One Piece, Vol. 88

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

Ah, it’s *another* one of those “200 pages of fighting” One Piece volumes. As ever, though, there’s stuff we can talk about. Let’s start with Luffy, who spends much of this volume facing off against Katakuri, the seemingly stoic villain who Luffy can’t do anything against… except he can, because Luffy has been analyzing the fight as he goes and figuring out how the powers are being used. The dialogue literally calls out Luffy for being clever, but it’s worth saying out loud, because the reader tends to associate Luffy with the classic dumb shonen hero whose solution to everything is to punch it. And, well, that is still Luffy’s solution some of the time. But training with Rayleigh has forced him to mature and be clever, and it’s finally beginning to pay off here. I also liked his advice to Nami about the mirrors (and seeing how Nami immediately trusted Luffy). Luffy is finally evolving into someone we thing CAN become the Pirate King.

The rest of the cast also seem to be at their best when inspired by Luffy, but of all people to level up and start kicking eight kinds of ass, Carrot is not who I was looking at. Turns out, though, that she’s a were-rabbit of some sort, and when the full moon comes out becomes a combat nightmare. Similar to Chopper, except she’s meant to be badass rather than terrifying, and doesn’t lose her reason. That said, she helps but Big Mom’s pirate crew is HUGE, and they’re still nowhere near being able to escape. This despite the triumphant return of Al Capone…. um, Bege, who not only decides he’s going to rescue his wife but goes out fighting with their baby at his side. It’s ludicrous yet also heartwarming, like the best One Piece moments.

And, I am forced to admit, Sanji is pretty cool in this volume. I’ve talked before about my ambiguous feelings about Sanji, whose “pervert” personality stopped being funny about 75 volumes ago. But here Sanji has to be serious and cool in order to support Oda’s current running gag, which is Pudding’s romantic feelings whenever she sees this. Honestly, I don’t think the two of them are really going to end up together, but if they did, they certainly have a similar vibe, both being made up of one core personality the readers like, and one annoying personality that Oda likes. Also, together they can make an impressive cake, which is good, as Big Mom is still on the warpath, and the lack of sweets seems to be making her smaller and smaller (she’s merely a “very large woman” by the end of the book), though I’m pretty sure she’s just as dangerous. Will they have to abandon the Sunny to get away from her? Either way, I’m pretty sure the arc’s not ending in the next book, so get ready for more fighting, and more of me being able to talk about it anyway. That’s what makes One Piece still good after all this time.

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