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haruka9
December 08, 2008, 03:26 AM
CHAPTER 525: THE UNDERSEA GAOL, IMPEL DOWN

Sheesh. Another late post. This is the result of my stuff piling up in the corner, assisting and supporting my younger brother in his college entrance exams, and internet failure because it appeared that there was a nasty “connection overload” since each internet user in my location was so eager to get earlier results of this renowned boxing match. Sheesh again. Being an elder sibling just gives me jitters whenever I see my brothers embark on something big. Anyway, before my punctuality issue becomes official, I better manage my time more effectively so I can postr my review at the proper time. Anyway, my introduction is starting to sound like a blog, so I also better start reviewing.


Promise
http://img384.imageshack.us/img384/2553/firstly9.jpg

Last chapter, we saw that Rob Lucci was the one behind the strange call. He introduced himself, as a “former employee,” a crucial introduction to note for. This time however, we see the results of the World Government’s total debacle, with Captain Very Good’s “beri pieces” being held by Lucci’s fellow “former employees.” His beat-up form is a good indication that the Marine soldiers and the World Government employees do not have enough strength to cause the old CP9’s downfall. Not that we are surprised to see to Lucci and the rest of his nakama “beat the hell out of them,” but if there is anything worthy of acknowledgement, it is their resolve to win not for the purpose of a successful power showdown, but for a survival so they can continue to live the lives they want. His message for Spandam, “someday we shall return,” is an amalgamation of threat and vow. It becomes a threat in Spandam’s point of view since their return will signify his overthrown position. Since it is the bandaged bastard who is responsible for the mission to seize them, they will, someday, return the favor by showing him that he never possesses any kind of strength to conquer them. The other significance of this message is a vow built within their hope for a new life. Hopefully, they will come back in the World Government not as assassins with the freedom to annihilate anyone they want, but good soldiers of moral justice to straighten the twisted sense of morality of their former superiors.


Family Background
http://img386.imageshack.us/img386/483/secondhm8.jpg

Just when we assume that Ace and Luffy share similar blood through their unnamed biological mother, the fire-fist “Portgas” is indeed part of the Monkey family, thanks to Dragon’s world-class, criminally oriented DNA. Ace reveals this as his conversation with his grandfather Garp goes deeper than pep talk. Personally, I wasn’t expecting to see him and Garp in this chapter; I had the impression that the limelight will focus on the Shichibukai, the Whitebeard Pirate crew, and Luffy and Hancock. I am extremely pleased with another focus on them though. It’s as if Ace’s deeper thoughts and feelings and more sensitive sense of character are established whenever Oda showcases him. First, we see his beat-up physical condition. Then we immediately sympathized with him when he expressed his inner turmoil – seemed like he’s not just physically worn-out. And currently, we learn that Ace possesses genuine familial concern; perhaps he is the most sensitive member of the Monkeys.

“Portgas” is a name which originated in his mother’s surname. His usage of this, instead of the conventional adoption of biological father’s last name reveals his solid feelings for his biological parents. He strongly feels “indebted” to his mother, where “debt” indicates the love and the memories he has with her. She was probably present during his childhood and personally took care of him and showered him with love and faith just like any mother would. These would, of course, have brought fond memories for Ace, as he apparently thinks highly of her. Everything she left behind for Ace (memories, love, ideals, sense of individuality, etc.) urges him to adopt her surname to further the honor he gives her. Perhaps this is also the reason behind Ace’s politeness; she must have taught him about manners.

On the other hand, Ace feels the opposite towards his biological father Monkey D. Dragon. Being a revolutionary that he is, Dragon must have prioritized his goals as the leader of this revolution and must have enhanced his notorious reputation as the “World’s Most Wanted Criminal” by spending all his time and his strength fighting against the World Government. Besides, Dragon is not your average dad. He certainly shares bizarre qualities just like a typical Monkey member has (Garp’s bizarre way of training his grandsons – leaving them in the middle of the forest to test their strength and survival skills; his narcolepsy; his idiocy; Luffy’s huge surprise when he realizes that he actually has a father; his epic idiocy; and the list goes on). Dragon has just appeared in the entire series for two times and has introduced himself as someone more serious and more mysterious than the two. But, his unexpected visit in Loguetown to check Luffy and to save him eventually is already a proof of his oddness – only that he showed it in a mysterious, yet cool way. Going back to Ace…. Ace doesn’t feel a damn for his biological father. He neither feels “indebted to him” nor possesses a small drop of “memory with him,” pushing him to disregard him as his real father. Of course, he isn’t going to use “Monkey” because it will be such a total shame to adopt a surname from someone as ‘useless” as Dragon. He uses “Portgas” instead not only to honor his biological mother but to avoid being regarded as Dragon’s son as well…. He surely “disowns” the latter. Since Ace perceives the value of family the conventional way (parents taking care of their children, brothers relying or looking for each other, etc.), his repulsiveness grows bigger as Dragon fails to fulfill his responsibility as a father. Even if he knows about the revolutionary and the purpose for its foundation, it still isn’t an excuse to leave his paternal duties behind. That is why he describes Dragon as “useless.”

The real father for Ace is his captain, Newgate. A short flashback is shown where the former was bathed in his own blood and the Whitebeard captain together with his First Division Commander, Marco, offered him a place for his family. Maybe, the flashback was taken during his fight against someone. His strength must still be raw at that time, which put him in defeat and near-death state. However, Newgate, Marco, and God knows who else was there, must have recognized his promising talent, triggering their interest and urging them to invite him in their crew. For Ace, this encounter was a miracle. Just when he thought that his hope to receive any paternal attention from his useless biological father, Dragon, completely vanished, someone showed up, ready to accept him and regard him as a true son. Recognition, sense of responsibility, and genuine paternal love/concern – these are the key ingredients of Newgate’s perception towards his nakama – and these are just three of the things that strengthen Ace’s enthusiasm to look at his captain as his real father.


Hancock's Rival
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Apparently, it’s not just the reinforcements of the “justice” who are making their flashy return. Another old, yet unforgettable, crew makes their way to prove that the creator of their universe, Oda, has not completely deprived them some piece of attention. Buggy’s crew flashily returns to the scene, and yes, very much alive and being their usual selves. It seems that they haven’t got ridden of their silliness, pathetic condition, and their immense susceptibility to being major laughing stock in the series. However, the flashiest of them all, the red-nosed captain Buggy, is in fact, missing. According to Mohji, Buggy is being held captive in Impel Down. Since Alvida assists him in his captainship, she takes charge of the crew and manages to properly lead them until they reach Calm Belt. Their goal is similar to Luffy’s, only their determination is split in half. They are not like the Strawhats whose idiocy has reached the level of insanity where they are willing to take extreme measures just to save a nakama. Actually, the Buggy’s Band of Pirates is just being cautious and practical. If we judge their situation with firm objectivity, Alvida makes a good point, where penetrating the greatest gaol in One Piece is improbable, especially when they don’t have enough strength and will to back up their plan. But Hancock’s beauty rival stops being “on point” when she prefers to take the ship and leave the rest of the crew on a small boat so she can save herself…. So uncaptain-ish….


The Impenetrable
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We finally catch few glimpses of what Impel Down looks like. Since its location reaches the underwater property of Calm Belt, it is surrounded by hungry-looking Sea Monsters, waaaay scarier than the Bananawani. Aside from Ace’s cage, few prison cells are shown, incarcerating few prisoners together. Perhaps its structure varies according to one’s degree of offense. The cells which provide maximum security are only given to big offenders. The unnamed prisoners sharing one cell must be small-time offenders – those whose bounties (in case they have bounties on their heads) do not exceed 50 million bellies (just an estimation). But before that, several exercises of torture are being carried out to the unlucky prisoners, where different pointy weapons strike their flesh. This must be Impel Down’s version of “rite of passage” where the new-captured criminals/pirates are tortured to weaken them before they even get placed in their respective cells. The other unscathed-looking inmates who are already in their cells must have healed their wounds and have gained their strength, thus looking healthier than the tortured ones. If not, these torturous exercises must be a sort of punishment to those who still cause commotion despite being locked into special cells. Nevertheless, this explains why Ace looks quite beat-up and bloody. After receiving Teach’s ultimate Yami Yami technique that absolutely left him like a mushy veggie, he must have undergone a series of torture – harder and more painful than the usual ones, considering that his status as the Second Division Commander of the Whitebeard Pirates should not be taken lightly.


Monstrous Prison Guard
http://img412.imageshack.us/img412/9352/fifthyd6.jpg

Since Impel Down houses tough pirates/criminals (despite the level of their notoriousness), an equally tough prison guard is needed to discipline them. The shadow of this prison guard is displayed, who mostly resembles a bull with his horns and fangs. And because it’s One Piece we’re talking about, this bull-ish prison guard might be hybrid of tough creatures like Absalom whose body is a fusion of a human, a lion, and other animals stitched together to create a carnal masterpiece. Or, this prison guard might be a devil fruit user who happens to eat a Zoan type of fruit, thus, giving him the ability to walk with two feet and the potential to acquire basic human knowledge. The fact that the inmates try to rationalize their reason for causing such ruckus is a fair explanation that this “bull” is not just an animal. Another scary thing about this Mr. Bull-y, aside from his monstrous appearance and spiky club is his food preference. It doesn’t seem like he likes to indulge in human feast since the prisoners are not that scared of him (they should be scared out of their wits if they know that he’s a man-eating guard). On the other hand, the pile of skulls lying in that seemingly deep pit, with the panel of a boiling pot beside it, just looks terrifying. Somehow it makes it look like he eats those human and throw their bones in that hollow. But, if you look at it closely, there are long pieces of crammed spikes in that pit, which can indicate that the bull-y prison guard throws the prisoners he grows tired of.


Grand Facade
http://img412.imageshack.us/img412/1491/sixthxq4.jpg

Aside from the crazy affairs that happen within the prison cells, the exterior of the Impel Down is displayed as well. Its façade looks like a 14-th century English castle, possessing some of its most distinguishable feature like its gigantic gate (technically called as portcullis) and tall constructions made to look-out for any intruders from afar and for defense purposes (technically called battlement or crenellation). During my research about castles, I suddenly remember reading concise information about Alcatraz Island in USA that holds the Guiness record for being “The most secured prison.” I am not sure if this prison area-turned recreational tourist spot still holds the title though. Its tight security is influenced by its geographical characteristics – an island surrounded by violent sea currents. Its similarity with Impel Down’s features is a bit apparent (a lone prison surrounded by harsh sea with such tightness that no ones has ever successfully escaped from).

Another noticeable showcase is its flag: combination of wings, crown, and Poseidon’s trident (held downward). Such emblem denotes its domination (the crown) over the sea (trident). I’m sure with the representation of the wings though.


Strict Caution
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Four days and a half have already passed and Luffy and Hancock finally reaches the impenetrable Impel Down with a little delay. Even so, they still manage to catch up with Ace on time since Luffy has still two days or (a day and a half) before his elder brother’s execution at the Marineford. Since it doesn’t appear like he has imagined what kind of forces await for him in this mighty jail, he finds himself quite surprised with the security established in Impel Down. It is surrounded with battleships where its number is even larger than the ones present in the implementation of Buster Call in Ennies Lobby…. Really, this is something that should be expected since this prison is packed with infamous inmates. Another thing that is also predictable is everyone’s immediate devotion to Hancock’s beauty. However, the pirate empress seems to be annoyed with everyone’s all-out admiration towards her perfection…. Because she already has Luffy, perhaps? Anyway, Vice-Admiral Momonga (literally means “flying squirrel”) keeps his composure despite Hancock’s suggestion of her instant and scary petrification on her annoying fanboys. Since the vice-admiral feels the weight of the situation, he is rather more intense regarding the rules implemented inside Impel Down. He reminds her of the Marine’s disapproval to pirates, even the Shichibukai, who is supposed to be their (lose) allies since the latter group are still pirate by nature; his strict caution towards them is absolutely rational since a person with an identity of pirate might cause some destruction just to free his fellow pirates.

What is more concerning in the situation, however, is the process of security verification of a pirate allowed to enter the premises of the Impel Down freely. First, she will be handcuffed with kairoseki, preventing her from the utilization of her petrifying abilities. It proves useful at certain situations and it will help Hancock a lot (and even Luffy) in case she (or he) engages in unexpected disagreements with a threatening person. I’m not implying that she will be totally helpless once she gets herself handcuffed. In fact, she has a promising talent in Haki and that alone can give her enough strength to defeat an enemy without suffering from the effects of kairoseki. Hopefully, Luffy won’t get affected by it as well. The second condition is even much concerning. “Full-body check” goes into a wide variety of interpretations. It can be done with a thorough “pat” on her body. If this is the case, then Luffy can just feel the direction of the guard’s hand and avoid it. This “full-body check” can also mean that she has to undergo an x-ray type of machine to see the stuff inside her clothes, such as items she keeps in her pocket, deadly weapon hidden somewhere in her robes, etc. (imagine the inspection process in Hunter X Hunter before Gon, Killua, Kaito, and the rest of his team enter NGL and you’ll get what I imply better). But I believe that another interpretation of Impel Down’s inspection can involve higher risk for both Luffy and Hancock. Personally, the first thing that comes to my mind when Vice-Admiral Momonga mentions “strict full-body check” is Hancock’s bareness so the lady inspector can inspect her. It is plausible that a pirate like herself can conceal dangerous tools somewhere in her body, like in her thighs, to avoid suspicion. This interpretation will put her into further risk because of the Hoof of the Soaring Dragon at her back. It’s not like she’ll let anyone see it, but if such inspection requires her nudity, then she has to do something clever to avoid its exposure without failing inspection requirements. In addition to that, Luffy has to hide himself more carefully. I know his Gomu Gomu body can give him advantage, but if Hancock is going to undergo the second and third sort of inspection (the x-ray like type of machine and her nudity), then he also has to undergo a very strict “idiocy prevention” so he can also help her.


Escaped Clown
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Okay, Captain Buggy is indeed in Impel Down and somehow, manages to escape from his cage. From the looks of it, the prison guards are unconscious of his Bara Bara no Mi nature, only locking him in a non-kairoseki cage and handcuff, thus, allowing him to escape by splitting himself into tiny parts. This is just a sort of Déjà vu – a similar circumstance in Logue Town, where he was easily captured by Smoker’s group then fortunately escaped, thanks to Dragon’s intermission. And before he even embarks in Logue Town, he was somewhere trapped, his parts incomplete. Then he managed to broke free from a series of misfortune only to find himself caught with another one (the Logue Town deal). Since he finds himself again with a similar account, it appears that his misfortune-to-fortune ordeal has been carrying on like a cycle…. Only this time, his hardships are waaaay tougher. Hopefully, we get to see his current situation in the next chapter…. And I can’t wait to see his reaction once he meets Luffy again. I just have this feeling that they will meet in a funny way. The chance of them bumping into each other might take place as Luffy finds Ace as Buggy does the same thing. Since Cabaji says that they have made good friends with Ace, this red-nosed captain might also look for the second division commander and finds a way to free him. However, his purpose might not be purely for the sake of saving a “good friend.” He might have done this in a symbiosis-like fashion: he would help Ace to free from his cage and in return, Ace should help him flee from Impel Down. He knows it will become more plausible because Ace is utterly strong. (Well, the ideas of Ace escaping just even from his cage and accepting their (both Luffy and Buggy) help will raise his personal issues, but I won’t focus on this matter at least at this time. I can emphasize this on the next reviews in case this scenario appears). With a common goal, Luffy and Buggy might meet in the midst of the execution of their objective.

The Spectacle:http://img78.imageshack.us/img78/5859/thespectaclejx8.jpg

Ace finally reveals that he is indeed son of Dragon. The usage of his mother’s surname “Portgas” is utterly meaningful. His conversation with Garp reveals more of his personal and more sensitive side which makes everyone look forward to another piece of their talk. Alvida and Buggy’s band of Pirates suddenly appearing in this arc is a delightful surprise, especially with Buggy’s imminent appearance. Expect lots of goofy scenes with him.

Lately, this series has inserted short pieces of narration throughout the entire chapters, especially this one. Not that I’m against it…. In fact, I love how Oda showcases some slim changes in his masterpiece; it gives One Piece a refreshing flavor without losing its usual ambience. This series seldom establishes a narrative approach…. that is why, this chapter, including the previous ones, leaves such invigorating impressions. Furthermore, the last panel in this chapter is so arresting that it creates massive intensity of what has yet to come. Hancock’s thoughts, expressing their preparation as they enter this impenetrable gaol and the info box containing the remaining hour are the perfect way to close this chapter. Like what I said, it creates intensity. Besides, this narrative approach creates an additional edge to what will be the pivotal point of the series. I truly love it.

The Downside:http://img78.imageshack.us/img78/2184/thedownsideqa9.jpg

The inspection that both Hancock and Luffy will undergo is a conflict which involves anxiety and requires wariness. They should really be cautious during this process without looking suspicious, otherwise, much stricter attention will be given to them. Vice-Admiral Momonga is already anxious due to their tardiness. He once expresses his curiosity about Hancock’s desire to go to Impel Down. Though he hasn’t showed another air of curiosity, a man possessing similar title with Garp is not a person who will just let his guard down just because he looks preoccupied with something else. For all we know, he might be constantly observing her movements. If she creates even a slight mistake in her action, Vice Admiral Momonga might tighten his guard more.

Final Notes:http://img78.imageshack.us/img78/6149/finalnotesbr1.jpg

As the series turns in its epic, pivotal point, there are more issues being raised among the characters, more surprising revelations are described, more characters in the past have come back, and more twists just keep on surprising us. I can’t help but perceive these things as clues as to what we can truly expect from the war against the Marines and the World Government. There is something truly monumental of what has yet to come.

Goji
December 09, 2008, 09:59 AM
Again thank you for another great review, haruka!. I love your style, and the long explanations you give on every aspect of the chapter.

What more can I say, I fully agree with you and am very anxious to see what the next chapter will bring us. Keep up the good work~ ^_^
[hr]
Oh, I do have a question for you: what do you think about the whole Luffy/Ace-mother situation? I mean, now there are basically two possibilities: Ace and Luffy not only have the same father, but also the same mother OR Ace and Luffy have different mothers. Which is it?

As you already said, Ace has strong feelings for his mother, and this -just like you said- could be the reason why he is such a well-behaved man. If you then take the Ace and Luffy have the same mother theory you'll have to come to the conclusion that Luffy also should be a well-behaved man... but he isn't. Well, not exactly anyways. >_>;
This could have many reasons ofcourse, maybe their mother died when Luffy was still too young to have a decent upbringing, or maybe Luffy didn't look up to her as much as Ace did, or maybe Luffy was separated from her at a young age, etc. The possibilities are endless.

And of course there's still the possibility that Ace and Luffy have different mothers, but that would just seem a bit too complicated for the whole story if you ask me. What do you think?

That all for now! :)

haruka9
December 10, 2008, 01:38 AM
Thank you very much. I was worried about the length of my review but I didn't want to delete any of its parts because I thought all were important. My answer to your question.... I guess both of them have similar biological mother. That's my speculation. Ace's adoption of the name "Portgas" merely indicates his perception about his parents and it doesn't imply that he and Luffy have different biological mothers. For all we know, Luffy is also ignorant about his mother's identity. However, his lack of knowledge in regards with her is debatable. The argument can go into two ways: (1) she's absent during Luffy's childhood. She might be dead or might be taken into custody by Garp or by someone else; (2) she might be there when Luffy was still young and also managed to take care of him, just like how she nurtured Ace. With this, she might have taught Luffy proper manners. However, since his stubbornness and idiocy are innate, he must have interpreted such lessons in a different way. Thus, he appears rude to other people. (But if we think about it, Luffy exercises good manners like addressing elders with honorary, apologizing for intrusion and impoliteness, and asking permission to enter a house. On the other hand, his gestures still look rude because he does it idiotically).