By Eiichiro Oda. Released in Japan by Shueisha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Weekly Shonen Jump. Released in North America by Viz.
The majority of this volume of One Piece is composed of running around and fighting, as we tend to get when we’re 2/3 of the way through most story arcs in this series. Everyone is coming together from various disparate points (or, in the case of Luffy, getting dumped way the hell away from everyone) to try to stop Caesar Clown, who is upset that he has to kill them all in his secret base rather than out on Punk Hazard’s surface. We also get to see more of the fighting styles of minor villains Monet and Vergo. And thankfully we also get lots and lots of silliness.
One thing that gets a bit more attention this volume is the way that trust works in the world of One Piece. Luffy is, let’s face it, a man who inspires devotion and loyalty in his crew, but he’s not the only one. Most of the pirates, marines and mooks we see here are all fiercely proud and supportive of their leader, to the point almost of mindlessness. This is where Luffy’s crew stands out, of course – being real characters, they’re allowed to disagree with him or tell him he’s being stupid. The nameless marines and villains, however, don’t have that option, so they remain trusting and gullible to an extreme. When it’s someone like Tashigi who inspires them, that’s fine – she would never tell them to do something stupid, and indeed tries to protect them by stating that their foe is not the real Vergo. When it comes to Caesar, though…
Let’s face it, Caesar is a terrible, terrible liar. His “I am a good guy trying to help you all” act is pathetic, and it doesn’t say much for his mooks that they buy into it wholeheartedly. At least the little kids have the excuse of being too young to really understand. (though kudos to the one kid who sacrifices herself for the others, after Chopper finally convinces her what’s really happening). Caesar is not quite as scummy as, say, Spandam, but it’s still very satisfying to see Luffy beat the ever-loving snot out of him here.
There’s also Zoro and Tashigi, who get a lot of spotlight here. Tashigi’s character has always been fairly problematic, and it doesn’t really get any better here, as her compassion wars with her fierce competitiveness and her belief that Zoro is holding back whenever he’s near her because she’s a woman. Zoro, of course, is not about to tell her the real reason, and in any case is so far beyond her skill level now that he can take out Money, let her get in the final blow, and then agree to have her take the credit for it. Makes no difference to him, as that sort of thing is irrelevant when you’re on the level he is. In short, their relationship is still just as amusing yet awkward to read about as ever. (I did love her nerding out about his new sword as he carries her away from the gas, though.)
So overall another solid volume. The crew get chances to show off (Even Nami, whose weather control works well briefly against someone like Monet), and the collective treatment of Brownbeard is a comedic masterpiece. I am, however, looking forward to this arc being done in a volume or two.