/anything.
After Luffy miraculously escapes an execution attempt by Buggy the Clown in the very same spot that Gol. D. Roger was executed 20 years prior, he and the Straw Hats race to the Going Merry to leave for the Grand Line. While Luffy is stopped by Captain Smoker of the Navy, Zoro is stopped by Tashigi, Smoker's second-in-command. Zoro remembers that Tashigi looks just like his childhood rival Kuina whom he wanted to beat at swordsmanship but died from an accident before their final match. Zoro easily beats Tashigi, who curses herself for being born as a woman and being weak; Zoro remembers this is the exact same quote that Kuina says after she beats him after their one-hundredth match. Zoro then tells Tashigi to get over herself and that she's only as strong as she allows herself to be and not use being born as a woman as an excuse to lose in a contest of skill. He then leaves her, telling her to get stronger if she wants to beat him.
Drum Island Arc
Chopper's backstory was a sad tale. Aside from the abandonment from his own reindeer herd and the fear from humans who wouldn't accept him, the his unwitting role in the death of Dr. Hiriluk, the man he had taken to as a father, makes it all the more painful. And what's sadder is the whole injustice of having to tolerate Wapol laughing his stupid head off, and not able to do a thing about it.
Agreed - the whole thing with Dr. Hiriluk was heartbreaking. Especially his ending speech and thoughts:
"Hey...when do you think a man dies? Does he die when he's been shot? No. Does he die when he's ravaged with disease? No. Does he die when he's been poisoned? NO! A man dies when, and only when, he is FORGOTTEN! Even when I pass on, my dream will come true! The hearts of the people will be cured...! THIS HAS TRULY BEEN A WONDERFUL LIFE!"
What gets me is what he says before that.
"In a few moments a monster will come. He is my son."
It is so much more powerful in the anime than in the manga, when you hear the sheer love and devotion in Hiruluk's voice as he speaks, and Ave Maria plays in the background...
What will really have you in tears is when Chopper begs the only other remaining Dr. on the island to train him, this being just after she explained he served a poison mushroom to his father figure naively thinking it was some kind of miracle cure, insulting him for thinking something like an all purpose medicine could exist. Then he rushes back to her after Hiruluk dies, waving his flag as he pledges to become the all purpose medicine himself by being a doctor who can cure anything if only she'll teach him. Because promising to defy the impossible is a prerequisite for the Straw Hat Crew.
It becomes a very happy tear jerker when you finally get to see all of Dr. Hiriluk's work pay off in the end: with Dr. Kureha fires Hiriluk's red powder as a sendoff to Chopper, it creates a giant pink snow cloud that covers the entire island. Chopper, watching from the ocean, sees the cloud combine with Wapol's mountain to create the splitting image of a cherry blossom tree.
The big climax of the Alabasta arc, especially with Vivi so desperately trying to save the country she loves so much from destroying itself. Makes the victories so much sweeter.
Luffy's talk to Vivi telling her to not just risk her own life, but the crew's lives too. It really shows how much Luffy cares about his friends
Made even more painful when Pell, a Royal Guard who saved the lives of both sides made apparently clear by the massive explosion scraping the towers and knocking them over. Both the Royal Army and the Rebels get to their feet, oblivious of the sacrifice done on their behalf, as Tashigi watches in pure disbelief that they are willing to fight each other again. Vivi having lost a person close to her heart put his life on the line, only to witness this causes her to snap and repeatedly yell at the top of her lungs: "EVERYONE, STOP FIGHTING!". Nami found this an unbearable sight, and even her bossy way of telling the group to get them to stop, seems heartbreaking.
Not to mention her goodbye to the crew.
The old man who was digging the well at the deserted town near Crocodile's casino. He'd been digging that well looking for water for YEARS and never gave up hope of finding it, after Luffy and the Straw Hats passed him on their way to the casino. It's when Crocodile reveals that he personally tormented that man by causing sandstorms that dry up all of the water in the area, which forces the old man to keep digging and looking for more water because he refused to give up. Cue an enraged Luffy vs. Crocodile fight scene.
Calgara gets shot into the sky with his entire tribe, is driven off of his land along with said tribe, and is denied the chance to signal his whereabouts to his friend. Meanwhile, Noland never finds out what happened to Calgara and others and is branded a liar for his inability to explain the disappearance of the golden city and executed. And as if that wasn't bad enough, his descendants are still being ridiculed after 400 friggin years.
And the execution scene is the tear icing on the suffering cake: Noland is hopeless standing to be killed, the King calls strange men who have nothing to do with the story to testify against him, and his actual crew trying to defend him from the audience... for naught. Damn, that was just painful...
Before Noland is about to be executed, he ponders about Calgara and hopes that he and the rest of the tribe are safe. We find out later that Calgara was killed in battle trying to retrieve the tribe's homeland from the Skypiea residents so that Noland would find find everyone as he left them once he returned. It gets more depressing once you realize unless they died at the same time, both of them are thinking about someone they don't know is already dead.
And, while still on Jaya Arc, the defeat of Cricket and the "Monkey Brothers" by Bellamy, who steals the treasure they've nearly killed themselves to achieve. It's just sad after you realize how nice the guys actually are. To compensate, though, just after that we have massive awesomeness.
When Pagaya pushes Conis, his daughter, out of the way of Eneru's lightning bolt as they are searching for the Straw Hats, taking the hit for her.
Captain McKinley (not the famous one) of the Skypiean White Beret security forces chooses to sacrifice himself to save his men and the evacuating people of Skypiea from Eneru's lightning storm.
Then when Luffy finally defeats Eneru, and rings the bell, and Cricket hears its sound and realizes that Noland never lied after all.
Water 7/Enies Lobby
Water Seven introduces us Franky and his backstory, which is yet another tearjerker.
Enies Lobby is famous for two major tearjerkers, since Robin's past is finally revealed in detail and one of the Straw Hats dies.
That whole arc was bookended by Tear Jerkers, as it started with Usopp refusing to believe that Merry was truly beyond repair, and challenging Luffy for the rights to the ship. What makes it worse is afterwards, Zoro tells Luffy that as his captain, he cannot go back on his word or else he will leave the crew right then and there because Luffy must stand by his convictions and not allow others to step over him.
The scene where Franky tried to convince Usopp that the Merry was beyond hope, eventually throwing him under the water to force him to see the damage for himself. You can see the moment where Usopp finally is forced to admit to himself that there is no hope to repair the ship he loves so much.
Merry's goodbye. Luffy's attempts to apologize to the dying Merry as it was everyone's fault it was in such bad condition, but it just says:
Merry: But I was happy. Thank you for taking good care of me until now. I was really happy.
Oh, but what about Robin's backstory? First shunned all her childhood, with her only friend, a giant, killed by marines while he tried to protect her, as well as every other person who was kind to her — then having the entire incident blamed on her, forcing her to live on the run for the rest of her life. The aftermath, during the Enies Lobby arc, was almost just as bad.
"I WANT TO LIVE! TAKE ME OUT TO SEA WITH YOU AGAIN!!"
Thankfully, this one is a heartwarming one. Robin, after twenty years on the run, has finally found her place in life, and nakama that will help her and protect her every step of the way - just like Saul said she would.
Robin's bittersweet reunion with her mother which began with Olvia trying to protect Robin by denying that they were related:
Robin: Are you my mother?! Olvia(thinking): Forgive me Robin! I don't want you to be the daughter of a criminal. Olvia(speaking): I'm sorry. I think you've got the wrong person. Robin: I-I'm Robin! I've grown...but don't you remember me? I've been waiting for your return! Are you really not my mother? Someday...I want to hold your hand...and walk with you... I-I've studied so hard...and I've become an archeologist! I can read Poneglyphs too! So...please let me be with you, mom! Don't leave me alone anymore!
Saul: The sea is vast, Robin! Somewhere out there, there's friends who will protect you! Find them! Befriend them! Travel with them! Simply existing can NOT BE A SIN!
After Kaku is defeated by Zoro, he flashes back the memories of him being a carpenter at Water 7 followed by the memory of Paulie yelling "I saw you guys as my Nakama!". He then has a look of regret of his face and says that people say that an assassin can have no other job. Then he honorably gives Zoro the key.
Gomorrah and Sodom. They rampage through Enies Lobby to get the Franky Family and Straw hats to the center. Sodom is shot by a mortar shell but tearfully begs the others, through Chopper's interpretation, to go on without him, and Gomorrah is taken down soon afterward by cannon fire. However Gomorrah, fueled by memories of Franky taking him and Sodom in and looking out for the two, manages to summon up his last ounce of strength. Gomorrah recklessly began to hit a building and had claimed to be blind due to damaging his retina in the battle, as Chopper told the crew through his translation. Still however, he charges through the field and crashes through the Enies Lobby courthouse's courtyard before finally passing out from the pain.
Franky's flashback after he is set up by Spandam. Spandam uses Franky's pirate ships to attack Water 7's harbor and frame Tom so that he can be arrested, the result being Tom is seriously injured and handcuffed after the attack. When Franky tearfully renounces all of the ships that he made, stating that he never should have made them, Tom breaks free of his handcuffs and savagely beats Franky in front of everyone watching. Tom then tells Franky that a "Don" stands behind everything he creates and would never renounce any of his creations, regardless of what they are used for.
Then when Franky tries in vain to stop the Puffing Tom with a bazooka, to prevent it carrying Tom to his execution, getting run over in the process:
Franky: Oi, Puffing Tom! Just where do you think you're taking your creator?! Stop, Puffing Tom!
Another heartwarming tear jerker is Usopp's apology. At first, he desperately tries to convince his crew to let him back in, but Luffy pretends he doesn't hear anything. Only after he screams how sorry he is from the bottom of his heart does the crew accept him back, crying Tears of Joy.
Thriller Bark Arc
Not too far afterwards, the backstory for Brook, involving the long-past Laboon and a particularly sad flashback is heartbreaking.
Let's break Brook's story down: He spent FIFTY YEARS floating around on a ship completely alone, surrounded by the corpses of his dead friends, who HE had been in command of and could therefore be considered responsible for when they died, having to live with the knowledge that he still had that promise to Laboon and absolutely no conceivable way to fulfill it, and had the comfort of knowing that even if he somehow managed to make his way out of the Florian Triangle, he would always be an outcast due to his unnatural skeletal body. Yeah, it screws him up a little; fortunately for him, all it means to the Straw Hats is that he'll fit right in.
The anime just hit the finale part of the flashback, where Brook and his crew sing to their deaths.
Being a lover of music, I can't help but tear up at the end at how... incomplete the song sounds. How Brook counts down as everybody else dies....
Brook: What's wrong? Now this is just a quartet... trio... duet... solo. [sobbing] Why? Leaving only the accompaniment...
For a moment Brook hallucinates that his crew is alive and it was all a nightmare, after sobbing about how happy he was into the deck he looks up... And sees the empty ship. Despite being a skeleton, the look on his face is heartbreaking.
Let us not forget Yorki either. Oh, Yorki. Anyone else notice that Brook, who wept openly plenty of times beforehand, is never shown crying in front of his crew again after the last scene with Yorki and his own tragic "promotion"? At least, not while they're alive...
And of course, recently we've had the deaths of the zombies.
The very end of the arc, when Zoro is alone with Batholomew Kuma following Moria's defeat. Kuma, intent on killing everyone who survived, makes an agreement with Zoro; Zoro wanting to do whatever he can to keep everyone alive, agrees to embrace the physical manifestation of ALL of Luffy's pain. Kuma let Zoro sample a small piece of it, which resulted in Zoro nearly collapsing from the intensity; Kuma then allows Zoro to embrace a HUGE ball of it in order for him to spare everyone's life. When Sanji finds Zoro after the decision, Zoro is seen standing in a huge pool of blood, he himself barely conscious with his arms crossed and his eyes bloodshot and unable to move.
And then there's the Straw Hats' complete and utter defeat by Kuma, followed by their apparent death. Watching them all go down trying to protect the others is bad enough, but once you see the indomitable Luffy get on his knees and cry over his inability to save anyone, the tears start coming hard.
Luffy: [sobbing] "What's wrong with me?! I couldn't even save... a single one!"
The anime just hit this chapter. It is absolutely brutal. By the end of the episode, you will either be all teary-eyed or feel completely depressed.
The accompanying montage flashing back to all the moments in which the crew decidedly became his Nakama (True Companions), watching them count down from Brook all the way back to Zoro, to the tune of Bink's Sake on violin is tearjerking.
Recently, Hatchan is gunned down right in front of the Straw Hats, and it's heartwrenching to watch him plead to Luffy to not touch the Celestial Dragon who pulled the trigger, accepting it as retribution for having hurt Nami in the past.
Kuma's last words to Luffy.
Part of the Impel Down arc after Luffy spent over 18 hours in excruciating agony after being poisoned by Magellan and going through an incredibly painful healing process that would save him but would take ten years of his life, he finally gets to Level 6 where his brother was being held only to find an empty cell. Ace's pained reaction to his brother's foolhardy attempt to save him is equally heart-wrenching given the fact that he already blames himself for the fact that his beloved captain is being drawn out for an ultimate battle with the entire World Government due to his imminent execution.
I found that Luffy reaching Ace's prison, fighting his way down to get to Ace, almost dying in the process, only to find the empty cage, quite heartbreaking. Then, we see Ace several floors up, hearing Luffy's voice, trying to get to his brother, screaming Luffy's name, only to have Magellan stop him. Granted, it was expected, but it still hurts.
Bon Kurei fleeing the fight with Magellan while tearfully apologising to Luffy.
a.k.a. Whitebeard War a.k.a. Paramount War. A war is never pretty, and when it’s Oda telling the story...
Chapter 548, "Thank You". If you were not crying Manly Tears by the end, you are a soulless MONSTER.
Then there's this last bit:
Mr. 2 Bon Kurei (through the Den Den Mushi, choking up in tears): Straw-chan! You just save your brother!...I know you can do...(line cuts off)
And in the end, Luffy never did...
The moment's impact is lessened somewhat with a far more recent cover page that shows him not only alive and well, but on level 5.5 of Impel Down, rather than one of the cells. As in, the place he referred to as Heaven in Hell. Knowing that he actually found a happy outcome after all that is an instant smile
Too bad Luffy doesn't know if he survived or not, so in Luffy's perspective after Marineford, he failed to keep his friend's dying wish to save Ace.
Short one from the most recent chapter. It turns out the reason Oz Junior is so eager and willing to save Ace is because years ago, Ace made Oz a straw hat that could cover his entire head, meaning that nothing got in his eyes any more, he could go out into the snow without it all piling on top of him, and the feeling filled Oz with joy. This is all shown to us as Oz gets his leg cut off, and he is literally crawling towards the executions platform, and he comes up just short of being to grab Ace, before he is punctured straight through by Gecko Moria's shadow abilities.
This scene is taken up to 11 in the anime. It's much more gut-wrenching when you see Oars Jr's vision fade as he reaches for Ace.
Just that scene? The anime made the whole struggle worse, with each flashback to Oars enjoying the hat punctuated by him getting blasted and impaled in between, with horribly tear jerking music playing throughout.
Chapter 568 was just one giant Tear Jerker after another...
When Mr. 3 gives his reason as to why he's helping Luffy rescue Ace.
Mr. 3: If I told you the reason I'm here... is to fulfill my fallen comrade's wishes... will you laugh at me?
It should be noted that he's referring to Mr. 2.
In the most recent chapter, Garp's confrontation with Luffy has a rather sad tone. You can't help but feel for the old man as he tries and fails to find it in him to fight his own grandson over his adopted grandson's life...
His little chat with Ace is equally touching. He's talking about how he knows he should be happy a pirate is dying, but it's his grandson and that makes him FUCKING CRY because he's torn between turning around and freeing Ace and just sitting there like he's supposed to.
When he stood against Luffy when the latter was mere feet away from Ace, he stated that Luffy would have to kill him to get to Ace. Luffy stated that he couldn't do it, and it's become clear that while he does fear his grandfather, he loves him all the same. Probably why this scene is so much more heartbreaking when Garp forces him to attack-and then the man falters at the last second, showing that his love for his grandsons ultimately outweighed his duty.
Chapter 573: 'ACE DIES after trying to protect Luffy by Taking the Bullet by shielding him from Akainu's attack.
And the worst part? Luffy's reaction at the last panel, looking like Chopper when he cries to reinforce how young he is and how devastating this is for him!
In the anime, it's a thousand times worse.
That's not the worst part. THIS IS: "I'm not gonna die, no matter what! That's a promise!" DAMMIT ODA! GOD DAMN IT!
The worst part is THIS: "Thank you for loving me!" *cue death of Ace.* "Ace?" *Cue heart wrenching reaction by Luffy, and then cut to 3 images of Jimbei, Whitebeard, and Marco shedding tears. 3 of the toughest pirates at Marineford, crying over Ace's death.
The anime version, Episode 483. It's essentially chapter 574... extended to 20 minutes long. Oh. Dear. God.
As Ivankov points out, Luffy fought hard and made many sacrifices (10 years off his lifespan, not counting multiple uses of Gear Second, Bon Clay sacrificing himself to ensure the escape from Impel Down and the chance to meet up with the rest of his crew) to save Ace, but now Ace gave up his life saving Luffy, and presumably making Luffy feel responsible for Ace's death as a result of his body giving out at the wrong moment.
The question that Ace spent his entire life searching the answer for...was whether or not he deserved to be born.
Whitebeard's death in chapter 576 is by far the manliest and most Bad Ass death in One Piece ever. Also, his reasons for being a pirate:
Whitebeard: There is something I've wanted ever since I was a boy... Pirate: What?! Tell us what it is!! Whitebeard: A family.
The one that does it the way that dies, in a rather cruel sense of irony, one of his own 'sons' (well, former, but the point is still valid) gets his entire crew to kill him. And Whitebeard's Badass Crew, full of hard, seasoned pirates from the New World, even Marco are reduced to tears as their 'Pops' is shot to death, Blackbeard's evil triumphant laugh echoes throughout the battlefield.
This may be an odd one, but in the most recent episode of the anime, Rouge's determination to keep Ace from being connected to Roger and Roger's own final request of Garp. The music did not help.
The latest episode, 483. Seeing Luffy's reaction to Ace dying. There's no dramatic power up, no scream of terror, no vow of revenge. He just cries. He can't do anything. Luffy just sees his brother lying in his own blood, and starts an honest to goodness cry, no different than what anybody could have done, ESPECIALLY considering his age/childish mentality. Hearing something so familiar and so "real" just struck me in the heart.
Dear god, chapter 582. Luffy has awakened, and the first thing we see him do is run into the jungle, smashing everything in sight, remembering Ace's last minutes. He starts screaming in anguish at his memories: "STOP! DISAPPEAR!" Jimbei walks over to Luffy, who confirms Ace's death. Luffy's resultant crying is so much, even Jimbei begins to sob. If this weren't enough, now we're starting a flashback to the first time Luffy and Ace met.
Gets worse if you have a moment of Fridge Brilliance. The reason Luffy's reaction is such isn't just because of Ace's death, but that over the course of a week, he has lost close to everything that matters to him. He failed to protect his friends, and must've hoped that he could at least save family. Ace dying has pushed him over the edge.
Actually, if you stop and think about the backstory for a second, it actually becomes even sadder, if possible. After the recent flashbacks, think about what Luffy and Ace went through. For each of his nakama, everyone bonded by fighting and believing in one another, which mirrors Luffy, Ace, and Sabo's meeting and becoming brothers. So, their bond is just as strong as any between Luffy and his crew. But then, you have to compound onto that, the extra layer from Sabo's death and how long Luffy and Ace have been together. Ten years. Ten years Luffy had no other friends his age, really had no one else he was close to the same way he clung to Ace. And Ace's promise to live so that Luffy wouldn't suffer again, the sheer crushing pain Luffy must feel over not only losing Sabo, but also Ace, when he swore that he wouldn't let that happen again. It's like, reading a hot-blooded shounen manga to the end only to watch the hero lose his best friend. And then, said hero pulls himself together to go on one more adventure and make a new best friend, only for it to happen again. God, talk about Harsher in Hindsight. I'll be over there crying my eyes out now.
Chapter 588: Dammit Oda! And right in the middle of his CMOA!
To clarify, Sabo managed to once again escape from his family's house in order to set sail as a pirate. The problem? His little boat cuts in front of the ship of a World Noble, who promptly shoots at him, killing him. As if we needed a reminder just how much of an asshole the World Nobles can be...
Chapter 589: In-universe example of Harsher in Hindsight. Turns out, Luffy was motivated by Sabo's death to get stronger, so that no one else will disappear. Then you consider what's happened to him in the present day...
And how for the first time, Luffy has truly questioned his dreams and strength.
"I'M WEAK!!!". That's all that need to be said.
Quite a bit of Chapter 590: Dadan lashing out at Garp for letting Ace die, Ace and Whitebeard's funeral, and Jinbei forcefully reminding Luffy about his crewmates.
Jinbei: You still haven't lost everything yet! Now affirm it! You have not been left with nothing! Luffy: I HAVE MY CREW!
This chapter gets extra Tear Jerker points for Dadan's painful outburst since it seemed to be the point when everything finally settles in.
The anime (episode 505) really brings it home as Jinbei (after a brief fight) talks sense into Luffy and asks what he still has. A tearful Luffy looks down at his hands...and starts counting his friends on his fingers.
Don't bother me while I'm training! Let everyone know a storm is coming! You won't believe the size of the fish I'll catch today! Calm down, dinner will be ready soon. If you get hurt, you're in good hands! I can teach you about archaeology if you want. The cola engines are in great condition! The Sunny is in SUPER shape! *pose* Luffy-san, what will your first song be for today? ......I HAVE MY NAKAMA!
The reactions from all the other Straw Hats when they hear what Luffy has gone through, especially Usopp and Nami:
Usopp: " Luffy lost his older brother...in a war! Do you know how much pain he's feeling right now?! I have to be with him to see him through his pain...or else I can't call myself a member of his crew!" Nami: " He lost Ace right before his own eyes. And I had no idea that was happening! I want to hurry and be there for him before he breaks apart!" Later: "Luffy...you're OK, right? I'm sorry! You've always been there for us...And then, when it was our turn, we..."
Made worse if you consider why they had the most intense reactions to finding out about what happened to Luffy. some other stuff. In the past, Usopp and Nami have suffered from complexes about being a couple weaker crew members, and worried about not being able to protect the others, likely namely Luffy due to being closer to him than the others and because of how much he had persevered and sacrificed so much for them and everyone else. Also, they were both already deeply worried about Luffy before the crew got separated: Usopp was worried about Luffy hurting himself with his fighting style, and Nami was worried about whether Luffy was okay with the possibility of Ace being in trouble. (which she has a flashback of). The sense of helplessness, self-hatred, self-blame, and guilt Usopp and Nami are going through must be unimaginable.
Not to mention both know what it's like to lose someone in front of your eyes.
Nami's scenario goes from funny to tearjerker back to funny BACK to tearjerker within a few pages. When she's imprisoned for stealing technology, she's joking about how she's an ex-thief and a pirate and they somehow DIDN'T see that coming. Then she's on her knees begging for her release, tears in her eyes as she tells them about Luffy's plight and how she needs to go to him and be there for him. Then they release her and she's all "KTHXBYE!" as she runs off with all the tech she swiped, dragging Haredas along with her. At that point, the reader is all "oh, that Nami"...then Haredas notices that her "fake crying" hasn't stopped. *sob*
The anime does it justice, too. She even visibly blushes when Haredas comments on her still "pretending to cry".
Justifiable, as every Straw Hat thus far knows what it's like to lose someone right in front of their eyes, save for Franky, and Sanji, though he did have that crap time stranded with Zeff.
Franky hasn't? He saw the ships he made be used to destroy his home, then Tom took the fall for Franky, when the ships weren't even his. Then after hearing Franky disown his own creations, Tom owns up to building Oro Jackson, calming to be proud of what he built, as to show what Franky true meaning to be a shipwright. Then Tom was taken to Enies Lobby on board the Puffing Tom, to be executed for his "crime". Franky almost died trying to stop the Puffing Tom. Yep, Franky never lost someone.
I would also assume that everyone Sanji knew dying on that ship during the storm might count, too, even if that's not dwelled on as much as building Sanji and Zeff's relationship.
Anime: Zoro finding out about Luffy losing his brother Ace. Look carefully at Zoro's eyes during a close up; the man was on the verge of tears.
Anime episode 512: In a very brief scene Dadan and her family of bandits goes to Luffy, Ace, and Sabo's old tree-house. In tears, she holds up a newspaper with Luffy's recent invasion of Marineford and she calls to Ace saying how he succeeded in saving his brother's life. After a few more tears she tells Ace to rest in peace. The scene was very unexpected with the more happier episodes as of late and it really hit the heartstrings hard.
Luffy returning to Marineford to ring the bell for the new era and leaving flowers on the battleground. The picture of him standing there, head down, hat on heart is just so touching.
Return to Sabaody
In-universe example, post time skip: Silvers Rayleigh when Luffy declares he's gonna be the Pirate King.
In chapter 603, Kuma. His last act of free will was to command his new self to protect the Thousand Sunny until one of the Straw Hats returned to reclaim the ship. Kuma keeps to that promise, keeping the Sunny spotless while he himself is heavily damaged, to the point he's all bloody and his machine parts are showing when Franky sees him. Also, right after Franky arrived? All Kuma had to say was "Mission Complete", and he leaves limping.
Also in Chapter 603 Rayleigh remembering Roger the First Time they meet and how much he looked like Luffy, specially the straw hat it mark how much it pain him the lost of his captain and best friend even after 20 years and why always got tear eyed every time he meet Luffy or he proclaimed that he would become the Pirate King.
Fishman Island Arc
Chapter 609. Seriously, Fisher Tiger dying due to being refused a blood transfusion?
No. He died because he refused to have a blood transfusion Why would he do it?, it turned out he hated humans in disgusted spite of himself, out of being a slave to the Celestial Dragons and being betrayed by Koala's village when they have the Marines ambush him; and considering how awful the former are to everyone, it's no wonder he hates humans so mcuh
Chapter 612 has a small one, whilst on Fishman Island, Franky is starting to look for the family of his adopted father, Tom.
"No matter what happens. I won't cry. So please don't kill me."
This troper found Koala's rescue very hard to watch. After Arlong smacks the girl for saying the only thing she knows how to out of fear of certain death by a World Noble, she gleefully begin scrubbing the deck of their ship while the side of her face is dripping blood trying to clean up her mess while the whole crew watches in shock. It's only after Fisher Tiger tells her himself that she is free by POINTING A GUN AT HER, and then throwing the gun overboard as she watches, does she finally break down and cry. Despite thew crew's hatred of humans, they treat Koala as their own and escort her all the way to her home, where she says she will never forget their kindness when she leaves to finally meet her mother after being kidnapped.
Chapter 623: The last words and death of Fisher Tiger. Cue Manly Tears from Jinbei, Hatchi, and Arlong.
What cements this is just how ironic it all is. We were told that it was humans who refused to give a blood transplant to Tiger, out of prejudice; however, in actuality, it was Tiger who refused the transplant, because as much as he might have wanted it, his inner hatred for humans because of his enslavement and ambush by the Marines made his very body refuse to let humans be the cause of his survival.
You know, Hachi makes it clear in this arc that Arlong wasn't a complete monster; that would be the main antagonist of this arc. It was shown back in his arc that while he hated humans, he cared for his crew as if they were his brothers, whereas Big Bad Hody Jones doesn't care who he kills of to get his way; Fisher Tiger was able to pass on something good to Arlong.
Chapter 624: Queen Otohime slowly watching all of her effort and hard work in trying to make peace with humans fall apart before her very eyes as everyone who signed her petition recalls their names. She then goes into a drunken, crying rant about how all she wanted was for her people to see the world. And then, after all that, she is STILL willing to save people in trouble, and a WORLD NOBLE at that!
Chapter 626 is almost entirely one massive Tear Jerker. The first half has a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming with all the people united in their love for Otohime and their support for her cause. Then we get to part where, just as everything is going swimmingly and it seems like her dream will finally come true, she's assassinated. It's especially heartbreaking when the two younger princes, trying to keep Shirahoshi from unconsciously summoning Sea Kings and destroying Fishman Island, are forced into acting goofy, all while tears are streaming down their faces.
What makes it even more painful is that no one other than the dying Otohime and the eldest prince understand why the two princes are doing it, and everyone else berates them for acting inappropriately. The expression on Fukaboshi's face will make you feel for the three princes, even if you never cared for them before.
And then there's the pinky promise between the three princes, Shirahoshi and Otohime, promising to grant her wish.
It's made even sadder in the anime.
Chapter 627: Neptune is so saddened and utterly enraged by his wife's murder, HE HAS TO LOCK HIMSELF IN A TOWER UNTIL HIS KILLING URGES STOP, AND PROCEEDS TO ASSUME A TROUBLED FETAL POSITION AND CRIES, FEELING UTTERLY CONFLICTED, DEEPLY CONFUSED, AND FULL OF SELF LOATHING ABOUT EVERYTHING ABOUT THE SITUATION. JESUS. THIS MANGA.
Made even worse when Neptune admits he can't even try to fulfill Otohime's dream because he would just end up killing the humans. On a more positive note, At the funeral, Fukaboshi tells the people that collected signatures will be thrown away, because he knows the people of Fishman Island aren't ready to join the surface yet. But, he promises that their hearts will heal and that one day within his lifetime they will join together under the real sun. Damnit Oda*sniff*.
Chapter 633 reveals that Shirahoshi knew that Hody killed her mother. Why didn't she tell anyone? Because she promised to Otohime that she wouldn't hate the person who killed her. She had that knowledge for 10 YEARS in the tower, and still never tried to hate him. And Hody proceeds to mock her for it. Somebody give this girl a hug.
Punk Hazard Arc
The revelation that Dr. Vegapunk conducted scientific and medical experiments on prisoners. It's Harsher in Hindsight when you realize that these types of experiments actually happened in real life with Unit 731 and The Holocaust.
Learning that the kids on the island have been forcibly addicted to a medical drug to keep them from running away, and the bigger ones will go berserk if they aren't given their daily dose. Chopper is understandably angry..
You have to feel sorry for Brownbeard. After losing the use of his legs, he came to Punk Hazard and Caesar Clown took him in, gave him new legs and put him in charge of the centaur patrol. Naturally, he's upset when he discovers his master has ordered his execution for being captured. In fact, his last moments before being shot were remembering his master's kindness right before calling out to him.
Chapter 668's cover spread. It's Ace and Whitebeard's graves, two years later.
The opening pages of chapter 673: Seeing those parents screaming for help finding their missing children, not believing they died in "accidents" and how the Marine commander threatened to kill them if they didn't leave him be. It gets even worse when you remember that some of these parents have been in this situation for years, and even worse when you realize that children getting kidnapped, with their whereabouts unknown, is very sadly Truth in Television.
Also from chapter 673: The giant children in a drug-craving mode, attacking the Straw Hats and screaming in joy when Caesar arrives. The effects of this drug are horrifying.
Chapter 679. G-5 marines, basically thugs and cannon fodder by One Piece's New World standards, sacrificed themselves to make sure Tashigi got safely behind the closing silo door and is protected from the deadly gas that petrifies a person into a solid, almost nuke-blasted shell. They all give a thumbs up to show they are satisfied with their choice, and are now petrified in various poses of jubilation. This also counts as a heartwarming moment because it shows how much they care for their captain, but it's still very sad, and Tashigi's horrified expression only makes it sadder.
Chapter 680: The Marines get brutally curb-stomped by Vergo. What makes it sad is that they believed Vergo was actually a very nice guy, who cared for them even though they're just "a bunch of good-for-nothings", and are so shocked to see him attacking them right now that they believe he's an impostor. Tashigi also tries to stop him, but is easily thrown aside, and can't stop crying over her men getting slaughtered.
Chapter 679 just made it worse in retrospect. Vergo, thought to be the most noble of G-5, is the real "good-for-nothing" Jerkass of a pirate, and is likely to get off scott free. Yet those self-proclaimed "good-for-nothings" have proven they're anything but, yet they're the ones getting mowed down.
Which makes Law cutting Vergo in half in chapter 690 all the more satisfying.
Momonosuke's flashback in Chapter 685, in a way, because of how oblivious to the truth and innocent the children are. It's even harsher if you compare it to present day, where the withdrawal symptoms left most of them as mindless, candy-craving zombies.
Chapter 688 gives us the children's flashback. Just after Mocha ate the drug-filled candy to prevent her friends from eating it (Which is already a tear jerker in itself), Chopper has a flashback to when he revealed the truth about Caesar and the candy to her. She remembered the promise she made to her friends about how they were all going to go out to sea and meet each other again when they were adults, and starts to cry because she realizes she will not be able to keep this promise if she stays there. After Chopper promises to her that they will save them and Luffy will kick Caesar's ass, cut to present time, with Mocha writhing on the ground in pain from eating this damn candy.
In chapter 692, it's revealed that Kinemon was petrified trying to find his son. OK, he doesn't die, but still, he is thought to be dead at that point.
And following that, we have poor Momonosuke's absolutely distraught reaction to the above in the following chapter.
Chapter 697: The lower G-5 Marines prevent the children from saying goodbye to the Straw Hats, and keep badmouthing the crew while praising the Marines. As the situation builds up, both Marines and children alike start to cry, until Tashigi breaks down and tells her men to stop, saying it is disgraceful. It turns into a happy tear jerker when the Marines reveal that they only badmouth the Straw Hats because if they don't, they'll start admiring and respecting them, even though they're pirates. They then break down in tears as Smoker Face Palms and Tashigi laughs.
Chapter 700: It's revealed that Doflamingo has Ace's devil fruit, completely aware of what Luffy would do if he found out about it and plans to exploit it .
Movie 6. Though it combines a heavy dose of horror, one scene is also a heavy Tear Jerker. During the scene where the Straw hats are absorbed one by one into the giant flower while the villain casually announces their deaths, while pinning Luffy to a rock and asking him doesn't he want to save his friends? Luffy starts to break down as he thinks everyone is dead. His reaction to Zoro's apparent death is the worst. Then after he's freed and taken into hiding, he has his Heroic BSOD, only snapping out of it when he hears from one character that his crew is still alive and calling out for him. The ending also brings on the tears of joy.
Also in movie 6, it's revealed that the Baron killed Brief's entire crew in front of him. After Brief states that Luffy is not alone,and that he is his nakama, the Baron makes fun of him, asking Luffy "Why would you let such a pathetic insect be your nakama?" while attacking him. Luffy saves him, and yells "I told you I wouldn't let you hurt my nakama!" then gives Brief the tobihige salute. Brief bursts into tears while returning the salute. Considering he's been alone on that island for a long time (he build a huge underground system on the whole island!) this is probably the first time he's had any nakama since his crew was killed.
The ending of Movie Z, in which the Big Bad of the movie, Zephyr, stands alone against a rather massive Marine force lead by Kizaru while Ain bangs helplessly against the ice wall made by Kuzan to block the marines from Ain, Binz, and the Straw Hats and give Zephyr, in his own words, a place to die. It then goes into a flashback of a younger, more idealistic Zephyr standing against bullies with a log tied to his arm as a weapon, a helmet with a stylized Z on the front, and a cape.
What about Nami and Franky's backstories? Come to think of it, the childhoods of Luffy, Sanji and Zoro were no picnic either.
Luffy probably had the nicest childhood, seeing as back then he still had Ace, Sabo, and if you want to look at it like I do, Garp. Aside from never knowing who his real parents were, the only real tragedy he encountered was Shanks losing his arm.
Well, although now it's been revealed that he lost quite a bit in his childhood as well, Sabo and now Ace in the present. Irony has never been a bigger bitch.
Nami and her sister, Nojiko, were found during the war by a young woman named Bellemere; she, in all of her colonel badassery, raised the kids in a poor family, but a relatively happy one. One day, Arlong came and demanded each person pay a ransom. Bellemere didn't have enough money, so after kicking open the door and having a shotgun placed down Arlong's throat, she told him to suck it. Then, she let herself be shot after she gave up her life so Nami and Nojiko could live instead.
The thing is, she had enough money to pay for either herself or her two kids. Since she adopted Nami and Nojiko as babies during war, they weren't on file anywhere so she could have hidden them and paid for herself. But she didn't. You know why? Because her love for them was so deep, she would rather have died than pretend for even a moment that her children didn't exist. That, and the whole scene where she disciplined Nami for saying Nojiko isn't her real sister really made it that much more sad.
Nami's tears of gratitude when Luffy destroys the room Arlong forced her to work in at Arlong Park. And, of course...
Luffy: YOU ARE ONE OF US!
Franky's backstory: Franky never really showed how much he actually cared for the closest thing to a family he had, until Tom was taken away. Franky desperately tried to stop it, only to almost get killed in the process. So tragic.
Franky: Stop, Puffing Tom! Where the hell do you think you're taking your creator to?!
Someone here mentioned it and once they did, it really struck home. Zoro never really did had anyone who genuinely loved him when he was younger. He wasn't seen with any parents and his relationship with his sensei wasn't seen to be overly close or anything like that, just a simple student/teacher mutuality. His rival Kuina could be identified as a friend of his. And then, she died by falling off the stairs. And he wasn't seen having any friends after that or being close with anyone (since everyone was absolutely terrified of him) until he met with Johnny and Yosaku and later on, the little girl Rika and Luffy.
We see that Luffy had Ace, Makino, the Mayor, several villagers, Shanks, Garp with his well intentions and possibly Dadan. Nami was cared for by Bellemere, Nojiko, Gen and other villagers. Sanji had Zeff and the other cooks, though their relationship appeared to be all insults and hate, though when Sanji was about to leave, they all broke down into tears and wished him the best. Chopper had Doctor Hiriluk and Doctor Kureha. Robin had Professor Clover, Saul and for a brief while, her mother. Franky had Tom, Iceburg, Kokoro and Yokozuna. Brook had his crew and Laboon. All the rest of the Straw Hats' family and friends showed that they loved them in some way or another, even if some of them died.
It's also especially sad for Kuina. Many of the other loved ones had died in a sacrifice to save the future Straw Hat (Bellemere and Saul, which is also how Zeff and Shanks lost their limbs), content that their dream has been or would be fulfilled (Hiruluk and Tom), or with some semblance of happiness or satisfaction (Brook's pirates died singing a song for Brook to deliver to Laboon, while Olvia noted that Robin was still able to call her "mother"). Kuina died a sudden death without fulfilling her dream of becoming the world's greatest swords-woman, and Zoro's more emotional reaction at her wake in the manga is especially tragic.
It's even worse when you realize most of what Zoro got out of his relationship with Kuina was a great deal of pain (both physical and emotional) and derision. The only explanation is that he was honestly THAT lonely for any sort of meaningful contact with another human being. Dear God. If you've read the past few paragraphs and don't come out of it with unprecedented levels of soul crushing sadness and compassion for the big guy, you are a heartless monster.
Except that, at least in the manga, it's implied that the other students like Zoro, cheering him on while insulting Kuina, his master is shown just as close with Zoro as he is with Kuina, we aren't show anything from Kuina's death to Zoro becoming a Pirate Hunter and while we don't hear about his parents, we've never heard of Luffy's and Ace's families until it became a plot point. The real tearjerker here is Kuina; every other students hate her, blaming her skills on the fact that her father is the master rather than because she worked hard for them, her father tell her point blank that her dream of being the best swordsman in the world is impossible due to her gender(proving that he didn't give her any special treatment training wise) and when she finally reject her father's words with the help of her only friend...she fall down some stair and dies.
Say what you want about her, but Boa Hancock describing her past indisputably counts as this, especially if the ones who turned her from no different than the innocent Kuja children to a cold-hearted bitch was none other than the Celestial Dragons: the same royal assholes who were responsible for the example above. To make this clear, in her childhood, Hancock as well as her sisters were kidnapped, sold into slavery, had tatoos forcibly burnt on their backs and experienced a living hell for four years in Mariejoa, until a Fishman so Badass he climbed the ten thousand feet above sea level Red Line with his bare hands into Mariejoa, released every slave, Fishman and human alike despite his view that Humans Are Bastards, and set the city on fire after giving them the heads up to GTFO out of Mariejoa. As if Hancock's experiences weren't traumatic enough at that young age without a heroic sociopath giving her a will to live the hard way. Also simply remembering all this, makes Hancock and her sisters cry, Hancock in particular tremble at reliving that again, and Sonia suffering an Heroic BSOD at the memories. When Hancock reveals this as the reasonshe can never show any signs of weakness to anyone, for she has a great fear she'll go through being taken advantage of again, Elder Nyon sees her icy heart is starting to warm up a bit because of Luffy. And despite continuing the facade to Nyon, Luffy sees that neither Hancock or her sisters are the monsters, but the Celestial Dragons are without a doubt are for doing that to them, and turning them that way.
And this gets EVEN WORSE when it's revealed that Fisher Tiger himself was actually enslaved too, during that time.
In the anime, specifically inside this flashback, we get the scene in which the young Hancock and her sisters get their brands. First there's the branding instruments, then the Boa children huddling together in horror, and then there's young Hancock screaming and crying in pain as she gets the brand first... Come to think of it, the scenes with the Gorgon sisters's past were already sad in the manga, but the anime was more detailedand made them work real well.
The whole last 100+ chapters. It shouldn't be physically possible to feel this sad.
More like THE WHOLE ENTIRE MANGA SO FAR. Despite the cartoony art and quirky characters, the characters' development, feelings, and reasons for their thoughts and behaviors are painfully emotionally and psychologically realistic. Many, many seemingly unimportant lines, scenes, or odd traits become Harsher in Hindsight when you put them in context with the effect the characters' backstories had on themi and their ability to relate to other people. After that, it's sometimes very hard to get involved with the coolness and badassery when you're constantly distracted by your desire to wrap the main characters up in warm blankies and give them cookies and milk.
To put it in perspective, it's usually a good indicator of a Tear Jerker if simply watching the opening makes you start to tear up...
The chapter page of chapter 596 was a bad one; it showed grown-up Ace, Luffy and Sabo in a dynamic pose of awesomeness. This is sad because Ace and Sabo are DEAD. It's never going to happen and it never was going to.
Made Even worse if you notice that in that page Ace's tattoo doesn´t have the crossed out S.
Ace's tattoo has a crossed out S on his arm. It looks like the tattoist just had done lousy spelling. Recent chapters have revealed that Ace and Luffys dead 'brother' Sabo was a pirate in waiting like them, and his flag was a crossed-out S, made right before he died. Ace kept Sabo's dream alive on his very skin.
I think it's because the author himself has such a strong, positive world view that he can confront really, really ugly, painful, yet utterly human and poignant emotions like few others can. Oda also clearly loves life, and wants to share this love with others. The fact that both Oda and One Piece are creatures of extremes are why they're so dynamic and enthralling.
The intro was very heartwarming as it goes through its course, but then when it shows Ace's spirit nudge Luffy closer to his straw hat, I choked up a bit.
Another aspect of the open: After everything that happened, Luffy is standing there looking at his straw hat and appearing very solemn and serious, reflecting how everyone's wondering if he'll ever be the same. After Ace's push, Luffy grabs the hat and puts it on...then quickly flashes that mischievous grin, letting everyone know that he's gonna be just fine.
The main aspect of the open is the bonds between the crew. You witness every single member's most intimate moments with Luffy, and after everything that has happened, from the separation to Ace's death, and as you see Luffy flash that grin of his, you know that his love for his nakama hasn't faded in the least; that no matter whatever gets in their way, no matter the burdens they carry, they will be together again...and they'll do whatever it takes to stay together, until the end.
Chapter 0 (Tie-in to Strong World) really tugs at your heartsrings with the various flashbacks, each contained in a panel for about three pages straight. In showing order, it goes from Garp on vacation, playing with baby Ace like any cheery grandfather; little Kuina and how her mother had wished her to grow up to be a strong woman despite her father's doubts; Shanks beginning to assemble his crew, starting with Yasopp; the planning stages of the Going Merry; Bellemere back in her days as a Marine; Hiruluk running away after another botched appointment; kid Robin hiding from bounty hunters; Franky, Tom, and Iceburg on break while working on the Sea Train; Laboon calling for the Rumbar pirates while Brook is still stuck in the ghost ship as a living skeleton.
Rather old, but some dialogue analysis revealed a new Tear-Jerker: Right as Luffy leaves the Kuja Pirate ship and heads back to Sabaody, he tells Hancock that he never says goodbye to anyone because "I want to see you again, after all!" A quick re-look at an old chapter reveals this quote:
Luffy: Goodbye, Usopp. it's been... fun.
So... Luffy in essence told Usopp that he wanted to never see him again back during the Water 7 arc?
No, It's that he never expected to see Usopp again after the Water 7 arc. He did after all battle him for the Going Merry, which was established was irreparably broken, and gave it to Usopp out of pity. Despite being him for an entire arc as Sogeking, he was genuinely surprised in the post-Enies Lobby arc to hear that not only did one of the crew see him, but he wanted to rejoin the crew.
If we're talking about harsher in hindsight... remember what Nami said when Arlong betrayed her and Luffy showed up? "Luffy... taskette (Help me/Save me)." Remember what Nami says when Kuma sends her away "LUFFY TASKET- (LUFFY! HELP M-)"
Arlong killing Bellemere has a second layer of Tear Jerker upon the reveal about his ex-captain Fisher Tiger's continual wishes to not harm humans. Not only did he rob Nami of her mother but he also broke his promise to Tiger.