One Piece volume 69
Author: Eiichiro Oda
Viz Media/Shonen Jump
Author: Eiichiro Oda
Viz Media/Shonen Jump
S.A.D.: Things are looking grim on Punk Hazard as deadly gas set off by a mad scientist envelops the island. Luffy and the rest of the Straw Hats are on a mission to both take down Caesar Clown and escape to safety before the gas can get them! (Source: Viz Media)
The Punk Hazard story arc could have easily been an all-for-nothing waste of an arc, inconsequential at the end of the day and with no real effect on Luffy and his crew. At this point, such an assessment would be totally wrong! If anything, Punk Hazard - and this volume - may turn out to be one of the more important turning points in the series. And for a manga quickly coming upon the big 7-0 in terms of volumes, the fact that it still has so many twists yet to be pulled shows that Oda knows exactly what he's doing.
I have to admit, the opening to this volume is very frantic, a lot of the action is rushed, and at points it becomes hard to follow. It doesn't help that Eiichiro Oda is a big fan of the dialogue crowded panel, which is very prevalent across the first two chapters. But hey, there's dragons! And the dragons are actually relevant to the overall plot! A+ job, Eiichiro Oda, for creating dragons that look like they fit within the One Piece universe and aren't just distant cousins of Daenerys Targaryen's scaly children.
But when the action focuses itself on one fight or another instead of trying to jam different moments into one scene, that's when the book really takes off. Each battle is highlighted properly and thoroughly as the important fronts across Punk Hazard, from Luffy versus Caesar to Nami and Chopper's group versus harpy Monet, who has some hidden powers of her own. Caesar isn't the only one who has abilities to be feared!
The fight that really matters, however, is the one Trafalgar Law gets himself into for his heart. It's no small statement to say that how it ends will change the course of events in a serious way. Of course, being a Warlord of the Sea, his actions are under more scrutiny that most pirates - except for perhaps Luffy, but that's to be expected.
Who really breaks out from the crowd in this volume is Tashigi, who shows why her Navy colleagues respect and admire her so much. She rightly chews Zoro out for his policy of going easier against female opponents, saying that him doing so only serves to disrespect who he is fighting and is not chivalrous at all. Also, she is clearly a deft hand with that sword of hers. She's not serving under Smoker just because of her looks.
There's also Chopper, who gets some really meaty, emotionally charged scenes as he fights to save the children from the poison candy that Caesar keeps them addicted to. His scenes are truly heartbreaking to read. It wouldn't hurt so much if he hadn't become emotionally invested in the safety of these children, but he has - so it does. In the words of my Tumblr brothers and sisters: how do I hold all of these feels? Answer: you can't.
The action scenes were really on point in this volume. Some very well choreographed moments, especially in larger group-on-group fight scenes like the Navy against the Clown's soldiers. But it also excels at the most personal scenes, whether it is Chopper working with Mocha to save the other children or Luffy meeting his new dragon companion.
Also, the Halloween-themed color art on the back cover needs to be my desktop background come October, it's just too cool not to be. Pumpkin helmets and ghosts with mustaches and top hats for everyone!
As usual, One Piece hits us with a lot of high octane scenes and then ends on a massive cliffhanger. This one, however, is a cliffhanger that will change the lives of all who operate on the ocean, pirates and Navy alike. Luffy and Law have set something in motion that cannot be undone; the only thing to do now is wait and watch the aftershocks settle in, and the reaction from those who have been angling for positions of power since Whitebeard's death.
Volume 69 was pretty momentous by itself; in a few months, volume 70 is going to top it twice over, no doubt about it.