One Piece, Vol. 61

By Eiichiro Oda. Released in Japan by Shueisha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Weekly Shonen Jump. Released in North America by Viz.

There was a joke going around fandom when Chapter 597 first came out in Japan that on the last page it would say “One Piece – end of Prologue.’ It’s not quite that ridiculous, but the timeskip we see does give us a lot to talk about – and finally, FINALLY reunites Luffy with his crew and his ship. It is appropriate that the cover of this volume is a mirror to Volume 1’s cover.

Before the timeskip comes some nice stuff, though. Having seen the crew bolt from their rescuers in order to reunite with their captain and console him after Ace’s death, it’s somewhat odd to see them immediately turn around and go back. It’s handled beautifully, though, with each crew member getting a flashback that shows just how much Luffy impacted their lives. They really would do anything for their captain, and it shows. Luffy, meanwhile, gets to train with Rayleigh on the island of amazingly dangerous animals, and we learn a little bit more about haki – though really, it still amounts to ‘magic charisma’ when you get right down to it.

(I was vaguely irritated that, in the shot of the Supernovas all encountering danger in the new world, Bonney is the one that’s captured and subdued (twice!). Oda is miles ahead of other Jump authors when it comes to his female characters, but they still tend to get into peril when the situation calls for it. Still, I suppose Akainu and Blackbeard menacing, say, Apoo wouldn’t have had quite the same feel.)

Then, as noted, we jump forward two years, and see what our crew is up to as they reunite on Sabaody. This leads us, inevitably, to the Fakehats. It’s not particularly surprising that someone would be trying to imitate Luffy and friends given their amazing reputation – in fact, it’s a wonder we hadn’t seen it before now. But I wasn’t expecting it to be as funny as this is. The Fakehats are gloriously awful, amounting to not even a bad parody of the people they’re trying to imitate. (Naturally, Luffy, Usopp and Chopper are taken in right away – just because there’s a timeskip doesn’t mean that the characters are THAT different. Everyone keeps their comedic flaws.)

As for the actual crew, so far they seem mostly the same. Which is reassuring. Franky has modified his body to look even more ridiculous. Zoro is missing an eye. Luffy has a scar on his chest. Nami has long hair. Usopp is more muscular. Robin has a new hairstyle. And then there’s Sanji. Who now has his hair… covering his other eye! Oda is delightfully deadpan about this in comments, but it’s also a good sign that he’s still enjoying One Piece more than anybody else.

As the Straw Hat Pirates prepare to go to Fishman Island at last, the Marines are coming out in force to stop them. But hey – allies of the pirates (many of whom are former enemies) come out to help, as we get some more great cameos. Hancock was a given (and is still a glorious parody of shippers – Luffy’s constant “I’m not marrying you” is a stitch), but it was a surprise to see Perona show up to lead Zoro to his crew. And hey, she is all grown up! (I totally ship Zoro/Perona, in a ridiculous way.) Luffy and company are ready to pave the way for a new age of pirates – and everyone wants to see them to it. It’s very heartwarming, especially when compared with Rayleigh’s flashbacks of Gold Roger.

And so – at last – we’re headed for Fishman Island and a new arc. Will it top Impel Down and Marineford? Probably not. But that doesn’t really matter. Just having the crew back together again is enough. We’ve seen how Luffy survives without his crew. Now we’re ready to see them work as a unit again. Bring on the next 60 volumes.

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