Author: Eiichiro Oda
Viz Media/Shonen Jump
Spoiler warning: Review contains spoilers for these two volumes of the One Piece manga, and small spoilers for events leading up to them.
Luffy and the Straw Hat crew board their trusted ship and head under the sea towards Fish-Man Island. However, getting in their way will be fierce pirates, underwater volcanoes, and a humongous sea creature! (Source: Viz Manga)
The Fish-Man Island arc is like a calming, lovely breath of fresh air after the dire blood-soaked events of the war between the World Government and the greatest pirates on the sea. Well, I didn't say it was particularly uneventful, as even under the sea things aren't what they seem.
But the Straw Hat Gang is back together after a multi-year time skip and once again having oddball adventures in their ship. Oh, and Sanji keeps having noxious nosebleeds that threaten to wipe him out.
Thanks to the science of super air bubbles, the Thousand Sunny has traveled through the depths of the sea and into the realm of Fish-Man Island. I don't know how scientifically sound these bubbles are or how the Straw Hats can keep breathing continuously in them, but at least it is pretty sound across the board and doesn't get flubbed for the sake of plot. And thus, after an encounter with a kraken and avoiding volcanoes and the Flying Dutchman's ship (!!!), Luffy and his crew reach the Island and are soon thrown into a battle between pirates and the Ryugu Kingdom, overseen by King Neptune.
I absolutely adore how the Ryugu Kingdom looks. It's a strange, exotic otherworldly realm under the waves, a perfect integration of construction and plant life. The ships look like giant fish made of wood, people travel around on the backs of sea turtles, and a starfish runs the hottest boutique in town.
As usual, Eiichiro Oda is fantastic at creating new worlds that are odd but fit perfectly within the One Piece universe. After all, when the Straw Hat crew includes a reindeer doctor and a skeleton musician, a civilization of merpeople isn't that off by comparison.
And some of the merpeople are huge. King Neptune is a great beast of a merman; he even dwarfs the whale upon which he rides through his kingdom. Even his daughter, the seclusive beautiful crybaby Princess Shirahoshi, is huge - when Luffy is forced to smuggle her out of the castle, the only way to get her out unseen is through literally stuffing her inside a (still living) shark, who somehow survives having a big mermaid sitting inside its body for a long period of time.
I have found myself really liking Princess Shirahoshi. She's so cute! And normally her attitude would be grating, but considering she has never been outside of her castle for so long, it's not like she would know how to handle herself in the outside world. Poor Shirahoshi-hime! I can see why Sanji would have an epic nosebleed over her. I do hope she finds a spine and takes care of herself, though. It would be no fun to have her stay a crybaby princess the whole time.
(Speaking of Sanji, I think Dr Chopper should start stocking up on the cook's blood type in the Thousand Sunny, in case they keep running into kingdoms populated by beautiful women. Not to mention, the sight of Shirahoshi turns him into a statue!)
Of course, it's One Piece and we can't go very long without some kind of tragic, heart-rending back story. In this arc, it's the story of now deceased Queen Otohime and how she tried to bring together the worlds of the humans and the people of Fish-Man Island, as well as how Vander Decken came to obsess over Shirahoshi to the point of sending weapons after her in a psychotic attempt to win her hand at marriage. But because it's Oda, these flashbacks aren't horribly melodramatic but just emotional enough to affect the heart and push the story along. Oh, and there's a fair amount of ugly crying, per usual Oda.
So we're now well into the Fish-Man Island story arc, delving deep into the kingdom's back story. This arc probably won't mean much in the long run of the series outside of what Jimbei revealed about Arlong (remember him?) but it's been a blast to read and I'm really looking forward to what comes out of volume sixty-four and how the flashbacks end.
In this most recent arc, One Piece has gone back to its baser instinct: a bunch of goofy atypical pirates going on an adventure and having a hell of a time all the while. This may not be the most serious story Oda will tackle but it's a solid entertaining one so far, and considering how solid it has stayed for sixty plus volumes, that in itself is a marvelous feat.
Viz Manga is currently publishing new chapters of Eiichiro Oda's One Piece in the American version of Weekly Shonen Jump, which is now electronic only.