One Piece 53

Eiichiro Oda – Viz – 2010 – 66+ volumes

Man. I really need to catch up with this, because every volume is amazing. The first chapter of this volume in particular features the entire crew of the Straw Hat Pirates getting wiped out singlehandedly by Bartholomew Kuma. Seriously?! That was quite intense, especially in such an upbeat series like this. But it serves a purpose.

Meanwhile, Luffy shows up on the island of Amazon Lily. Amazon Lily is in the Calm Belt, and is populated only by women that have never seen a man before. Oda puts a lot of love in this island, and goes over in great detail that women can do all the jobs of men, and that strength is prized above beauty. He draws women in all shapes and sizes too, which I thought was the best part. Or maybe that was all the jokes the characters made while they were trying to clean up Luffy. I suppose it depends on how low class you want your jokes to be. I like them all.

The women try to kill Luffy before their Princess gets back. They’re too late, though, and the three Boa sisters, led by Boa Hancock, show up in grand style. As usual, Boa Hancock is an awesome character, and could star in her own series. She’s bratty and spoiled, and doesn’t listen to anybody. Not to the World Government, not to her elders, and certainly not to anybody else. She does what she wants, and everybody bows to her various whims. Because she’s beautiful. She actually makes this point several times. It’s great. I know that goes against what I said about Amazon Lily earlier, but it’s still funny. Hancock also does this thing where she looks down so low on you that she bends over backwards and stares at the ceiling. I don’t know. That’s just why Oda’s great.

Anyway, Luffy sees something he shouldn’t, and Boa puts him to death. Of course, that doesn’t work since he’s Luffy, and things get turned around and he makes friends with the Boa sisters. This leads into some backstory about the slaves of Mariejoa, and a little bit about a famous band of Fishman pirates. But mostly, this goes back to Ace, and we find out that we’re taking a side trip from rescuing the Straw Hat crew to go see Ace. Impel Down! I can’t wait!

And, as usual, I don’t have anything really critical or constructive to say about these. Oda is the best when he’s creating little side worlds like this, and I have a feeling that this one volume might be all we get to see of Amazon Lily. It’s a place he fills with good ideas that are simply going to be left behind, and he just runs with it. These are really the best parts of One Piece. Well, that and things like the SBS corner where he suggests that Kuma is making a bored face because he’s reading the Davy Back Fight arc. And Luffy, making friends with everybody.

Who am I kidding. It’s all good. If you’ve read this far, it’s probably because you love One Piece and already know how brilliant it is. It’s the absolute best.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.


One Piece 52

Eiichiro Oda – Viz – 2010 – 67+ volumes

It has been a shamefully long time since I’ve read a volume of this, and it’s one of my top three favorite manga series of all time. The reason is that I’m a terrible person and spoiled myself on the ending of this story arc. But now that I know the ending to the Fishman Island story arc is coming, I need to start reading from where I left off. Which would be Sabaody. So here we are.

I’m out of practice in offering commentary on something I like this much, unfortunately, and this is a bad volume to jump in at. This is one solid action scene, from cover to cover, but it jumps between different characters and venues, and for different reasons. It starts with the Straw Hat Pirates busting up the slave auctions and freeing Cammy, then turns into a fight between the three top bounty rookie pirates vs. the Marines, then Admiral Kizaru, then mecha-Kuma, then real Kuma. All of it is fantastic. This volume is a little much since it’s throwing around so many new characters (the rookie pirates, Silvers Rayleigh, and the Admiral Kizaru are all new, and we have to figure out how they’re fighting), but I imagine it’ll all be sorted in a volume or two. The fights are all super-interesting though, since One Piece’s devil fruit powers are a bit more zany and organic than most other fighting systems in volume 52 of a shounen manga. It’s chaos, and can be a bit hard to follow, but it’s still a lot of fun.

The story ends with Kizaru and mecha-Kuma/Kuma. I think we’ll be taking a minute with both of these characters to learn more about them and their fighting styles, which will be great since Kuma’s such a mystery. Also, though he goes up against the Straw Hats, I can’t help but like Kizaru. So laid-back!

I can’t complain too much about all the fighting, since there’s also a chapter of flashback/explanation with Silvers Rayleigh relating the history of Gol D. Rodger. More of it than we’ve received since the beginning of the series. His spin on the modern age of pirates, the immortality of Gol D. Rodger, and the new age that is upon the rookies, is all very interesting, and is probably a good thing to keep in mind as the story moves forward here. So even with all the crazy fighting, we learn more about the mysterious mission and the plot of the series than we have for the last 50 or so volumes. Silvers Rayleigh knows about everything.

One thing we do not learn about is the One Piece. Luffy is most adamant about that, and it was one of those in-character moments that One Piece does so well that made me smile. Also wrapped up in the explanation is the fact that the Gol D. Rodger pirates were friends with the same lighthouse keeper that Luffy and the Straw Hats met back in volume 12, the same one that Brook’s pirate crew left their whale with so long ago.

Aaah, Brook. Still my favorite. I love that his height changes dramatically from very tall to freakish, but most normal-size people seem to come up to his waist. His skull jokes will also never not be funny.

The volume ends with a pretty serious face-off against Kuma. It carries over into volume 53, but I have a feeling this is going to be hard to watch.

So, yeah. Basically, this is still the best shounen manga ever. This and Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.


One Piece 51

Eiichiro Oda – Viz – 2010 – 62+ volumes

It’s been awhile since I’ve read this! Truth be told, I was putting off reading this volume specifically. It’s depressing. Still good, mostly exposition, but depressing exposition all the same.

There are some pretty choice scenes that aren’t depressing though, and that’s what makes it great. The Straw Hats go up against the Flying Fish Riders and their leader, Duval. Duval has… a problem with one of the Straw Hat pirates. A problem that stays under wraps for several chapters. When his beef is revealed… it’s a terrible, terrible joke that made me laugh very hard. After his situation is resolved, his personality made me laugh even harder.

After that situation is taken care of, the Straw Hats go with Hachi, Camie, and Pappagu to explore Sabaody Archipelago. It’s a mangrove island chain with a unique bubble system for everything. The Straw Hats exploring fun new areas are some of my favorite parts of the series, and watching Luffy, Brooke, Chopper, and Camie have fun at the amusement park and riding around on bubble bikes was both funny and, once again, amazing on some level since Oda is just so skilled at inventing new areas and letting his characters have fun in them. The man is a genius.

The depressing bits also happen on Sabaody. Luffy and crew are looking for a man that can give their ship a coating that will allow them to dive the 30,000 feet underwater to Fish Man island. Along the way, they run across and avoid the Celestial Dragons, a race of humans descended from the men who formed the World Government. They keep all races of people as slaves, anyone who they pass on the street is required to bow down to them, and the scene that introduces them goes so far as to blow a slave up, have a pet dog pee on his remains, dump a critically injured man on a stretcher, then shoot the doctor that dared cross his path. These are bad people, and their every action is protected by the World Government.

And… well, Camie is captured as a slave. It’s not hard to see coming, since they talk about the danger constantly, and she thanks the Straw Hat pirates again and again for giving her the opportunity to have more fun than she could ever remember (she wouldn’t normally go to Sabaody because of the risk). But it happens. And the Straw Hats have to deal with it, since both slavery and the actions of the Celestial Dragons are protected in Sabaody.

It’s depressing. And it gets more depressing before it gets better. But it’s also not without its amazing sense of humor, which is the true beauty of One Piece.


One Piece 50

Eiichiro Oda – Viz – 2010 – 58+ volumes

It upset me when I realized that the Straw Hat Pirates had only hit the halfway point, the Red Line, in volume 50. I think I had assumed the milestone had gone uncelebrated, or perhaps unnoticed up in the sky. Sigh. Not that I couldn’t go for 50 more volumes of One Piece. That’s just… a long time to wait to see how things turn out.

This is my favorite volume of the series. Period. There are some that come close, and some that are better, but the second half of this volume puts it over the top as far as I’m concerned.

The first half is a little… well, the battle with Gecko Moria is drug out longer than is strictly necessary, and the accidental ending is anti-climactic, but it’s saved by the fact that the characters without shadows very nearly burn away in the rays of the sun before everything is said and done. Those scenes were downright scary, even knowing that none of them were very likely to die in such an underwhelming way.

But once Gecko Moria is dispatched, Bartholomew Kuma shows up and wants a fight. Now, he’s one of the Seven Warlords, and it’s interesting that he’s there, and his powers are pretty extreme… but I did not want to sit through another long fight at this point in the story. Zoro takes over, and this last for a handful of chapters. This is a good time for Zoro, though, since we find out just how selfless he really is. His devotion is quite touching, and it’s a soft spot for an otherwise very tough character.

Then the celebration really begins. There’s lots of food and dancing and whatnot, but with Brook, there is also music.

And Brook’s backstory, which is why this is my favorite.

The content of Brook’s backstory is irrelevant. What makes it better than everyone else’s sad pasts is that Brook has lived his lifetime and died. He was 38 when he passed away, and that was 50 years ago. His death did not occur under happy circumstances, and in the 50 years that followed, he drifted around by himself in the Florian Triangle in a ship full of nothing but corpses (himself included. Yo ho ho ho). The sad part of the story was the whole Laboon thing, but to me, that seemed secondary to the fact that Brook actually died. The scene at the very end broke my heart, which was a song called “Bink’s Brew,” which was sung while cutting between three time periods: Brook singing his last song while alive with his crewmates, Brook singing it by himself while drifting around in his ghost ship, and everyone at the celebration party singing it along with Brook.

My favorite moment in the series so far, perhaps, lies elsewhere. But this is my favorite volume. And it’s volume 50. It’s just… so hard for me to believe that this series is so consistently good after running for so long.


One Piece 49

Eiichiro Oda – Viz – 2010 – 58+ volumes

I loved the strategy here, where instead of having the crewmembers take on individual foes that matched their own strengths, they all teamed up to fight Oars. This was probably a bit too long (it was almost the entire volume), and a pretty typical “waste time before Luffy comes in to blow the bad guy away” strategy, but I have to admit that I was not at all tired of it. They kept trying individual strategies as well as group attacks, and there were so many different strategies, along with a huge number of dodges from Oars (especially when Gecko Moria joins this battle). For every special docking strategy, Oars is right behind them with the magical ability to make his body stretch like rubber.

The rubber Oars was my only real point of contention with this volume. There was an explanation that this was part of Gecko Moria’s shadow manipulation powers, but really, if Oars’ body isn’t made of rubber, wouldn’t that just destroy his bones and muscles? He doesn’t feel pain, but he shouldn’t be able to move around after that.

Part of me hopes that someone asks about it in a future SBS corner.

But seriously. The docking technique. Not only was that amazing by itself, but Robin was just so appalled. “Don’t you ever ask to ‘dock’ with me again.” Franky and Usopp were right, though, Luffy would have been disappointed. Another great bit was when Brook showed up and Usopp got mad when he claimed that drinking milk healed him instantly because calcium fixes broken bones.

There was a lot of other stuff here… Absalom’s wedding to Nami, Perona’s escape, Bartholomew Kuma, Nightmare Luffy… Even with most of the action stolen by Oars, lots of things are still playing out. Luffy’s end-game strategy involves absorbing 100 shadows to collect the abilities of all those people for ten minutes, which turns him into a scary monster on par with Oars. Bartholomew Kuma, another one of the Seven Warlords of the Sea, shows up to warn Moria that the World Government won’t tolerate another Warlord defeated at the hands of Luffy. He also works some of his bizarre magic, something that will remain a mystery for a bit.

The final battle does the typical One Piece thing of ending, then having the bad guy stand back up, then ending again, then having yet another bad guy stand up and pull out an impossible-to-defeat trump card, something that needs to be taken care of in a matter of seconds or else everyone will be dissolved by the sunlight. I know and you know where this is going, but all the same, One Piece always makes it a fun ride.


One Piece 48

Eiichiro Oda – Viz – 2010 – 57+ volumes

This is the last volume until the next set of five.  It kills me a little bit to have to wait until the end of Thriller Bark, but on the other hand, if I had all of that story at once, would I even need any more volumes after that?

It really is that good.  After the battles of pure strength that were fought against CP9, Thriller Bark turns to more character-oriented battles, and they are really, really entertaining.  Aside from Brook, my favorite part of the entire Thriller Bark story is Usopp’s battle with Perona in this volume.  Usopp will never, ever have a better battle than this.  It is, for sure, his finest moment.  That this trumps even his scene on Enies Lobby where he was the only one that could help save Robin says something about this fight.  It really is spectacular.

So, Perona’s power is that she can generate ghosts that can suck all the positive feelings from a person and make them lose their will to fight.  And live, for that matter.  It’s a crippling handicap, because all she needs to do is hit each member of the Straw Hat crew with one of these ghosts, and a weak zombie can carry off even the strongest member of the crew.

But Usopp is more than a match for her.  Usopp… Usopp has no positive feelings.  The ghosts don’t affect his will to fight, because he’s already such a negative person.  Thus, Usopp is the only one that can keep Perona and her ghosts at bay so that the others can fight the more terrifying inhabitants of Thriller Bark.  I love the two-page spread when this is unveiled, because not only is he 100% confident in his negativity, Perona gets to make a really weird face, and the zombies feel so bad that they try and cheer him up.  And this is just the beginning of the fight!  Usopp gets to use all the tricks in his arsenal to go up against Perona.  This fight uses absolutely everything good about Usopp.  It really is awesome.  Better, even, than the swordfight Zoro has with Samurai Ryuma later, which is so unremarkable that it only lasts for about a chapter.

Another good fight is with Sanji and Absalom.  Sanji is angry because Absalom is trying to marry Nami, but he also has a personal grudge.  Absalom and Sanji are made from the same mold.  Not only are both comically obsessed with Nami, but both covet the power of Absalom’s clear-clear fruit, and both would (or do) use it for the same purpose.  The two do fight in the sense that they exchange blows, but it’s really all about those zombies that are watching and boggling over what hardcore perverts both of the men are.  The fight is periodically interrupted by the same gaping zombie face commenting on this.  It’s great.

What else… hm, I think Oars is running around the island?  Oars is Luffy’s zombie, and he’s enormous and very powerful.  He has little interest in becoming anything but the King of Pirates, though.  With Oars not an immediate threat, Luffy confronts Gecko Moria, who has no interest in fighting.  Their conversation is more interesting than their fight, and I like the fact that Luffy can walk up and talk to anyone he pleases and have an actual conversation, including one of the Seven Warlords of the Sea.

There’s also a fight with Hogback and Chopper.  Chopper talks a lot about what makes a good doctor and why Hogback has failed, and I think this would be a pretty fantastic fight in any other context since Chopper rarely gets to act so cool, but it doesn’t quite compare to the Sanji and Usopp battles.

I am a little disappointed that only long-established members of the crew get special battles to highlight their characters.  Franky gets to hold Brook’s head as the two of them watch Zoro fight, and Robin only gets to help Chopper.  To be fair, Nami doesn’t get one either, but she is the subject of one of the fights, too.  Both Franky and Robin are doing pretty spectacular things to help the crew whenever possible, but even so, it would have been a good opportunity.  Some other time.


One Piece 47

Eiichiro Oda – Viz – 2010 – 57+ volumes

Lots and lots and lots of zombie fights in this volume, which is fine by me.  We are also introduced to Gecko Moria, one of the Seven Warlords of the Sea, and his powers.  His devil fruit abilities don’t seem terribly useful until you pair him with Dr. Hogback, which is what makes this story arc so interesting.  It’s similar to the situation with Crocodile, where Crocodile found a place where he could flourish and exploit his power, but Gecko Moria’s powers are a little more… exotic and sinister.  Gecko Moria also has a much more grand plan than Crocodile did.  Also, Geko Moria is huge.  Not a giant, but still quite big.

Anyway, we find out exactly what Dr. Hogback and Gecko Moria are doing on the Thriller Bark, where all the Straw Hats are disappearing to, and what the deal with the disappearing shadows and zombie army is.  One of the more unlikely things, that all the strongest members of the Straw Hats got taken while Nami, Usopp, and Chopper remain at large, is also explained.  Surprisingly, by an enormous zombie spider that Franky and Robin fight.  Those two make for a surprisingly good team since Franky is so over-the-top and Robin is so straight.

We also find out the deal with Brook, what happened when he got his shadow taken on the island, and what his “dream” is.  Brook’s story is super-sad, and it gets even sadder later.  I mean… he died, and so did all his friends.  But Brook’s dream was one of the things that made me really snap to attention and take a close look at One Piece and all its loose plot threads.  Eiichiro Oda really does plan on coming back to all that stuff later, and I can’t believe he had the plans for Brook in place as early as… volume 10 or 12?  Usually manga series that have gone on this long build on themselves and (I suspect) make up a lot of stuff as they go based on what’s popular.  It pleases me immensely that One Piece is so tightly scripted.

I’ve got one more volume before I have to wait for the next batch of five.  I’m devastated that Thriller Bark is interrupted in the middle, but I’m willing to wait for more Brook.  Always.  I know he will reward my patience with a cute song and a terrible, terrible pun.  I mean, seriously.  Not only is he a skeleton, he’s a skeleton that tells the absolute worst jokes.  About being a skeleton.  And enjoys telling said bad jokes immensely.  Even when he’s serious, he interrupts his narratives with frequent “skull jokes.”

He’s the best manga character ever.  I’m sorry, Monkey D. Luffy, you’re just not as novel as Brook is.


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