Break’s over, ladies and gents! It’s time for the voyage to continue!
Two years have come and gone and it’s finally time for the Straw Hats to reunite! But that may not be as easy as they hope. Another crew of pirates is about, pretending to be the Straw Hats. On top of that, the Navy is present, waiting to spring a trap upon our favorite crew. Will their two years of training be enough to finally bring them all together?
This arc, while exceptionally short, is a much needed breath of fresh air after the last few. It’s simple, it’s fun, it’s goofy as hell, and it is so damn satisfying! After seeing Luffy take so many Ls in the last few arcs, it’s nice to finally see him start to overcome.
All of the Straw Hats are reintroduced in pretty solid ways. Each reintroduction perfectly showcases their new designs and capabilities while letting their unique personalities and relationships with each other shine. Zoro’s is easily the best; seeing him wander off onto another ship only to cut it apart because he realized he was lost is the most Zoro thing ever and it is equal parts hilarious and awesome.
Not to say that it’s perfect. For one, I’m not a fan of most of the new designs. I like Luffy’s (because practically nothing changed), Zoro’s is cool, and Sanji and Franky both look great. But the rest are a miss for me. Why is Robin now white? Why did Nami ditch her shirt? Why is Chopper trying so hard to be cute now? Was he not cute enough before? I get that Brook is a rock star now, but his whole ensemble is just too much.
Antagonist wise, this arc is more about making you laugh and cheer than it is about presenting a threatening antagonist. The fake Straw Hats are basically just a walking collection of jokes and the Marine presence is swept aside with ease to demonstrate how strong our heroes have become. Both work perfectly well, but neither are especially memorable in the grand scheme of One Piece baddies.
We do get some interesting lore stuff, though. Particularly with Rayleigh, Roger, Luffy, and the Straw Hat. Seeing Rayleigh tear up because of how much of Roger he sees in Luffy honestly puts a tear in my eyes as well. It’s such a simple but effective moment that makes me love Rayleigh even more.
My favorite scene is, without a doubt, the reunion of the Straw Hats. There is no melodramatic speech, no tears are shed. Everyone just dashes off towards their next adventure, grins on their faces and allies new and old ensuring their voyage is safe. It’s been a while since a manga has made me actually shout in excitement, and this scene certainly did that. I couldn’t wait to see my favorite band of pirates finally continue their adventures together!
Overall, Return to Saboady is a very solid reintroduction to the world and characters of One Piece. This is a time skip done well. It does a great job of getting everything into place for our next voyage!
Even if that voyage itself is kinda… disappointing.