The arc starts off with the Straw Hats lounging around on the Going Merry's deck when a flyer slips out of the newspaper Nami is reading, showing the 30,000,000 bounty on Monkey D. Luffy's head. Luffy is more than overjoyed with it, though Nami tells him it will mean more stress for the crew now that people will be after him. Zoro then spots an island, which Nami points out to be Loguetown, the last stop in the East Blue before the Grand Line, as well as the birth and deathplace of the famous pirate, Gold Roger. The crew decides to stop off there to grab supplies.
Meanwhile, the bounty poster reaches Luffy's hometown. The villagers are more than happy that Luffy is fulfilling his dream, though the mayor, Woop Slap, who has always been against Luffy becoming a pirate, thinks it is more like destiny than a dream. Meanwhile, Dracule Mihawk also delivers the poster to Shanks, who celebrates Luffy's coming with a party.
New and Old Faces: White Hunter Smoker and Buggy the Clown
Back in Loguetown, Zoro, while shopping for new swords to replace the ones Mihawk destroyed, has his first meeting with Tashigi, who, much to Zoro's unease, bears an uncanny resemblance to his old friend, Kuina. Tashigi helps him pick out new swords, identifying one as Sandai Kitetsu after Zoro chooses it. The shop's owner, Ipponmatsu, refuses to sell the sword to Zoro, pointing out the curse associated with it. Zoro decides to test his luck against the blade's curse, holding out his arm as he throws it in the air. Surprisingly, the blade circles around his arm and lands without cutting it off. Out of respect for Zoro's luck and skill, Ipponmatsu allows him to keep the blade, before also giving him Yubashiri, the family heirloom and the best sword in his shop.
While this is going on, Sanji buys a gigantic fish for the crew; Usopp purchases some more supplies, ammo, and new goggles; and Nami gets a bundle of clothes. Luffy, meanwhile, goes to check the execution stand where Gold Roger was executed. While he climbs and admires the view from the stand, a woman calls out to him, seemingly recognizing Luffy, though he has no idea who she is. When part of the fountain in the town square breaks off and hits her, the debris just slides right off her body. She reveals herself to be Alvida, the first pirate Luffy came across on his journey. Only now, she has eaten the Sube Sube no Mi, causing her figure to change dramatically. She is not alone either, as another familiar pirate makes himself known: Buggy. Cabaji ambushes Luffy on the platform and puts him in shackles, while Buggy's pirates hold the town square hostage. Buggy declares that this is Luffy's execution.
At the Marine base in town, one of the men reports to his captain about the pirate ongoings in town. It is here we meet Captain Smoker, who has a reputation of never letting a pirate leave his town uncaptured, as he decides to wait for Luffy to be executed before moving in. The rest of the Straw Hats also get wind of what's going on and split up, with Zoro and Sanji going to rescue Luffy, while Nami and Usopp ready the ship to leave, as Nami has detected a storm approaching the island.
The Unexpected Rescue: Enter Dragon
Zoro and Sanji reach the execution area and try to fight their way through Buggy's pirates, but it doesn't look like they will make it as Buggy begins to bring his sword down on Luffy's head. With all seeming lost, Luffy smiles and tells his two friends that it looks like the end for him. However, a bolt of lightning hits Buggy's sword at the last second, destroying the platform and freeing Luffy with not a scratch on him as he, Zoro, and Sanji then make for the Going Merry. Smoker, who was watching, seems disturbed that Luffy laughed in the face of death, realizing that it was very similar to Gold Roger before he was executed.
Buggy, his crew, and Alvida, after recovering from the shock, try to make their escape, but are quickly defeated by Smoker and captured by the Marines. Nami and Usopp reach the Going Merry and quickly take down Mohji and his lion Richie, who were trying to burn down the ship.
The other Straw Hats also run into opposition in the form of Tashigi, angry that Zoro "tricked" her, causing him to stay behind and fight her. Smoker confronts Luffy and Sanji, who are unable to strike him due to his Devil Fruit powers.
However, the two are saved by a mysterious figure, allowing Luffy, Zoro, and Sanji to reach the ship unhindered. Smoker and Tashigi decide to abandon their posts to chase after them. Meanwhile, Buggy and his crew, who managed to escape the Marines during the fighting, decide to also head for the Grand Line to pursue Luffy.
The Journey Continues: To the Grand Line!
With the storm guiding them and a lighthouse in sight, the Going Merry is soon nearing its long-awaited destination. Each of the Straw Hats performs a "ceremony" of sorts by placing their foot on a barrel and vowing their dreams once more, as the ship nears the entrance to the Grand Line.
Just as Buggy is about to execute Luffy in the same spot as Roger, Luffy has the same reaction as the Pirate King when he was executed 22 years ago, smiling.
Seastone is also introduced in this arc, though only as a minor reference, where it is used to capture the Devil Fruit users Buggy and Alvida. It was not until the Arabasta Arc that more details on it would be revealed.
Just as Smoker is about to capture Luffy, he is stopped by a mysterious man named Dragon, and Luffy is allowed to escape to the Grand Line. Although Dragon's true intentions are not fully understood at this point, it foreshadows Dragon's revolution against the World Government, which is slightly elaborated on further via flashback in the Drum Island Arc and in the Post-Enies Lobby Arc. Luffy's grandfather, Vice AdmiralGarp, reveals that Dragon is Luffy's father and the world's most wanted criminal.
Smoker was also able to answer the mystery of why Dragon rescued Luffy at Loguetown during the Marineford Arc after Sengoku reveals Luffy's biological father.
Smoker is the first Marine officer to leave his command post in order to pursue Luffy. He would follow Luffy all the way to Arabasta and even to the New World, where he also assumed command of the G-5 Marine Base in order to keep his target close.
This is the first time a giant is seen in the series, although it is not shown to be a giant. The race is not revealed until the Little Garden Arc.
During the Dressrosa Arc, it is revealed that Bartolomeo was present in Loguetown to witness Luffy loudly declaring that he will become Pirate King and then saw his rescue by a lightning bolt. After this event, Bartolomeo becomes an adamant admirer of Luffy and follows every report on the Straw Hats, eventually inspiring him to set sail and become a Super Rookie. After meeting and helping out his idols, he even becomes part of the Straw Hat Grand Fleet.
Anime and Manga Differences
This arc received a lot of major changes from what is displayed in the manga. Other than changing around the timeline of events from the manga, it is also the first arc in the anime series to feature full-fledged filler episodes.
Mihawk's encounter with the Red Hair Pirates takes place before the Straw Hats' arrival in Loguetown instead of after their arrival.
Before arriving at Loguetown, there are scenes of the allies and enemies of Luffy and his friends receiving the news of Luffy's bounty, among which are Merry, Kaya, Koby, Morgan, Kuro, and the Baratie.
The Straw Hats encounter Fullbody on their way to Loguetown, which contradicts a few canon elements from the manga, such as Zoro being able to slice a cannonball (due to his inability to cut steel at the time), and Fullbody having been demoted with the reasons presented that contradict the events of the manga mini-arc Jango's Dance Paradise.
Luffy encounters a bartender who tells him about Gol D. Roger's exploits.
Instead of learning about Luffy when he is about to be executed by Buggy and Alvida, Smoker learns about him earlier, and also fights Luffy earlier at the execution stand, where Luffy manages to accidentally send himself flying into another part of town. Smoker does not use his Devil Fruit powers during this encounter.
Buggy, Alvida, and Buggy's crew spend more time searching for Luffy during these events.
In the manga, Luffy manages to find his way to the execution platform in one go. In the anime, he gets lost several times.
In the anime, when Zoro meets Tashigi, he accidentally breaks her glasses and has to work at the Marine base for a while to repay her before he goes sword shopping. However, Tashigi ends up having to pay for them herself due to Zoro having to leave the base after knocking out two Marine officers who recognize him and know he is a member of Luffy's crew.
In Episode 50, Usopp and Nami encounter Daddy Masterson, a former high-level Marine turned bounty hunter, who now only hunts low bounty heads. He forces Usopp to duel him when he gets his daughter, Carol, angry. Although Eiichiro Oda had planned for this story to be part of the manga (to explain how Usopp received his new goggles), it had to be cut so that Chapter 100 began the Grand Line adventure. This episode is cut from the 4Kids English dub, probably because it has a heavy emphasis on gun play.
In the manga, Sanji merely buys the tuna at a regular stand. In the anime, he finds a large group of people exclaiming over the fish on a beach. The man who caught it (and mans the stand in the manga) gives all of the explanations present in the manga. When Sanji offers to buy the fish, the man refuses, saying that it will be the prize for a cooking contest. Sanji then joins the contest, competing against his newly-met rival Carmen.
In the anime, during the race back to the Going Merry, Luffy fights Smoker alone and the Marines attack the ship, forcing Nami to pull the Going Merry away from the docks.
In the manga, during the fight against Smoker, Sanji also fights before Dragon interferes. In the anime, Sanji runs on ahead from the beginning.
Rather than simply making it to the ship as in the manga, in the anime the Going Merry gets washed out to sea with Nami onboard. Luffy then uses his Gomu Gomu no Rocket to throw himself and the rest to the crew to reach it.
Smoker's name is changed to Chaser. Any reference to his smoking is removed as well. His two cigars in his mouth are removed, giving him the appearance of breathing smoke. The cigars on his coat are also removed.
Mihawk visiting Shanks is shortened due to the excessive drinking.
This is the first arc to have more anime episodes than manga chapters.