Thursday, September 21, 2017

One Piece vol. 21 - Utopia

Love line-ups like this. It's especially good because volume 22 has the Straw Hats, facing against them.

Who ever said One Piece doesn't have the best fights out of the Big Three!? Let them read this volume and shut their mouth. Last volume gave us a clever 2v2 match, but this one is all about three 1v1 affairs.

First up is Sanji vs Mr. 2, as teased by the end of the previous volume. There's a bit of gimmick, as Mr. 2 uses his powers to change appearances so he looks like Nami, whom Sanji finds himself unable to fight (hilariously, Mr. 2 first tries looking like Usopp, but Sanji has no problem kicking that face in). Sanji overcomes this by exploiting the fact that Mr. 2 has to transform back into his actual form to attack, so there's a window of opportunity to stuff that attack before it comes out. Footsies!

Sanji's eye bugging out like he's in a Tex Avery cartoon is apparently actually happening, given that Mr. 2 can chop it. Maybe he should get that looked at.
Mr. 2 also throws his eyelashes like boomerangs, and sticks his ornamental swans on his toes to extend his reach and give him more piercing power, but mostly it's just the two of them trading devastating kicks. I think it's cool how evenly-matched they are at this, but it's not like they both "went to the same school of kicks" or anything, doesn't beat you over the head with any "khg... he's just like me!" crap, they're just two kick-based fighters. They independently came up with the idea to do a hand-stand and kick a bunch, why wouldn't they?

It's almost Sanji's specialty to just get on a roll and lay down a combo. You can't let that boy get any momentum, or you're done.
I do gotta say, I'm not a fan of Sanji calling out the names for every single one of his attacks. I get that they're all French/food puns, often relating to the area of the body he's targeting, but honestly it just clutters the page and I skip over it when I'm reading. Not every single kick has to have a name, dude. Sometimes a kick is just a kick. Save it for the actually impressive stuff.

Notice how Mr. 2 didn't get hit by that kick in the top right, because his swan gave him the reach advantage.

On the other hand, let's talk about Mr. 2's "Oh Come My Way Karate". See, as the text on his jacket reads, Mr. 2 is an okama. This is Japanese slang for a gay man, or transvestite, sometimes implying transsexual. As you might expect, it's not very polite, and localizing it as a slur like "tranny" or "homo" might be proper in some cases. On the other hand, there are some elements of the gay community in Japan who use the term themselves, so it's not always offensive. Maybe "queer" is the best translation? Look, gender politics is a hell of a thing, especially in Japan.

Anyway, Mr. 2 practices Okama-do, or "The Way of the Okama", much like kendo is "The Way of the Sword". So you take "Okama Way", and turn it into "Oh Come My Way". It sort of works, in the sense that "Oh come my way" sounds like a flirty, stereotypical flamboyant thing to say. And it's certainly better than confusing readers with Japanese slang, or trying to navigate the perilous waters of how offensive you want to be with your slurs.

It's an odd point, because while Oda definitely uses it for comedic value (he clearly thinks crossdressing and men acting effeminate is hilarious), it doesn't seem malicious? I mean, other characters act even sillier than Mr. 2, it's not like he's the only weirdo. And then he's also made out to be a badass fighter with a strong, loyal heart, and eventually returns for some truly heroic scenes. Later, Oda introduces other okama characters, and they're mostly portrayed as the good guys, too. But also Sanji has a major case of gay panic, and they essentially molest him, and wew guys it's complicated. At least you never get the sense Oda thinks being gay (or cross-dressing) is morally wrong, he just thinks it's silly.

See, Japanese culture isn't nearly in the same space as the U.S. when it comes to "hey, maybe don't make fun of gay people all the time?", and you know we aren't even that consistent on that one, so it's tempting to just blame the culture, instead of Oda himself. But maybe he should know better? On the other hand, maybe by putting queer characters in his story at all, and portraying them as heroes despite their goofy antics, that's a good thing? I don't know how the actual okama of Japan think about their representation in One Piece.

But I do know that Mr. 2 is one of the best characters in the whole damn series.

Man, woman, swan, whatever - you know you're cool when you trade kung-fu kicks in the air like this

Enough of that, let's move on to the next fight, which is actually Nami's first proper one in the series. She's not nearly as combat-oriented as Luffy, Zoro, or Sanji, so she often draws the short stick and doesn't get a fight. Which is fine, since she plays a crucial support role, but she actually has a very interesting moveset, thanks to the clima-tact.

Don't worry, it's an illusion. Don't worry, Nami's the only one in the series who uses them. This isn't about to turn into Naruto or Reborn.

Most of this fight consists of Nami just running away, as she tries to figure out Usopp's instructions on how to get the damn thing to work. Ms. Double-Finger graciously gives Nami plenty of time to work, which is a little odd, considering she's a top assassin. I can explain it away as she doesn't think Nami's a threat at all, nor does she think her partner Mr. 1 will have any trouble with Zoro, so she's in no rush. Also, Nami is just really good at dodging. She is the thief of the party, remember. So it's not too crazy that she can just evade attacks for a good while, even from an expert opponent.

That's right, boob spikes. And lip spikes. This is what people mean when they say One Piece is "unique".

Now, let me explain Ms. Double-Finger's name. It's a reference to New Year's Day, or January 1st, which would be written 1/1. Two fingers, see? Yeah, nobody else did, either. Oda had to explain it in an SBS column. All the female agents of Baroque Works are named after days of the week (hence why Vivi was codenamed Ms. Wednesday), and the senior agents are named after holidays (Ms. Merry Christmas, Ms. Valentine, etc). Ms. Goldenweek is a reference to the Japanese period known as Golden Week, in early May, where like a million holidays happen in a row and everything just shuts down and all the weekly Manga take a break and it sucks. Okay, maybe there's only three holidays, but still. They shut down for New Year's, too. It's annoying, how dare those people spend time with their families instead of slaving away to bring me the manga I crave!!

Oh, and Robin's name of Ms. All-Sunday is just for "all the Sundays in the year", I guess.

something something skipping leg day

While Nami tries to get her weapon working, her opponent tries to kill her with a series of creative attacks. Ms. Double-Finger's devil fruit lets her turn her body into spikes, and a regular author would have just given her spear-fingers and called it a day, like Lust from FMA. But Oda is not a regular author (neither is Arakawa, to be fair), so he just goes crazy with it. Spike fingers, spike bracelets, spike breasts, spike lips, spike hair, spike high-heels, turning your whole body into a sea urchin and rolling around like Sonic the Hedgehog, punching holes in a wall then tearing through the wall along the perforations, giving yourself acupuncture to somehow buff up your arms then making spikes on those arms and smashing things, it's insane.

I hope Nami only stepped so that the spikes are just going through her foot, can you imagine one just going in through your heel and right up the inside of your shin? uuughgh

This sort of creativity with powers is what makes One Piece so fun, and the fights so entertaining. The characters don't just have one or two moves they spam, or spend most of the time engaging in generic hand-to-hand combat. They're constantly pulling new ones out of a hat, at a rate that it doesn't feel like asspulls. Everybody just has a deep movelist! (side note: I hope ArcSys does a One Piece fighting game in the style of Dragon Ball FighterZ next) Compare Luffy's assortment of moves to Ichigo, who basically only has one proper attack, as far as I can recall. The rest is just poorly-conveyed sword fighting and teleport-flying. Even a series like Dragon Ball, which does have good fights and multiple techniques, mostly it's just different sorts of beams they shoot. To me, the inventiveness and full exploration of powers found in One Piece is much more interesting.

It takes another attack to put Ms. Double-Finger away, but I like this one better. Nami gets more mileage out of setting up electricity combos than than the Tornado Tempo, anyway.

Finally, it's Zoro's turn. While the other fights have had their share of gags, this one is all serious. It's also a little different in that there's less strategy going on, or figuring out how to turn the tides, because from the start the point is clear - Zoro cannot cut Mr. 1. And while he strings together a lot of cool moves, nothing sticks, nothing does any damage.

notably the first time an Oni-Giri didn't finish off an opponent.

love the follow-through on Zoro's pose in mid-air

Like his partner, Mr. 1 takes full advantage of being a "human blade".

goddamn that slide along the sword-leg, right up into the jaw is satisfying. I can imagine the sound perfectly

This would've killed a normal person. Zoro ain't messin' around here.

However, it's eventually Mr. 1's turn to go on the offensive, and he spirals blades around his arms like a drill and really jacks Zoro up. Poor guy loses a ton of blood, and it's hard to believe he's not eviscerated at this point. It's definitely the closest to death he's gotten since losing to Mihawk.

I keep having to say it, but One Piece is fairly violent. 4Kids really had no idea what they were getting into.

However, Zoro made an oath after that loss, and he's not about to lose again. In the following pages, I like two things: first, the continual refusal to take wounds on the back, "a swordsman's shame". It's nice continuity with that Mihawk fight, and a strong reaffirmation of Zoro's character. Even when losing, he doesn't want to be dishonored.

Secondly, in the other page, that little "I'm having bad luck with stone today" is great because it's exactly the sort of semi-coherent thing that goes through your mind when something terrible is happening. Zoroe's so out of it from the trauma and blood loss all his brain can think when it sees the rubble falling is "oh, bad luck huh..." No fear, rage, sadness - it's just all empty. I like it when a character's last words/thoughts before they die are something mundane like that.

How does he cut the pillar without cutting literally all the way through Zoro?

However, Zoro doesn't die, because of course he doesn't. Perhaps the near-death, empty-mind thing was just the right state of mind he needed to be in to unlock the secrets of cutting steel. Again, his thoughts are elsewhere, with his friends. He's mentally removed from the fight, emotionally at peace.

They say he gets stronger the more blood he loses.

Finally, Zoro takes out Mr. 1 in a single blow. Unlike the other fights, which featured one character figuring out a tactic to overcome the other's gimmick, this one is more of a Shonen cliche and Zoro just kinda developed the WILLPOWER to get stronger mid-fight. But I don't hate it! In fact, I love this fight!

See, the difference between this, and a generic Shonen fight is that the victory feels earned. Zoro doesn't suddenly well up with "gotta fight for my friends!" and win, instead it's something more subtle than that - he begins to hear the "breathing" of the plants, the stone, his sword, the steel. There's a little flashback where he recalls his master telling him that a truly great swordsman can cut anything, or nothing at all. He wills the sword to his purpose. And Zoro does that, slashing through a palm leaf without cutting it, and effortlessly slicing a boulder like it were butter, before turning his blade to Mr. 1.

So yes, it's kinda bullshit. He couldn't cut steel before, now he can. Physics don't work that way, his swords would either break or cut it, blah blah. It's a manga, it's not real, shut up. The important thing is that it feels real, and I think it does. It definitely helps that the rest of the fight prior to the finish saw Zoro putting on quite the offensive show, simply unable to do any damage. It wasn't like he was totally outclassed in speed and strength and technique, then came from behind to win a fight he had no business winning - it's just that Mr. 1 had stupidly high defense, and he had no way around it.

Even in victory, he's not vindictive. He's only honestly grateful for being forced to improve.

Until, of course, he does. It's interesting that back in Vol. 2, Zoro mused how he wished he could just cut Luffy out of that steel cage, sort of setting up a bar of progress he needs to hit. Later, he'll think about cutting other things. Then there's the argument that all of this is just Haki, which actually explains a lot, but honestly I don't think it really needs to be explained.

It's just a cool fight, and it's okay once in a while to have your hero tap into a previously-unknown reservoir of strength, or realize some profound truth of martial arts, and turn the tides. Just don't over-use it.

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Remember when Zoro was exerting himself to pick up that steel cage? Looks like all that weight-lifting paid off.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

One Piece Revisited vol. 20 - Showdown at Alubarna

A striking cover that shows the 5 sides involved - the Revolutionaries, the Loyalists, Luffy's crew, the Marines, and Baroque Works. Then it mucks it up with Karoo's unnecessary face in the middle. Shouldn't it have been Vivi instead?

This volume opens with the fight between Luffy and Crocodile. There's an odd bit where Zoro tells Vivi that Luffy is keeping Crocodile busy so she can get to Alubarna and stop the rebellion, which comes at odds with the dramatic speech Luffy gave her the other volume. So before, stopping Croc was of paramount importance, but now that it's actually possible (thanks to Pincers the Crab) to hustle on over to Alubarna in time, they should do that instead? Kinda ruins any impact that scene had, doesn't it, if the presence of a superfast crab would've changed Luffy's whole tone.

Anyway, the fight itself is a conflict a long time in the making, especially after his actions last volume, we really want to see someone slap Crocodile's smug shit. And according to the previous arcs, once Luffy gets his hands on the main villain, things are about to wrap up. But that's not what happens - Luffy tries everything, exhausting his arsenal of moves (and even coming up with a new biting attack) to no effect. The fight does a good job of characterizing Crocodile and explaining his powers, too - at first, he simply tanks everything Luffy does (further showing how his sand powers render him untouchable) because he's trying to monologue. Finally he gets angry and starts using his actual attacks, which take advantage of the desert to create blades and sinkholes.

When Luffy gets close, he hits him with his draining attack, though Luffy recovers thanks to the water the old man at Yuba had given him. This justifies Luffy carrying it around all this time, but also hints at a counter to a seemingly overpowered move. But in the end, Crocodile decides he's wasted time long enough, and summons a sandstorm before impaling Luffy with his hook, and burying him alive. There's no two ways about it - Luffy lost this fight.

Sometimes this silhouette style is used as a fake-out, and it'll be revealed that the attack missed. In this case, however, Luffy's actually skewered like a worm on a hook.

It's an important moment, because it's the first loss we've seen him take. Up until now, he's looked invincible when facing down the bad guys. He may struggle, but he'll always pull through. Not so with Crocodile. Immediately this cements Croc as the toughest opponent he's faced so far, and signals that the Grand Line may not be something the Straw Hats can just waltz through like they've been doing so far. But, even in defeat, there's hope - the water from Luffy's flask drips onto Crocodile's arm, and Luffy is able to grab it. This gives us a second hint at a weakness in the Sand Sand fruit's powers.

Great range of expressions. 

Luffy is of course rescued by Ms. All-Sunday (aka Nico Robin), whose motives are a mystery. But the rest of the crew arrive at Alubarna, and they cleverly split up to trick the Baroque Works agents waiting in ambush. It's the shell game classic - 6 cups, where's the princess? Trick question! She was never one of the 6 to begin with. I wonder if Eyelashes the Camel was introduced solely to play the dummy in this situation.

But then there's a bit of logistics that I don't really understand. We've reached the point in the arc where everybody needs to pair off and have their fights, which will eventually be:

  • Zoro vs Mr. 1
  • Nami vs Ms. Double-Finger
  • Sanji vs Mr. 2 Bon Clay
  • Usopp & Chopper vs Mr. 4 & Ms. Merry Christmas
  • (Eyelashes sits this one out)

However, the initial split has Sanji and Chopper facing the Mr. 4 combo, while Usopp is stranded with Eyelashes against Mr. 2. Immediately, Mr. 2 defeats them and runs off to track down Vivi. She escapes from him, as Sanji abandons Chopper and ends up intercepting Mr. 2. Meanwhile, Usopp meets up with Chopper. This re-shuffling only takes a chapter, but it's pure filler. Why not simply have Sanji and Usopp switch places from the start? It makes me wonder if Oda changed his mind on the matchups after the initial set-up.

Somehow, I watched this short AMV about "Captain Usopp" before I met Usopp in the manga. Not sure why I was spoiling myself with AMVs, but.

SNot knowing it was a joke, I thought this Usopp character was a crazy badass who wielded a 5-ton hammer. I still can't believe I actually got tricked by one of Usopp's lies...

The first fight we spotlight is a tag-team affair, as Usopp and Chopper face off against Ms. Merry Christmas, Mr. 4, and his bizarre dachshund-gun. There's not much for choreography here, but it's still a solid fight with a lot of strategy and team synergy. The dog spits exploding baseballs, while Mr. 4 exploits his partner's tunnels to pop up and re-direct to devastating effect. Usopp tries just dodging, but the balls are set to explode on a timer, covering that option. Chopper mentions they're also too heavy to just catch and throw back, so the team has to come up with something else.

Cool guys don't look at explosions.

And they do, tricking the dog into sneezing an explosive down into the interconnected mole tunnels! But then Ms. Merry Christmas just grabs Usopp and starts dragging him through walls, eventually setting him up for a skull-cracking home-run hit from Mr. 4. However, Chopper is able to use his Rumble Ball to turn this tactic back on them, scooping up the mole-lady with his horns and tricking Mr. 4 into hitting her instead of Usopp.
Is it weird to say I like it when Usopp gets all beat up? He sells it very well, I guess. Poor guy looks just about dead in that top panel.

Finally, they do a proper combo attack - using Chopper's horns as the base for a slingshot, to nail Mr. 4 with a (regular, not 5-ton) hammer. The dog gets caught in the crossfire, and they land next to Mr. Merry Christmas, he coughs up one last explosive ball, which detonates, finishing them off. I like this fight because it shows how two "less powerful" characters are able to turn the tables on their stronger-on-paper opponents, by using their own techniques against them. There's no part where Usopp heroically summons his willpower to punch out Mr. 4 himself, because it's been established that's just not possible. However, through clever thinking and teamwork, he and Chopper are able to eke out a  victory.

 It's cool how Usopp uses hammers in his fights, because of his dual role as the crew's sniper and carpenter.

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You've seen dramatic punch clashes, but hardly ever kick clashes. Mr. 2 has been built up very well, he's is a prime example of a silly character that can still appear threatening.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

One Piece Revisited vol. 19 - Rebellion

I think Sanji shoulda been on the cover, instead of Luffy doing his Sanji impression.

For those who got into One Piece in the last few years, you may not be aware of the Dark Era of the fandom. See, One Piece has always been considered part of the "Big Three" along with Bleach and Naruto. This is because for about a decade during the mid 2000's to early 2010's, those three monopolized the top 3 spots of the Weekly Shonen Jump popularity polls, had massively successful anime adaptions, tons of merchandise, and generally were the most popular anime/manga properties since Dragon Ball.

The thing is, in Japan, One Piece was always the clear front-runner. It was the oldest, best-selling, most popular, etc. Eventually it would go on to simply outlast its rivals, as Bleach petered out and Naruto raced to a messy conclusion. Now, Naruto still lives on in the form of Boruto, while Bleach is essentially forgotten. But in America, it was Naruto that dominated, with Bleach 2nd and One Piece the distant third. If you were into anime or manga in America during that time period, you know what I'm talking about.

This always grossed me out, like dude has a whole CHUNK of flesh missing, that's his entire shoulder, thank God for One Piece anatomy where you have a good couple yards of trapezius before your neck starts.

Naruto and Bleach's popularity is self-explanatory, so why didn't One Piece take off as well? A big reason was art style, I think. It just looks more cartoonish, and for middle schoolers looking for something "badass", a goofy rubber man can't hold a candle to a ninja possessed by a demon fox, and a half-ghost samurai with a big sword. Despite how, as I think I've made plenty clear, One Piece is just as violent and "mature" as the others. But it's the same problem Nintendo found, against the Playstation and Xbox - it got labeled as the "kiddie" choice. And nothing contributed more to One Piece's kiddie image than the horrendous 4kids dub.

4kids was a localization company that handled the English dub for a lot of extremely popular anime - Pokemon, Sonic X, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Ultimate Muscle, Kirby: Right Back At Ya!, Shaman King, and of course One Piece. You'd think with so many venerable shows under their belt, they'd be good at their job, right? Wrong. 4kids went out of their way to Americanize the shows, removing all traces of Japanese culture, and heavily censoring things.

Yes, this doesn't look ridiculous at all.

They edited every gun out of Yu-gi-oh, so that people now just make finger guns instead.

Why remove the writing??? It's not even in Japanese!

See, Pokemon and Yu-gi-oh and the others were able to become popular despite 4kids best efforts. It was a case where the property was just TOO marketable to be ruined, and in all fairness I still like the original Pokemon dub. It's corny as hell, and full of puns, (a staple of 4kids dubbing) but sometimes manages to be honestly funny. But for One Piece, they probably had no idea what they'd just gotten their hands on.

It's nice that Movie Gold makes use of the casino theme, since it's wasted here. Oh, and I love the abrupt two-page sequence with this and the following:

welp. ya got tricked.

Take the above as an example of the 4kids CEOs when they learned the goofy, silly, cartoony pirate anime they just licences is full of guns, blood, death, smoking, drinking, and general mayhem. You know, pirate stuff! I'm constantly surprised by people who write One Piece off, or don't take it seriously, just because of the art style. Well, at this point I'm not surprised anymore. Just disappointed.

In any case, 4kids' butchered dub was never nearly as popular as Bleach or Naruto, and so Viz didn't bother making the manga released a priority. As a result, One Piece ended up years behind the Japanese release, and when 4kids essentially just gave up and dropped the licence after Alabasta, the fate of official One Piece media in the U.S. looked grim. Then Funimation stepped up to the plate, putting together an extremely serviceable dub, in a collection of DVD releases that I've yet to buy because reasons. And they got Viz Media's ass in gear, who began cranking out the volumes at a rate of 5 per month. And they got some of the new video games localized, too. Then Toonami came back, and the new dub of One Piece was on TV again!
This is a really dynamic page, from Vivi's mid-air pose, to the continuity of the chair piece hitting the ground, to the way her whip-cutter recoils after the attack.

So finally, One Piece has been done right by the West. But for a time, it was limbo - 4Kids had stopped at Alabasta. The last games to come out, only included elements up through Alabasta. The official releases were still in Alabasta (either this volume or the last was the first in the new accelerated pace). It was an Alabastan hell, and while it's a great arc, everybody was pretty sick of it. It was a huge moment when the Funimation dub advanced onward to Skypeia, as if a great weight had been lifted from the fandom's shoulders, like finally getting off Namek.

such an iconic look for Robin.
As for what the heck's going on in this volume, Crocodile is being a wonderfully evil bastard and trapped the crew in a cage, then set up an elaborate death trap - the cage is sea-stone, meaning Luffy and Smoker can't use their powers to escape. The room is filling up with water. The only key has been fed to a giant alligator, of which there are several. Vivi is given the choice to try and find the right alligator, kill it, and free her friends, or run away to try and intercept the Revolutionary Army in an attempt to save her people. Of course, it turns out the key Crocodile threw wasn't even the right key, so it was an unwinnable situation from the start.

A cool way of showing slow but deliberate movement in a single panel. Probably referencing the final fight scene in Jackie Chan's Drunken Master 2.

Now that's how you make a death-trap, people. Diabolic, crushing the spirit of the heroes with a false choice, and in the end you ensure that they can't solve it anyway. However, Crocodile didn't count on Sanji, reprising his role as the best 6th man, coming off the bench to save the day. All this time, from Whiskey Peak to Little Garden to their encounter with Mr. 2, he's coincidentally remained off Baroque Works' radar. Donning a pair of glasses and going by the alias Mr. Prince, he's the unknown element that acts outside of Crocodile's schemes.

Oda would later clarify that Mr. 3 is floating, despite being a Devil Fruit user, due to a small piece of super-buoyant wood underneath him. N-no, it wasn't a mistake! It was just the DEEPEST LORE!!

Sanji's ability to take independent actions is a cool element to his character, and I'm glad this isn't the last time we see it. Meanwhile, Luffy and Zoro and the rest are pissed af and ready to crack heads, so they board an incredibly convenient super-fast crab and race towards Alubarna. It's a bit of plot contrivance I'll allow, but maybe it could've not been a necessity if the climax hadn't already been set for later that day? Maybe have the rebels and royal army clash tomorrow, have Baroque Works' Utopia plan go into effect tomorrow?

I love it when stories need maps.

This sort of thing where the Straw Hats have a deadline, but conveniently find a super-fast mode of transportation, or arbitrary shortcut, become more common in later arcs. A slight annoyance, but I guess Oda likes it when everything has a sense of urgency.

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Sanji punting the shit out of something very large and heavy will never get old.

Monday, September 11, 2017

One Piece Revisited vol. 18 - Ace Arrives

It always looked to me like that bottom panel is cutting off Ace's shorts. 

We're introduced to Luffy's brother Ace in this volume, who will go on to be a pivotal character in the series. I have mixed opinions on him later, but he's very cool this first meeting.

well, aside from falling asleep while eating.

Oh, we may as well talk about the elephant in the room - Ace's tattoo. As the editor's note says, it's a manji, not a swastika. However, in future appearances, Oda changed the design to a simple cross, to avoid pointless controversy. While I don't believe in artistic censorship, I do think that it's an artist's duty to know how their work will appear, and it's a damn shame but the Nazis ruined that symbol for everybody. You can't expect to use it and not have an international audience go "hey is that a swastika". Since it has no deeper meaning here, Oda just thought it would be cool, there's no harm in using an alternate design.

I'm just gonna say it, Nami and Vivi really make those belly dancer outfits work.

There's also a little sadness in realizing that this is the last time Luffy will talk to his brother in peaceful circumstances. One Piece dodges the cliche of having a Fateful Duel later (a la Naruto), but instead they'll be reunited just in time for Ace to die in Luffy's arms. In a way, it's even crueler - we never get to see Luffy "surpass" Ace, because that chance is ripped away from them. That sort of swerve from a seemingly obvious and anticipated plot point is a sort of meta heel move.

I like how hot it looks

Vivi also has a flashback, where we learn how cool a guy her dad is, and the origins of her friend Koza (now the revolutionary leader). I don't think it's a coincidence that we have an arc about toppling a corrupt king, and an arc about preserving a righteous king's rule, back to back. As I noted before, Oda isn't really a big proponent of democracy. He sees no hypocrisy in the concept of monarchy, as long as the ruler is and enlightened one.

And King Cobra is certainly enlightened.

But what's kinda funny is that aside from the King and his daughter, everyone else is still in that subservient feudal mindset. Koza's dad is tripping over himself to apologize for his rude little boy, and Igaram drops his spaghetti similarly when the King doesn't do things by protocol. Makes me wonder how King Kobra ever got to be like this, if apparently his entire environment is operating as if he's an unquestionable, infallible tyrant. I would assume they're still a remnant of his father, who must have been a traditional king? Not necessarily a bad one, but one that expected absolute respect from his people and stuff. It's not a plot hole or anything, just odd to think about.

Mr. 2 has the best expressions. Also, I like the idea that he's on board with Baroque works schemes not because he's a bad guy, he's just amoral and thinks its fun. This is why he's able to express such noble sentiments otherwise, because he's not rotten to the core.

So there's part in this volume that never really sat right with me. It feels out-of-character for Luffy, pointlessly mean towards Vivi, and a weird sort of moral.

Luffy, I know you're stubborn and childish, but why on earth would you open what is essentially a "we should change courses" discussion with "I quit"

I can believe Luffy thinking that just talking things out is boring, but his actual argument here isn't that it's boring. So why even say it?

This is all true, but isn't the goal to avoid the bloodshed? Just get the rebels to wait literally a week, and defeat Crocodile during that window.

Extremely out-of-character. Luffy is the sort who believes he can save everyone. And if they'd gone to Katorea from the start, then most likely Vivi could have indeed delayed the rebellion and they'd saved those lives

Yes, she's risking her own life. That's what she's willing to do, because she values the lives of her countrymen more? This is your M.O., Luffy. Why are you having an issue here


you could've resolved this in a much less controversial way

See, aside from it coming as a very weird "insightful and logical, telling the hard truths without letting emotion get in the way" speech from Luffy (which is more Zoro's bag), I just don't like the message. Yes, in the contrived specific situation they're in, thanks to circumstances Luffy isn't aware of, they're making the best decision and it will work out. But it's such a weird thing to say "ignore the underlying causes of resentment and trying to use discourse to prevent violence, let's just take out the ONE bad guy, surely all his schemes will just cease to have effects after that!". Like, wasn't that the whole point of Wonder Woman? (until the super-secret final badguy ruined that)

And then it's weird to spin this as some sort of thing where Vivi is risking her own life, and that's bad? Or that she's trying to shoulder the burden alone? Pretty sure she's been relying on you all from the start, and will continue to need you in order to get to Katorea or wherever in time. I don't know, it's just strange to watch the other Straw Hats basically go "yes, this is wisdom" when Luffy is being a rude asshole for no reason and coming up with an alternative plan that still barely works.

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This is a very good desert punk aesthetic. I especially like Zoro wearing a cap, and the idea of football gear as post-apocalyptic armor.