Tuesday, June 7, 2016

One Piece: Aargh, why do I have to wait for the NEXT volume for the awesomeness?

One Piece, Volume 78
By Eiichiro Oda
Published by Viz Media

Writing about each new volume of One Piece is kind of difficult, since it's tough to do it in a way that's not just "And then this cool thing happens! And check out this other bit of awesomeness!" The series has gone on for so long that it can be hard to come up with other things to say. Not that it's not still great; every new volume is tons of fun, full of crazy action, funny jokes, and emotional character moments, and this one is no exception.

So: how about a summary? This is what seems to be the penultimate volume in the current storyline, in which the Straw Hat Pirates are fighting the evil Don Quixote Doflamingo, who has been tyrannically ruling the kingdom of Dressrosa for ten years. The battle has raged throughout the last several volumes, but Luffy and his allies (who have grown in number here to include not just the Straw Hats, but the kingdom's former royal family and a bunch of other gladiators and pirates) have defeated most of the bad guys, with only a few of them remaining.

As usually happens in this point of these stories, various one-on-one matchups occur, and the ones we get here are pretty great. We get to see the gladiator Kyros (who spent the last ten years and most of the last several volumes in the form of a toy soldier, but has now been restored to his full, if one-legged, form as a total badass) face off against a guy named Diamante, who murdered Kyros' wife. Diamante has a weird power where he can turn things into paper (or some two-dimensional form) and back again, and he uses an attack where he shoots a bunch of confetti up into the air then turns it into a weapon:

But that's no real obstacle to Kyros, who refuses to be harmed by such cowardly tricks:

Diamante shoots Kyros in the leg, leaving him open to damage, but he won't stop coming, demonstrating some intensely righteous badassery:

I love that sort of stuff. Also good is Zolo's fight against a guy named Pica, who has taken the form of a giant stone version of himself and is about to attack the former King Riku and stop any opposition to Doflamingo's rule. But by the time Zolo realizes what's going on, Pica is halfway across the town, so his only way to stop him is by getting one of his gladiator allies to throw him the entire distance:

That's actually not the end of the fight; it goes on for several more pages as Zolo continues to fight Pica's stone form in mid-air, and it's awesome.

And then there's the big final battle between Luffy and Doflamingo, which seems to come to a climax here but looks like it's going to stretch into at least the first few chapters of the next volume. It's one of those high-energy fights that Eiichiro Oda does so well, somehow managing to keep raising the stakes further than they already are throughout, with Doflamingo beginning to make the "birdcage" surrounding the kingdom contract, which will eventually end up killing everyone inside, and the seemingly-defeated Trafalgar Law managing to strike more blows against Doflamingo at the last moment. But Doflamingo is cunning and resilient, and he manages to survive even though Luffy keeps doing awesome stuff like this:

So that means Luffy has to shift his powers into "Gear Four". We had previously seen him use additional "gears" when he came up with new levels of his abilities, but this one is especially weird and goofy. It involves him pumping his body up into a form that resembles a muscular balloon and then using his psychic "Haki" powers to armor himself up and resist any damage. This allows him to basically fly and keep attacking, but he can also sort of telescope his arms to deal incredibly powerful blows:

It's one of those signature One Piece moments that's silly but effective, and Oda sells it by demonstrating Luffy's anger and determination. He also throws in some extra drama by having King Riku exhort his citizens to not give up, even though their situation seems hopeless:

Those are the sorts of moments that I love in this manga; scenes that are awe-inspiring in their awesomeness and plain in their emotions, while still retaining a sense of fun and adventure even in the midst of high-stakes battles. This series continues to be pretty great, and I can't wait to cheer at what I expect to be the resolution to this long storyline in the next volume. And then it'll be back to waiting for a few more years for the next big moment like this, but based on past experience, it will all be worth it.

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