One Piece, Vol. 74

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

It has to be said, Oda is perfectly fine with repeating himself provided that it makes a good story. And as long as we’re still highly entertained, I think that’s fine. Certainly the Usopp sections of this volume were my favorite part, even if their basic shape felt a little familiar. We see Usopp in over his head, talking about how he’s a hero while having no idea what to do. We see him attempting to run away, only to return because of his guilty conscience. and we see his “victory”, as it’s a truly grotesque face that makes miniboss Sugar pass out and save the day – not unlike what happened with Perona in Thriller Bark. But of course this is how Usopp grows stronger, and I expect big things from him soon. He’s not allowed to start beating up bad guys or anything, due to Oda’s desire to always have that basic ‘type’ on the crew, so you need moments like this.

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Meanwhile, you absolutely need Sugar to pass out, because the danger has been ramped up as Robin was turned into a toy. It actually happens so casually amidst the chaos that it’s a surprise when we see her Raggedy Anne body, and we see her desperation as she realizes that her fate is totally in Usopp’s hands now, even if he doesn’t remember her. The concept of the toys in general, and who they used to be, is a grotesque sort of horror even for Oda, and it’s almost a relief when we finally learn what we’ve suspected for some time now, which is that the Tin Soldier who’s tried to protect Rebecca is in fact her father. As I said, the beats may be similar to other storylines, but they’re good beats.

On the lighter side, Oda has occasionally done mild shout-outs to other Jump artists in the past – I’m thinking of the big giant ‘shock faces’ he’s used from Enel on down, which are a straight rip of Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo – and so I have to think that the minor villain whose minions go on about him being too hardboiled is a reference to Gintama, which sadly I think most readers will miss given its cancellation here in North America. Other than that, though, there’s not a lot of room for humor in this volume. Things are turning even more deadly than before, and our mystery savior who’s helping Luffy by taking his place in the arena can’t even stop to reveal who he really is (we all know who he really is, but let me keep up the pretense.)

This is not a perfect volume – Scarlet’s backstory was rather sexist, something Oda’s at least made attempts to avoid in the past, even though he’s been backsliding a lot lately. And of course, being in the middle of 11 chapters that are just ‘a giant fight happens’, the plot moves forward only incrementally. Still, now that Usopp has scared the bejabbers out of Sugar, we should start to see things get cleared up. Unless of course it leads to even wider chaos. But this is One Piece, what are the chances of that happening?

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