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Friday, May 18, 2012

Manga Review: One Piece GN 61

One Piece volume 61
Author: Eiichiro Oda
Viz Media/Shonen Jump
200 pages

Spoiler warning: Review contains major spoilers for the Paramount War arc as well as events of volume 61 of One Piece. Read on with caution!

Romance Dawn For The New World: Determined to become stronger and challenge the toughest seas in the world, Luffy and his crew decide to go into training. When they finally reunite years later, they will meet brand new enemies and adventures!

It’s the official start of a new era, a new story arc. This feeling of fresh beginnings is evident in every scene in this latest volume. It’s understandable; consider how the Paramount War arc ended. Several major players dead, our hero in emotional shambles, and our fearless team of Straw Hats disbanded across the globe. The only way to go from there is up.

That is exactly what Eiichiro Oda does with the opening of the New World arc. After issuing his mysterious challenge to the whole world, meant for his beloved nakama, Luffy has reclaimed his purpose and sense of self. He has come back from the brink of despair and loss to become the captain his crew – and the world – needs, if he is to be the king of all pirates. And with his return, the gears of the world of pirates and the Navy and everyone else start turning again. In the words of Doctor Horrible, it’s a brand new day.

I was not expecting a time skip! But it happened and I think it ties in really well with the story itself. After all, everyone is still recovering from the end of a horrible battle and feel pretty beaten. The best thing to do is train up until one is much stronger and can face their comrades with their pride back. 

It’s no wonder Luffy pushes the date of reunion back for two years; it’s not a 24-month vacation, it’s a chance to train both body and mind so they can be the best crew of pirates possible. The fact that Oda uses this opportunity to highlight each crew member's specific skill set is another reason why this is an ensemble manga series that rises above the rest.

And I gotta say, after two years, every one of the Straw Hats is looking awesome. Even Franky, although his new look is gonna take some getting used to. He looks more robotic than before! Good thing he ditched that scary animal fur, though. And rebuilt his exploded face, yikes. Also, I’m totally digging Sanji’s facial hair. I never knew the crew cook would look so good with a moustache and trim beard – but he so does.

The reunion of the crew was surprisingly eventful, especially with all the fake Straw Hats running around and the Navy trying to make sense out of who’s who. Nice to know people are still sheep and will follow anyone who looks remotely like Luffy! 

Still, now the cat’s out of the bag that Luffy is not dead and neither is his crew. It was fun to read everyone meet up in Oda’s naturally quirky yet emotionally stirring way. Seeing Sanji and Zoro squabble again was the best part.

Also, can I get some praise going on for Brooks’ story line during the story arc? He became a super popular rock star! His farewell concert was packed to the point of overflow! He was able to use his stage to get out the message about Luffy and his crew! I never thought back in the Thriller Bark arc that I would love Brooks all that much, but it turns out I love that wacky skeleton a whole lot.

And who loves Thousand Sunny’s new ability to sink under the waves in a bubble? Totally awesome. Not so awesome is the revelation about everyone’s favorite cyborg pirate Bartholomew Kuma. He was protecting Sunny for two years – and now he’s pretty much gone since his mission is complete, the brainwashing taking over his brain completely. A rather sad note in an otherwise joyous volume. I can only hope someone can save Kuma, or put him out of his misery.

So as soon as our crew of pirates gets back together on the Thousand Sunny, it’s off for another adventure! Here comes Fish-Man Island! It feels like old times, seeing the gang going to yet another new place to find their fortune and get one step closer to the Grand Line. I cannot wait to read their next set of adventures in this new place. Also, I hope there are sexy mermaids. Or mer-guys, I’m not picky. As long as Luffy and his nakama are around, I’m happy.