One Piece, Vol. 92

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.

When One Piece was a young, relatively new series, ages ago, it was relatively easy to jump right into, with story arcs that rarely bled into each other all that much. Once they arrived in the New World, though, all that has changed, possibly as Oda realized that a 92-volume series is much harder to have people jump right into with no information. As such, storylines have bled together a lot more than they used to. Law is back again, of course, and the rest of the supernovas seem to be following, as when Luffy is thrown into prison midway through this book, he meets up with Kidd, and the two of them seem to be competing to see who can be the most badass prisoner (it’s a tie). There’s drug-running… pardon me, artificial devil fruit running, which Luffy upended by taking down Doflamingo. And of course Big Mom is back, chasing after the Straw Hats, though the cliffhanger suggests she may have a very different role to play this time.

She’s covered up by the 92 (a very unfortunate placement), but I did notice Robin’s expression along with Usopp and Frankie’s was enough to make the cover art this time around. This is nothing new for Usopp and Frankie, but I still tend to remember Robin as being the one who has “normal facial reactions”, as per Oda himself, and so it always startles me whe I see things like this, even though this isn’t the first time she’s overreacted comedically. I guess it’s meant to be a sign that she’s fully integrated into the crew now – or, perhaps more accurately, a sign that Oda no longer sees her as “untouchable”. It helps that she’s not around the rest of the crew – though everyone’s in Wano, several of the cast are still investigating on their own, which allows Robin to try to be a spy (unsuccessfully), Nami to try to be a ninja (semi-successfully), and Frankie to play a wonderful game of “who’s got the plans?” that goes nowhere.

And then there’s Sanji, who I have discussed many times before. There is a bit of his “I only care about women” behavior here as he runs his soba stand and leers at Robin as a geisha, but once the mob moves in and he has to actually defend people he turns into the cool Sanji that women might actually be attracted to if he could stop being an eternal perv around them. Speaking of which, I found it amusing that one of my least favorite parts of Thriller Bark – Sanji yelling about losing his dream of turning invisible so he could spy on naked women all the time – is seen in a flashback here, as he puts on a superhero suit (no, really, it’s literally that) to fight, because once again he’s the one whose identity is still unknown. And this also ties in with his family as well, showing that self-contained arcs really are in the past now.

The cliffhanger involving Big Mom is quite interesting, and I will not be at all surprised if she and our heroes now team up in some way (because why else give her amnesia?). Till then, enjoy a volume of One Piece that is a bit less chaotic than most of the recent ones, but still excellent.

One Piece, Vol. 91

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.

Oda is very fond of writing chaotic scenes, and the last few arcs have all consisted of “start slow, then work to lots of chaos’. But the period of slow starts is decreasing, and we’re barely halfway into this volume before Luffy, reuniting with Zoro, is doing things at his own pace and upturning everything, mostly as we’re present in another country where evil bad guys are lording it over everyone while the poor and downtrodden starve. And, let’s face it, beating up those evil bad guys doesn’t really get old. It is worth noting, though, that Luffy has matured a great deal since the start of the series, and particularly in the last few arcs. Sure, he still doesn’t listen to anyone and does his own thing, and He’s still happy-go-lucky, but his reaction to Otama’s condition and the state of the country itself show a maturity that I really like seeing in him. You’re starting to see him turn into someone who CAN be the Pirate King.

This is the first time in ages that we’ve had the entire Straw Hat crew assembled, but aside from Zoro, the rest of the “missing” crew from the last few books remain missing here. But that doesn’t mean we’re not making new friends and introducing old ones. Otama is the cute and spunky little girl who made a promise with Ace years ago and now finds that Ace isn’t able to fulfill it. But that’s why Luffy is here. There’s also Okiku (get used to the O- prefix), a samurai who is gorgeous and also really tall, but does not let that get in the way of excellent sword skills and wanting to protect people. Trafalgar Law is around, still trying to achieve things quietly and sanely and still running into Luffy making that impossible. And we also have Basil Hawkins,k the fortune-telling pirate who seems to be working for the bad guys here, and who briefly gives Luffy and Zoro a run for their money till the cards say they get away.

And there are also some classic Oda scenes here. For everyone who thinks that the man is losing his touch, I urge you to take a peek at Holdem, a member of the Animal Kingdom Pirates who has a living Lion Head on his stomach, and the fact that the lion head proceeds to, when annoyed, punch Holdem in the nuts… forgetting that they are also the lion’s own nuts. That sort of goofy, juvenile gag requires a fantastic imagination. And it’s not just used for gags. The revelation towards the end of the volume as to the fate of Kin’emon and his compatriots, and where they really come from, is the sort of thing that you might protest breaks the story a bit if it weren’t handled with the deftest touch. And yes, there’s also Kaido, who really deserves that cliffhanger with an amazing two-page spread appearance showing off “I am the villain” vibes.

91 volumes in, One Piece has started a new arc that has me riveted already. I wonder how many volumes it will be? (Answer: many, many volumes.)

One Piece, Vol. 90

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.

One Piece is ninety volumes long over here, in case you missed the title of the review. And it’s been running in Japan for twenty-two years, meaning many parents who started reading it in East Blue are having their kids pick it up with Cake Island. And while Oda tries his best to make everything accessible to casual readers, he really has his work cut out for him with this book, which sees the country’s leaders from all over the land get together for a meeting. The Celestial Dragons will be there… wait, who were they again? And Wapol’s back! … wait, who was he again? Even Oda knows that we can’t really recall everyone in every single volume. As result, not only does each chapter have ‘recap’ panels reminding us who these people are, there’s also an inserted 7-page ‘guidebook’ style entry going into even greater detail. You can’t tell the players without a scorecard. Especially since Oda seems to be reintroducing EVERYONE.

Of course, some characters don’t really need reintroduction, either because they’re still relatively new (Rebecca), hard to miss (Princess Shirahoshi), or iconic (Vivi). There’s an amusing scene where they all talk about how much Luffy did for all of them, and more people fall over themselves to talk about what a debt they owe the Straw Hats. Of course, not everyone reintroduced is a good guy. I mentioned Wapol before, though honestly he doesn’t seem that bad anymore, and I think is merely there to face off against Dalton and Kureha. No, I’m talking about the Celestial Dragons, particularly Stelly, the bratty kid who ruined Sabo’s childhood, who is now an even brattier adult. And of course there are the five elderly guys who run everything, who we rarely see but whenever we do it isn’t good. Worst of all, though, is the Dragon who appears riding Bartholomew Kuma like a mount. Sabo won’t take that lying down, and neither will Bonney, who’s infiltrated the party.

That said, it may be a while till we get back to this meeting, as we also have the Straw Hats, who have finally escaped from Big Mom, at least for the moment. Sadly, they’re without Jimbei, who has to stay behind to hold off the enemy, but he does resolve to join them soon, and I think we can safely say he’s a new crew member. And then we go off to the country of Wano, which allows Oda to bring out every single Meiji period cliche that he can. It also allows us to catch up with the cast who’ve been missing for a long, long time. Some are doing what they’ve always done (Franky is a carpenter, Usppp is lying), some are taking on tough new roles (Robin is a geisha), and some are… being executed? Well, at least they try to convince Zoro to commit suicide for the “crimes” he’s committed. It goes about as well as you’d expect.

So we’re kicking off a new arc, and Luffy seems to be once more separated from everyone else after the ship runs aground on the shore of an uncharted desert isle… wait, no, runs aground in Wano Country. What happens next? And when will we get back to Vivi and company?