One Piece 876-881 – Manga Review
Synopsis: Monkey D. Luffy had always wanted to be a pirate. But against his better judgement he ate the Gum-Gum Fruit, gaining the power to stretch like rubber– but in return lost his ability to ever swim again! Eh, no matter, Luffy decided to become a Pirate anyway, his dream to one day in fact become King of the Pirates! Over the course of his journey he assembles a crew of bizarre characters, from Zoro the three-sword wielding swashbuckler, to Nami the treasure whore, and more.
(Warning: Spoilers to Follow)
Now, having saved the kingdom of Dressrosa, and gained a few temporary crew mates: Kinne’mon and his son Momo, two Samurai seeking a lost ally of theirs, Luffy and his crew move on to the island of Zou to continue their battle against one of the four emperor pirates: Kaido. Reaching the island, actually a giant elephant, Luffy and his crew helped to save the Minks from trouble with Kaido’s pirates and in turn learned a startling number of revelations about their ongoing journey. But, despite the need to take on Kaido, who’s grown unhappy with Luffy’s interference, he’s instead decided to go save his crewmate Sanji; who’s been forced into a marriage contract by the pirate empress Big Mom, who Luffy has already pissed off.
It’s been over a month since I’ve gotten the chance to review One Piece, and in the interest of talking about the most relevant chapters I’m going to review all the way up to Oda’s most recent release. So starting with Chapter 876 we continue with Big Mom’s frenzied pursuit of the Straw Hat gang. I’ll start off by saying these several chapters do a great job of amping the tension of the escape, but still do a few things I’m not entirely keen on.
First, Pudding’s flip-floppy tsundere nature is now a full on gag. I like that these chapters really make that clear, rather than a revolving ‘is she or isn’t she?’ on our heroes’ side. I’m still not thrilled that her heel turn amounted to “guy said he finds my third eye cute” and that was enough to change her villainous ways, but I already beat that drum.
With Chapter 877 things take a bad turn for Chopper and Brook aboard the ship. As the two are coated and turned into candy, it adds a nice ticking clock for Luffy and Co. retaking the ship to save the two before they perish. We of course know One Piece isn’t the kind of story to kill either of those two characters, but it makes the ‘finale’ to this chapter all the more powerful.
I’m of course talking about Pedro’s incredible sacrifice. It’s the first major death, if I’m remembering right, since Ace, and I think marks a powerful ‘oh shit’ moment that really exemplifies how in over their heads the crew is. I’ve been worried since the time skip that our heroes might be a tad too ‘powerful’ and with each preceding arc it’s felt that way to me. They go up against the biggest of the biggest bads, and while Luffy did have some trouble with Doflamingo, in some ways it felt tame for characters we’ve had teased as the most dangerous foes on the high seas. So it’s great to see sacrifices required to even get away from Big Mom, let alone actually defeat her.
Chapter 878 gives us the most minor of flashbacks to bring some added context and emotional baggage to Pedro’s sacrifice. What’s even more gut-wrenching is how things don’t magically improve for our heroes with this. They’re still in the thick of things and Big Mom and her forces continue to close in around them, almost as if Pedro’s death meant absolutely nothing. There’s of course the question of whether Pedro is actually dead, and if not that kinda undercuts the severe tone of these chapters.
But taken at face value it seems Pedro is indeed gone. Big Mom’s son, Perospero, wasn’t killed in the explosion and rises from the smoke and ashes of Pedro’s big goodbye only slightly for the worse. I think it’s this moment that really screams how real Pedro’s death is and is Oda’s way of saying “he’s not coming back.”
Just as we hit full despair Luffy launches us away from the darkness by sacrificing himself to save the crew, challenging another of Big Mom’s children in the mirror world to buy time for Nami and the rest to escape. It’d be a great moment if Luffy hadn’t already done the leap back to fight just a few chapters earlier when challenging Big Mom, and lost. It sorta feels like a replay, albeit with a different opponent and results.
Chapter 879 is a more laid back chapter, at least initially. We get a kind of somber, resolution where the crew has to come to grips with Luffy’s most recent heroic sacrifice before discovering they are not actually off this roller coaster yet. Big Mom is still on their tail and gaining.
To pull us away from the tension, and give us a reprieve we’re treated to Sanji with Pudding and Chiffon on the way to try and bake a cake to calm Big Mom down. We also get a glimpse of Pound, who still hasn’t played his big role in this arc yet. We then snap back to Luffy’s fight with Katakuri, which still feels pretty one sided. I love that it feels increasingly like Luffy has significantly bitten off more than he can chew.
As Luffy is on the losing end of his most recent battle, Chapter 880 spends a lot of time focused on building Big Mom’s replacement cake. Pudding’s ability to erase memories, and Sanji’s expert skills come together to form the one way in which this poor kingdom can be saved. It does make me wonder what Pudding’s role will be going forward. Is she to become a multi-arc character? Or will Sanji leave her behind much how Luffy left Boa Handcock?
The chapter takes a turn back to the mayhem and drama as Luffy continues to lose against Katakuri and their ship is about to be engulfed by a massive tidal wave that’s been possessed by another of Big Mom’s homies. It’s a real roller coaster ride, but I think it actually works with how fast we’re flipping between our heroes being safe and facing imminent peril.
With Chapter 881, the most recent chapter, Jimbei gets to take staring role as he saves the ship from certain doom. It’s great to see Jimbei playing more and more of a role and I really hope he is indeed on course for becoming a permanent edition to the series. From his design to his stoic character he’s easily become my favorite.
Otherwise not too much else happens here. Luffy continues to lose, there’s a reaffirmation that he won’t die here, and some exposition about what the current plan they’re working to is: Lure Big Mom to the island where Sanji is making a cake and quell her rampage.
Overall these chapters are great. as I’ve outlined there’s a few places where I feel like things could’ve been stronger, but otherwise I was excited to find these as the chapters for my return to the manga from my Month+ long break. I can also say I don’t entirely know how this arc is going to end, and as much as it started as a pseudo retread of the Arlong and Nami story arc, it’s really run off in a direction all its own and one I’m becoming increasingly enamored with.
That’s it for today’s review! Let me know what you thought of these chapters in the comments below!