Ahoy, mateys! For this year’s Summer Comics Binge, I’ll be tackling a huge gap in my manga library; the gargantuan “One Piece,” written and illustrated by Eiichiro Oda. Over the next few weeks I’ll be journaling my way through the first 100 chapters, making up the East Blue Saga. This week I’m covering volume 10, consisting of chapters 82 through 90. This volume finds us deep in the ‘Arlong Park’ arc, as the Straw Hats make their stand against Arlong and his Fish-Men with, Nami’s freedom and the villager’s lives hanging in the balance.
Luffy’s navigator, Nami, has been working all along for “Saw-Tooth” Arlong to steal enough treasure to buy back her village. In return, the pirate has handed over her fortune to the Navy! Now Luffy and his crew prepare to risk their lives for Nami’s sake against their most ruthless opponent yet.
Dear reader, I hope you don’t mind me shaking things up late in the game. I found the plot of this volume a little unconducive to my usual chapter breakdowns. Instead, I’m going to discuss the volume character by character, using these fancy headings provided by Oda himself! Let the countdown begin!
Sanji, along with Zolo, plays defense for much of the issue thanks to a rash and disastrous decision by Luffy (more on that later). He’s dispatched rather hastily by a well placed punch from the fish-man Kuroobi, but he re-enters the fray at a crucial moment.
With Luffy trapped underwater, It’s up to either Sanji or Zolo to rescue him. However, to take on the fish-men underwater is seemingly suicidal. Nevertheless, the burden falls to Sanji as he rematches with Kuroobi underwater. Kuroobi’s fish-man karate is frightening and I’m consistently taken by just how much of a beating the Straw Hat crew can endure. Sanji, clever as he is, gains the upperhand by taking advantage of one of the fish-men’s inherent strengths; their ability to breath underwater.
Back on land, Sanji reigns supreme. He makes short work of Kuroobi with an assortment of french cuisine themed kicks that leave Kuroobi screaming “check please!”
As the weakest and most courageously impaired member of the Straw Hats, Usopp faces an uphill battle in the fight against the fish-men. He’s paired off against Choo, or Smek!, as I like to refer to him. Usopp mostly plays for comic relief, but he has a few elevating moments of his own in this volume.
Usopp’s biggest problem lies in overcoming his fears and self-interest. He wants to stand up, fight, and protect his friends, but he just can’t seem to get past his lizard brain fight or flight. Interestingly, Oda plays into Usopp’s skill for subterfuge, using fake-outs like “ketchup blood stars” and “Usopp’s Rubber Band of Doom.” He manages to defeat Choo not with the brute strength of his comrades, but with ingenuity and sheer force of will. He’s the continual underdog, making his moments of altruism and self-sacrifice all the more powerful. Usopp is one of the best.
Nami takes longer to join the fray than her companions, but she certainly makes her presence known. Interestingly, we learn that Nami has made several attempts on Arlong’s life throughout the years. Arlong continues his manipulation and mind games, giving her the difficult choice between her freedom and the safety of her friends and family. He frames this as a choice of free will, once more shifting the blame and responsibility of his actions on to his victim. Ultimately her resolve holds and, with her village behind her, she makes a final stand against her long-time oppressor.
How about that Zolo? The man can get knocked down, but he gets up again, yeah you’re never going to keep him down. Still dealing with wounds and fever following his near death at the hands of Mihawk, three-swords Zolo goes up against six-sword Hatchan. Of course, Zolo is one of the world’s greatest swordsmen, so despite the overwhelming odds he overcomes and leaves lasting wounds on Hatchan.Continued below
And still, he persists, facing down Arlong alone as Sanji endeavors to rescue Luffy. His ability to hang on to live borders on the absurd, even in a story about fish-men and rubber boys. As with Usopp, Zolo’s strength of spirit and self-sacrificial attitude is beyond admirable. One wonders what plans Oda has for him once he’s restored to his full strength.
Finally, we have Luffy, and boy do we have Luffy. After his grand, Goku-esque entrance, Luffy makes a frightening display of power. He takes on several fish-men, including Arlong himself, and finally dispatches Momoo once more with his Gum Gum Windmill. Unfortunately this attack has a major weakness. Planting his feet firmly in stone, he becomes completely immobilized. This leads to some great physical comedy between Luffy and Usopp, as Usopp attempts to pull Luffy from the stone. It’s actually Arlong who frees Luffy, stone and all, only to cast him into the sea.
Luffy’s weakness to the Ocean has loomed large in the past, particularly in the battle against Don Krieg. Here we learn that he can not only swim, but the ocean saps away the very will to live for Gum Gum Fruit users. Subsequently, much of this volume is spent trying to free Luffy. While Sanji, Zolo, and Usopp are occupied by the fish-men, this task falls on Genzo and Nojiko. We get some pretty hilarious moments as the two struggle to communicate under water, with their thought bubbles curiously mimicking regular conversation. The duo concocts a brilliant scheme to keep our stretchy boi from drowning, and yes, it involves stretching!. The two alternate holding Luffy’s head above water as the other stays below, pumping his lungs.
The pair holds out until Sanji manages to break the stone with one of his powerful kicks, allowing Luffy to rejoin the fray at its most dire. This is a recurring theme in shonen manga, holding back the protagonist until the last possible moment. It’s an effective technique for building suspense. However, it does rob the story of urgency when we know the hero will escape and overcome where all others have failed. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help but grin a bit at the moment of his return.
Luffy unleashes a full force barrage of every Gum Gum attack in his arsenal, but it barely phases Arlong. It’s hard to tell if he’s cracking wise or is just truly blissfully ignorant as he taunts Arlong, but it’s delightful regardless. Thanks to the power he gains from his friends who are undeniably better at life’s daily takes like navigation and cooking, Luffy manages to land a powerful blow on Arlong, shattering his teeth. Unfortunately, you may have heard that sharks can regrow their teeth, a trait that Arlong exploits to the fullest.
Bonus! Koby and Helmeppo
Heck yeah! Now that the Buggy cover pages have wrapped up, it looks like Oda is starting a new story about Koby and Helmeppo. It seems that the boys have been made chore-boys on the prison ship holding Captain Morgan. While the few pages we get in this volume mostly feature them getting into humorous antics, it does making me wonder if this story will lead to an escape by Morgan. Could Oda be assembling a league of defeated villains? It’s an interesting prospect.
That does it for this week’s volume! I hope you didn’t mind the change in format here at the tenth hour. We’ll see how things shake up in the penultimate installment of my “One Piece” Summer Comics Binge. I’m looking forward to seeing how the ‘Arlong Park’ arc ends!