Okay, now One Piece can actually start.
Upon entering the Grand Line, the Straw Hats encounter Laboon, a massive whale, and Crocus, an old man who cares for him. During this encounter, they meet a pair of strange individuals, Mr. 9 and Ms. Wednesday. After learning how to navigate the Grand Line from Crocus and making a promise to Laboon, the Straw Hats take the two back to their home island of Whiskey Peak, where they’re greeted with an oddly warm welcome. But not all is as it seems; Whiskey Peak is actually a pirate death trap lead by the mysterious Baroque Works, lead by the mysterious Mr. 0. And among this organization is a spy: the princess of the kingdom of Alabasta, Vivi!
Okay, that was a lengthy summary, I know. But these are densely packed chapters. Not only that, but they’re the beginning of the first massive saga of One Piece.
First off: I fucking love Reverse Mountain. It’s such a fun set piece that perfectly captures the goofy adventurous spirit of early One Piece. Seeing the Merry Go and all the crew shoot up the water towards the next big adventure is always a thrill! Few scenes get me as nostalgic as this one!
Second: Laboon and Crocus. When you first encounter this scene, it seems like a fun little mini-adventure meant to introduce the crew to someone who can teach them how to navigate the Grand Line. But going back to it now, armed with the knowledge we’ve gotten over the years, it’s amazing how significant this scene is! Crocus’ true identity is amazing and Laboon’s connection to a certain crew is an amazing setup that won’t be paid off until hundreds of chapters! It’s a scene that only gets better with time!
Next up, Whiskey Peak and Baroque Works. I enjoyed this island up to a point. On one hand, the twist is incredibly fun! This seemingly friendly island turns out to be a deadly pirate trap and now Zoro is the only Straw Hat capable of defending himself! The big reveal of this evil secret organization is super fun and Zoro’s battle against all the lesser grunts is equally enjoyable!
But then Luffy wakes up and this shit happens.
This scene does not work. One of Luffy’s biggest and most important character traits is his unquestioning loyalty towards everyone in his crew. Remember in Arlong Park, when Nami tried to convince him that she had always meant to betray him and Luffy didn’t believe a word of it? That’s because Luffy puts undying faith in his crew, no matter what.
Yet in this scene, Luffy attacks Zoro simply because some guy told him that Zoro was the bad guy here. Instead of asking Zoro why he was fighting or putting any faith in him, the man who’s been with him almost since the beginning, Luffy goes straight to fighting Zoro. And the fight isn’t even all that exciting! It doesn’t make sense for the characters and the battle itself is unsatisfying!
Thankfully, the other battles we get, while short, are pretty fun. This is when Devil Fruits really started to pop up everywhere, so One Piece battles started getting crazy. And the few we get here are a treat! We’ve got a lady who can make herself lighter or heavier and a dude who can throw exploding boogers, for god’s sake!
Then, of course, there’s all the setup for Alabasta. Here, we get introduced to the Seven Warlords system, our biggest and baddest villain to date, and two of the best characters in One Piece: Vivi and Karoo.
Who are Straw Hats, even now, fuck you.
We’ll start with them. I love Vivi and Karoo. Vivi adds a nice layer of reality to the crew, serving as one of the few voices of reason. Her initial interactions with the Straw Hats are a delightful blend of awe, confusion, and distrust. Seeing her slowly open up to the crew and become their friend is one of my favorite arcs in One Piece. And Karoo is a goofy and likable little animal sidekick; his dynamic with Usopp always puts a grin on my face.
Next, the Seven Warlords. This is such a fun setup for an adventure series! Seven infamously powerful rookie-crushing pirates, paid off by the World Government? That’s such an interesting set piece that is used to absolute full effect throughout the entire series! And putting Hawkeye in the roster perfectly establishes just how dangerous all seven of them are; if the other six can keep up with the greatest swordsman in the world, what kind of demons must they be?
Unfortunately, Crocodile himself isn’t introduced until Alabasta itself. But we are introduced to another amazing character: Ms. All Sunday, AKA: Nico Robin!
It’s fun to go back to the days before Robin was a member of the crew. It’s odd to think that once she was seen as one of the most dangerous and intimidating villains of the series! Her complete sense of control when she appears before the Straw Hats is absolutely dripping with menace! When you remember where she goes later on, it adds a fun little layer to her relationship with the Straw Hats.
All in all, I think this is a fairly strong little mini-arc. It’s a great opening act for the Alabasta saga as a whole and a great primer for what to expect in the Grand Line. It introduces tons of great new characters and sets the stage for the most thrilling adventure our crew has had yet!
And oh boy, is it a thrilling adventure!