Monday, September 14, 2015

One Piece: Still awesome, 75 volumes later

One Piece, Volume 75
By Eiichiro Oda
Published by Viz Manga

If you were expecting this latest installment of this long-running series to be some sort of special anniversary volume with a big climactic moment or anything, well, be prepared to be disappointed, since it's just the next in the series. But you can also expect to be excited, since it's the latest volume of One Piece, which is rarely less than awesome. And while there appears to be plenty of time to go before this current storyline wraps up (it has lasted nine volumes so far, with at least two or three to go, I expect), things are definitely heating up here, with some big plot developments taking place, several exciting battles being set up, and an endgame in sight.

Should I try to explain the plot? Sure, why not? So, the Straw Hats are on Dressrosa, which is ruled by the dastardly Don Quixote Doflamingo, who has enslaved much of its population in a particularly cruel manner, using the power of one of his underlings to turn them into toys, after which they are forgotten by all their loved ones. The previous volume ended with a last-second defeat of the person who was controlling all these toys by Usopp, resulting in the sudden transformation of a ton of toys into angry pirates and gladiators, who are now all ready to rise up in a revolution against Doflamingo. First among these is Kyros, who was once the greatest of Dressrosa's gladiators before the king's daughter tamed his heart. He had been turned into a toy soldier, but now he's back to almost full strength (he only has one leg, but that doesn't seem to slow him down at all), and he immediately storms Doflamingo's stronghold and chops his head off. But it turns out that this Doflamingo was just a puppet composed out of the "strings" that the real villain controls with his powers, and he responds by initiating his fail-safe plan: the Birdcage, in which he surround the entire island with a giant cage of razor-sharp strings, trapping everyone inside. He then starts controlling random people with his puppeteer powers, forcing them to start attacking everyone around them. He announces that people can either try to survive long enough to kill him, or they can kill all of the Straw Hat crew and their allies, at which point he'll drop the birdcage. Oh, and he's put a huge bounty on their heads, and since the country seems to mostly be populated by ruffians, you can guess what choice they make.

And that's the setup for the rest of this story arc, with Luffy and the various good guys on his side, including rival pirate Trafalgar Law, samurai Foxfire Kin'emon, Dressrosa's former King Riku, his granddaughter, the gladiator Rebecca, and even Luffy's long-lost pal Sabo (who we last saw in volume 60 and we learn is now a high-ranking member of Luffy's father Dragon's revolutionary army), all teaming up to fight their way to Doflamingo, facing opposition from bounty-seekers and the Navy (who have decided to try to maintain the status quo), and some support/rivalry from the various pirates and gladiators who have been freed from their toy-based slavery. There are sure to be plenty of twists and turns, but it looks to be non-stop action from here until Luffy presumably defeats Doflamingo in a huge battle.

But even though this volume is mostly setup, it's still pretty action-packed, with some awesome stuff happening, such as an attack by Pica, by one of Doflamingo's minions who can control rock, in which he takes the form of a huge, animated portion of the landscape:

When he tries to punch Luffy and pals, it's as if they're being attacked by an entire village:

There are also some of the series trademark moments of emotion, as when Princess Viola explains to her father why she believes in Luffy and his crew:

And there's plenty of the series great humor, of course, with my favorite moment involving Usopp, the most cowardly member of the Straw Hats, being hailed as a savior after defeating the person who had enslaved everyone, and the words he is barely able to utter being misinterpreted as a call to follow him:

There's plenty of other stuff to enjoy here, and the next volumes promise much more, including another element of the series that I always like in a flashback to Law's childhood, where we'll learn why he hates Doflamingo so much. Stories in this manga can take a long time to build, but when they get moving, little else can match them for energy, inventiveness, emotion, and general awesomeness. I expect the next few volumes to be exciting and moving; I just wish I didn't have to wait another six months or more to read them...