Of all the arcs in the series, this is among the shortest. Yet it manages to hit every bit as hard as the longer arcs. In certain scenes, it hits even harder!
After their victory against Doflamingo, the Straw Hats, accompanied by Law, make to rendezvous with the rest of their crew on Zou, a giant elephant endlessly wandering the New World. Here, they meet the minks, anthropomorphic animal people that had recently been attacked by Kaido’s crew and been saved by the other half of the Straw Hats. But not long after their arrival, Luffy and the gang make a terrible discovery: Sanji has been taken by the Big Mom pirates!
The structure of this arc is absolutely incredible. It plays off of your expectations for the series and flips them on their head, creating one of the most shocking, emotionally impactful, and memorable arcs in the whole series! I won’t spoil the twist for new readers; just know that the twist is insanely powerful. It still makes me cry!
Although I will say: the first half of this arc can drag a bit in terms of pacing. When its just snapping between past and present, it does deliver incredibly important information for the coming arc. But after a certain point, you can’t help but wish Oda would just get on with it. It feels like you’ve got two separate plotlines that are fighting for the spotlight rather than working together.
Going back to positivity: I love how light this arc is on action. After having such a long and action-heavy arc in Dressrosa, having a chill arc like this is very refreshing. Plus, it fits the shorter length of the story.
Besides, Zou has already seen enough carnage. I didn’t want to see this gorgeous land get even more torn apart!
Zou is easily one of the most beautiful and intriguing settings in all of One Piece. The whole island being on the back of a giant elephant was interesting enough; their rain happens because Zou uses its trunk to wash itself! The ruined ancient city and the jungle around it is just so damn beautiful! And its populace, the minks, are just so damn lovable; we don’t learn much about their culture or history, but what we get is extremely memorable, not to mention important.
Even if I still desperately want to know more!
On the subject of the minks: I love all these dudes! They’re just so cute and wholesome and respectable. Cat Viper, Dogstorm, and of course: Pedro and Carrot. Not to mention that all of these guys play a huge role in the story to come!
Also: Carrot for the crew. No, I’m not a furry! I just really like the bunny girl, okay? STOP LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT, I’M NOT-
Overall, Zou is a wonderful little arc. It perfectly sets up the arcs to come while subverting the usual One Piece formula to deliver an extremely powerful twist. On top of that, we get one of the most beautiful locations to date and are introduced to some of the most lovable faces in the series. It’s great!
But even it pales in comparison to what is to come. Whole Cake Island is gonna be a big one, friends.