By Eiichiro Oda. Released in Japan by Shueisha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Weekly Shonen Jump. Released in North America by Viz.
I’m still a big fan of One Piece, but there’s no getting around it: this arc has dragged, and it shows. The chaos that is Dressrosa is starting to be harder and harder to follow, and while that’s clearly meant to mirror what’s going on with the actual participants, it doesn’t make things any easier. Half the Straw Hat crew have been absent for several volumes now. Oda’s constant scene shifting means we barely get to remind ourselves who’s fighting who before we move on to another location. Rebecca continues to be a thing to be protected, with even Nico Robin getting into the mix, much to my chagrin. Worst of all, a lot of things here, particularly the backstory, are things that have been done before and better in earlier volumes. One Piece is 77 volumes now, and I’m afraid it’s starting to repeat itself.
A good example of this is the entire flashback with Corazon and young Law. It’s supposed to be heartwrenching, and there are moments where you are truly horrified by how cynical and awful people in this world can be (I’m thinking of the hospitals Corazon visits to try to cure Law), but it’s hard not to be reminded of other backstories we’ve had before. Other backstories we see to explain silly characters are either too tragic for the silliness (why Senor Pink wears a baby bonnet) or reinforce negative behavior (literally everything about Baby 5, which may be the nadir of this arc). Again, this is the sort of thing that you’ll only see in a long-running series like this, especially one where the ‘tragic backstory’ part of the arc comes regularly like clockwork.
Some stuff worked better. Robin, Cavendish, and Bartolomeo were probably the funniest part of the volume. Robin is a Straw Hat, therefore Oda has exempted her from any romantic issues such as Baby 5 has. She’s therefore able to simply sit back and stare balefully at these two morons trying either to impress her. Cavendish’s multiple personalities come somewhat out of nowhere, but they lead to some amusing situations and don’t feel quite as repetitive as some of the other things we see here. Luffy’s concern about Bellamy, who is pretty much ready to throw away his own life at this point. Characters rarely die in One Piece, so I doubt Bellamy will, but the fact that Luffy is worried shows how desperate the situation is. Oh yes, and Doflamingo remains a thoroughly evil little snake.
There’s a few other things I could mention, such as Oda’s hilariously awful attempts at writing a tsundere character. But for the most part, I really want this arc to be over and the crew to move on. I want to see Nami and Sanji and Chopper and Brook again. I want Luffy to defeat Doflamingo so that I don’t have to keep staring at his face all the time. Most of all, I want something new. Dressrosa is filled with the angry ghosts of One Piece plots of old, and they’re merely pale shrouds of what we know Oda can really do.