Only One Piece can get away with having a one-hundred chapter long prologue.
After defeating Arlong, the Straw Hats make their way to the Grand Line at long last. On their way there, they stop by Loguetown (or Roguetown, depending on your translation), the birth and death place of the former King of the Pirates. There, Luffy and the gang meet a whole slew of new faces and old enemies. Will Luffy and the gang be able to start their journey proper?
These few chapters are freaking dense, dude! So much stuff gets crammed in here, from character introductions to reintroductions to mysteries that won’t be answered for hundreds of chapters yet! This is where the true grandeur of One Piece’s story slaps you in the face. One hundred chapters in and it feels like the story has only just begun!
But it ain’t perfect. Thankfully, the list of criticisms here is short.
Firstly: I don’t like Alvida’s new design. Her falling for Luffy because he beat the shit out of her is fine. But why did she have to get a Devil Fruit that makes her super hot? It would’ve been more fun and interesting if she were still a giant hideous monster.
It certainly doesn’t help that this chick, to this day, hasn’t done anything. She hangs out with Buggy and his crew. But while they do stuff to actually make an impact on the plot, particularly in Impel Down and Marineford, she hasn’t done a damn thing. It’s still possible that she will at some point in the future. But right now, nine hundred chapters after her reintroduction, it feels like Oda wasted his time by bringing her back.
Unlike Buggy, who comes back in spectacular fashion. Especially in this arc! Not only is it hilarious, but it’s also genuinely tense! For just a second, Buggy seems like a true threat again!
Until he gets struck by lighting and tossed aside by the true threat of the arc.
Which leads me to Smoker and Tashigi. Personally, I love these two! Smoker is one of the first marines we meet that is truly good and honorable, not to mention threatening; at this point in the story, he seems genuinely unbeatable for Luffy and the gang! He gives the Straw Hats a real run for their money and it’s a ton of fun to watch!
Tashigi is pretty good, too. I love how she brings out the vulnerable side of Zoro, with her looking like his dead childhood friend and being a huge sword nerd. Her conflict with the Straw Hats #2 is an interesting one. Rather than challenging him physically, she pushes his morals and boundaries.
Not that she can’t keep up. At this point, it seems like these two could be great rivals! Unfortunately, that’s yet another thing that seemingly gets dropped later on. When Zoro and Tashigi meet again later, in Punk Hazard, the power gap between them is so massive that you can’t help but wonder why Tashigi would even bother trying. She still pushes him morally, but the rivalry between them all but vanishes.
Although that might work well into Zoro’s arc later, as it proves his childhood friend’s prediction was entirely true.
And we’re still not done! This arc introduces yet another character, one that will, from what we’ve learned since his introduction, will become super important later on!
This introduction is absolutely incredible. It makes this new character seem equal parts mysterious and dangerous, given how Smoker cryptically addresses him. He straight-up says “The entire World Government is after your head!” What more do you need to prove that this dude is an unstoppable badass?
It gets even better in retrospect, knowing who this dude really is. It answers the two big questions we had then, those being ‘who is this guy?’ and ‘why is he helping Luffy?’. But looking back on it, it brings up even more questions! What is he doing there? What was he up to? How did he get away?
We’re still waiting to see how he’ll impact the story. But there can be no doubt that it’ll be significant. And, thanks to many other revelations, it’s almost guaranteed that the Straw Hats will be involved as well.
Okay, those are all the characters. Now, let’s talk about the actual events of the arc.
It’s all rather simple. Luffy and the gang split up, participate in their own shenanigans, Luffy nearly gets killed, then they all escape and sail away to the Grand Line. It’s short, it’s simple, it’s wildly entertaining and engaging.
This arc has some of my favorite scenes in One Piece. Luffy grinning as he faces death. The miraculous lightning bolt. The escape. It’s all very tense and fun to read!
Although I much prefer Zoro shopping for swords. Just because we get to see Zoro showing off his Jupiter-sized balls.
The main problem I have here is that this arc is very much focused on Luffy, Zoro, and all the new characters. Nami, Usopp, and Sanji are all just kinda there. Hanging out. The only thing Nami and Usopp do is prepare the ship for their escape. All Sanji does is lustfully stare after Alvida and buy food. I don’t think he even kicks anyone! These chapters are almost entirely focused on the two founders of the Straw Hats.
Overall, Roguetown is a very solid arc. It’s the perfect conclusion to the East Blue and a fantastic primer for the Grand Line. It’s not without its flaws, many of which come up as a result of later events. But it’s still one of my favorite chunks of the story to read.
Although not nearly as much as the next arc.
Now we’re getting into the real shit!!