Of all the arcs in the Alabasta saga, this one is easily my least favorite.
After their adventure in Little Garden, the Straw Hats continue on their way. But disaster strikes when Nami falls ill! Now they must take a detour to Drum Island, a land famed for its doctors, in order to treat her! Here, they meet Tony Tony Chopper, a talking reindeer, and the now-former king Wapol, a tyrant who seeks to retake the kingdom he abandoned! Will Luffy be able to get Nami the treatment she needs before it’s too late?
Most of the story here doesn’t do much more me. Wapol is a boring villain; his ability is weird and kinda fun, but he’s a complete pushover that Luffy annihilates without much effort. The actually interesting thing about the conflict, Nami being sick, is wrapped up halfway through the arc. After that, it’s just the story dragging its feet until Luffy sends the bad guy flying and they move on their way.
It doesn’t help that most of the Straw Hats don’t have anything to do in the story. Vivi and Usopp just wonder around for a while, not doing anything. Zoro gets lost. The only three that are important are Luffy, Sanji, and Nami. Even then, Sanji’s role is pretty quickly set aside and Nami spends most of it sick.
The majority of the arc is focused on Chopper and his backstory. Which just isn’t all that compelling.
Personally, I’ve never enjoyed Chopper much. His personality is fine; his interactions with Usopp and Luffy are consistently funny and his status as the little brother of the crew is always enjoyable. But he just doesn’t have that much depth to him. He wants to be a good doctor and… he’s already a good doctor, so that’s pretty much done. It feels like he’s just here to give One Piece a cute animal mascot.
His backstory doesn’t do much for me, either. Dr. Hiriluk is introduced as a complete maniac, robbing people and forcing his dangerous medicine on people who are begging him to leave. Yet it’s written as though we’re supposed to love him and root for him. It’s hard to root for a guy who is shown to be a complete maniac, even if he’s nice to the reindeer.
The narrative of Drum Island is pretty weak. The new characters introduced, hero and villain, aren’t all that compelling or memorable. All the interesting sides of the conflict are wrapped up way too quickly. The battle against Wapol is hardly engaging. It isn’t an especially fun arc.
It does have some strong moments, though. Luffy saving the bunny from the snow just because the kid is trying hard to save it is one of my favorite Luffy moments in the entire series. Zoro wandering off without his shirt like an idiot and saving the village just to get a coat is fucking hysterical. It has some fun moments that do make it worth getting through.
Plus, it sets up a shit ton of stuff! Blackbeard and Ace are both hinted at here! This is the first time we heard the Will of D mentioned! This arc plants the seeds for many important story beats to come!
I’m not in love with Drum Island. It’s an arc I’m never eager to revisit. Still, it is far from the worst thing I’ve ever read.
But forget that! It’s finally time for Alabasta!