Wednesday, August 2, 2017

One Piece Revisited vol. 9 - Tears

The whole squad. Nami looks really cute balancing that tangerine on her head, just ignore her gigantic feet.

This volume is all about setting up Nami's backstory and building to the eventual confrontation with Arlong. Something that occurred to me, though, is that Johnny and Yosaku are also here. They're pretty useless, both in the story itself and as literary devices. They job to everybody, but their actual strength is never established so nobody looks strong by beating them up. They have identical personalities, and I think only exist so that there can just be more bodies around to convey information when the team is split up.

See, Oda likes to do this - have people run around between a few key locations, sometimes missing each other and sometimes being in the right place at the right time. In this volume alone:
  • Zoro gets captured at Arlong Park, escapes and meets up with the rest at Cocoyasi Village, then heads back to Arlong Park
  • Usopp arrives at Cocoyasi Village, is taken to Arlong Park, escapes and runs back to Cocoyasi, then heads right back to Arlong Park
  • Nami arrives at Arlong Park, goes to Cocoyasi, runs back to AP, then runs back to Cocoyasi, and then back again to AP
It's a lot of running about and switching places! Nami makes the trek four times! But Johnny is able to report the events at Arlong Park between Nami and Usopp to the rest of the crew, so I guess that's his purpose. But then Usopp shows up anyway and dispels the misunderstanding? And Yosaku does jack-shit. Once again, the jobber bros. are pointless.

Zoro is such a badass, you guys. We don't even need to see him kill all those fishmen, we can just assume it was awesome.

But the meat of the volume is Nami's flashback, and it's a doozy. I think one of the reasons this arc is so fondly-remembered, and why it works so well, is because it's got the deepest emotional stakes so far. Buggy and Krieg were new threats on the scene, and Kuro betrayed everyone's trust, but with them it was more about preventing their plans from happening. With Arlong, he's been terrorizing Nami's village for years, killed her mother, shanghaied her, and then destroyed all her hard work to keep her his slave. It's JUSTICE that Nami needs in her life - terrible things have already been done, and there's no taking them back. But Arlong can still be punished for his deeds, and there's still hope for the future.

that bottom panel ;_;

Now, I'll nitpick some more here: Nami agrees to join Arlong's crew, so that she can save up 100 million Berries and buy her village. But she doesn't tell the villagers this, and acts like she became a heartless traitor. So the villagers in turn treat her with scorn. But, it's revealed that they found out anyway? And continued to pretend to hate her, so that she wouldn't know that they knew, and wouldn't feel pressured to live up to their expectations?? But then they just tell her they knew all along??? Why not just talk about it, and reassure one another!

This sort of dumb "I know you're lying but I'll go along with your charade, because muh honor" thing is staring to bug me, because it keeps happening. Luffy fighting with Koby, so he could get kicked out of town (but the Marines knew all along and approved), taking the blame for Buggy's razing (but the Mayor knew all along and was thankful), the chefs of the Baratie saying Sanji's food sucked to get him to leave (but he knew all along they were only pretending), and of course Usopp's whole thing is honorable lies. And now this. It's really just the stuff in the parenthesis that bugs me, because it ruins the whole point of the act. It's enough for the readers to know what's really going on, the characters don't have to become omniscient of all the plot movements themselves, too.

Luffy seems really mean here, but he's actually in a different location, he's not directly mocking Nami to her face or anything.
At any rate, Nami is betrayed by Arlong, who's working with a piece of rat-shit corrupt Marine officer, to confiscate her accumulated treasure just before she met her goal. Arlong is a sadistic bastard and I hate him so much and that's perfect for a villain. And in the end, that's what really makes this arc work - it's super-effective at drumming up sympathy for Nami, and animosity for Arlong. Forget the quibbling about people being stubbornly honorable, I just want to see this dirty fish made into sashimi.

Favorite Page(s):

Cheating a little, but this entire sequence is one of the defining moments in One Piece for me.

Nami breaking down and trying to physically remove the literal and symbolic image of her oppressor from her body is a powerful image. 

It's not that Luffy doesn't care about her situation, it's that he doesn't care WHAT the situation is. Because it doesn't matter, he would be willing to do anything for her, for any reason.

Nami is the only person Luffy gives his hat to like this. Sure, sometimes he tells people to hold on to it while he does something stupid, but he never lets anyone else wear it. Giving it to Nami is both a symbol of his trust in her to keep it safe, but also reassuring her that he is absolutely going to resolve this business and come back for it. If I had to pick one page, this is it.

Luffy trusts her in such a pure way that he wasn't going to do anything until she asked him to step in. She told him she could handle it, and she has been handling it for 8 years, and he respects that. But once she does, he is 110% committed.

Check how the whole crew was just sitting around like badasses, waiting to get the word.

Zoro, Sanji, and Usopp are also just as willing to jump into hell for Nami's sake, but notice that they waited for Luffy to give the orders. He's the captain, after all.
As a bonus, this is the music that plays during this scene in the anime. I've got mixed opinions about the anime adaption (which we'll get to at another time), but this music is wonderful.

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