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 of the most obvious things that a reader will pick up on when reading any given volume of One Piece is how much fun Oda must have while creating it. Jump manga in general is very good at showing off the author’s joie de vivre, but Oda in particular makes you think of the title as a giant rollercoaster of pure wow. In particular in this volume, the scenes in the Seducing Woods are amazing, being a combination of childhood dreams of everything being alive and talking to you (including all the sweets you eat), and the horror of everything being alive and talking to you, INCLUDING THE SWEETS YOU EAT. The revelation of how the woods, animals, and everything in Big Mom’s world speak is mind-numbingly horrific, but Oda breezes right by it, content to give us more running around and punching things as a distraction. It works, but in lesser hands this would have been tonally deaf.
Luffy and company are still trying to rescue Sanji, of course, but the woods keep them busy most of the volume, so we’re not there yet. Sanji is not having a good time, though. The rest of his family has arrived, including his father, who is a nasty guy whose skills are also equal to his son, it would seem. Once again, you get the feeling that Sanji could really do some damage if he’d only take the limiters off himself – usually it’s “I won’t fight women”, but here it’s “I’ll never fight using my hands” that’s his handicap, and it’s why he now is wearing exploding handcuffs. There is genuine sadness here as well, though, as we see Sanji’s abusive childhood, and realize why he would much rather think of Zeff as his father figure than this guy who’s willing to barter his “useless” son for political gain.
As for the fights, well, Luffy gets most of the action, as usual, though Nami fares better than she normally has in recent times, using her new Climatact with gusto. The big trump card, though, turns out to be the vivre card she got from Lola back in the Thriller Bark arc – Lola, it turns out, being one of Big Mom’s endless children. I always love it when One Piece manages to tie in a plot point that happened years and years ago, though it does require the reader to be well versed in the lore. She and Luffy also bounce off each other very well – there’s no romance in One Piece, of course, but I can’t imagine LuNa shippers being too upset with what they get here. Carrot and Chopper fare less well, though there are hints that they will be more proactive in the next arc.
Wilol Luffy and company get to Sanji? Will they even meet up with Brook and Pedro, who were the advance guard? And what of Charlotte Pudding, Sanji’s bride, who likes him well enough but seems perfectly willing to let Luffy rescue him. And of course, given Big Mom is one of the Four Emperors, it’s not going to be all that simple, especially given that she can destroy whole towns when she gets hungry. My guess is this arc has a long way to go before it ends. Luckily, it’s One Piece, so we will always be entertained.