Wednesday, July 14, 2010

One Piece Volume 54

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

This is a landmark volume of One Piece, in many ways. It begins the epic Impel Down arc. It's continuity-heavy, bringing back many old characters in newer, sometimes more sympathetic guises. And as for the other landmarks... well, you'll have to wait a couple more volumes for those.

After briefly seeing Hancock smuggling Luffy on board a marine ship bound for Impel Down, the volume begins by showing us where the rest of the crew got off to after Bartholomew Kuma sent them away from Sabaody. Some seem quite appropriate (Nami on a weather island), some rather cruel (Robin just cannot catch a break), some laughably cruel (oh Sanji, I shouldn't laugh as much as I did), and some are just laughable (Zoro and Perona, the perfect odd couple). Drink in these brief scenes of the cast, by the way. It's gonna be a long time before we get back to them.

Meanwhile, we arrive at Impel Down and begin what amounts to a giant melee brawl that lasts the rest of the book. We're introduced to a few new characters, of which the most memorable are Magellan the poison-loving freak of a warden, Hannyabal, his ambitious underling, and Sadie, the security chief whose personality is exactly as her name applies. (Her sensual moans whenever she delivers any line are the closest One Piece will get to sex in this volume - well, that and Hancock's over-the-top one-sided love for Luffy).

The best part of the volume, though, is the reintroduction of two villains we had forgotten, and frankly thought of as too comedic for a serious rescue arc - Buggy the Clown and Mr. 3. They're both imprisoned in Impel Down, but Luffy frees them in return for them leading him down to the lowest level, where his brother is imprisoned. Needless to say, neither of them has any intention of doing so, but events conspire against them, and things only get crazier with the addition of Mr. 2 a level down. Yes, to make up for the lack of Straw Hats, it's old-home-week for villains in One Piece. There's even a hint, in a few scenes showing the floor where Ace is kept, that we may be seeing an even bigger villain again soon.

There's not much to review here - it's a bunch of fights - but as always with One Piece, Oda makes the fights interesting, and inserts enough fun humor that it never feels like it drags. One wonders about Ace's reluctance to be rescued, however, and why he wants Luffy to stay away. And now that we've finished the One Piece catchup (sort of - we're still about a year behind Japan, but that's better than the 8 we were at this point last year), we'll have to wait for October to find out.

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