One Piece 16-18 by Eiichiro Oda: B+

If there remains anyone who doubts that One Piece is something special in the world of shounen manga, they need only read these three volumes to be convinced.

Volume sixteen begins with Luffy and Sanji on their way up a treacherous, snowy mountain to deliver a feverish Nami to the only doctor (Kureha) left on Drum Island. They’re waylaid by some giant killer bunnies, but an avalanche puts a stop to their conflict. I have never loved One Piece so well as in the first two chapters here, in which Luffy demonstrates his lack of antagonism towards those who’ve done him no real wrong by helping free a trapped bunny. This act earns him the respect of the pack, who then come to his aid as the evil former monarch of Drum Island attacks. Yes, I know this is probably the single most sappy moment in the history of this series, but that doesn’t change the fact that Oda executes it really, really well and that I loved it to pieces.

The whole Drum Island arc is excellent, really. We meet Chopper, a blue-nosed reindeer who ate the human-human fruit and can now perform a variety of human/reindeer transformations. He’s studying medicine under Kureha and entranced with the idea of pirates, but weighed down by a lifetime of being shunned for his oddness. His backstory is sad, as they usually are in this series, but Luffy’s unbridled acceptance (and demonstration of his own bizarre abilities) finally convinces Chopper that he has finally found the place he belongs. A good bit of fighting is involved, too, but these warm and affecting character moments are really the highlight of the series for me.

After a touching resolution, the gang is ready to set sail for Alabasta, Princess Vivi’s homeland, which is in the midst of rebellion. Awesomely, quite a few others are converging on that destination as well, and volumes seventeen and eighteen focus on introducing more of the elite agents of Baroque Works as well as explaining the organization’s hierarchy. Baroque Works is shaping up to be a wonderful enemy, with quirky characters (like Mr. 2 Bon Clay, who likes nothing so well as a good pirouette), cool resources (like transport turtles), and internal rivalries. I’m much more interested in them than the plight of Vivi’s people, actually, though I did enjoy learning more about her past.

Unfortunately, Alabasta’s desert climate brings out some of the worst in Luffy, who, despite valiantly helping some villagers and taking up Vivi’s cause as his own, is nonetheless extremely stupid when it comes to keeping a low profile or rationing supplies. Yes, I know, I should simply believe that everything will work out fine for his crew, because it always does, but I can’t help being frustrated by his occasional idiocy.

While I’ve truly enjoyed One Piece, these volumes got me excited for what’s to come in a way that’s new. In fact, I couldn’t help splurging at the library the other day and came home with a veritable armload of volumes. It really is that good. If you’re looking for a shounen series with heart, look no further.

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  1. Yay, I’m so happy you’re enjoying this! The Alabasta arc is a little slow, but the best is definitely yet to come!

    • Yeah, I keep hearing arcs like Skypeia and Impel Down being praised, so I know I’m in for some good stuff. I enjoy being unspoiled, too.

  2. Danielle Leigh says

    oh, I missed you posting this somehow. Yay, more of us falling under the spell of One Piece is a great thing! 🙂

    I really loved the Chopper stuff in these volumes and you exactly describe why Luffy can drive me nuts sometimes.

    • Hee. I really think we need to get Melinda to give this another shot. She was turned off by the beginning—which I had a hard time getting past myself—but I really think she’d like some of these backstories and the emphasis on found family and all of that.


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