By Eiichiro Oda. Released in Japan by Shueisha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Weekly Shonen Jump. Released in North America by Viz.
Let’s get the bad out of the way right off the bat: Rebecca has not remotely lived up to the hopes I had for her as a character. The reunion with her father, with all the overtones of “you should never have been a fighter, I’m so sorry you had to be strong and not a princess that needs protecting” left a bad taste in my mouth, and I’ve given up on it being subverted at this point. Unfortunately, this is not a sentiment that’s unique to One Piece, as we’ve seen it in countless manga and anime before this. I had hoped Oda might avoid it, but no, there it is. Luckily, it’s a low point in an otherwise excellent volume, so let’s talk about the rest of it.
I have occasionally wondered if I praise Usopp too much, but then I wander on to forums and see more people talk about how useless he is, and so therefore I think no, there is not enough praise. Because he’s hella awesome here, taking out Sugar AGAIN with the help of a truly weird power from a minor character and what I believe is actual haki, which we haven’t heard much about since right after the timeskip. We’d seen Coby use it before, but it’s still awesome to see that a power that is basically “I am enforcing my will on reality” can be used not just by the brute force heroes but by support folks like Usopp.
Speaking of which, Robin and Usopp both have small speeches in this volume where they talk about their devotion to Luffy, and it’s worth noting how much of being a pirate captain in One Piece is creating a cult of personality around yourself. Luffy doesn’t do this deliberately, of course, but those who follow him know that he is the one, they one they can dedicate everything they have to protect and serve. It’s even given a parody over the last few volumes with Bartolomeo, whose idolization of the entire Straw Hat crew is a takeoff of the typical fanboy. It’s worth noting that Robin does not denigrate this love the way others have, though (and that she calls him rooster, I love that she still tends to give nicknames to everyone), as she’s a convert as well.
Meanwhile, Luffy and Law (finally out of the seastone cuffs) are ready to face off against Doflamingo, which means that we get two things that One Piece is most famous for – chaotic final battles with lots of punching, and flashbacks to explain a character’s tragic past, this time Law’s. Sure, we also get a bit of Doflamingo’s, which has a bit of a ‘fallen angel’ vibe to it, but Law, with his tragic white lead poisoning and massacre of his entire homeland (hmmm, seems familiar… Doflamingo even points this out, saying complete genocide is a standard World Government tactic) is the one we’re meant to feel bad for. This story leads us to the cliffhanger for this volume, and I suspect will take up the majority of the next. When it finishes, will we be finishing the Dressrosa arc? Don’t hold your breath. But keep reading One Piece anyway.