One Piece 928-930 – 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.
These chapters are a little more focused than the last batch, but continue to flop around between various narratives. Chapter 928 starts on Luffy, quickly setting up that while he’s still working as a captive, there are efforts to effect his escape. From there we snap over to introducing Komurasaki, the supposed most beautiful woman in all of Wano. It’s actually a rather lengthy flashback for a character who has seemingly minor involvement in the story. Much of it is used to portray Komurasaki in a poor light, as a swindling woman who seduces men out of their fortunes. It’s only after the flashback that Momo talks about his sister, who would be twenty-six years old by now, giving Komurasaki a stronger tie into the narrative, if she is indeed Momo’s sister. (I mean, she probably is, otherwise I don’t know what use the character actually is.)
But I’m not yet convinced the Komurasaki subplot is needed. This is a problem I have with post time-skip One Piece: Often the narratives are bloated. As Oda has gathered a hefty crew for Luffy, it’s added more and more characters who need something to do. Keeping the characters grouped together for various shenanigans helps to solve this, letting say Usopp, Chopper and Brook carry one piece of the narrative together. But with Wano we’re seeing a lot of people off doing their own thing. This means we have to have pages that catch us up on Nami’s activities, focus on Sanji, Luffy, Zoro, etc. Because everyone is so scattered it makes it that much more complicated when we have new characters to follow too.Some of that is required, you need to have a villain, or perhaps two to help define the arc. You also need a couple of local characters to give the arc more flavor. The focus in Chapter 929 on finally introducing Kurozumi Orochi, our other villain, is welcome, but Chapter 928’s heavy introduction for Komurasaki is another major element that I think threatens to weigh the whole arc down. It’s that or Komurasaki, or perhaps some of these other, smaller characters, end up as loose threads that don’t amount to much (like Kiku, Tsuru, Tama, etc.) If we have too much going on the story gets overly complicated. Wano started simple, but has quickly gained an enormous number of through-lines, subplots, and side characters to keep track of.
Chapter 929 also gives attention to Frankie, carrying the plot to wage war on Kaido and Orochi, before then shifting over to what Zoro’s been up to. Zoro isn’t part of the prep for battle, having missed out on all the discussions when he got lost, meaning he’s off doing his own thing. Primarily Zoro is used through both 929 and 930 as a vehicle to showcase more of the upsetting poverty across Wano, namely in the Ebisu Town that barely subsists off the scraps left over from the rich. What’s interesting about Zoro’s little side story is that there’s so much telling rather than showing. We don’t actually get to see what Zoro’s been up to. Instead we hear about it from his new traveling companion, Tonoyasu who talks of a gambling fight Zoro took part in.
This brings me to something I wanted to address; Oda’s recent comments about how far we are from the end of One Piece. Back a week or two ago Oda went on record as saying One Piece wouldn’t be much longer than a 100 collected volumes. Currently the series sits at 91, with approximately 10 chapters a volume (Give or take, the series actually varies anywhere from 8-11 per volume.) which would put One Piece’s end date anywhere from 2 to 4 years from now. I’ve seen some people say Oda is underestimating himself, that the series is likely to stretch on far past that. I’m not sure that’s the case. Wano is a fast moving arc, cramming a lot of developments and plot lines in. Compared to Whole Cake Island or Dressrosa, Wano feels like it’s really running. If Whole Cake Island ran at this pace Luffy and Co. wouldn’t have been stuck in Seducing Woods for more than two chapters, if that. The other tell is what’s going on with Zoro. In any other arc we would’ve seen this bar fight. But we just skip right over it. Add in Oda’s health issues that have kept him from producing chapters every week, and I think he’s looking to wrap this all up sooner rather than later. My money would be a 2 to 4 year estimation. But I guess we won’t truly know until 2021 or even 2023. No matter the case, another 2-4 years is still a lot to go.
One more thing that makes me think the series is building towards its conclusion is Big Mom’s inclusion in Chapter 930. While Sanji ends up facing down a couple of Kaido’s headliners, we also have a brief attempt by Big Mom to invade Wano and go after Luffy. Big Mom’s pursuit of Luffy was brought up in the last few chapters, but I wouldn’t have thought it’d happen so soon. She’s back in the story and it hasn’t even been six months since she left! I wouldn’t even be surprised if Wano is the last arc before we launch into the final arc, the epic sprint to the series’ conclusion.
Overall I think Wano is getting a little wishy washy in terms of quality. There’s some great use of Frankie and Sanji here, but it’s sandwiched between a Zoro plot that’s more for exposition and setting, developments for later story elements, and new subplots to a story already brimming with content. I’d argue Oda is having trouble balancing his massive cast of characters, and I think One Piece would be better off if future narratives revolved more so around our core cast, with fewer side-characters added in along the way.
That’s it for today’s review! Let me know what you thought of these chapters in the comments below!