One Piece, Vol. 93

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.

Because One Piece has been running for so long, there aren’t a lot of plots that it hasn’t at least taken a glance at along the way. That’s probably why Oda is having so much fun with the time travel angle introduced here, with the long-lost heroes reappearing twenty years later, seemingly the same as before. The eventual beat when they all finally arrive hasn’t happened yet, but we do meet Momonosuke’s little sister, who is now of course a young woman, and also a striking reminder of how Oda loves to contrast ugly men and gorgeous women when he draws. (Or in this case ugly boys.) She’s got a lot going on in this volume, so it’s amusing that the thing I noticed most was Oda mocking shippers in her interactions with the completely sexless Zoro. (To be fair to Zoro, he does get that people would take them sleeping together the wrong way.) And then there’s Toko, which… well, I’ll get to her.

As with previous Wano volumes, the action slips from place to place almost too fast to follow, trying to make sure that everyone gets something to do. This means we get to see Nami and Robin in the baths (and Nami accidentally flashing everyone, which reminds me of her deliberately doing this in Alabasta); Sanji being, well, Sanji; Luffy, still in prison, having to fight off most of the guards one by one for entertainment, and meeting up with an old, seemingly feeble man who of course has a very badass past; and Shopper trying to deal with the fact that he’s now allied with Big Mom, who has lost her memories and thus is bright, cheery and friendly again. Chopper, of course, knows this will only last till her memories return, so spends a lot of the time terrified. (There’s some interesting lettering going on in these scenes to show “girly’ speech – excellent job by Vanessa Satone, the letterer and touch-up person.)

And then we get to the end of the book, where Oda reminds us how well he can have chaos quickly turn to tragedy, with the public execution of Yasu, who turns out to have a secret identity (not a surprise). He’s spent much of the time bopping around the manga dressed up as the stereotypical Japanese jester, with a giant grin on his face. The grin remains even as he’s about to be executed (by firing squad, a particularly dishonorable death in the period that Oda is riffing on here), and there is an explanation of everyone smiling and laughing in the face of tragedy… but then after his death, it turns far too creepy for that to really be the case, especially when his daughter sees his death and can’t stop giggling (as she has the entire book) even as she cries out that her father is dead. The cliffhanger, unfortunately, implies that it may be the One Piece equivalent of drugs at work once more.

So yeah, everything is kind of terrible at the moment. Sure would be nice if we could start a revolution soon. Still, this was a chaotic but solid volume of One Piece, a bit better than the last couple of books.

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.)