Sunday, July 30, 2017

One Piece Revisited vol. 8 - I Won't Die

I always wondered what that face was on the background, but this time I realized it's the figurehead from Krieg's ship. Luffy looking nice and bloody, too - red = money, it's been said.

It bugs me when people say that "One Piece doesn't focus on the fights, it's more about the adventure!" because while that's sorta true, it undersells just how good the fights are in One Piece. Case in point - having got all the small fry out of the way, as well as the obligatory tragic backstory, Luffy is free to finally throw down with Krieg. And it's such a good fight!

Have I mentioned how much I like the way Oda draws gold? Somehow, you can tell that armor is not just shiny metal, but golden.
The thing that One Piece does well is that it takes terrain into account. The characters exist in a fully three-dimensional world, and they take advantage of or are hindered by that. The fight starts with Luffy and Krieg separated by a stretch of sea, and it takes Luffy three tries to cross over on a fallen piece of mast, (the same mast that was knocked down and KO'd Pearl earlier. Continuity!) because of course Kreig is gonna shoot spikes at him and stuff. Finally, Luffy gets across, and punches Krieg right through his cowardly spiked cape. If you didn't think Luffy was ballsy before, you know it know.

I still wince at this panel. I guess the spikes just slip between his fingers for the most part, but still, yowch.

They scrap some more, but the narrative is that Krieg keeps producing more weapons, while Luffy uses his agility to climb around the wreckage and avoid serious injury. However, despite a few good hits, Luffy can't put Krieg down because that armor is just too strong, and he doesn't have any room to set up his strongest attacks.
The Gum Gum Bullet reads just as well from behind as from the front or side. Powerful impact, and I like the detail of Luffy's muscles spurting blood from his wound.
Finally, Luffy starts to slow down due to accumulated injuries (homie ate a half-dozen spikes on his way across that bridge) and Krieg finally connects with his Mighty Battle Spear. Sensing an opportunity to finish things, Krieg jumps on top of the remaining mast and scatters bombs below, forcing Luffy to run up the mast to avoid them. However, Luffy tanks Krieg's final shot, and uses the run up the mast to stretch his arms for a Gum Gum Bazooka, launching Krieg into the air as the deck collapses beneath them. But Krieg's armor still isn't broken, until Luffy slam-dunks a second Bazooka into Krieg in mid-air, shattering his armor weakened from previous punches. And even then it's not over! Krieg still traps Luffy in a net, and Luffy has to give him the worst nastiest corkscrew Frankensteiner to end the battle.

One question - how is that spear just causing explosions, again? Like, shouldn't it be literally exploding itself, to have that sort of effect? Or is he just detonating charges from it as he swings?

This is how you write a good fight, people. For starters, there's clear stakes for both parties, and we've got enough emotional investment in the characters to want Luffy to kick Krieg's ass. But the fight itself is solidly plotted, with dynamic choreography and powerful impacy. It moves from long-range to close quarters to aerial combat, escalating in tension as the fight progresses. It's not Luffy just getting beat up until he somehow summons a hidden reserve of courage and wins in the final attack, they both take hits and visible damage. It's cool to see Krieg unveil new weapons, and it's cool to see Luffy find ways to counter them. The way that Krieg is literally stripped of all his weapons and armor as the fight progresses is a nice visual echo of how Luffy is wearing him down. The result is a conclusion that feels earned, not simply inevitable.

Look at that armor, breaking like a gum ball's shell.

Next up is Arlong Park, which many consider the point where One Piece truly hit its stride. There's a reason the biggest English-language OP forum is named after it. Personally I was already on board from Vol. 2, but Arlong Park is some good stuff indeed. The characters also throw out a quick reference to the Shichibukai, specifically Jimbei the Fishman. Crazy to think that it would be 500 chapters before we finally get that payoff, talk about planning ahead.

Love Arlong's design. The serrated nose is a perfect example of that fine line between goofy and badass that One Piece straddles so well.
Also, check out this editor's note - why not just edit the thing out, if you need a paragraph of "well, actually" to justify it? I'm sure 4kids did. Seriously though, the manji/swastika stuff is always awkward when it comes up in manga. It's even the hilt on Ichigo's sword in Bleach, for crying out loud. My stance is that the art shouldn't be censored, but at the same time, the Japanese artist should be more aware that their works have a global audience, and that certain things have different meanings overseas. Same with the obvious blackface caricatures like Mr. Popo, or the cockroaches of Terraformars.

What's really great is that Whitebeard's flag was originally gonna be the manji, and Ace has a huge-ass tattoo of it on his back, but Oda changed it for the final release. I can only imagine the heart attack that would've given the CEOs at 4kids and Viz.

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Straw Hat Samurai.

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