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Note: The following contains major spoilers for One Piece

Typically, flashbacks aren't the best part of a story. At best, they give crucial information that sets up and explains the main story and characters. At worst, they come off a waste of time. Either way, flashbacks aren’t known for being good stories by themselves. However, none of this applies to the series One Piece.

In , flashbacks frequently accomplish their usual goals, but also provide some of the best parts of the entire series. The show has had a lot of flashbacks, but for this article I’ll be focusing on Robin’s backstory, which is by far the most memorable and contains all of what makes flashbacks in the series so great.

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Robin’s flashbacks reveal how her home island, Ohara, was destroyed by the World Government because the scholars there were conducting forbidden research into the world’s history. Robin survived with the help of Jaguar D. Saul, a Marine who refused to participate in the destruction of Ohara. Saul was killed while helping her, but the Marine who killed him chose to spare Robin’s life.

Robin escaping Ohara.
Robin escaping Ohara.

In terms of the main story, her flashback serve to explain her actions and why she left the Straw Hats when the government came after her. That alone would work in most stories, but One Piece handles it somewhat differently.

The show takes time to establish her situation on Ohara, her relationship with the scholars there and her growing friendship with Saul. Even though things are obviously going to end badly, as a viewer you can’t help but get invested in the characters there. Saul’s death and Robin fleeing the island feel as much like the conclusion of a story arc as the end of a series of flashbacks. The final scene of Robin crying in the boat while trying to laugh it off like Saul taught her is genuinely heartbreaking precisely because the story makes you care about her, Saul and the people of Ohara.

Part of what makes this backstory (and most backstories) so effective is how strongly it contrasts with the main series. One Piece is, at its core, an optimistic show. It has darker arcs, but it's generally fun and upbeat. The backstories, however, are not upbeat.

Understanding Robin’s past makes you even more invested in the main story. You really want to see her find happiness after everything she went through there and when the story provides its resolution it’s immensely satisfying. The scene where Robin shouts that she wants to live wouldn’t have been nearly as satisfying if her backstory had just been exposition instead of working to tell a story all on its own.

While I’ve only talked about one specific backstory, the things that made it so good apply to most One Piece backstories. These flashbacks are each complete stories of their own and this distinction is what makes these moments in the series stand out from the rest of the pack.

One Piece is available from Funimation and is available for streaming on their website, as well as on Crunchyroll.

Which One Piece flashback is your favorite? Let me know in the comments below and if you liked this article, you can read more at


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