One Piece 931-934 – 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 obsessed, 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 931-934 dance around in terms of quality. Sometimes they’re balanced well, like Chapters 931 and 932, keeping the number of plot threads to a minimum, allowing for greater focus on one, and a bit of teasing with the other two. 931 is perhaps the best of the bunch, focusing mostly on Sanji, his tokusatsu power up, and subsequent fight, with just a bit of what Robin is up to as well as Chopper and Big Mom(!?). In this way the chapter flows beautifully, allowing Robin and Chopper’s stories to act more so as teases with Sanji taking center stage. The revelation that Big Mom now has amnesia, and Chopper has to play a balancing act with utilizing her to the Straw Hat’s benefit and making sure she doesn’t regain her memories is a fun one, and unexpected. It meshes perfectly with Oda’s more unpredictable style of story-telling.

932 is also quite strong in terms of balancing narratives, keeping much of the focus on Robin and Komurasaki. However, it also drags considerably as we get burdened down in long passages of dialogue to establish one simple fact: The Shogun believes the legends about his enemies, his subordinates do not. I don’t think it helps either that Robin and Komu look quite similar, save for Robin’s more distinct nose. It’s a minor quibble, but this is another instance of where it’s obvious Oda has a limited number of pretty female faces he can draw.

933 gets chaotic. Everything blows up at the end of Chapter 932 when the little girl, Toko, laughs at the Shogun and enrages him. Nami and the others get found out and have to make a quick escape in the chaos. During all this Komurasaki stands up for the little girl, and is subsequently cut down, seemingly killed. With One Piece’s track record I very much doubt she’s actually dead, but it makes me even more convinced she’s the long lost sister of Momonosuke. Her ‘death’ could possibly be used to enrage her brother and others in the resistance.

Chapter 934 is another “lets check in with everyone” chapter. So nothing much really happens. Big Mom and Chopper are off to save Luffy, though we knew that from 933. We check in with Nami and Robin’s team, learning that the spying they did in 931-933 paid off. We learn that Sanji and Crew are aware of Komurasaki’s death, as well as Kid’s escape from the prison Luffy is in. Finally Luffy’s back on the page as he helps the old man from before, who’s now being beaten for information. We wouldn’t need chapter’s like this if Oda was a little bit better at balancing the ongoing narratives. Chapters like this aren’t awful, but they’re far from ideal because their main point is to remind the audience about as many moving parts as it can before we get real developments next time.

Again, Wano isn’t a bad arc, but it is a chaotic one, and I increasingly think the new normal for One Piece. We’ve got so many characters that unless Oda cuts the crew down like he did during Whole Cake Island, there’s always going to be too much to follow in an easily digestible manner. The other option is to pare people off into groups of 3-4 all the time (kinda like the ninja mission Nami, Robin, and Brook were on) and always keep the crew split like that to ensure you don’t have more than 3-4 narratives running at a time. As it stands though the crew is already sort of split like that, but once you factor in following what the bad guys are up to, and the people of Wano, additional arc-only characters, etc. and things start to get really messy.

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 90, releases on May 7th, 2019. Chapters discussed today will be collected and released sometime next year.

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