One Piece (Chapters 818-821) – Review Discussion

One Piece:

Chapters 818 – 821 

Reviewed by: Tom

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It bothers me that one of Luffy’s pupils isn’t really circular.

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:

Picking up from last time with Chapter 818 Luffy and the gang have apparently been making Raizo perform his Ninja tricks again and again. As they move from the prison, Raizo is moved to tears at the sheer devastation of the minks once glorious city. More interestingly, this is followed up by a lengthy sequence bringing to light numerous secrets and tie ins to Luffy and Co.’s grander adventure. First Robin has finished translating the tablet Raizo had been tied to. It reveals the location of the final island of the Grand Line– Raftel Island, the last place Gol D. Roger visited. It’s exciting and feels like a major landmark for readers as it signifies we’re probably closing in on an ending for One Piece (though we’re easily two or more arcs away from that.)

Excitement is quelled quickly however, as Dog explains that the ponegliff only contains one of the four markers needed to mark the island on a map (X on a map, of course.) Despite this, Luffy and the gang are still super excited, with Luffy exclaiming this will be the island where they may or may not find the One Piece. This line struck me as really odd. One Piece is a long series, and perhaps over the years I’ve forgotten aspects, but is this not the first time it’s been called into question as to whether the One Piece isn’t actually at the end of the Grand Line? Part of me wonders if this is foreshadowing, a hint that Gol D. Roger’s treasure will not in fact be located on the island at all. Either way it’s an odd line that puts a damper on my excitement for this news, knowing we’ve got a built in cop out.

But there’s further information that sets the notion of One Piece nearing its end as potentially even closer: Two of the ponegliffs are in the hands of pirate emperors Big Mom and Kaido. If the two big bads of this arc have the gliffs our heroes need that takes out two birds with one stone and means we might just need one more arc to get the last gliff. Luffy is originally ready to bust in the and steal the gliffs, until Cat Viper points out they only need make a rubbing of the gliff. God Luffy’s face at hearing they might not have to bust some heads is priceless.

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Jeez, guy really really likes decking people.

There’s briefly some talk of pirates coming after Robin for her knowledge, but she’s not afraid since Luffy and the rest already saved her once before. I’ve been trying to decide what the point of this exchange is. It’s either to foreshadow that, coming up, one of the emperors will come after Robin, or simply acknowledging her character development back from the Water 7 arc. I’m actually kind of hoping it’s the later, as I’m not too keen on another arc with Robin as a damsel in distress.

In a shocking twist it turns out that the Kozuki samurai are the descendants of the people who once made the ponegliffs. Unfortunately Momo and the rest can’t read the gliffs, but that’s because Momo’s father was put to death by none other than Kaido! It’s kinda cool how everything in this arc, which felt disjointed and unrelated is suddenly coming together. But not only was Oden killed by Kaido, he also sailed with the one and only Gol D. Roger to Raftel itself!

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Kaido doesn’t sound like too much of a nice guy.

Chapter 819 continues the revelations, explaining that Kaido was after the Kozuki’s knowledge and was chasing Momo and the rest down in hopes they too knew about Raftel. In retaliation for Kaido’s butchering of their former leader, Momo and the others have sworn to defeat the Shogun, who are under Kaido’s thumb, and free their reclusive country. In fact, that’s why they set out for Zou in the first place to get help from Dog and Cat, Oden’s old vassals. Kinne’mon begs Luffy to help but he refuses. This didn’t surprise me, Luffy’s all about equal ground and with the revelation surrounding Momo from last time I knew he’d be turning to the kid, looking for Momo to stand up for himself.

Momo has a brief series of flashbacks telling us everything we need to know for the moment, about his father’s death, his mother etc. I’m glad we avoided the trope of doing a massive multi-chapter flashback for the moment. I’m sure Momo has an interesting story, and a tragic one, as that seems to be everyone’s story in the One Piece world, but I’d rather not hear it this minute while we’re in the middle of revelations. Momo begs Luffy for help and the two form an alliance. It looks like everyone is ready to go pound in Kaido’s face, but Luffy insists they hold off until they get Sanji back.

If I had to guess this means we’ll ultimately have a rescue Sanji arc, with a Kaido arc building during the Sanji storyline and finally everyone will come back together for a big all out war against Kaido himself. I’m hoping we don’t chop the perspectives up more than that, as One Piece can sometimes be hard to follow, as with Dressrosa, when there’s too much going on. Unlike My Hero Academia, I think One Piece struggles to balance its ever growing cast each arc.

But even with everything going well, danger looms on the horizon as Jack’s pirates return, deciding this time not to invade the island but rather sink the elephant. Despite this ominous end to the chapter, Chapter 820 doesn’t pick up right from there. We’re treated to some more revelations that Cat and Dog also knew and traveled with Gol D. Roger. As the reminiscing continues it starts to seem like everyone is related to everyone in some way. I enjoy the connections and revelations, but Oda always seems to take them a step too far. I’m now just waiting for the day Zoro or Nami turns out to be far more important than simply orphaned individuals. It’s nice to have back stories, and revelations, but when everyone starts to feel a stones throw away from each other then the world seems an awfully small place.

Oddly, there’s another sidetrack in conversation here, as Nami fears that they might be on the wrong journey. She mentions how the log pose was supposed to lead them to the final island, but now the gliffs will? What’s at the end of the grand line then? Dog explains that most would come upon the revelations they’re discovering now when they reached the end of the grand line. Personally I assume this is Oda addressing the plot hole this whole Ponegliffs brought up. It makes me wonder if Oda’s revised his story in some way. Did he decide this would make for a better tale or perhaps he’s trying to rush us towards the conclusion? Either way this moment feels not so much natural as a band aid.

There’s then another sidetrack to the Whitebeard pirates as potential allies, and we learned they were mostly defeated during the time skip in a battle against Teech known as the Grudge War. Finally the villagers arrive to greet Raizo and it looks like we’re wrapping up the exposition as Luffy, Nami, Chopper and potentially Brook prepare to go save Sanji. I’m excited to have an arc with these four, as Nami, Chopper and Brook are some of the more underutilized characters and it’ll be interesting to see if Oda can make their fights more memorable without using Zoro and Franky as fall backs.

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We already knew Luffy was a bit off his rocker, but now he’s hearing voices? What next: red bull gives him wings?

Finally Jack’s appearance at the end of last chapter comes back into play as they begin their attack on Zunesha, the giant elephant, shaking the entire city. In an odd twist of events Luffy hears a mysterious voice calling out. Stepping straight into Chapter 821, Luffy and Momo can both hear the voice, pleading for someone to give him orders. Luffy and Momo try to talk back to but it can’t seem to hear Luffy at all.

Jack continues his assault on the elephant, wounding one of its legs. It looks as if Zunesha will fall into the ocean at this rate. Finally Momo realizes it belongs to Zou, Zunesha, the island itself. It apparently explains to Momo that as punishment for an ancient crime he’s been made to walk the ocean endlessly. But he needs someone to free him and give him the order to fight back. Momo cries out for Zunesha to destroy Jack’s pirates and the elephant does, slamming its trunk down into the ocean and obliterating Jack’s armada. I can’t help but feel this revelation and conclusion were shoehorned in. It’s clear One Piece is an ever expanding, complex story, but I think Oda doesn’t always know the best way to introduce new elements and we end up with instances like this where, surprise, Luffy can hear giant telepathic elephants. It feels almost random and I can’t recall any foreshadowing leading to this moment, something I very much wish Oda had done before now.

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Just watch him put the phone to death.

Either way it turns out Jack was nothing more than a joke of a villain. With disaster averted, the characters are back on their way. Luffy and his team are heading out, while everyone else prepares to go take on the Shogun and Kaido. As a cliffhanger we’re treated to a snail informing Kaido that his connection to Jack has been lost.

Overall I’m fairly satisfied with these chapters. I feel like we learned a lot in ways both told well and others shoehorned in without warning. I’m excited for where One Piece is going, but  I’m starting to wonder if we’re perhaps ‘rushing’ the ending.(By rushing I mean two more arcs instead of twenty.) So much information was dumped on us here in a very unnatural way. It makes me wonder if Oda is seeking to bring One Piece to a close sooner than he’d originally planned (I mean after he’d revised it to go longer.) I’ve always wondered if something like this might happen after he began to suffer from bouts of poor health, if perhaps there’s pressure from his friends and family to bring One Piece to a conclusion for health related reasons.

No matter what, I’m excited to dive into the Big Mom and Kaido battles coming up and curious to get back to Sanji’s story and his family. Even if I don’t appreciate the “everybody is connected to somebody” revelations, I’m at least curious how Sanji and his surprise big dog family factor into the overall world. And when will we get back to the Rebellion and Luffy’s father? I feel like those elements have sat untouched now for sometime.

One Piece is published weekly in Shonen Jump. Chapters 776-780 are contained in Volume 78 releasing on May 3rd, 2016. Chapters discussed today, 818-821, will be found in Volume 82 releasing sometime early next year.

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