One Piece 944-948 – 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. After challenging the evil Kaido directly, and failing to win, Luffy is shipped off to jail. Working with the people of Wano, the crew hope to set off a rebellion, but things take turn after turn, constantly confounding their efforts.

Review:

With the focus turned towards action, and hints of comedy, Chapters 944-948 feel like some of this arc’s best content. Chapter 944 ripples back and forth between Sanji, Zoro, and more as things get hectic for the crew. Shogun Orochi has it in for them, and they’re forced to save both Hiyori and Toko as the Shogun’s forces look to capture or kill both. The story doesn’t advance much during these moments, mostly flitting about the battlefield and pairing people off with new opponents, or giving them tasks to accomplish, like Usopp saving Toko, or Brook scarring away low-level soldiers. Everyone gets something to do it seems, even Law gets paired off against Basil, whose powers allow him to threaten the lives of Law’s crew, should Law try and do any harm to him.

After Chapter 945 the story almost exclusively centers on Luffy and what’s happening at Udon prison. This is where the real advancement of the story takes place, seeing Luffy backed into a corner as Queen threatens the lives of both Kid and Killer. Big Mom finally arrives and wrecks havoc, allowing Kawamatsu to be freed, Luffy to grow his Haki abilities and the true identities of a number of characters to come out. Namely O-Kiku turns out to be the famed and mysterious Kikunojo of the Lingering Snow. We lose a strong female character (although barely used up till now) in favor of LGBT representation, which is interestingly the exact opposite issue that the new Knights of the Zodiac Saint Seiya series is facing (In that they’ve changed a beloved LGBT character into a woman.)

Moving past potential controversy, there’s not too much to say about these chapters. They’re honestly some of the best in the arc, letting the story move at a brisk pace, with constant developments, twists and turns. There’s even a flashback to re-familiarize more casual audiences with the slave collars, and Luffy first seeing the power of Haki used by Rayleigh waaaay back during the Sabaody Archipelago Arc. Moments like these are great, and I hope Oda continues to throw them in, as I think for a series pushing 1,000 chapters long it really benefits from reminding less obsessed readers of events from years ago.

The only two real complaints I have, and it speaks to how solid these chapters are otherwise, is the usage of Big Mom, and a confusing set of panels in Chapter 946. Big Mom shows up and wrecks shit, but as soon as she regains her senses, and remembers who she is, she’s subdued right out of the story. In that way her usage feels convenient, allowing the Straw Hats a bit of beneficial chaos, without the added horror of facing Big Mom again. The other issue is Chapter 946, when Luffy destroys the Slave Collars. The art clearly shows him destroying the collar for Hyogoro, but not himself. It’s a minor issue, but Luffy destroying his own collar seems to happen off panel.

Overall though these are very strong chapters. They move the story along, don’t feel too dense or confusing to read, and the action visualized is easier to follow than it has been in sometime. I’ve been doing an on and off reread of One Piece over the last year or so. I’ve currently returned to the Water Seven Arc, and it really is interesting just how much better Oda was at paneling and visualizing things, making it easy for the reader to follow what was happening page to page. I’m not saying One Piece has become unreadable, but there’s a clear step down in how well visualized the earlier chapters are compared to now. That said, I’m happy with where Wano is going and eager to see how Luffy and his new allies hold up against Queen and his prison forces, or what’s left of them anyway.

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 92, releases on November 5th, 2019. Chapters discussed today will be collected and released sometime next year.

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