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.

One Piece- An Analytical Dive Into Big Mom’s Backstory

One thing we often forget while following the adventures of the Straw Hat Pirates is that the world of One Piece is a very dark place. A government oozing with corruption, a class of nobles that is above all laws, and political conspiracies at every turn are just a few of the harsh elements that bring Oda’s world to life. Although definitely a major aspect of the central narrative, these world-building elements most often flourish in character backstory flashbacks. This in turn, makes them one of my favorite elements of the series.

With this in mind, you can understand my immense excitement when arriving at the cliffhanger that would begin Big Mom’s backstory sub-arc. Due to a combination of a suddenly busy schedule and the newfound knowledge that this story would only last two chapters, I decided to hold off for a double review. Since these chapters are so dense, I will only be addressing important details, as opposed to the typical complete breakdown.

Enough dilly dallying, let’s dive right into Big Mom’s backstory.

 

Chapter 866:

An immediately noticeable element of intrigue regarding Big Mom is that she is, contrary to popular theory, not a giant. Linlin may be unique in size and strength, but through her parental abandonment, we learn she is human. Although this abnormality may lead to some speculation in the theory community, I doubt it will be addressed by Oda any further. In a world with fishmen, various long-limb tribes, and anthropomorphic animal people, it isn’t too farfetched that an outrageously large, non-giant human would be born.

Just because Big Mom is confirmed not to be a giant doesn’t mean the giant race isn’t major importance in this sub-arc. We learn Mother Caramel, a woman supposedly dedicated to her religion, plays a direct role in the modern history of Elbaf. You see, after Brogy and Dorry began the battle that would come to serve as the catalyst for the Little Garden Arc, the Giant Warrior pirates were left without a captain. This void led to reckless pirating, which, in turn, led to their capture by the Marines. As the crew was about to be executed at Marineford, Mother Caramel arrived, stepping in to their defense. Long story short, she became a hero amongst the giants, and was given refuge in Elbaf. There, she began her orphanage, The Lamb’s House (named with clever foreshadowing from Oda *COUGH COUGH* LAMBS TO THE SLAUGHTER *COUGH COUGH*).

Oda didn’t just simply use Elbaf as the setting for this arc for the sake of reader familiarity. He took full advantage of this location by integrating every single giant character we’ve met thus far (aside from the hands-down best, Jaguar D. Saul) into this sub-arc. Our favorite giants from Little Garden, Enies Lobby, and Marineford either make cameos, or are referenced in dialogue. Even Hajrudin, who, as a reminder, is currently a division captain in the Straw Hat Grand Fleet, shows up as a child.

The last essential point of discussion for this particular chapter is the variety of the orphans. It seems almost all of children living in the Lamb’s House represent victims of different dark corners of the One Piece world. Political chaos and poverty induced slavery are just two emphasized examples.  This only adds to the unsettling nature of this sub-arc, and sets the tone for the chapter to come.

 

Chapter 867:

Before moving forward, I have some very strong general opinions on Chapter 867 that need to be addressed. This was by far the most disturbing chapter of One Piece in recent memory. After my initial, edge-of-my-seat readthrough, I was left with a gnawing lump in my chest for the remainder of the day. The sheer potency of this chapter is not something to be downplayed; Oda deserves a damn medal. I wouldn’t be surprised if he took inspiration from Junji Ito when sitting down to write. His genius textual attack comes in two waves- the Mother Caramel reveal and the shocking ending.

Mother Caramel, the kind religious woman who takes in orphaned children, is not what she seems. Bringing a dark truth of the One Piece world back into the limelight, we learn that she is in fact an infamous child slaver. Every two years, she sells one of the orphans to the Celestial Dragons or the Marines. This practice doesn’t raise any suspicion, as she publicly pretends that these children were “finally adopted!” This explains the unconditional love she showed Linlin; the child was set to be her biggest sale yet.

The only confusing aspect of this reveal is who she was speaking to when it took place. In direct conversation with a CP agent, she has to defend her slaver actions. I am very confused by this dynamic, as one of the main objectives of the CP units are to cater to the whims of the Celestial Dragons (who make up the majority of slave masters in the One Piece world).

Regardless of this minor contradiction, Oda does a flawless job of writing Mother Caramel as an absolutely despicable character. Spending months building her up as a figure of kindness and compassion in Big Mom’s life, only to reveal her as a pure evil, real-world monster makes the punch all the more devastating. She reminds me of a more two-faced version of Claude Frollo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The dramatic irony of this situation is that, to this day, Big Mom still has no idea about Mother Caramel’s true nature. She continues to base the model of her entire pirate empire after the facade Caramel displayed. This helps us to develop a bit more sympathy towards Big Mom, which was probably one of Oda’s main intents when writing this backstory.

As if the chapter wasn’t perturbing enough, the closure of this sub-arc was downright nauseating. Big Mom’s days as a free child are numbered as her sixth birthday arrives. Keeping up the facade, Mother Caramel holds a birthday party for Linlin. All of the orphans are gathered to celebrate with a croquembouche feast (a clever throwback to the early chapters of this arc). Big Mom’s love for the food brings her into an eating frenzy. She loses all awareness of her surroundings as she monstrously devours the massive platter. After she finishes eating and confesses to getting overexcited, she finds Mother Caramel and the rest of the orphans are gone. Big Mom looks around for a while, but all of her friends are nowhere to be found.  

That’s right, she committed accidental cannibalism and ate all of her companions. Despite disturbing plot elements being commonly sprinkled throughout the series, this is a new level for Oda. This is the first time One Piece has made me outright scared. This fear is welcomed; we finally understand the true threat that Big Mom poses. When she loses control, there is no telling the atrocities she is capable of committing. If the members of her massive crew know this, it adds a whole new eerie contextualization to the entire arc. All of her subordinates that we’ve met, including commanders, must be living in constant fear.

With that, we are brought back into the current plot, as Big Mom completely loses composure in the face of the shattered Mother Caramel photo. Now that we understand Big Mom’s viscous potential, there is absolutely no way the assassination plan will succeed. There is no doubt in my mind that the Straw Hat/Fire Tank alliance will fail. This is actually great for the plot; their escape now becomes abundantly more interesting.

 

Conclusion:

Overall, the Big Mom flashback sub-arc was immensely satisfying. It stands strong in the company of the tragic backstories that play a pivotal part in making One Piece the series it is. Its brevity, disturbingness, and high level of fan service all work together to produce two masterful chapters. Successfully re-contextualizing the Whole Cake Island arc, this backstory added even more intensity to an already gripping climax.

One Piece: Chapter 865- Review

I want to start off by immediately addressing the elephant in the room. I apologize for the unannounced hiatus. I did not intend to cease posting for nearly a month. In the weeks since I arrived back in South Florida for the summer, I have been focusing my time and creative energy on both my fiction writing and professional endeavors. In this unexpectedly busy haze, I simply lost track of my gonzo journalism efforts. I promise I will go back to posting more frequently, at least once a week excluding One Piece chapter reviews.

With that out of the way, let’s jump right into this week’s chapter. Chapter 865 was an overall mixed bag for me. While there were some elements I absolutely loved, I do have some concerns that I plan on discussing in-depth. The main takeaway from the chapter was the cliffhanger, the implications of which I will inevitably address before this review is through.

The cover pages have always been one of my favorite components of the One Piece manga. I love how cleverly Oda uses a standard element of the medium that so many mangaka simply take for granted. He recently transitioned from fan requests back to traditional side-story arcs. This time around we are following the remaining captains of the Straw Hat Grand Fleet, and what each of their respective crews are up to. I find the potential in this cover story to be immense. We are dealing with intriguing characters that didn’t get the time they deserved in the immensely complex Dressrosa arc. Although I never really cared for Cavendish, the current subject, I look forward to the possibilities of cover pages to come. P.S- I don’t expect to see Bartolomeo in this cover story arc, due to his involvement back in Zou.

On to what you are all really here for, the main story. This chapter was heavily action based, which typically is not a problem. However, I was somewhat disappointed in the cluttered and disorienting action that Oda conveyed in this chapter. The smoothness and weighty impact that typically defines One Piece action was traded for a choppy, non-impactful, and hard to follow mess. I found myself constantly scrolling back up to make sure I understood what had just transpired. Panels didn’t flow into each other well, making the transition of focus between characters downright confusing. Although there isn’t any way to prove this hypothesis, I have a theory that Oda was heavily rushed on this chapter; it just doesn’t seem like him.

A problem I had with the previous chapter has become increasingly more evident this week. Judge is acting excruciatingly out of character. For a supposed genius scientist and power-hungry dictator, he is behaving awfully cowardly and unintelligently. I’m having a hard time telling if this is supposed to be comedic, or if I’m just dealing with bad writing. Even if he is being played for laughs, the fact that I am not sure whether this is the case shows poor character writing regardless. Obviously I’m nitpicking here; Oda is one of the greatest writers of all time. It’s just this particular instance that perplexes and disappoints me.

One element of recent plot progression that actually surprises me is how smoothly the Straw Hat/Fire Tank alliance plan is running. Obviously there have been some serious bumps along the way, but for a Yonko assassination plot I thought was for sure dead on arrival, I am pleasantly surprised. Obviously there is still room for the plan to fall apart (throwback to the Battle of Marineford), but, for the sake of the characters, I really hope it doesn’t. If we do end up taking the Marineford route, Jinbe is screwed.

I promised I’d circle back to the cliffhanger, and here we are. The final three panels of this chapter comprised one of the most simultaneously satisfying and frustrating cliffhangers in recent memory. We are finally getting a Big Mom/Mother Caramel flashback sub-arc, and much sooner than I expected! I was also correct about Big Mom’s ties to Elbaf; it seems this is where she and Mother Caramel are from. We are going back to the past people, 63 years ago in Elbaf to be exact. As someone whose favorite element of One Piece is the flashback sub-arcs, I got literal chills absorbing these finishing panels. The reason I bring the word frustration into play is because of how pissed off I am that I have to wait almost a week for the next chapter; I WANT IT NOW!

As I said earlier, this chapter definitely gave me mixed feelings. Despite choppy and confusing action coupled with strange characterization choices, the cliffhanger nearly redeemed my reading experience. I can’t wait to see what Oda has in store for us over the next few weeks, and the opportunity to share my thoughts with you all only amplifies my excitement.

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.