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 we’re at our halfway point and I’m covering volume 6, consisting of chapters 45 through 53. The Baratie arc, which I was head over heels for last week, goes full throttle into some fully unexpected territory.
Written and Illustrated by Eiichiro Oda
Luffy’s pirates thought they were just stopping in for a quick bite…but now Luffy’s been made a busboy on Baratie, the oceangoing restaurant, and it turns out some of the worst-mannered pirates on the Grand Line are just dying for a meal.Always one to look on the bright side, Luffy sets his sights on Sanji, the smart-talking, skirt-chasing assistant chef on the Baratie, as the Merry Go’s new cook. But it’ll take more than a vicious pirate battle and a little sweet talking from Nami to convince him to leave the Baratie and join Luffy’s team. His oath to feed any and all pirates in need keeps getting in the way. The question is: what do you do when the very same pirates you just fed now want to serve you up for dinner?
Chapter 45: Before the Storm
This chapter is a bit of a palate cleanser between courses, as it were. We learn more about Sanji, that he too has a dream that he treasures, and that he’s a bit of a womanizer. Luffy gets to pay off his debt as the “Chore Boy.” Finally, we get an ominous teaser as Gin, the pirate from the end of last volume, promises to lead the Pirate Don Krieg to the Baratie. It also seems Gin knows a thing or two about the Grand Line.
Also, the explanation we’ve all been waiting for…
Chapter 46: An Uninvited Guest
Don Krieg, Admiral of the Pirate Armada, arrives at the Baratie in a most unexpected way. His grand ship is in shambles and he himself is nearly starved to death. Just as with Gin, Patty and the other cooks scoff and turn him away, but the most honorable Sanji comes to the rescue. At this point in the story, I could probably read an entire spin-off manga of just Sanji and the crew of the Baratie. Patty and Chef Zeff are delightful side characters and Sanji has all the qualities of a great shonen protagonist.
Sanji’s previous charity, while not quite rewarded, cast him in a more noble light than the rest of his crew mates. However, Krieg lives up to his devious reputation and turns on Sanji and the Baratie crew immediately. Sadly, it seems that even Gin was fooled, judging from his reaction to the betrayal of his new friend.
On another note, the Buggy story that I mentioned a few weeks back and then conveniently neglected, takes a fun turn as he runs afoul of Gaimon and and his menagerie of creatures.
Chapter 47: The Don’s Offer
Ok, I’m not necessarily trying to go there, but I’m sort of going there. Sanji does a thing in this chapter that is both extremely inspiring but also troubling and possibly even problematic. You see, Krieg and his remaining 100 men demand food and water. Once they are rested and restored, they mean to take the Baratie by force. All the sensible crewman of the Baratie see the folly in giving into Krieg’s demands. He is just one man after all. Sanji, man of strangely stubbon honor that he is, remains resolute to acquiesce. In his own words; “I know they’re unredeemable villains. But my job is to feed people, not judge them. It gets too complicated.”
As endearing and admirable as shonen heroes may be, their often one-dimensional platitudes are not always transferable to the real world. When reading this passage, I can’t help but think of the dividing lines that are before me daily. The evils that we see, small and large, being perpetrated by men and women, also small and large, on the internet, in the media, and in the “Real World.” This type of attitude, of not judging one by their actions, but simply treat them with the simple courtesy befitting a fellow human, is possibly one of the hardest things one can imagine. It’s something our great religions, thinkers, and philosophers have wrestled with. Do I think Sanji’s view is right? I certainly have issues with it. It’s pretty dangerous, in my opinion, to write off difficult moral quandaries just because they’re “complicated.” I don’t know, I barely even know where I’m going with this. All that I know is that, every once in a while these stories written primarily for young boys may stumble onto extremely weighty matters, whether they mean to or not.Continued below
Anyway, I digress, this chapter also has a man get shot by a portable cannon, only to deflect it with a suit of armor, itself loaded with artillery.
Chapter 48: Steer Clear
So it turns out “Chef Zeff” is actually the ex-pirate “Red Shoes Zeff.” He got the name because he kicked people so much that his shoes turned red. You know, from the blood. Pirates are fun. It turns out he also spent a fair amount of time in the Grand Line, the same Grand Line that Krieg tucked tail and fled from.
We get the full story from Gin, of how a single man destroyed 50 ships and reduced a crew of 5000 down to 100. He’s described as a man with piercing hawk eyes, a fact that catches the attention of one Roronoa Zolo.
This chapter lives up to its name. I’m a little shaken by the turn quick turn this arc has taken. What started as a fun, lighthearted diversion aboard an ocean-faring restaurant has progressed into the most high stakes conflict for this series so far.
Setting the stage we have Krieg, hellbent on returning to the Grand Line, ready to commandeer the Baratie by force. We have Luffy and Sanji aboard the Baratie, preparing to fight off the invaders. Nami, it seems, has taken this opportunity to once more make a run for it. Finally, we have Zolo, the would-be greatest swordsman itching to confront this mysterious hawk eyed pirate, and he does not have to wait long. I really appreciate how efficiently Oda has woven this seemingly disparate plot threads together, elevating an already interesting plot.
Chapter 50: A Parting of Ways
After a quick explanation of how/why Nami made her escape, we are properly introduced to “Hawk-Eye” Mihawk, the Greatest Swordsman in the World. He has a sword that would put Sephiroth to shame.
I welcome this spotlight on Zolo. Since his introduction in the Buggy arc, he’s had little development outside of “cool sword guy.” Giving him his own unique stake in this conflict, one that ties into his personal history and motives, is much needed.
Also, this question! Turns out I was right to have thought that I recognized the naval officer in the Kuro flashback, I was just wrong on my placement. Great touch, Oda!
Chapter 51: Zolo Overboard
In a quick diversion, the Buggy plot takes its most interesting turn, as he actually meets a new character. This “woman of mystery,” brandishing a pistol and cowboy-esque hat, seems like a rather interesting character to be simply introduced in what to this point has been an extraneous gag comic. It definitely makes me wonder if we’ll be seeing more of Buggy and this mystery woman in future arcs.
In this chapter, the Zolo and Hawk-Eye plot has completely derailed and overshadowed the threat of Krieg. It’s a tense, gut-wrenching confrontation, as the typically fearsome Zolo meets someone who is miles out of his league. The reader finds camaraderie with Luffy, as we watch the fight with clenched jaws.
The fight bucks convention, as even Zolo’s newly unveiled attack, “Three Thousand Worlds,” is shattered by Hawk-Eye’s tiny dagger. The chapter ends on this gem of an exchange.
Chapter 52: The Oath
Zolo is down, but he’s not out. Hawk-Eye intends for him to live to fight another day, and with that Zolo gains one of the most important ingredients for a shonen hero; a rivalry. As cheesy as it is, I love the moment shared between Luffy and Zolo. Hawk-Eye is right, they do make a good team.
Chapter 53: Mackeral Head
Honestly, the Zolo/Hawk-Eye fight sort of felt like the main event. Yet, here we are returning to Krieg, who suddenly feels much less imposing. Nevertheless, he makes his move.
Luffy makes a smart bargain to fight off Krieg in return for an end to his servitude. We also get an idea of just how formidable the deceptively genteel Baratie can be against oncoming attackers. The “Mackeral Head” is “One Piece” antics at their finest. Unfortunately this chapter wraps just before the battle gets into full swing, but not before this fantastic moment.Continued below
Yes, I still love Sanji. With that, I’ll wrap up volume 6. Come back next week as we get more of the fight against Krieg, though I don’t see how it can possibly top the highs of this terrific volume.