One Piece 941-943 – 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.
Chapters 941-943 cover just one major revelation: The identity of Tonyasu and his death. Tonyasu mostly acts as a way to save the rebellion plan from the total disaster it was becoming, seeing as the Shogun and his vassals found out about the secret mark everyone was using to communicate their involvement. His death also marks the moment when we get an explanation for the Smile Fruits, their nasty side effects, and the horrific usage they’ve had on the populace of Wano’s Leftover Town. There’s a lot to take in here, but unfortunately what’s supposed to be highly emotional comes in a bit short compared to One Piece’s other heart wrenching moments.
The trouble starts with the pacing of the arc. Wano has had this frantic pace to it, keeping the story moving along at a brisk pace in order to cram in as much as possible for the whole Straw Hat crew to do. This means new, temporary additions to the cast don’t have enough page space to grow on the reader. It also doesn’t help that we’re handling a lot of side characters in this arc, with each group of Straw Hat Crew meeting at least a couple new characters during their journey. With limited page time, and too many characters, Tonyasu never grew into someone we felt all that attached to. The same goes for his daughter, Otoko. Seeing her father killed is certainly tragic, as is her inability to express such sorrow thanks to the after effects of the Smile Fruit, but because she hasn’t been a prominent focus these tragic events pull at the heart strings far less than One Piece’s past emotional gut punches.
Oda tries to get a little more emotion out of us with a flashback meant to help explain Tonyasu’s importance to the Oden Rebels, but this late effort isn’t enough. It’s not to say Tonyasu’s death is uninteresting, or a poor development, but it lacks that strong gut punch so many of One Piece’s more tragic moments have successfully conveyed.
In terms of story progression however this event helps to bring conflict more so to the head of proceedings. With Otoko’s life threatened in Chapter 943, both Sanji and Zoro rush to her defense, marking a more direct conflict with the Shogun and his supporters. The Smile Fruit revelation is also welcome, adding new and upsetting elements to the Wano Arc that have clearly been stewing in Oda’s head since he introduced the Artificial Devil Fruits to begin with.
Ultimately 941-943 work well at furthering the intricate details of Wano and its complex story, but lack the intense character drama and emotion One Piece has pulled out of its reader in the manga’s earlier arcs. Oda has set himself up a terribly difficult puzzle. Shonen Manga aren’t really designed for this size of a cast. With chapters meant to release weekly, and with no more than 22 pages to boot, it becomes difficult to do a story like this justice. The struggle is apparent with how Tonyasu’s death sits with the rest of One Piece’s more tragic reveals. I still think Oda is doing a remarkable job however, as Wano may not be the emotional torrent One Piece can be, but its complex narrative set on the struggle to free the people of Wano from oppression is still compelling none the less. I just have to wonder when Luffy will finally be free again and kicking ass. That’s what I’m waiting for.
That’s it for today’s review! Let me know what you thought of these chapters in the comments below!