Tuesday, September 5, 2017

One Piece Revisited vol. 16 - Inherited Will

With all the talk of cherry blossoms, you might expect this volume cover to be pink. Well, that's saved for next time.

The title of this volume, Inherited Will, is a pretty significant theme in One Piece. This is the second time it's been mentioned by name, the first being in a quote ascribed to Gold Roger, way back in Chapter 100:
Dragon, you got a scary face.
So, what is an "inherited will"? Simply put, it's a passing-on of ideals from one generation to the next. Not to say it necessarily needs to be hereditary, in One Piece, there are plenty examples of families not bound by blood - Bellemere and Nami, Zeff and Sanji, Hiriluk and Chopper. Each one of these parental figures instilled in their foster offspring certain values that they would continue to carry throughout their lives. It's a passing of the torch, symbolized almost literally with Shanks giving Luffy his straw hat.

But what of the other concepts? "Dreams" certainly play a large role in One Piece, being portrayed as something worth risking your life for. Those who crush others' dreams, or have given up on dreaming themselves, are the lowest of the low. And as for the "ebb and flow of the ages", that's something that comes up later, when the Straw Hats begin to be more active on the geo-political scene. I'm sure I'll have the opportunity to talk at length about both at another time.

Anyway, back to the actual volume at hand!
I like how voluminous the avalanche looks, and Drum Island's namesake mountains make for a cool skyline.

With the avalanche bearing down, Sanji takes a bad hit to preserve Nami and Luffy. So, Luffy carries them both up the side of the freaking mountain, basically a sheer vertical climb, apparently 5000 meters. For reference, Mt. Everest is 8000 meters. Though to be fair, a good deal of the height comes from the more normal-shaped mountain leading up to it, so I guess the prominence is less than 5000m, but it's still insane. A case where analyzing the numbers makes the feat look ridiculous, instead of impressive.

Zoro is somehow one of the best sources of comedic relief, despite being such a badass.
In any case, all three get medical attention from Dr. Kureha. She refuses to let Nami out of bed, saying "Patients only leave my care in two ways - dead, or completely cured." which I think we can all agree is a pretty good motto. Kureha is easily in the running for coolest old lady in manga. (A surprisingly small field, actually - lot of cool old dudes, not many cool old ladies.)

You said it, Luffy.
There's a madcap comedy bit where Luffy and Sanji are chasing Chopper around, trying to eat him (for some reason), ignoring his cries for help. Then suddenly they can understand him, but then Kureha chases them around instead, then gives up, then they chase after Chopper but this time to get him in the crew.

It falls totally flat and feels like the worst kind of Japanese comedy, when things are just busy and loud instead of being clever or humorous in any way. Why would Sanji and Luffy want to eat a clearly sentient little guy like Chopper? Didn't they see him doing doctor stuff? I guess they were just joking? Maybe with a few more pages of set-up it could've worked, but.

I miss Chopper's original design. The muzzle was cute, and he was a little chubby. Instead of a gigantic noggin and :3 mouth.
Finally, into the meat of the volume - Chopper's backstory. Essentially given human consciousness by eating a Devil Fruit, he's a sort of Quasimodo figure, rejected by everyone except the kind Dr. Hiriluk. The doctor heals him and raises him, instilling a pirate's spirit of rebellion against the orthodox, encouraging him to break new ground (both medically and figuratively) and never give up on the power of science. He also entrusts Chopper with his life's work - creating a way to bloom cherry blossoms even in the frigid Drum Island climate. Again, the "inherited will".

I just like how atmospheric that top panel is.

Now, Dr. Hiriluk is an interesting character. For starters, he's not even a real doctor - he's a quack, who causes as much trouble attempting to treat the sick as he does good. The story he tells of a pirate who saw cherry blossoms and was cured is of course about himself, only he wasn't truly cured. I think the important thing is that his soul was cured, he stopped despairing of death and began working for the sake of others. But still, he's clumsy and uncouth, and enjoys no love from the local populace, who consider him a radical menace.

What makes him a good man is that he's trying. He isn't skilled, and he doesn't know what he's doing, but he's trying to do good with the time he has left. Though his obsession with the cherry blossoms is a little hard to pin down - does he actually think seeing them bloom will cure people? Or is he trying to actually create a cure-all, and the cherry blossoms are just metaphorical? Or is he simply trying to recreate the beautiful vision he saw, in the hopes it will have the same transformative effect on others as it did on him?

Wapol getting punched in the face bookends Chopper's flashback. There's about 9 chapters before we see the punch connect.

And when it does, oh boy. As if Wapol wasn't already an unlikeable puke, the flashback really makes you glad to see him get his face caved in.

I don't get the (what has become obligatory) part where Hiriluk tries to scare Chopper away at gunpoint, saying that his death would be too traumatic for him. So casting him out from the only family he's every known isn't traumatic!? It doesn't work, of course, and they reunite. Chopper, after hunting high and low and getting numerous injuries, brings the doctor a mushroom, not knowing it's toxic. But I think Hiriluk knew it was. So why did he eat it? Is not hurting Chopper's feelings less important than his life?

Well, yeah. Plus there's the whole fact that he's gonna die soon anyway, no matter what he does. It's one of those things that seems like over-the-top honorable bullshit (and it kinda is) but it makes total sense for the characters. Hiriluk places no value in his own life. He knows he's living on borrowed time, ever since his disease was momentarily "cured" by those cherry blossoms. So it should be no surprise that he puts the wellbeing of everyone else ahead of his own.

Favorite Pages:

Another great sequence, I have to post the whole thing:

He knew it was a trap, but he walked into it anyway, because the slimmest chance there WAS something wrong with the doctors was worth more than his own life.

get ready

preach it

Hiriluk spitting the classic lines.

For some reason the line "He's my son. Don't hurt him." really gets to me. It's the first (and only) time Hiriluk calls Chopper his son, but the fact is he'd considered him as such for a long time now.

good parallel action of the doctors drinking

Hiriluk kills himself, to go out on his own terms (instead of succumbing to disease), to deny Wapol the pleasure of executing him, and to not make Chopper a technical murderer. But it's like he said - he isn't dying at all. His dreams will live on in his son.

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