One Piece 954-958 – 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:

Chapters 954-957 give us everything we need to start Wano’s third arc while Chapter 958 acts as the first step towards Wano’s climax. But Chapters 954-955 aren’t great, rushing last minute developments in an arc so complex that the Straw Hat Crew hardly get to feel like the main characters in their own story. Let’s Jump in!

Chapters 954 and 955 continue the rushed pace of scrambling to cram in a few last minute developments before we catapult to the next phase of Wano’s story. We snap between various sets of characters accomplishing various last minute tasks or surprise developments without any time for characters to really shine as who they are. Luffy is busy training, same with Zoro now that he’s acquired a new, even more powerful, sword. But the rest of the Straw Hats don’t have a lot to do at all, save maybe Frankie who has to build all the ships the Wano Rebellion is going to sail in on. The story’s become so compounded with plot that our characters are barely the center of the story, and that’s a little frustrating, as one of One Piece’s greatest assets is its cast of quirky individuals. They’re not totally gone, we get a few fun moments with Sanji, Frankie, etc. But I can’t help but feel like there might’ve been a better way to tell this story, one that allowed each of our heroes to get a bit more focus before we close out Act 2. It would’ve taken longer, and been a little more sprawling, but I get the impression Oda is trying not to turn Wano into Dressrosa 2.0.

Chapters 956-957 suffer a similar problem in that we shift focus away from the crew to take a look at the greater world level plot unfolding. A lot has happened while we’ve been focused on the Straw Hats. I don’t have too much of a problem with these chapters in and of themselves, but rather their placement. We catch up with the grander world level story just after rushing to finish up Wano Act 2, making it feel like One Piece has been primarily exposition and sudden developments for weeks now. It’d have been nice if we’d managed to break this up with some more character focused events. Again though, these chapters are fine, and provide tons of interesting details. Big events happen that are going to shake up the status quo of One Piece’s world and mark an exciting departure from the norm, like the collapse of the Seven Warlords system. We also have it hinted that Wano is even more important a country to the main story than has been let on, connecting not only to Gold D. Roger, but Garp and other characters as well. It’s very cool stuff for long time fans, I just wish it wasn’t at the tail end of one of Wano’s rougher sections.

All that said, Chapter 958 begins Wano’s third act perfectly. The festival has started without a hitch, and Kin’emon and the rest arrive at the meeting spot for the rebellion, only to find even the sea is against them, raging a ferocious storm. Not only that, but it seems the rebellion suffered a traitor, with Orochi and Kaido’s forces attacking first, and perhaps having sunk the rebellion before it could even begin! It’s an exciting opening and sort of makes up for the weeks of exposition and rushed set up. Hopefully as we flash back to learn what we’ve missed while our attention was elsewhere we get to see the Straw Hats a little more center stage again, rather than mere pawns in Oda’s most complicated arc yet.

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

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