Wednesday, August 16, 2017

One Piece Revisited vol. 12 - The Legend Has Begun

Very fun and dynamic cover, and check out all that treasure. Appropriate, since as the title suggests, this is where the journey REALLY begins. But what the heck is Usopp doing, para-trooping directly into the camera!?

Thanks to the timely arrival of a storm, Luffy & co. are able to escape Buggy and Smoker and enter the Grand Line. Of course, the storm was almost certainly summoned by that mysterious stranger who appeared, and it's weird reading it with the foresight I have now. I mean, yeah it's Luffy's dad and also the leader of the Revolutionaries, and you certainly don't get that feeling. At most, he appears like another Shanks or Mihawk, who takes an interest in young up-and-comers. I think I somehow already knew about Luffy's parentage when I first read this, so it never made much of a mysterious impression on me.

Is "re-affirming your goals while swearing loyalty to each other by putting your feet up on a barrel" a thing? In any culture? It's cool, I want to do it. Check out that awesome bottom panel, too.

Well actually, before they can even reach the Grand Line, they drift into the Calm Belt, and we get some more geographical exposition. Really, this world is so clever - you can't just sail into the major equatorial current because it's surrounded by a dead area on each side, thanks to the currents of the larger oceans moving counter-productively and canceling it out. And to make it worse, this area is inhabited by enormous Sea Kings.
this spread says "you're a small, powerless speck in the ocean. Don't get too full of yourself." and I love it.

So with that potential-future-plot-hole filled, Crocus establishes the new rules for how the voyage will be conducted: You can't just sail straight on ahead, because the weather and currents are too rough. So you have to go island-to-island, and this is done with special composes that point to a specific island. You stay at one, and after a while it registers the next one, and so on. So my question is - why hasn't someone made a proper video game with this progression? There's been quite a few One Piece games, mostly fightan, and some that follow the story, but none that put you in the world and let you plot your own course.

Actually, the world's kinda structured like a MOBA if you think about it - the Grand Line is the central Lane, and the Calm Belt acts as the Jungle. Could play Pirates vs Marines, one side trying to push to Raftel, the others to push everybody back to Roguetown.

So I have issues with Laboon. Setting aside the Japanese' continued willingness to butcher whales, which puts Luffy's decision to pick a fight with Laboon by brutally jamming the mast into one of his open wounds in a strange light, it's a fine on an emotional level. Laboon was abandoned, and is essentially pining away. Luffy gives him something promise to believe in! And when we bring it all back with Brook in like a couple hundred chapters... but I'm getting ahead of myself. I'm mainly concerned with the logistics.

oh jeez Luffy how did nobody help you correct that, it's like 5 football fields wide, surely someone had to say something about those lines

First off, was Laboon just blocking the path for every vessel in the last 50 years? How many just freaking die right here, from either crashing into him or getting eaten? You'd think that sort of thing would get around. But Nami didn't even know about Reverse Mountain, so. Another issue is that Luffy's little "fight" with Laboon couldn't have caused that much damage, right? Which makes me feel better about hurting the poor guy, but how is it enough for Laboon to even notice, or consider "a draw"? Finally, that's an absolutely absurd amount of paint required for that jolly roger. Laboon being so huge is neat, but it messes with the scale of everything else. I mean, look at the surface area - that's the lighthouse down there! Think how many buckets of paint it takes to paint your house. Now imagine how big your house is compared to a lighthouse. Now imagine that, but 50 times over. How many days did it even take?

There's no way this isn't a Kame House shout-out.
If there's one thing Oda gets, it's how to book characters properly (I'm using the term in an unorthodox way, but stay with me here). See, "booking" is what it's called in Pro Wrestling when they decide who's gonna win, and in what manner. It's also used to describe an overall plan - for example, you might say a wrestler is being "booked to look strong" when she wins match after match, establishing herself as a dominant force. The most basic booking is when you build up a Heel (villain), for the sake of eventually letting a Face (hero) beat them. In order to establish the Face as a legitimate contender, they need to run over a few jobbers, and establish their likable personality (see Luffy against Alvida and Morgan). Similarly, the Heel has to do something to be worth of hatred, and beating up crowd favorite Faces works well (see Arlong making short work of Zoro and Sanji). This also makes them look powerful, which sets up a larger payoff for their loss. The crowd ostensibly loves to see the Face win, but as I've said before, it doesn't mean anything if there's no sense of overcoming a challenge.

Well, let me run that back - you book a match for a variety of reasons, after all. Sometimes, your characters take too many losses, and they loose credibility. Unless the purpose is to move them into a more comic-relief sort of role, this is bad for everybody; with their stock de-valued, nobody cares when they lose, making them worthless for building up other characters. And continual losses make it hard to ever believe they can pull out a victory, which just gets frustrating. You can only run an underdog angle so long before people lose faith.

So, the easiest way to combat that is to simply give them some wins! Remind the audience that, yes, Zoro did just lose to Mihawk, and ran away from Smoker, and honestly would've lost to Arlong if Luffy hadn't saved him, but he's still a badass. Zoro defeats Tashigi almost entirely off-screen, which isn't very helpful. But then when he takes out 100 bounty hunters at Whiskey Peak - DAMN.

Speaking of wrestling, "Red = Money" has been the old adage, and it's true. Here, it's used to cast Zoro as the sort of badass who doesn't give a damn about his wounds, he licks the blood and smiles, 'bring it on' he says.

Zoro looks great here, in an excellently choreographed action scene. He's faster, smarter, stronger, and more skilled than anyone there. He kicks their asses up and down the street, and reminds everyone why he's the 1st mate. Not for the first time, people confuse him for the captain. He's got the power to lead his own crew, if he wanted. Luffy's very lucky to have someone like that under him. This issue is pushed even further in the next volume... but that's next volume. :^)

Here's another scale issue - tombstone-cacti is a cool idea, but are we supposed to believe they've killed like several thousand people? and buried them into the sides and undersides of that mountainous cactus? How did they even get up there?

See, good booking is something you don't really notice until it's done poorly. Remember how everyone who wasn't Goku or Vegeta sort of fell off the map in Dragon Ball? And how disappointing it was when Gohan went through all that training, only to act like an idiot and lose to Buu? That's bad booking. When you've so thoroughly thrown your cast under the bus that there's only two characters anyone expects to be able to do anything, that's a problem. Sure, not everyone needs to be capable of beating the Big Bad, but it's sad to see Piccolo wasting away on the sidelines, because there's nobody for him to even be a close match against. And again, it doesn't do much to help Buu for him to kick Yamcha's ass, because who hasn't kicked Yamcha's ass at this point?

I use Dragon Ball as an example, but you can find it in many long-running series. Katekyo Hitman Reborn was another that pissed me off. Gokudera just stopping winning fights after a while, but we were expected to keep treating him like a powerful ally. Meanwhile, Hibari won all the time, but somehow never got to fight anyone of significant strength. It even seemed like he was stronger than Tsuna, but there was no payoff. Didn't help that he was such a directionless, flat character, but still. It's poor booking!

Favorite Page(s):

There are three very excellent shots of the moon near the end of this volume, and I like them so much, I just decided to pick all of them.
Oda knows that the moon can look cool, even when it isn't 100% full or a thin sickle.

I will never not be into the visual of the moon reflected in the water.

I feel like this is analogous to that famous image of Batman leaping in front of the lightning, from the cover of The Dark Knight Returns. Badass silhouette against the sky.

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