Monday, August 28, 2017

One Piece Revisited vol. 15 - Straight Ahead!!!

I really like this cover, the symmetry is nice. Appropriate to have Usopp on there, since he's the one who gets the most fired-up about giants. 

Having defeated Mr. 3 et al, the Straw Hats depart Little Garden. However, one of Usopp's tall tales comes true, as their path is blocked by an enormous goldfish, whose poop could be mistaken for islands. The giants kill the goldfish, carving a path for the Straw Hats to sail straight on through (hence the volume title).

Love how it rises out of the water, and isn't "The Island Eater" the most badass name or what

There's also a neat scene where Sanji, who wasn't really involved in the fracas, intercepts a call from Sir Crocodile. I've always thought this is Sanji's special ability, he's like an Archer in Fate/Stay - capable of independent actions. If left to his own devices, you can count on him to gain some info, or get the rest of the crew of a pickle.

Every great villain has a scene where they angrily crush something in their hand (usually a glass) when their plans are spoiled. Crocodile has his own twist on it, drying up the water and withering the flower.

Before they get to the next island to kick-start the next arc, there's some nice scenes of the crew just interacting. It's one of One Piece's strong suits that Oda can make his characters just as interesting and endearing whether they're doing some great heroic feat or simply bouncing their over-sized personalities off each other. I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed the group dynamics, when it was this small core. Not saying I don't like the latter additions to the crew, but I have to admit it gets a little cluttered when you double the number of bodies.

Chess standing on the ocean (though he's really standing on top of a submarine barely submerged) is such a surreal, classic One Piece visual. It would actually be super imposing to find someone strong enough to just walk across the ocean by themselves, no ship required, so it's kind of a waste on a fodder enemy.

Lot of things to note here: First, Wapol straight up tried to eat a human being. That's messed up. Secondly, Zoro and Sanji stone cold not giving a shit about Luffy, because they know he'll be fine. Finally, Vivi knocking that dude out with the door. 

Wapol is the first of several kings to be seen in One Piece, and I think he's meant as a foil of sorts for Vivi. He's the ultimate example of a corrupt monarch who mistreats his people and doesn't deserve his throne, standing in contrast with Vivi's selflessness for the sake of her country. It's a small sample size now, but given future arcs I think Oda is probably a fan of the idealized form of monarchy.

It's the Hiking Bear! Don't forget to bow~

That is to say, he's okay with someone ruling a country because of their birthright, as long as they're a just and proper ruler. I bring this up because it's a concept you rarely see endorsed in western media (outside of fairy tales) - usually, the moral of the story is that monarchies are inherently corrupt and democracy is the only way forward, or it might be anti-establishment altogether. Though Oda also seems to prescribe to the Mandate of Heaven theory, which justifies a rebellion against an unjust monarch, without invalidating the concept of monarchy itself.

Another point is that he clearly doesn't approve of people classifying themselves as "better" than others. They won't appear for quite a while, but the World Nobles are the aristocracy of the One Piece world and they're just awful. So maybe for him, being king doesn't mean you're better than anyone else, it just means you get to be in charge. I don't know, perhaps I'm over-analyzing his politics, and he just thinks it's cool to have palaces and be called "Your Majesty".

I don't know if Dr. Kureha ever had children, but if she did, there's a 100% chance she hit on her daughter's boyfriends. And her granddaughters' boyfriends. And her great-granddaughters' boyfriends.

Oh, we need to talk about Dr. Kureha. I think he took her name (which means crimson flower, very fitting given the cherry blossoms that will feature heavily in this arc) from Dr. Shinogi Kureha, from Grappler Baki. They're both incredibly skilled doctors, and Shinogi's introduction predates the Drum Island arc by about 10 years, so I think it's possible. Maybe not a direct shout-out, since nothing else in their design or character is similar, but I find it hard to believe Oda wouldn't have read Baki growing up, the battle manga fan that he is. It's rather obscure in the west, but it's been running almost as long as JoJo's Bizarre Adventure (and like that series, is still going) so it shouldn't be too surprising to see references.

Pictured: My experience crossing that one rooftop bridge in Anor Londo in Dark Souls.

A few volumes ago I proclaimed this as a "low point" in One Piece, and I stand by that Little Garden is easily one of the weakest arcs. But I didn't have a very high opinion of Drum Island either, and I was pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable this volume was! As I recall, the villain and fights aren't very good, but there's one of the best lines in the whole series coming up, so I'm ready to change my tune if I need to. Oh, and Dalton survived that, by the way. Because of course he did.

Favorite Pages:

Again, I'm cheating. But this sequence is just too much fun. If you have a good friend, you can bring up some half-remembered Weird Factoid like "I heard there's an octopus that learned how to use scissors" and they'll call it bullshit, but won't actually try and prove you wrong. They'll just come back with their own bullshit.

This page alone tells you volumes about Luffy's character. Specifically, his IQ.

Shades of Monty Python's killer rabbit? 

The way they ignore it until Sanji suddenly snaps cracks me up.

The Lapins look like vintage Toriyama monster design. And check out the little baby pointing out the bullies who were mean to it!

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