To be the arc sandwiched between Skypiea and Water 7. Not an enviable position to be in.
After returning to the blue sea, the Straw Hats continue their adventures! This time, the Log Pose takes them to Long Ring Long Land, an island inhabited by extremely long things! Here, they run into the Foxy Pirates, who challenge them to a time honored pirate tradition: a Davy Back fight! Should the Straw Hats lose in any of these three games, they’ll be forced to say good-bye to a crew member! Can Luffy and the gang overcome the cheating pirates and keep the Straw Hat crew together?
The basic premise of this arc is a ton of fun. The Straw Hats can’t just beat the hell out of all their enemies and call it a day! They need to defeat them in big elaborate games. Not only that, but they need to find a way around their cheating! It’s a blast to watch!
Even if the Foxy Pirates themselves aren’t especially memorable. Actually, did any of them even have names aside from the captain himself? Even he isn’t all that great. His powers prove to be an interesting and fun challenge for Luffy and he’s got some super funny gags. But that’s about it. Aside from his design, which is… fine, I guess.
All the Straw Hats, on the other hand, get their moments to shine here! Chopper and Zoro share a great emotional moment where Zoro gets to be a big brother, Usopp, Nami, and Robin working together during the raft race is fun, Zoro and Sanji ‘working together’ is as hilarious as ever, and Luffy’s goofiness is perfectly balanced out with his ferocity in protecting his crew. We get some peak Straw Hat group chemistry in this arc.
The Davy Back fight itself is fun enough. It isn’t especially memorable, but it’s still enjoyable.
But this arc does end on a strong note! Because this motherfucker shows up!
Aokiji’s appearance is an absolutely ingenious move on Oda’s part. First: the character himself is hilarious and menacing. Second: it perfectly establishes just how strong the marines really are, which sets the stage for Water 7/Enies Lobby flawlessly. Third: it demonstrates that the Straw Hats, despite having succeeded against every obstacle they’ve faced so far, are completely unprepared for the challenges to come.
Sure, his ‘battles’ with Robin and Luffy are basically non-existent. He takes Robin out in less than a second and takes Luffy down pretty much off-screen. But that’s the point. We know exactly how badass they both are, so seeing them getting their shit stomped so quickly and easily perfectly establishes the true menace of the marines.
The Straw Hats reaction to him is equally powerful. The normally goofy, calm, and confident crew are thrown into a full-blown panic! Chopper’s medical skills are finally put to the test as he struggles to treat Luffy and Robin and Zoro and Sanji both get a proper taste of true helplessness as they can’t do anything to help their captain. As soon as Aokiji starts to fight, the whole comedic tone vanishes, replaced by one of pure terror and helplessness.
I love this scene so damn much. It takes the ending of the arc in a completely different direction and sets the stage for what is to come perfectly! As iffy as I am on the Davy Back fight itself, everything that comes after it is among my favorite stuff in One Piece!
If only it lasted more than, like, two chapters.
Okay, now we can talk about Water Seven! And I have never been so excited!