The Great One Piece Journey (Part 16): Thriller Bark

This whole arc is just SPOOKY SCARY SKELETONS SEND SHIVERS DOWN MY SPINE!! And I won’t lie: I’m not as into it as I had hoped I’d be.

With Robin rescues, Franky recruited, and a new ship acquired, the Straw Hat crew continues on their journey! While making their way towards Fish-Man Island, they’re caught in a dense fog. Here, they come across a ghost ship, where they meet Brook the skeleton! Shortly afterwards, a massive island appears, and Brook, whom Luffy very much wanted to recruit, bolts towards it! When the Straw Hats go to investigate, they find a land populated by zombies and horrific beasts. Ruling above them all is Gecko Moria, one of the Seven Warlords of the Sea, who steals their shadows! Can the crew defeat another Warlord and get them back before daybreak?

Alright, let me get my problems out of the way as quick as I can. Problem one: I do not like Moria as a villain. His personality is lackluster, his design kinda blows, and he keeps pulling random powers out of his ass! Every single time he gets put in a bind, he pulls something new out of nowhere and turns around. Some of the shit he can do doesn’t even make sense!

Crocodile’s powers made sense; he was a sandman, so he dries things up and he can make his sand into weapons. Enel’s powers made sense; he was a lighting man and he could use it to warp metal. Lucci’s powers made sense; he was a furry with insanely strong special martial arts. Moria’s powers don’t make sense and they only make less sense as the story goes on.

It’s a real bad sign when the arc’s side villains are much more interesting and memorable than the main one. Perona is a gem and I love her.

Shadow Luffy is also the dumbest thing. It comes out of nowhere, it looks dumb, and it doesn’t really fit in line with Luffy’s character. The moment I saw Luffy using a samurai sword, I remembered his whole ‘I can’t do anything on my own’ speech he made back in Arlong Parck and I died a little bit inside.

I’ve also got my problems with Brook. Now, to be clear: he does get some really strong character development later on in the series. But in his introduction, he doesn’t do a whole lot to really stand out aside from being a skeleton. His personality is much like Sanji’s and his combat skills are just a poorer version of Zoro. This arc doesn’t give the reader a whole lot of reason to care about Brook as a new member of the crew.

Yo Ho Ho Ho Yo Ho Ho Ho!

That said, I do love his connection to Laboon. Not only does it pay off a plot thread set up hundreds of chapters ago (further proof that Oda’s storytelling abilities are godly), but it also serves as the centerpiece to one of the most heartbreaking backstories in all of One Piece. And it all culminates in the final scene of the arc, with everyone singing the best song in the history of anime and manga: Bink’s Sake.

Which should serve as a nice transition into the things that I do like!

Let’s start with that Bink’s Sake scene. God, dude, this shit was so incredible! No character dialogue, just several pages of the past and the present. The tragedy of the past and the end of Brook and his old crew. The joyous new beginning of the present, with the Straw Hats and the others celebrating a victory. And linking both occasions, Brook and his favorite song. It was beautifully done and brought a genuine tear to my eye! I’m getting chills just thinking about it!

The comedy of this arc was really strong, too! Thriller Bark has some of my all-time favorite One Piece gags. My favorite one being the ‘old man with really severe injuries’ bit. I relayed that one to my friends who weren’t into One Piece and they got a good laugh out of it.

Action wise, this arc has some really fun stuff! Sanji gets a duel with a pervert with invisibility powers. Zoro gets a badass samurai duel with a zombie! Chopper realizes he shouldn’t meet his heroes and gets a fun tag-team battle with Robin! All of the Straw Hats tag team a giant zombie monster with Luffy’s personality! Franky does Fortnite before that game ever existed!

You all knew I was gonna put this in here.

And as underwhelming as Moria was, Bartholomew Kuma was awesome! His design is amazing, his powers are weird and creative and cool, and his fight with the Straw Hats, while brief, is intense! Plus, he plays a huge and incredibly interesting role in the story to come!

Not to mention that he’s responsible for the single coolest Zoro moment in all of One Piece!

Also, a really small detail I noticed: in prior arcs, Robin would refer to each member of the crew by their title. Nami was Navigator, Sanji was Cook, so on and so forth. But now, after the events of Enies Lobby, she’s started to open up to them and call them by their names! It’s such an incredibly small little detail, but it really goes to show how incredible Oda’s character writing is!

I’m not huge on Thriller Bark. It has a lot of things that I love, but it’s still pretty low on my list of favorite OP arcs. Not one that I hate to revisit, but not one I’m overly fond of either.

But at least it doesn’t hurt me inside like the next arc!

I meant that in a good way, just so we’re clear.

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