Would it be bold to say that this arc is perfect? It legitimately only gets better the more I think about it! It isn’t quite my favorite arc of the series, but god damn it makes a strong argument!
Sanji has been taken by the Big Mom pirates to be married to her daughter, Pudding, and bring his cruel and abusive family into her crew. Now, it’s up to Luffy and the gang to save him! To do so, they must dive straight into the home territory of one of the four Emperors of the Sea. The odds have never been stacked so high against them. Will our would-be Pirate King manage to save his cook?
One of my biggest problems with One Piece after the time skip has been Sanji. For a long, long time, he became stagnant and annoying. Luckily, this arc is focused almost exclusively on addressing this issue. His backstory is further fleshed out and the more redeemable aspects of his personality are put on full-display. He seems truly trapped and alone…
…which is where we also get to see the best in Luffy.
I love how Luffy doesn’t care about beating Big Mom in this arc. He’s not out to stop the bad guy or anything like that. All he cares about is saving Sanji. And in order to do so, he puts it all on the line, nearly killing himself with hunger just to prove a point. This arc perfectly highlights how Luffy has grown as a captain and how his crew has come to rely upon him. It explores the relationship between Sanji and Luffy, which led to some of the most emotionally impactful and iconic scenes in the entire series!
Of course, none of that would work without our villains. Big Mom is one thing; this arc really goes into just how monstrous and terrifying the woman truly is. Germa 66, another one entirely. These Nazi-Power Ranger knock-offs aren’t as memorable as other villains in the series, but they are still incredibly effective in how they push Sanji as a character. Plus, their designs are absolutely amazing!
But none of the villains in this arc can compare to one. And I get the feeling you guys already know who I’m talking about.
Katakuri is one of the best villains in One Piece, hands down. He’s tall, menacing, and seemingly unstoppable. Yet he isn’t sinister or cruel. Rather, he’s a mature, honorable man that is trying his best to help his twisted and dysfunctional family. He just wants to chill out and eat donuts, but he has to keep up appearances and act tough. The dude is so cool that he even manages to earn Luffy’s respect in the end.
Speaking of: the fight. Luffy VS Katakuri. This is easily the best fight in the entire series! It perfectly blends creative uses of Devil Fruit powers and Haki to create one of the most brutal mirror matches I’ve ever read in a manga! It takes some crazy twists and turns, perfectly displaying the truly honorable side of Katakuri and the more mature and respectable side of Luffy. This is truly a match for the ages and it is one of the biggest highlights of the manga.
Conversely, I love how Sanji doesn’t finish his arc this time by beating someone up. Rather, he manages to save the day using the one skill his family always tried to get him to stop: cooking. It’s a wonderful twist on the One Piece formula, and it made the ending of the arc all that much more satisfying.
On the subject of the ending, I love his dark it is. Sure, Sanji is saved and the Straw Hats managed to get away. But there’s this underlying sense of sorrow and defeat to it, as well. We get a pretty heartbreaking death and a fairly sad farewell between Sanji and Pudding. Not to mention that Big Mom is more upset with the crew than ever. Our heroes won, yes, but the price was high.
Overall, this is a phenomenal arc. It has some of the best character writing in the whole series, as well as some of the coolest action scenes. There’s so much more I want to discuss about it, but if I did, we’d be here all day. It’s an amazing arc and another perfect encapsulation of why I love One Piece so much.
And now, it’s time for another arc of chilling out and setting stuff up. That’s right, it’s an entire arc of setup, because Eichiro Oda is an insane person that is determined to deliver so much hype that our hearts explode!
God bless him.