[Editor’s note: Please welcome Drew back to the column for some more One Piece reviews!]
Volumes 61 and 62 provide both a huge new start and a huge jumping on point for readers both new and old for One Piece. Like when Dragon Ball hit that point where it switched over into Dragon Ball Z, the New World arc provides a fresh start where our characters come back and rejoin after two years of training to continue exploring the world, go on adventures, and look for the one piece.
Volume 61 kicks off with each member of Luffy’s crew accepting their challenges in multiple places so they can train over the next two years. Then the manga jumps to two years later, skipping over all the training (thankfully) and giving us a clean start with everyone reuniting. One by one, they start meeting up on the Sabaody Archipelago on the Grand Line. Brook has made a huge rock star of himself, calling himself Soul King, and is playing a goodbye stadium gig to thousands of screaming fans. Meanwhile, Sanji gets back almost dying at the site of every woman he sees (he has been stuck on an island of male transvestites and cross-dressers). Nami and Usopp run into each other at a tavern, where they also deal with some “members” apparently recruiting for the “Straw Hat” pirates. Seems since the crew’s separation two years ago, the pirate Demalo Black has been impersonating him and is gathering an army on the island. This spells out trouble for the real Straw Hat crew now re-gathering on the island, because the Navy has realized the fake Straw Hat crew is gathering up an army of pirates. Poor Chopper gets to the island and for quite a bit even mistakes the fake crew for the real crew to much hilarity, and when the fake Robin is kidnapped by some traffickers, the poor guy freaks out and runs after him (but to much luck finds out the truth). Things speed up pretty fast from there, and the rest of the crew, including Luffy, all get to the island in different spots. Luffy walks right into the crew led by fake Luffy to some interesting results, right as the Navy shows up, adding a bit of flurry ‘n action. But before we know it our crew is off, their ship covered in a special bubble material, so they can now travel under water like a submarine!
Volume 62 takes the crew on a great underwater adventure as they face a rival pirate crew led by Caribou, and at the same time run into that creature of the deep, the Kraken. The battle with the Kraken heats up as he takes out the rival ship, and Caribou is taken prisoner on Luffy’s ship and locked in a barrel; but never fear, our heroes subdue the Kraken. In fact, Luffy tames him and names him Surume (humorously named after a dried squid food). The crew steers their course towards the underwater kingdom of Fish-Man Island, where most of the mermaids and such live. Low on oxygen, they have a brief bout with a crew of pirate fish-men outside the underwater kingdom, but make it in a-okay (although the crew once again gets separated). Luffy, Sanji, Chopper, and Usopp all wake up together in the home of old mermaid friend Camie. Sanji barely contains his nose bleed because of his lack of time around women, but before we know it, he gets a geyser spurt of blood and is in vital danger (tip of the hat for a classic manga comical element turned serious). As they are saving Sanji, the rest of the group begins to regather, while at the same time the villainous Hoody Jones, who wants to overthrow King Neptune, is making moves. Some mermaids make the mistake of freeing Caribou, who begins kidnapping mermaids to sell off for when he gets off the island. Neptune thinks the Straw Hats are kidnapping the mermaids and brings them to the kingdom where he attempts to double cross them. While the crew faces off against the guards, Luffy goes off into the castle and meets Princess Shirahoshi, a giant beautiful mermaid, who’s a bit of a crybaby and cannot go outside because of a villain named Vander Decken trying to kill her. Things seem to go from bad to worse when Vander Decken and Hoody team up and try to storm the castle, which is undefended because the Straw Hats beat all the soldiers when they were double crossed. All out attack chaos begins to ensue as Luffy and the Princess ditch the castle inside a giant shark, leaving off with a cliff hanger ending.
These volumes are just good. Yes, A LOT happens, but it isn’t confusing like the Paramount War saga, where there was just too much going on with too many characters on every page. True, there are a ton of characters here, but it is much, much more followable and clear, with Oda being on with his humor, art, and storytelling. He took a one month break, which is considered crazy for weekly manga artists to do, before coming back to start on this arc in Japan, and I think the break as well with the clean slate of setting the story two years later gives him the ability to do a lot of great things and go new places, keeping the manga fresh and exciting. As I said, One Piece volumes 61 and 62 are great jumping on points for new or elapsed readers, and those who’ve stayed steady with the series will love it, too. Available both physically and digitally from Viz’s Shonen Jump line.
Review copies provided by Viz Media.