Saturday, April 17, 2010

One Piece Volume 43

By Eiichiro Oda. Released in Japan by Shueisha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Weekly Shonen Jump. Released in North America by Viz.

I've talked before in my review of Volume 35 about the tough times Usopp has with a certain part of One Piece fandom. Generally speaking, they want him to shut the hell up and be as badass as everyone else. Now, this is unlikely to happen for several reasons. First, Usopp being the weak normal guy (along with Nami) is part of what makes the crew so interesting. Second, Oda likes writing Usopp being a cowardly dork. As long as Oda still wants to mine that for humor, he will. Just like Nami will get angry and hit the guys, and Sanji will be a moron in front of women.

And third, Usopp's moments of fear and panic and cowardice are balanced out by his moments of pure awesome. In one of the best parts of the book, Sanji manages to get through to him and note that he may be totally useless in a fight with Jabra and Kaku, so why doesn't he go off and do something only *he* can do? (You know it's a big moment as we see Usopp's face reacting beneath the Sniper King mask.) Sanji knows Usopp is really very clever - this is a man who built a Clima-Tact for Nami out of thin air, let's remember - and also that they cannot afford to be distracted by mooks when their goal is to rescue Robin.

Meanwhile, Nami defeats Kalifa by showing that her power of fanservice is mightier (though I will admit the mirages were very well done). In any battle involving weather in some way, as the Soapland battle had become, Nami is bound to kick ass. Sanji shows off the fact that his kicks can now catch fire and defeats Jabra. And Zoro defeats Kaku, who is perhaps the cleverest of the enemy in using his truly bizarre giraffe powers, and also the most likeable - he gets a nice moment at the end when he's about to pass out showing he may not be irredeemable. Unfortunately, Luffy and Lucci are still fighting, and aren't nearly over yet.

This then leads to the final chapter of the volume, which is a masterpiece. Robin is now fully dedicated to trying to get away, but bound and handcuffed, she's not getting very far. (Biting the stone bridge was particularly amazing, though.) Spandam tries to at least break her spirit, by revealing that the dickhead Marine who annihilated her home and mother is the father of Spandam, a dickhead Marine trying to do the same. Luckily, Robin is now made of stronger stuff:
Spandam: What was it like being an 8-year-old brat hunted by mercenaries? You couldn't trust anyone. You couldn't rest or sleep anywhere. You didn't have any food. I don't even want to think about how awful those 20 years must have been.
[...]
Spandam: The curtain falls on the Battle of Ohara! That wretched island will be wiped from history!
Robin: I'M STILL ALIVE!!!
Spandam: BUT YOU'RE GOING TO DIE!!!

And then, just as he's about to drag her beyond the point of no return... the cavalry arrives. In the form of Usopp, doing what none of the others could have done, with skills that the Marines note are practically superhuman. Even Robin has a huge grin seeing this. It's beautiful.

With this volume, we're heading into the final chapters. It's an adrenaline roller-coaster, and makes you absolutely want to move on to the next volume. Which isn't out 'til May. Ah well.

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