Wednesday, October 13, 2010

One Piece Volume 55

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

Another volume of One Piece where there's just so much happening I don't even know where to begin. Let's try to hit the high points. (This review will contain spoilers for the volume.)

First off, Luffy quickly ends up battling Magellan. And gets his ass handed to him. Not since Smoker have we seen Luffy so defeated, only here there's no Dragon to interrupt things. This doesn't feel like a temporary setback, mostly as Magellan doesn't feel like a Big Bad - he's a jailer trying to do his job, even if his job is sending Ace to be executed. And so Luffy tries all his attacks, and is simply poisoned to near-death. It's awe-inspiring.

Luckily, Mister 2 finds he cannot desert Luffy in his time of need, and impersonates Hannyabal to rescue him and try to get him to safety. Which involves a lot of wolves and ice-covered forests, but they eventually get there... New Kama Land. This leads us to our next big character introduction, that of Ivankov. I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised at his appearance. Given Oda based a villain off of Eminem, it goes without saying that he'd base a hero off of Tim Curry. Sort of. And with the Hormone Fruit, we get another Devil Fruit which is both scarily appropriate and utterly ridiculous.

Two more things here: First, even though the transgenders and transvestites in this volume are clearly treated with an air of over the top comedy, it's also clear that Oda has no disrespect for them at all, and they are in fact rebel heroes. I like this. Second, at one point Ivankov transforms an angry radical trying to kill him into a cute girl, showing he can switch people's genders. This idea took Japanese and North American fandom by storm, leading to fake spoilers where we see female Luffy ready to break out of Impel Down, to Oda responding further in Volume 56. And let's not even get into the 'Crocodile was originally a woman' theories...

Ah yes, Crocodile, aka the reason I put up the spoiler warning. I have to say, Oda loves to delight us with the unexpected, and nothing is quite as unexpected as perhaps the most popular Big Bad teaming up with our heroes, even if it's just for a chance to get at Whitebeard. Unlike the cover page arcs, showing the minor villains learning the error of their ways, Crocodile is not particularly sorry or repentant - he just wants a fight, and freedom. Luffy is understandably unmoved, but Ivankov points out they need all the big guns they can get - and he's right. Even better, this also means they free Jimbei, the Worlord and Fish-man who was imprisoned by the World Government for not going along with their plans.

And with this, we prepare to bust out of Impel Down. But that will have to wait for the next exciting installment of One Piece! Coming in February!

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