One Piece 444
Thank You Franky House
Be warned. This is very long.
Well Im back for another review session on the newest chapter of One Piece. I wanted to get this out a lot quicker, but circumstance did not allow me that. I kinda felt that studying for my midterm took priority. However, I think Im starting to get the hang of these things (or at least i thought i did before i gave birth to this monster) and I hope to improve my format more and more as time goes on. Ive also started Bleach reviews with the blessings of both current reviewers there, so if you also read that manga, check it out as well. Ive noticed since doing the Bleach review that it is a lot harder to write One Piece reviews because while Oda's more single unique story at a time format makes it harder to do a parallel comparative analysis, he uses concepts and emotional issues that go so much deeper than any other shonen Ive seen that it causes the level of analysis I need to use (and due to OCD tendancies I do need to use that level) to severely lengthen a short piece of material. Due to this I think that in the future, you shouldnt expect very fast reviews for One Piece. I'm gonna need large chunks of time to sit down and do this until i figure out a way to stop myself from overanalyzing. Anyway, lets get on with it then.
Wrath of God
you do not want to get on his bad side
We once again return to Enels adventure on the moon. According to skywalker6705s translation, we have a whole new view on the explosion from last week. What I assumed to be the bombs of war was his great ark, Maxim, being destroyed. Id say Enel is damn right to be angry this week. When he lost to Luffy in Skypiea, he lost his pride and his power over the skypieans, but he was able to salvage his ship. That ship was everything to him. It allowed him to escape from the clouds where his name was disgraced and it took him to a new world where he could start anew. Its most prominent function, though, was that was the last remaining symbol of the power he once held. The event has finally caused Enel to show some emotion during this side arc. Now whoever is responsible for destroying it will soon be regretting their decision as they realize that they wont like this emotion.
Behind the Gates of Hell
basically they were eaten by an island
Once again, Luffy and the gang have gotten themselves stuck in some rather unfortunate circumstances. They have effectively been swallowed by a mouth shaped gate and are now trapped within a huge wall enclosing the moving ghost island, Thriller Park. My first thought when I saw the mouth and wall was the phrase in the belly of the beast. The island is indeed similar to a living thing in and of itself. It set a trap for its prey with the cask and proceeded to hunt and swallow it like a gigantic whale. Now the only way out is to go deeper inside...which the island is all too willing to accommodate. According to Robin, the contraption by the gate is causing them to drift closer to the island. Though not stated, this process is likely achieved by altering the flow of water through the wall as it moves along the oceans surface. Franky then points out that if the island and walls are moving, laying anchor is a bad idea. The basic idea is that they cant leave and they cant stay idle, so logically, the only remaining option is to let the island pull them in and face whatever is there.
Time for Adventure
ghosts are scary
Of course not all of the Strawhats are very keen on the idea of heading for an island with ghosts, skeletons, and all kinds of unknown terrors. Usopp is the first to state his objections to remaining anywhere near the island and still insists that they escape despite the quite obvious wall obstructing their route to the open ocean. Meanwhile Nami and Chopper comically take over Usopps regular disease excuse to avoid going to the island. That I found very interesting because it showed a change in Usopp however slight. Since his big apology, he is still the same scaredycat he was before, but he has stopped making excuses. Oda gave the line to Nami simply to point out that Usopp wasnt saying it. As subtle as this is, it is actually a huge step for Usopp and Im proud of him.
there should be a limit to stupidity
As Usopp, Nami, and Chopper are sent into hysteria, depression, and tears respectively, Luffys all too eager to go exploring. Equipped with a butterfly net and insect cage, hes ready to go catch a ghost. You can always trust Luffy to ignore logic completely and try to physically catch a being who drifted through the wall. Luffys enthusiasm plays on Usopps fear to perfectly compound the comedy. Even if he cant catch a ghost, Luffy still intends to go get back his new nakama, Brooke (I will refrain from analysis in my reviews over whether or not he will join the crew). Once again this showcases Luffys inhuman level of loyalty as he risks death for the sake of a nakama who he had just met and who is not generally accepted by the crew. While Usopp is quite the opposite if enthusiastic at the prospect of having a living skeleton on the ship, Franky and Robin are more than willing to accompany Luffy on the island adventure. I was extremely excited when I saw that of all the crew they were the ones going with Luffy. It would be Frankys first adventure as a Strawhat and I figured that of anyone, Robin would be the least phased by the terrors on the island. Everything looks set as Franky reveals the method of transport they will use to reach the island.
Nakama Reborn and Frankys Toys
Merry is back in the form of a 4 person mini paddle boat. All fans of One Piece should appreciate the beauty of this development. Merry was not just a ship to the Strawhats; she was as much a nakama as any of those who walked on her deck and I know Im not the only one who was brought to tears by her very touching funeral scene. Thus the birth of the new Merry is a huge deal. Aside from the obvious sentimental value of the Mini-Merry itself, this revelation also says a lot about Franky. The Sunny was HIS ultimate dream, yet he went out of his way to restore the existence of the crews old ship out of the love he felt for them.
i can easily see Usopp pulling a "Jaws" moment on Chopper with the sub
As Nami, Usopp, and Chopper take the Mini-Merry for a spin, Franky finally reveals the secrets behind his soldier dock system. In addition to the Mini-Merry in dock 2 and the paddles in dock 0 on either side, there is the one person waver, White Rocking Horse, in dock 1 and the 3 person scouting sub, Shark Submarine. I find the White Rocking Horse interesting because it brings back the jet dial waver again from the Skypiea arc, though apparently modified. I wonder if Franky simply gave it the new design or if he was actually able to improve on dial technology. Regardless of the modifications, Im just glad to see it back. When Nami brought it back to the blue sea, it seemed like it would be so useful, but she never seemed to use it so I was disappointed. The new submarine should also be very useful for when this arc moves on into the Merman Island arc I am expecting to see. Then again, we still dont know anything about the method to get to an underwater paradise.
a possible precurser to the Dock 4 system
Dock 4 however is left empty for now as Franky will eventually install weapons systems in it. The biggest irony of this system is that Franky put so much effort into creating the Sunny, its subordinate ships, and all of the Strawhats requests, but neglected to put in a weapons system in the initial design. The old Franky was not only obsessed with creating warships, but he was damn good at doing it. As a teen, he created weapons that could take down sea kings and even turned his own body into a weapon while he was in the process of saving his own life. While this development does show that he has grown out of his overly-violent tendencies, it also holds deeper meaning in that his actions reflect the needs of the crew over his own desire, thus solidifying his role in the crew.
Fun & Games Ghost Style
they need to straighten out their priorities when it comes to human life
The crews excitement over Sunnys daughter vessels is soon dampened as they realize that the Mini-Merry is no longer visible and a scream pierces the mist. However, even this moment is made light as the importance of each lost nakama is argued. However, they soon realize that they have issues of their own to deal with. At first the phenomena occurring on the ship appear to be simple pranks by the ghosts. I know if I was invisible, it would be a lot of fun to freak people out by moving things around and messing with their faces. These tricks take place merely as an attention getter. The ghosts have to get the crews focus off of the Mini-Merrys disappearance and Oda has to show us readers that the ghosts of the island know that they are there and are taking action.
Oh!!! That's gotta hurt
After they get the Strawhats attention with their antics, they make their purpose for being there quite clear by hurling Zoros sword at Luffy. Now that the Strawhats have fallen behind the walls of the island, they have surrendered their fate to the spirits that claim 100 ships per year. Their motive is revealed as Sanji tries to rush to Namis aid but is stopped in midair and slammed into the ship by an unseen force. Apparently they want to separate the crew aboard Sunny from those aboard the Mini-Merry for some reason. My guess is that they either want to deal with each group separately or they want a member of the Mini-Merry group specifically. Later events make me think the latter, but I will mention that in that events section.
who wishes they were the ghost?
The final act of the spirit or spirits is to grab and lick Robin. Robin also mentions that she heard the growl of a beast, which Luffy also begins to hear as the poltergeist pins her. The beast-like nature of the ghost that went after Robin seems to contradict the actions of the earlier ghost, which were much more reminiscent of human thought and action. This makes me think that they were attacked by two ghosts, a man and his dog who act as the gatekeepers to Thriller Park. I believe that we may see their physical manifestations at some point as they inform parties on the island about the arrival of the pirates. Basically, Odas reason for the ghost attack on the ship was to take the characters onboard out of the story for now. By giving them enemies that they cannot see or hit, Oda effectively tells us that they arent going to be coming to the Mini-Merry groups aid anytime soon.
Usopp's still rockin the exorcist look and i love it
We now once again return to see the fate of the Strawhats onboard the Mini-Merry. They have crashed into the side of Thriller Park and fallen into its moat. Nami is trying to avoid blame and is somehow able to keep her cool while Usopp and Chopper shiver in fear upon learning they are on the island and are standing on skeletons. I just have to say that putting those three on the island all alone is the smartest thing Oda could do for comedy. As I believe that this arc is a comical mimicry of Hell and horror stories, there is really no other way to effectively parody those themes than to put characters who know fear into the center of the story.
There is no way even Dracula would look scary if this guy is in the picture
The way Oda has developed the other crew members makes them unable to truly experience terror and thus would undermine the deep mythological and symbolic value of the beings on the island. It is the beginning of the arc and so Odas foremost purpose is to acclimate the reader to the setting of the story. While the setting of most of the arcs in One Piece start off comical, they are also home to the villain of the respective arcs. This time around it is even more important than ever before to start with the correct setting. Because the main villain this time will likely be based on some classic figure of horror, Hell, or mythology, Oda cannot afford to undermine the concept as a whole by allowing Luffy, Zoro, Sanji, Robin, and Franky to walk through other classic symbols of fear without flinching. By using Nami, Usopp, and Chopper as the central characters for the beginning of the arc, he both acknowledges the danger of this place and simultaneously achieves the maximum amount of humor as those three experience their nightmares without the rest of the crew to hide behind.
Well now that Ive thoroughly analyzed Odas reasoning for putting the three biggest chickens on his new incarnation of Hell, its about time that they meet something to make them run in fear. Oda gives them the pleasure of meeting Cerberus, the legendary three-headed dog who guards the gates of Hades in Greek mythology. Besides the fact that hes a dog with three heads, hes covered in stitches and one head is a fox. This seems very suspicious as it seems to imply that the three heads were attached surgically, thus taking the imagery farther from its mythological backgrounds and closer to the story of Frankenstein. This theme is continued as the three pirates climb a tree trying to escape the demonic canine and meet Hildon, who seems to bear all of the classic traits of a vampire (hanging upside-down, fangs, black cape) in addition to the same stitch marks as Cerberus and the number 21 over his left eye. As Hildon mentions Dr. Hogback, the classic novel Frankenstein applies even further as it is linked by a screwed up scientist and his stitched together monstrous creations. The doctor not only ties up the theme of this current scene, but it also creates a new mystery as his name sparks interest in Choppers face.
i wnder if Chopper will learn the dark arts of medicine
It is likely that this arc will be a vital part of Choppers development in strength and in character. During the CP9 fights, we witnessed massive breakthroughs in the abilities of each Strawhat pirate through a new fighting form (except Robin and Franky, but she fights indirectly anyways and hes brand new), but Choppers was the only one whose new power cant actually be used regularly. He needs a boost in power that he can call upon at anytime so that he can keep up with the others and who better than a mad scientist to give him a genius breakthrough? (a DF researcher or his assistant would be better, but thats a matter for the Strawhats New Nakama thread) Bringing him into contact with a Dr, Frankenstein type character also creates a fantastic opportunity to revisit his reason for joining Luffy and face some truths behind his dream. The arc will let us see the result of a doctor trying to cure death and creating the undead monsters of the island. As Choppers dream is to cure all disease, the arc will show him the result of a man who shares his same dream but who disregards the ethical boundaries that doctors and scientists must set for themselves to prevent causing harm to others.
Overall + more
Heres more analysis, but as it applies to the arc overall and not the chapter specifically, Im tagging it cause its probably me just going overboard.
Now that Ive got that over-analysis out of my system, let me just say that I loved the chapter like I love all chapters of One Piece. I am always amazed by the genius of Odas style. Even the smallest little event in a chapter can have a profound effect on the emotion of the scene because of all the setup for it that he so cleverly hides until the moment of realization. This chapter, it was the rebirth of Merry. Overall, the chapter started out more straightforward, but after the story turned to the three on the island, the main events of the arc began to unfold and gave me a lot to work with.
don't worry be happy. the longest review you've most likely ever seen is done
And as a final note, Id like to thank Franky House scanlation group and all its wonderful staff for the MQ release I got the current chapter pics from.