Thursday, May 9, 2013

One Piece Is Awesome, Example #42

At the end of the big Enies Lobby battle in volume 44 of Eiichiro Oda's One Piece, Luffy has defeated the evil Rob Lucci and the crew has rescued Nico Robin, but it seems like they're not going to make it, since they're surrounded by hundreds of soldiers and a half dozen Navy ships, with their only means of escape having been destroyed. It looks like all is lost, but last-second saves are the stuff of adventure narratives, and that's exactly what happens, although it's from probably the least expected source possible:

That's right, the crew's ship, the Merry Go, last seen destroyed and left on a pile of rubble in Water Seven, has managed to sail itself to Enies Lobby just in time to rescue the crew. We had previously seen that the ship was so well-loved that it took on a corporeal form in order to help out its friends, but this is something else entirely. What floors me is that it isn't completely ridiculous and laughable. How on earth does Oda pull this off, making the inanimate ship come to life in time to rescue its beloved crew a powerful, emotional moment rather than something dumb and contrived? He did lay the groundwork by establishing the Straw Hats' deep love for the Merry Go and through Usopp's conviction that he saw the ship's spirit, but there's something about the pure sincerity of the ridiculousness that Oda portrays that makes the scene a tear-jerking triumph of the power of friendship. And that's what makes what follows so devastating; we knew the Merry Go was damaged beyond repair and not long for the world, so when it finally breaks down and the crew decides to set it ablaze rather than leave it to sink to the ocean's lonely bottom, we get one of the most emotionally devastating scenes the series has seen yet:

Again, this should be idiotic. The crew weeping hysterically at a boat as it tells them that it was happy? As a simple description, that sounds stupid, but Oda gives it such emotional power that the read can't help but be carried along, and it ends up being an incredibly moving scene, one that I'm not ashamed to admit brought tears to my eyes when I read it. This Oda guy is a mystery to me, how he can wring such power out of such over-the-top craziness, but he does it time and again. I don't know if I'll be able to take whatever's coming next...