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.