One Piece: Chapter 868- Review

Of course they failed! In all honesty, I feel like somewhat of an idiot for believing that Oda was done addressing Big Mom’s backstory for the time being. The way he intertwined her continuing past narrative with the current action was outstanding. Although this chapter wasn’t quite as potent as its predecessor, there is still quite a bit to discuss. For simplicities sake, I will be addressing the backstory first, and finishing up with the minimal main narrative progression we did receive.

It was revealed that Linlin, Mother Caramel, and the rest of the orphans weren’t alone on the day of the cannibalism incident. Unbenounced to each other, two spectators witnessed this gruesome event, both equal in importance for current affairs.

The first was a giant from Elbaf, who came to check in on the new Lamb’s House. So disgusted by what he witnessed, he immediately fled back to Elbaf, where he informed the rest of the giants of the horrors he had seen. Big Mom became such a repugnant figure amongst their community that they do not even speak of her by name. Oda was quite clever in including this witness. As we now know Big Mom will probably not be killed during this arc, it is very likely she will be an extremely relevant character in the inevitable Elbaf arc. This giant, as well as the giants he informed, may be the ones to provide this crucial context to the Straw Hats once they arrive in the kingdom.

While the first witness was there to be a conduit for future events, the second helped to shape the basis for the current circumstances. Big Mom’s head chef, Streusen, was, at the time, marooned on this island. Finding the incident comedic, he saw potential in manipulating the young Linlin, and became her ally. Together, they would come to build what is now the Big Mom Pirate Empire. I always love when Oda takes a character of minuscule importance and embeds them with relevancy. It manages to make characters that would typically be forgotten amongst the sheer massiveness of One Piece’s cast more memorable (see Super Eyepatch Wolf’s discussion of Senior Pink for a perfect example). The subtextual character development here is tremendous. Streusen must be a man of astounding patience and intrepidity, working with someone as volatile as Big Mom for over 60 years.

The pirate empire the two formed had to start somewhere. The theories were correct, the island that Mother Caramel built the second Lamb’s House on would eventually become the capital of Big Mom’s territory, Whole Cake Island. The revelation doesn’t stop there. As I predicted, Mother Caramel was the one who sparked Big Mom’s goal of building a melting pot country. Through her insincere rhetoric, Caramel instilled the idea that would become the cornerstone of Linlin’s entire pirate career. If Caramel were a genuine individual, this would be an utterly touching scene. Our understanding of her true intentions, however, makes this revelation profoundly disturbing; Big Mom’s empire is built entirely on lies.

A subtextual, but not irrelevant reveal followed soon after. Linlin boasting that she performed “the trick that mother did,” without having been shown consuming a devil fruit that grew nearby helps prove that eating a devil fruit user can transfer their power. This not only provides new lore to the One Piece universe but may even provide context to a significant past event.

Note: the following idea comes from Best Guy Ever, a host on the Po D. Cast (which if you haven’t checked out yet, you unquestionably should, it’s the best One Piece podcast out there). His genius theory harkens back to the Paramount War saga. During the Battle of Marineford, Blackbeard concealed himself and a dying Whitebeard under a large black cloth. After several minutes, Blackbeard emerged with Whitebeard’s devil fruit ability in tow. Nate theorized that, under the blanket, Blackbeard must have eaten a piece of Whitebeard’s body. Although it isn’t perfectly sound, I personally find this theory plausible.

Enough theory crafting, back to the chapter at hand. Since we’ve addressed all the important details from the backstory segments, let’s move on to the current narrative.

Big Mom has hit a point of such immense, unprecedented rage, that her haki destroys the bullets flying at her, immediately halting the assassination plan. Even if Bege had extra bullets, the haki waves shattered their weapons. With Big Mom Pirates commanders closing in, it was imperative that the Straw Hats and Fire Tanks fled into the mirror world immediately. Sure enough, in a surprisingly hilarious scene, the entrance mirror was smashed by the haki waves.

At first I thought Bege’s auxiliary escape method (his castle being a sentient homie) was shoddy writing on Oda’s behalf. After further analysis, I discerned that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this reveal. It is perfectly characteristic of Bege to have a backup plan that he wouldn’t share with the Straw Hats unless absolutely necessary. Since he’s someone who is known for his betrayals and mafia-esque tendencies, I really don’t think the writing is contrived here. Let’s hope it stays that way as the alliance continues their escape next chapter.

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One Piece: Chapter 863- Review

Chapter 863 was, without a doubt, my hands down favorite chapter of the Whole Cake Island arc thus far. Every single setup is coming together for a massive cluster of a punchline. All of the plot threads established throughout the arc are cleverly oozing together into one big mess. Regardless of the sloppy nature of these events, the tight knit tension that Oda masterfully weaves is still in place, amplifying to even higher levels.

Before reading this post, I would highly recommend checking out Code Provider’s chapter review over on his YouTube channel. As someone who is far more knowledgeable on the medium of manga than I am, he is able to give a fantastic review from a perspective I simply do not have.

Moving right along, I am glad Oda took the time to explain how the Straw Hats were able to get to the top of the cake. It was a detail that could have easily been brushed over, but I appreciate the time being taken to make sure the audience is completely following the situation at hand, especially in such a mess of climax. I feel the same way regarding the clarification that the Luffy clones were made by Brûlée, using animals from the Seducing Woods. I was able to make this prediction in advance, but I do know other readers who were not, so I’m glad Oda made this clear for their sake.

One of the factors that made this chapter so much more exciting to me was Big News Morgans’ presence. I explained in an earlier review why I have become so enamored by this character. As a journalist myself, the fact that he is on the scene actively reporting is just so interesting to me. It provides a stronger sense of scale to the arc climax; these are world-changing events. Even though he didn’t initially plan to, it’s nice to see a news industry tycoon on the scene covering the action himself. This is something you just don’t see in the real world.

One of the strongest traits of Oda’s writing style is heavily reflected in this chapter- his ability to seamlessly integrate comedy into dramatic scenes. Despite being one of the most tense and gut-wrenching chapters to date, I found myself laughing out loud twice- the first being when Nami insulted Caesar to the point of tears, the second when Bege is shocked by Luffy’s straightforward attack. This integration is one of the defining traits that allows One Piece to stand out from the rest of its Shonen Jump neighbors.

Dogtooth has been proving his bounty to be worthwhile over the past few chapters. Not only does he have future sight via immensely strong Observation Haki, but he is a Logia-type Devil Fruit user. Through his attack on Luffy, it is revealed that he is the bearer of the Mochi Mochi no Mi. When observing his ability, I couldn’t help be reminded of both Luffy and Trebol’s fruits; Dogtooth’s is essentially a hybrid of the both. I’m not one to harp on abilities and power levels in manga, but I thought this comparison was interesting to point out.

His use of this ability on Luffy also brought out an interesting point via Big Mom. Her anger towards Dogtooth for what she perceived as protecting her is very indicative of her personality. She is so confident in her own ability as a Yonko that she takes any form of assistance as an insult. I feel this immense narcissism will play an important role in her eventual downfall.

Enough beating around the bush- we all know who the true star of this chapter was. Chapter 863 served as Jinbe’s official induction into the primary Straw Hat crew. In an unforgettable scene that gave me literal chills, Jinbe declares mutiny towards the Big Mom Pirates and joins the Straw Hats.

As the narrative of this arc was built up, there were two possible paths that Jinbe’s character would take. He would either officially join the Straw Hats, or sacrifice himself to save them. Although the latter is still a possibility, the first has come to fruition. We have our tenth Straw Hat everyone.

This brings up the issue as to what will happen to the crew Jinbe currently captains, the Fishman Pirates. I can feasibly see the second in command, Aladine, assuming the captain position, and the crew will continue on as independent allies. Equally plausible is the assimilation of the crew into the greater Straw Hat Grand Fleet. Either would leave Aladine in a newfound position of power, as Jinbe would most likely live aboard the Sunny with the rest of the primary crew.

The reason this chapter was so special to me was not just the induction of a new crew member, but the manner in which it is conducted. Jinbe gives his generic, but always immensely satisfying, Luffy is going to be the Pirate King speech. This declaration has become a rite of passage over the course the series; it seems that every incoming Straw Hat makes some form of the monologue.

Jinbe’s, however, might be the most satisfying yet. The manner in which he directly confronts Big Mom sent shivers down my spine. His lack of fear towards death in the face of Big Mom’s fear reliant ability was an added bonus. His gentlemanly nature is only amplified through his symbolic gesture of a sake offering, one that Big Mom promptly refuses via smashing the cup.

In perfect narrative rhythm, this heel smash gives Brook the opportunity to destroy the photo of Mother Caramel. Big Mom was already at rage point, about to strike Jinbe. I’m sure we’ll find out if this move will put her in the catatonic state of rage Bege expected at the start of the next chapter.

Chapter 863 was one of those chapters that perfectly captures the spirit of One Piece. Oda manages to pack laugh-out-loud humor within the same pages as spine-tingling drama, unintentionally creating a microcosmic reflection of the series as a whole. Obviously any chapter that involves the inauguration of a new crew member is unforgettable. However, this was handled so beautifully that it may be one of the best inductions yet.

One Piece: Chapter 858- Review

Chapter 858 was one of the most satisfying chapters of the Whole Cake Island arc thus far. Continuing with 857’s trend of explaining lasting mysteries, this chapter is one filled to the brim with immense payoff.

To start, a hearty chunk, or potentially all, of the New Fishman Pirates are confirmed to be hiding out on Whole Cake Island. Now that we know this information, there is a much larger change that the crew will come into play when it comes down to the actual wedding sabotage plan. Further, we learn that Pekoms, one of the few characters with potential of ratting out to Big Mom, is being stalled and tricked by the hiding crew. He is oblivious to Jinbe’s defection from the Big Mom Pirates, and potentially clueless of his alliance with the Straw Hats.

Continuing with the A plot of the arc, we finally get a look at Capone Bege’s hideout. Although the art leaves it vague as to whether this is a ship docked, or simply part of the island, the citadel fits Bege’s aesthetic perfectly.

This castle also serves as a house of reveals and plot progression, starting with more information on Lola’s backstory and Big Mom’s relationship with the giant race. It is revealed that the powerful suitor that Lola evaded marriage with was actually the prince of Elbaf, the home country of the giants. We learn that Elbaf is the strongest nation in the world militarily, further edging the buildup towards a seemingly inevitable Elbaf arc.

Through Chiffon’s lament, we gain a deeper insight into Big Mom as a character. She is not only abusive to her children verbally and situationally, but physically as well- Chiffon being the victim of harsh beatings despite Lola being to blame for the situation. Big Mom is slowly making her way towards irredeemability, but hasn’t quite hit it yet. Maybe the actual wedding or the future Elbaf arc will cement this status.

This chapter wasn’t only oozing with serious narrative payoff, but with comedic punch lines as well. Luffy’s lost tooth and Brook’s skull crack were healed thanks to the magical abilities of calcium-rich milk! I typically place a mammoth amount of faith in Oda with regards to continuity. However, I admittedly thought these injuries would simply disappear between chapters at some point. I’m very proud of Oda for directly addressing such a miniscule detail.

Continuing with satisfying comedy, we learn that the member of Bege’s gang that looked similar to Caesar was indeed Caesar himself in hiding. Believe it or not, I was just as shocked as Luffy was. I thought this was simply an issue of similarity in character design on the part of one of Oda’s assistants. I was elated to learn of the truth, as well as of Caesar’s reasoning for being at the hideout. It makes perfect logical sense that Caesar would want a way to escape Big Mom’s inevitable wrath. The added plot element of Bege being given control of Caesar’s still cubed heart wasn’t necessary, but is not a weak loyalty insurance measure.

The main takeaway from this chapter is that Luffy and Bege officially formed a pirate alliance. Whether this alliance will remain intact after the wedding is yet to be seen. If the Heart/Straw Hat alliance is any indication, it may last longer than intended. This may be the next step towards my theorized endgame of a complete alliance between all of the Supernova crews.

Bege reveals to Luffy that he has already constructed a game plan for their now joint wedding crash. Whether this will be explained in the next chapter, or be communicated through the actual enactment is yet to be seen. If their plan ends up failing, I would say the prior.

If the next chapter is not an explainer, then it seems the climax of the arc has begun. I would typically offer a prediction on how the wedding will go down here, but I find it very exciting that I have absolutely no idea. I guess we’ll just have to wait to see what Oda has in store for us. If his past track record is any indication, this will be a wedding for the ages.