By Eiichiro Oda. Released in Japan by Shueisha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Weekly Shonen Jump. Released in North America by Viz.
First of all, a warning: this review talks about that spoiler. You know the one. The one One Piece fans have been patiently waiting TWO YEARS to be able to talk about. It’s been out for months via the Shonen Jump magazine, but that’s still not good enough. And so now, Vol. 59 is out, and we can discuss it. I’ll put the spoilers after the image, just so you don’t see them by accident.
And so. The title of this volume, as well as the first chapter, is The Death Of Portgaz D. Ace. And for once – finally, in fact – Oda’s not messing with us. Yes, folks have died before in flashbacks, but for the most part, like Bleach, One Piece was well-known for having characters almost but not quite die. The classic example of this is Pell during the Alabasta arc, who flew into the air carrying a bomb, which then exploded in the air, and still managed to survive. One wondered what a person had to do to get killed in Oda’s universe. Well, here we have a one-two punch of death. First, Ace dies. This was implied at the end of Vol. 58, and it’s heartbreaking, though at least it gives Ace time to bid his brother farewell. Then, two chapters later, Whitebeard falls, having taken so many mortal wounds it boggles the mind. Oda knows how significant these two deaths are, and the weight they get is entirely appropriate.
Unfortunately, their deaths do not end the battle. Akainu is quite happy to keep killing until he runs out of things to kill, and the marines and pirates are almost all filled with bloodlust. (The ones who aren’t are notably the ‘good’ marine characters: Smoker, Tashigi, and Koby.) And for those who’ve been complaining that we’ve only had Luffy from our main cast for the last few volumes… now we don’t even have him. He’s so far gone after his brother’s death that his straw hat falls off and gets left behind. It’s shattering seeing Luffy simply frozen in catatonia. Instead, we get 4-5 chapters of pure chaos, not helped by the arrival of Blackbeard and his crew, who are there to gloat and declare a war of their own.
Honestly a lot of the first half of this book reads almost incoherently at times. I’m not entirely sure if this is deliberate. It’s hard to tell what’s going on, but it certainly gives the feel of being in the midst of a battle like this, where it would indeed be chaotic and incoherent and most soldiers or pirates would be just staring blankly at one event after another while trying not to die. It becomes less of a battle and more of a “rumble”, just with superpowers and a lot more death. To everyone’s surprise, putting a brief stop to it… is Koby! Yes, somehow Koby has found his inner volume control (or is this related to the Haki we saw Luffy use earlier?), and points out how they’ve achieved their objective and are only adding to the pile of bodies. It’s a great moment.
And if you’re going to have one legend go down in defeat, it makes sense to have the fight ended by another legend. Red-Haired Shanks arrives and not only stops a rabid Akainu from killing Koby, but declares the war over, and says anyone who wants to keep going can take on him. Shanks finishes what Koby started – everyone pauses, realizes what they’re doing, and the battle finally stops. As I said in my review of the last volume, it’s a battle that read better in weekly installments than it does in a big volume chunk, but either way it’s hard not to feel relief – this was exhausting.
Lastly, we finally get a flashback telling us the story of Luffy’s past – the one crewmember who had never had one. Needless to say, it’s not a happy and fun one, especially as his “new brother” Ace is acting like a complete asshole towards him. But Luffy is nothing but not stubborn, and we see him starting to win over Ace and his friend Sabo, who hasn’t been mentioned till this point and who screams “dead meat” to me. Of course, no doubt Oda knows this as well. In any case, the flashback will end in Volume 60, and perhaps we’ll finally see the rest of the crew again? They’re doing another speedup, so you can either find it online now for $4.99, or wait a month and get it in January. Still great stuff no matter what you choose, though.