Story and Art: Eiichiro Oda
$9.99 USA, $12.99 CAN Each
It’s hard to believe that One Piece has yet to lose a step in its 64+ volume run, but add that to writer/ artist Eiichiro Oda’s résumé of accomplishments. With no end in sight (having just reached the midway point), He still manages to crank out emotionally driven action adventures that avoid redundancy with every passing arc. The Straw Hat pirates have done and seen so much, the surprise isn’t in what the next arc holds, but that Oda can continue to produce stories and characters that are new and fresh to his world.
While he has barely scratched the surface of what has been dubbed the “New World”, it is fairly obvious that everything that has come before was merely set-up. Whereas the first 60 volumes set the foundation for Luffy and crew to grow and achieve distinguishable personalities, the post White Beard world of One Piece is the real launching point for where they make their dreams become a reality. All the characters and events that shaped the world of One Piece were drastically altered by the Paramount War arc, and in many ways that was a culmination of Luffy’s journey to manhood.
Oda’s storytelling has also progressed in the course of the series, developing from a series ripe with shonen clichés to ultimately tackling mature issues such as racial prejudice, radical extremism, and economical imbalance. It’s easy to catch the parallels of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X in the characters of Otohime and Fisher Tiger, from their differences in methods of their real world counterparts in achieving equality amongst their people right down to their untimely fates.
Legacies are one of the more prevalent themes in One Piece, with much of what has come before being the focal point for what happens in the present. For Oda, the past is always an opportunity to explore the future. The style of introducing new supporting characters as a means to tie into others that had previously reached their expiration date is a popular technique the creator has implemented on numerous occasions that creates a relevancy for every arc long after the crew has set sail for a new adventure. Even having been defeated way back in volume 11, Arlong’s influence is still felt in the current arc, along with the combination of newer story threads involving the Celestial Dragons indiscriminate tendency to brutalize the lower class.
Despite the heavier content, the arc is not without its surprisingly heart-lifting moments: The crew gets to showcase their new skill sets on their enemies, a reference to one of the pirate emperors, and above all, Luffy putting the beating on Hody. We all know the Straw Hats are going to tear through their opponents like tissue paper, but when it does happen, one can’t help but cheer as Luffy and his crew put the villains in their place.
With the introductions of new characters, an expansion on the series mythos, and emotional flashbacks, the current arc of One Piece sets the tone for the rest of the series. Still, in hindsight very little has changed for the Straw Hats since their time skip. Chaos still follows them everywhere they go, and when they aren’t engaging in slapdash hysterics, they are involved in fisticuffs of epic proportions. Hody is one of the most despicable villains in the series run, so it’s hard not to feel cheated when the volume abruptly ends after Luffy delivers a single blow. Ah well, there’s always the next volume.