One Piece (Chapters 814 – 817) – Review Discussion

One Piece:

Chapters 814 – 817 

Reviewed by: Tom

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Oh yeah, rockin’ the cover.

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 power 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)

Now, having saved the kingdom of Dressrosa, and gained a few temporary crew mates: Kinne’mon and his son Momo, two Samurai seeking a lost ally of theirs, Luffy and his crew move on to the island of Zou to continue their battle against one of the four emperor pirates: Kaido.

But reaching the island of Zou they discover that it’s actually a giant elephant with the inhabitants living on its back! Entering the city atop the elephants back, Luffy and the gang discover that the Minks, the local inhabitants, hate Samurai, especially after their city was attacked and pillaged, the citizens tortured and their leaders ravaged by pirates searching for a Samurai named Raizo. And to top it all off Sanji’s left the gang to head off to his impending wedding!?

Review:

One Piece wasn’t my first Weekly Shonen Jump love. When Shonen Jump made its way to the U.S. back in 2002 I was ecstatic at finally getting semi-regular manga. The very first titles to be published monthly in this version of the magazine included One Piece and Naruto. For a long time Naruto was my preferred manga between the two. I enjoyed the art more, found the serious, darkish tone more engaging and just generally looked forward to it every week compared to One Piece. It’s not to say I hated One Piece, I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t my main drawn every month.

But as the two manga aged, and I did, I began to drift away from Naruto. Partly because Naruto eventually went down a rabbit hole of constantly exponentially increasing power levels to the point of jumping the shark, but also because I started to find myself very, very drawn to One Piece. By the time Shonen Jump monthly time-skipped to catch up to the Manga in Japan, and then switched themselves to a weekly publication, I found myself eagerly consuming the new chapters, much more so than Naruto’s painful chugging towards its ultimate conclusion (That’s probably enough of my disappointment with Naruto for now.)

But as One Piece itself has aged its more recent arcs have left me wanting. The arc immediately proceeding the time skip was a bit boring, and the island of poison plotline, that carried into Dressrosa, all dragged on for ages, to the point where I kind of stopped caring. Now we’re in the post-Dressrosa arc and I’m finding myself actually having fun again with One Piece, something I can’t say I was having for a solid year now.

I still feel there’s problems cropping up with One Piece as we continue on. An over reliance on new characters to the point where we’re introduced to an army of newcomers who have no real hope that I’ll remember any of their names, along with story arcs that drag on for ages with fights taking perhaps a few too many twists and turns before they end. But, there’s a lot to like here in these four chapters we’re going to discuss. So let’s, finally, jump in!

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Aw, look, our boy is so innocent, he doesn’t even know about ‘one night stands.’

Starting with Chapter 814 we’ve just finished learning why Sanji wasn’t with Nami and the others, as well as his impending wedding that Big Mama, a Pirate Empress, is forcing him into! I actually really like this development, in most ways, because it brings us back to having something resembling character development for the crew and with the last few arcs there really hasn’t been any. When the idea that Sanji might not be coming back is brought up, Luffy gets quite mad and gradually comes to the conclusion he’ll go rescue Sanji all by himself (He seems to sort of forget this though as the chapters go on and we get sidetracked by other developments.)

Zoro points out that they’re locked into confronting Kaido, one of the other four emperors seeing as they ruined his Dressrosa plot. Despite this, Luffy is dead set and decides to visit Lion Viper, an injured member of Big Mama’s Pirates, to question him about what he knows. The chapter concludes with a startling conclusion that Sanji is actually from a big family, the Vinsmoke Family of killers who commands the Germa 66, a secret and evil army. I’m of two minds about this development. On the one hand I am thrilled we’re developing our crew, who’ve almost entirely been catalyst characters for years now, and if they do go through character development it doesn’t last very long (i.e. Usopp reverting to same old same old after the whole Water 7 debacle.) But on the other hand I’m weary of characters turning out to be princes in disguise. We’d already done that with Luffy and his father, Luffy’s brother, and I’m now just fearing that slowly but surely we’ll learn each member of the straw hats is actually of royal blood or something. Yikes. For now though, I’m just happy to see us learning a bit more about Sanji.

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Ladykillers?

Moving onto Chapter 815, Luffy still wants to get Sanji back (really one track this guy has.) but Lion Viper explains that Sanji most likely left to spare all his loved ones, as anyone who disobeys Big Mama can expect the head of a loved one delivered in a box on their doorstep. Well, maybe it’s best if we leave Sanji be for the moment. Trafalgar Law shows up, reminding Luffy of their alliance and that Kaido is most likely coming to get them back for everything they’ve ruined. Despite all these developments the crew basically stumbles into an all night party and eats the night away.

Meanwhile, Robin, Franky and Brook haven’t forgotten that Kinn’emon and Kanjuro are still climbing their way up, and with the village’s hate of Samurai they simply cannot allow them inside. Despite the three’s seeming resolve all of them fall asleep by sunrise, allowing both Kinn’emon and Kanjuro inside. The city then erupts in a ruckus about Samurai entering the city.

With Chapter 816 everyone rushes out awake as the Minks head to confront the Samurai. King of Dogs Dog Storm and Cat Viper, the two lords of this island who don’t get along, meet each other in the city and quickly get into a pissing mach. Kinne’mon is found by Luffy and the others, who stop him from being spotted. But as fighting is about to break out, Kinne’mon jumps forth drawing attention to himself. As Dog Storm and Cat Viper charge him, he cries out about searching for a companion named Raizo.

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You know, you gotta give Oda credit, this is a pretty epic shot.

It’s been awhile since One Piece has surprised me, I’ve been unimpressed with the twists and turns of late, but this reveal that the Minks were hiding Raizo the whole time, and are actually buddies with the Samurai, caught me completely by surprise. I literally went wide-eyed with this reveal and moments like this are breathing new life into this series that I feel has been compounding itself with too many characters and uninteresting twists.

Chapter 817 continues the twist as we learn that the little Samurai boy Momo is not, in fact, Kinne’mon’s child, but is actually the Prince of the Samurai! These twists are helping to keep me very much engaged (although I’m starting to get the sense that this arc is a reworking of the Alabasta arc and that Oda may have hit the point where he’s recycling ideas).

Moving on, the crew goes to find Raizo and discovers he’s this, well, rather bizarrely proportioned individual, stoutish, but larger than any regular man. Either way the Straw Hats bug him to do Ninja tricks and treat him like some party entertainer. After scolding them, and then seeing how sad then everyone becomes, Raizo, who’d been chained up to this point, performs a surprise escape as only a Ninja can do, solidifying himself as an impressive character from his very first introduction.

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Man must have a good dentist.

As for where One Piece will go? I’m hoping that we first deal with Sanji and get that plot line concluded. But, if this Sanji story is anything like Nami’s developments way back during Sanji’s introductory arc, we’ll be concluding stuff on the Zou island first, maybe even a giant showdown with Kaido himself, before moving on. I’m hoping that since Kaido hasn’t reached the island yet maybe we can avoid that for the moment, but no matter what direction it goes I’m glad to have One Piece back as a manga I’m excited to check out every week.

One Piece is published weekly in Shonen Jump. Chapters 776-780 are contained in Volume 78 releasing on May 3rd, 2016. Chapters discussed today, 814-817, will be found in Volumes 81 & 82 releasing sometime early next year.

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