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 860 & 861- Review

I apologize for the delay of both chapter reviews. I have been extremely busy with academia, and have had almost no time to write anything that isn’t for a class or professional obligation. I pounced on the small capsule of leisure time I was able to obtain in order to provide you with a double review. Today I will be covering both Chapter 860 and 861.

If there are any two words that could be used to describe these past two chapters, they would be excruciatingly tense. These two chapters go hand in hand as genius build up, slowly amplifying the nerves of both our characters and the readers. All of this edging is building towards an explosion of an arc climax, both literally and metaphorically.

 

Chapter 860:  

Chapter 860 begins with further development of Jinbe and the rest of the Fishman Pirates. It is revealed that Big Mom not only wanted to take a part of Jinbe’s body/life-span in the roulette, but added crew member amounts to the wheel as well. In turn, Jinbe pretended to abandon his desire to leave the Big Mom umbrella in favor of a secretive mutiny.

However, what is perhaps the biggest Jinbe revelation of the chapter is the raising of his death flag. It’s so high up that I can barely see it from all the way down here. I can’t quite remember whether this is the first time he has canonically announced his plans to join the Straw Hats or not, as it has been a speculative theory in the community for quite a while. I am willing to bet that he dies before the arc is through, sacrificing himself to protect the Straw Hats. However, Oda could be pulling a bait-and-switch on us by having him survive, join the Straw Hats, and die as soon as we let our guard down. Either way, I do not see Jinbe surviving to the end of the series.

My personal favorite scene of the chapter was the introduction of some big-name wedding guests. These are characters that we have not yet met in person, but have felt their presence throughout the entire series. I find it genius that Oda takes such small factors into account, leaving no stone unturned in the development of his world. I find myself returning to my stance that Oda is the best world builder since Tolkien.

To perform in-depth analysis of each of these underworld figures would take an eternity. However, a brief glimpse into all is in order. Black Market King “God of Fortune” Du Feld seems to be just that, the king of the black market of the One Piece world. Pleasure Quarter Princess Stussy, while appearing quite cute and innocent, is putting on a major facade in that she is probably the mastermind behind the world’s sex-trafficking industry. Great Mortician Drug Peclo is a figure that I will be tentative on analyzing until we get the official translation of his name. I am, however, leaning towards him being the kingpin of the assassin community or drug trade. Storage Industry Titan “The Concealer” Gibbers and Shipping Magnate “Deep Ocean Current” Umit are extremely clever creations in that they fit perfectly into a world heavily influenced by pirates. These two characters were able to use an epidemic to their advantage, economically prospering by appealing to the needs of “criminals.”

The wedding guest I believe represents the worldbuilding prowess of Oda the most is “Big News” Morgans. He is the president of the World Economic Times, the newspaper that has been the catalyst for numerous plot events in the One Piece story. This character has been an invisible hand for the majority of the series. His introduction appeals to me in particular, as the newspaper has always been one of my favorite elements of the One Piece universe. The idea that he is probably a bird mink, one who controls the rest of the world’s birds to deliver his paper, is also hilariously intriguing. The fact that Oda even thought to create this character skyrockets him up as not only one of the greatest mangakas, but one of the all-time best fiction writers.

Returning to the A plot of the arc, we are introduced to the wedding guest that will definitely be one of the driving factors behind the failure of the Fire Tank/Straw Hat assassination plot. Dogtooth Charlotte, one of the three commanders of the Big Mom pirates, is introduced with the largest bounty we have seen in the series to date. Obviously he won’t end up being the highest, as we have not yet seen any Yonko bounties. Regardless, the fact that he surpasses Jack’s infamy is startling. One of his abilities, however, adds to the ever-growing list of Chekhov’s Guns that will inevitably go off during the climax of this arc. He has trained his Observation Haki to the point where he can see slightly into the future. I do not believe this means he has “future sight” in the traditional sense. I interpret this as a keen sense of picking up on observable cues, including nervous ticks, signals, and body language. He can analyze these behaviors to predict the potential actions of others. With that ability, it is evident that the Big Mom assassination can’t simply go off without a hitch. My question is how did Bege not realise Dogtooth would be at the wedding? He is, after all, one of Big Mom’s commanders.

 

Chapter 861:

The tension building only continues in Chapter 861, which, similarly to its predecessor, breaks up the constant flow of set-up with some small chunks of payoff. While we receive some long-anticipated answers, even more questions begin to arise in their place.

A satisfying reveal that I did not expect to see this soon was the framed photo of Mother Caramel. I initially anticipated that we would only see the picture after the assassination attempt, with the frame already cracked on the floor, but Oda clearly had other plans. My initial reaction to the photo was a strong assumption that could easily be disproved. I am under the impression that the Mother Caramel pictured is a younger version of the woman who was seen controlling Edward Weevil back in Chapter 802. This would imply that she thrives off of taking in up and coming shichibukai and yonko, pretending to be a mother figure to them, using them for her own gain, and then abandoning them. Big Mom may have been one of her early victims, Weevil being the newest.

However, this theory is just that, a theory. It could easily be slowly disproved or instantly shattered with an influx of new information. She could simply be an entirely new character, or even a character we have already met that I am just forgetting. Either way, this revelation definitely adds more mystery and intrigue to Big Mom, further proving that this arc will not be her last.

The Tamatebako, a setup that has been building since the Straw Hats arrived in the New World, continues to grow. I’m curious as to how the chest will come into play, as Big Mom announces it will be opened at the reception. If the assassination plan were to succeed from either Pudding’s end or the Straw Hat/Fire Tank end, the wedding won’t make it past the ceremony stage. The Chekhov’s gun rule still applies; the Tamatebako must be opened this arc. I just have no clue as to what the context will be.

A major concern I have held throughout the entire Whole Cake Island arc was finally addressed in this chapter. I never understood why characters were announcing their secret plans in front of homies. I was under the impression that homies could simply report back to Big Mom with anything they heard. This was proven to be the case; one of Bege’s men slaughtered the homie that possessed the wedding-entrance-door after she overheard part of their plan. I wonder how much information has already been leaked to Big Mom, and even if she is already somewhat aware of the assassination plot at this point.

Sanji is slowly becoming a liability in the plan, as his lust is beginning to overtake his best judgement. I believe this is just another misguiding piece of tension that Oda is building. I feel Sanji, when push comes to shove, has a head on his shoulders. He will break from his trance, and do what he needs to do. Whether it is successful is an entirely different question.

Oda, the ultimate troll, couldn’t simply give us the next chapter with the sheer amount of tension in play. We have to wait two weeks for the massive payoff, as he and his team are taking the week off. I’m sure the remaining week and a half will be filled to the brim with analysis and theorization from the community, some of which might even disprove points I have made today. Regardless, I can’t explain how nervous and excited I am for the next chapter; the calm before the storm has come to a close.

One Piece: Chapter 859- Review

Chapter 859 followed one of the two routes I anticipated in my previous review. In many ways, I felt as if I was reading an extension to last week’s chapter as opposed to an entirely new chunk of the story. I can’t complain, that’s just a given issue of long-form storytelling through the medium of serialized comics.

This week we were treated to what was essentially just a lecture on Bege’s Big Mom assassination plan. Despite its genius, the plan is far from flawless. Clever planning and research was evident, but there are simply too many red flags for this plot to go over without a hitch.

A major component of the strategy relies on the complete cooperation of Caesar Clown, a character we have come to know as anything but trustworthy. Although Bege’s ownership over Caesar’s cubed heart is a strong insurance measure, it is not foolproof. Caesar may have calculated a plan of his own to retrieve his heart, one that may not aline with the goals of the Straw Hat and Fire Tank crews. Further, even if Caesar does not have any ulterior motives, he was initially captured and taken to Whole Cake Island; he does not have a ship to escape on. This leads me to believe that either the Straw Hats or the Fire Tanks will have an unwanted stowaway in the near future.

Another major liability comes in the form of Brûlée and Diesel. If they somehow manage to escape before the assassination and retreat are completed, the entire plan shatters. Not only will the Straw Hats and the Fire Tanks be unable to escape without Brûlée’s mirror world ability, but either her or Diesel will, without a doubt, warn Big Mom.

Speaking of everyone’s favorite Yonko, we learn that Big Mom can’t simply be killed like an ordinary human. If I remember correctly, immense skin strength is a characteristic amongst most of the Yonko. I attribute this trait to some form of powerful busoshoku haki. It would simply be too contrived if it were another aspect of her devil fruit ability.

We learn that her only weakness comes in the form of a mysterious new character named Mother Caramel. Big Mom’s weakness in the wake of Caramel’s absence opens the door to a potential Big Mom flashback sub-arc in the near future. Some of my early predictions for this character see her as a mother and/or mentor figure to Big Mom. I also see potential in her being the former holder of the yonko position that Big Mom currently occupies. Whatever the case may be, the fact that Mother Caramel is noted to still be alive signifies her importance in the future of the narrative.

Luffy spends the chapter bragging about a “super cool” wedding entrance that he plans to make. This boast signifies major red flags with regards to the overall success of the plan. I hope Luffy has matured enough not to jeopardize a major assassination plot with a joke. I have faith in our protagonist, but not complete trust.

Bege makes sure to emphasize that, as soon as each major player makes it to their respective ships, the alliance is over. The prominence placed on this statement is yet another indicator of Bege’s true loyalty- himself. I would not be surprised if Bege were to betray the Straw Hats during their escape, propelling himself away as the crew falls back into the hands of Big Mom.

Next week’s chapter seems as if it will be the official start of the wedding. Just thinking about the structural fragility of their plan makes me nervous. I will, without a doubt, be on the edge of my seat reading chapter 860.