By Eiichiro Oda. Released in Japan by Shueisha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Weekly Shonen Jump. Released in North America by Viz.
First of all, I realize that warning about spoilers on my blog is laughable, as anyone still reading me knows I spoil everyone and everything until you want to beat me to death. Nevertheless, if you don't know how this volume ends, I'd advise not reading it. Really, if you come at it fresh, it will be amazing. And devastating.
Secondly, oh, that cover. Oda has been gradually increasing the fanservice as the series has gone on, with Nami and Robin's breasts getting larger every arc. Here, though, we see Robin reminding readers that her ass is awesome as well. Though she does seem to be angry with us for staring.
As for the volume itself, Robin is finally free. Woo hoo! And that means that Spandam finally gets his. Now, later on when they truly escape there will be a more serious takedown of Spandam by Robin, but I have to say I prefer the mass slapping at the beginning. He's such a loser that it fits his character more to just be bitchslapped to death. Speaking of Robin, I was impressed at how, once the Buster Call actually comes into full force, she's crippled with what may be post-traumatic stress disorder. She gets over it, but not right away, and it's a nice bit of realism for her character.
Kokoro being a mermaid is not particularly surprising in my opinion, but the signposts at least helped it not come out of nowhere and be a deus ex machina. The high point of the revelation, of course, is Sanji's reacting to seeing Kokoro. Poor boy, his dreams are crushed. Sanji, in fact, veers wildly this volume, as his character tends to do. On the one hand, we have this, and also his trying to glomp Robin and getting literally kicked out of the way by Nami and Chopper. On the other, his vanishing and closing the Gates of Justice was a stroke of genius. Clearly, women drag Sanji down. He needs to find an island of all men or something...
Luffy's fight, meanwhile, is taking forever. At one point, he seems to be down for the count, causing Sniper King, in a stunning moment, to remove his mask to yell at him. Sniper King is Usopp! Oh my God! To his credit, Usopp does deliver a great inspirational speech to get Luffy to stand once more. I do admit that I prefer the scanner's "It's not like it's Hell here" to Viz's "This isn't the afterlife", but hey.
By the way, One Piece is endlessly re-readable. So many throwaway gags in the middle of serious scenes. Sniper King stopping the attacking Captains with Usopp Noise, Zoro, Sanji and Luffy's V-for-Victory deadpan after using Luffy as a slingshot, the marvelous cameo by Ryo from KochiKame (these chapters appeared at KochiKame's 30th anniversary). And it's not just the gags... witness Luffy's final move, which is punctuated by flashbacks to everyone saying how horrible Robin is, and her screaming that she wants to live. The filmic qualities of this manga are stunning.
And then there's the final chapter. In many ways, this is the first major character One Piece has ever killed off that wasn't in a flashback. Even Pell got better. But Merry's last moments are just pure emotional rawness. When I first read this years ago, I was choking up. Years later, knowing it's coming... I still choke up. Iceberg talking about what an amazing life Merry lived... the flashbacks to her best moments... the pitch-perfect reactions of everyone (Luffy, Chopper, and Nami openly crying, Usopp trying poorly to hide it, Robin's single tear, Zoro and Sanji's stoicness)... it's in my Top 5 One Piece chapters. Fantastic. As others have noted, "I can't believe I'm getting emotionally attached to a BOAT!"
Technically, Enies Lobby ends here. The next volume is back to Water Seven, and is mostly a breather volume. Of course, being One Piece, the breather volume has more plot in it than 30 volumes of anything else.