One Piece 916-920 – 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. She 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 the rest, lead by Zoro in an effort to challenge Kaido in the country of Wano. Luffy and Co. arrive, only to become separated near instantly. When Luffy happens upon a young girl named Otama, who becomes poisoned from the polluted river, he reunites with Zoro, taking on the wealth of corruption threatening to strangle the struggling citizens of Wano.

Review:

One Piece feels like it’s moving fast. A lot happens in just five chapters. Luffy defeats our Rich Sumo villain in an incredible display of might that summons Holdem and his henchmen. Despite talk about needing to escape without angering these new enemy pirates, Luffy smacks Holdem down for his treatment of little Tama. From there Luffy and Zoro steal the food and give it back to the poor. It’s not long before we reunite with the rest of Luffy’s crew, the half that was with him during Wholecake Island, as well as Kin’emon. We’re then treated to a thick chapter of exposition, summarizing a flashback that I could’ve once imagined stretching five or more chapters.

Part of me wonders why we’re moving so fast. The last few arcs haven’t been shy about lengthy battles out, letting lots of twists and turns get in our heroes way. But here I can’t help but feel everything is getting trimmed down, cut to the bare essentials, and streamlining this entire narrative. Oda has struggled health wise with the back half of the series. We’re even at a point where One Piece doesn’t truly run weekly, but takes breaks every 3-5 chapters. Perhaps Oda is looking to move the series along at a faster pace, to ensure he actually gets to the end of his absolutely massive story. Whatever the reason, parts of this arc feel a little messy, maybe more than usual.

That’s because there’s a lot of elements at play here, and these chapters squeeze in as much as possible. Luffy and Co. get surrounded by a lot of enemies quite quickly, although they escape nearly just as fast. Peppered in-between that is sudden bouts of exposition explaining the world of Wano, name drops for a band of thieves lead by one Shuntenmaru, etc. We also dive right into the lengthy exposition I mentioned earlier, revealing a large chunk of the secret history of Wano, time-traveling devil fruit powers, and the truth origins for Kin’emon and co.

It still feels like we’re in set up. Maybe Oda isn’t rushing the arc forward so much as he has crazy complex plans, and merely wants to cram in as many elements as quickly as possible. Either way I think these are still strong chapters, even if the pacing feels decidedly faster than Whole Cake Island, or other recent arcs. In some ways that’s a good thing. (Here’s looking at you Dressrosa.) Right now I’m interested to see where this raid Kin’emon proposes is going to end up. These chapters kept harping on the idea that Luffy needed to retreat without making too much of a ruckus. Yet Luffy punched Holdem out and completely ignored that sentiment. Now Kin’emon proposes a night raid, which does require some level of secrecy leading up to it. And Kaido is supposedly another uber unstoppable villain, although his minions seem rather weak right now. Ultimately Wano is still early, so there isn’t too much to say. I’m enjoying the fast pace, even if it surprises me, and the complete shift in aesthetics from Whole Cake Island. Here’s hoping the rest of the arc continues in much the same tight and fast paced style. Even if a little messy, I appreciate things moving along briskly.

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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