One Piece 909-912 – 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)

Luffy recently challenged Big Mom, one of the world’s most deadly Pirate Warlords, who sought to force Sanji into a politically driven marriage, with the true intent of killing his estranged and powerful family, the Vinsmoke. Successfully saving Sanji, and evading capture by Big Mom, Luffy rushes with half of his crew to rejoin with the other half, lead by Zoro. However, while Luffy and Co. recover from their trying encounter with Big Mom, the world’s greatest kingdoms convene for the Reverie, a monumental occasion to discuss the major issues plaguing the world. However, things don’t seem destined to go as smoothly as usual, what with the Revolutionary Army now ready to strike back against the world’s oppressive governing body.

Review:

Chapter 909 finishes the last of the set up meant to catapult us into the Wano arc which officially begins with 910. There’s a lot of elements at play here, namely greater exposition and showcase for how horrible the celestial dragons and their world government are. We learn that Whitebeard even built a secret town for those who’d been left out to dry by a money and power hungry government. We also learn that the Whitebeard pirates, and Whitebeard’s apparent off-spring, perhaps have a role to play coming up. To cap off the chapter we also finally get a look into what the rest of the gang, Usopp, Franky, Robin, Zoro, etc. have been up to and a tease that Zoro has utterly failed in his ability to blend in.

It’s clear that while Wano will start with the simple effort of reuniting the crew, and gradually build into a confrontation with Kaido, our latest baddy, this arc is likely to lead up to the events unfolding in the Reverie and the greater elements that have been building over the course of the manga’s last decade.

For now however it’s back to a simpler start, with our characters abruptly getting sucked in the land of Wano mere moments after reacting to news of the Reverie and all the familiar faces attending. I love that this opening just throws us in. We don’t spend a lengthy journey getting to this new land, or too much time catching up on Zoro and the gang, instead leaving much of their efforts as something to experience and learn of once Luffy reunites with them.

I also appreciate the artistic shift to more classical Japanese art, such as the way Oda draws the ocean’s violent waves, giving it a really unique flair that feels otherworldly thanks to being so far and away from how the world of One Piece usually looks.

It isn’t long until Luffy loses touch with the half of the crew that was traveling with him. By cutting down the size of the cast to just Luffy, it allows us a tighter focus, without too many characters whose boisterous personalities demand attention. It actually makes me wonder how Oda will handle having the entire cast back together. As Dressrosa was the last time the crew was really all centralized in the same story, it was the last arc to showcase how much of a struggle it can be to have to service all of these characters at one time. Oda breaking up the crew between Wholecake Island and Wano allowed for a tighter focus on certain members, and more room for each panel to breath as we didn’t have a crew of nearly ten clamoring for space on the page. Once the crew is back together at the end of this Arc I wonder if Oda will have a better handle on balancing the focus or whether we’ll increasingly find our heroes split up for future narratives.

Either way Luffy is left alone to introduce us to the terrible state of the Kingdom of Wano, with villages wiped out and an unfair leadership basking in the riches while the rest suffer. It feels a bit like a mix of the Arlong Park and Alabasta Arcs. Ultimately the opening moves fast and within just a couple chapters we have a good sense for the state of the Kingdom, tie ins to Ace, the Whitebeard pirates and the proper reintroduction of Zoro.

For now I have no complaints, with the Wano arc getting right to the point, and with such tight focus on the core of the story that these chapters feel near perfect. The start of a new arc is always a fun time, especially since it only comes about now every couple years, a far longer wait than in the early days of the series. All I can really say at the end of the day is that I am incredibly eager to see what the Wano arc brings us and how exactly it ties into a number of elements introduced from the Reverie mini-arc.

That’s it for today’s review! Let me know what you thought of these chapters in the comments below!

One Piece is published weekly in Shonen Jump. Volume 88, releases on November 6th, 2018. Chapters discussed today will be collected and released sometime next year.

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