By Eiichiro Oda. Released in Japan by Shueisha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Weekly Shonen Jump. Released in North America by Viz.
It’s worth noting, when reading this volume of One Piece, how much fun Oda is clearly having writing every single chapter. His simple joy in drawing all this crazy stuff comes out from the page and just overflows into your brain. Be it giant slime monsters clearly based off of video games in his youth, the bodyswap continuing to humiliate Nami and Sanji (and ending at just about the right time so it doesn’t get old), or even our heroes happily commenting on how Luffy and Smoker are locked up in another seastone cage again, just like Alabasta! (Bonus points for it being Robin commenting, who was a villain at that point.) This manga is what happy feels like.
Of course, it’s not all fun and games – or rather, the fun and games continues to be contrasted with the atrocities that Caesar Clown is committing. Drug addict giant toddlers, poison gas corpses that look like something out of Edvard Munch, and Luffy getting completely punked in his first fight with Caesar, despite his supposed poison immunity… this is not simply a walk in the park the way other arcs have felt. We even have yet another mole for the bad guy who’s a Vice-Admiral with the Marines (and, Oda-style, has a hamburger affixed to his cheek. As he forgot it was there.)
We also see Kidd and some of the other Supernovas meeting to discuss Caesar Clown’s offer, and it reminds me of something that Oda has been showing us again and again: anyone with power in this world is highly likely to be evil or insane. Luffy and company are one of the few non-evil pirate crews, and, fittingly, Smoker and Tashigi’s group are one of the few non-evil Marine crews. When you live in a world like One Piece’s, with so much raw power out there to abuse, you run into people who will do all they can to hold onto it.
Luckily, our heroes are strong, and can’t be kept down for long. Everyone has their own bodies again, and Kin’emon, the samurai, has his full body back (and is really quite tall now). What’s more, Luffy and Law have formed an alliance! I suspect that Law will rapidly come to regret allying himself with Luffy and company, which to a certain degree involves throwing your self-image out the window and giving in to the goofy. I am amused that once again Luffy says, when being informed of a plan, “Yeah, OK, I got it”, and then merrily go off to punch things again. It’s not something anyone can stop at this point.
If there’s something that feels slightly dissatisfying here, it’s that Caesar Clown doesn’t feel like a big bad. He’s pretty scummy, and I’ll enjoy seeing him defeated, but the revelation that there’s someone behind him who’s the real mastermind makes a lot more sense, and as a reader, I’d really like to leap ahead to that battle. Till then, though, One Piece continues to go where it wants to with unlimited joy.