We’re still in Drum Island folks. The village where Usopp and Vivi are staying is about to be swallowed by an avalanche so Wapol and his cronies get out of there as fast as they can. They climb up to the mountain in an attempt to catch up with Luffy and Sanji. Throughout all of One Piece we see a lot of intelligent animals and animal-like species. Lapins – the giant snow rabbits – are a prime example of this. They do not like humans, which I’m guessing was caused by human behavior in the first place. They try to keep Luffy and Sanji from ascending and do so pretty effectively. Only when Luffy helps one of them that’s buried under the snow, do they warm up to them. So much so in fact that when Luffy is under attack from Wapol they protect him. After a grueling climb up the mountain Luffy finally makes it to the castle where Dr. Kureha and Tony Tony Chopper live.
We’re treated to an absolutely stellar chapter here in chapter 139. We get to see the inside of the castle – presumably as decorated by Dr. Kureha herself – and it looks fantastic. It’s just creepy enough for someone like her. We’re also getting some amazing panels. Usopp looking swole(n) and Vivi looking like an innocent little girl is such a nice touch to this chapter. Then Zoro steals some poor bloke’s coat because he was out swimming in an avalanche and we top it all off with Luffy safely bringing his friends to Dr. Kureha, still only caring about their wellbeing while he’s half frozen to death. Luffy would take a bullet for any of his crew members without a moment’s hesitation and it’s part of what makes him such a great character to follow for all these years. I think this is one of the best chapters Oda has put out until this point in the manga. And we get introduced to the lovable – bad at hiding – Tony Tony Chopper.
And we follow it up with even more good chapters. I regularly think back to old arcs and wonder if they hold up (I will be repeating this sentiment a lot, get used to it). Drum Island is already so much better than I remember. The pacing is great, the characters are fantastic and the attention to detail that Oda has had since day one is commendable. Our first peek at Chopper’s past is already tugging at our heartstrings but it’s the use of words that really makes these scenes shine that much more. Dr. Kureha says: He has a deep wound in his heart that not even a doctor can heal. That’s pure poetry. Unfortunately Wapol is back to ruin the moment. We then get shown that Oda can draw amazing anatomy when he tries. He often focuses on the cartoonish charm of One Piece, but the punch that Luffy is about to land on Wapol looks amazing. I’m actually in awe of how good some of these chapters are.
When does a man die?
Is it when he is shot in the heart with a pistol? No.
When he’s stricken with a deadly disease? No.
When he eats soup made from a deadly mushroom? No!!
It’s when he’s forgotten.
I’m not crying, you’re crying. This whole backstory is absolutely amazing. Flawless execution, poetic in its narrative and it grips you from start to finish. It’s been said a billion times already, but Oda really is the absolute best at this, isn’t he? I can’t think of a series that consistently has me awestruck like One Piece does. It simply doesn’t exist. Chopper’s entire backstory going from monster to doctor. Hiruluk being a crook but having his life saved by some sort of miracle only to then devote himself to doing the same to other. Kureha being a bitter person but not that bitter. The country being torn apart from the inside with Dalton being the only one acknowledging the flaws of the Wapol regime and getting punished for speaking out. The twenty doctors doing what they’re told. There’s just nothing about this arc that could be improved.
And then we return to the present. Even the way this flashback is inserted into the narrative is so well done. We see Luffy about to hit Wapol before the flashback starts and we see that fist, filled with all the rage and sadness from the entire flashback, connect with Wapol’s face immediately afterwards. I have no words, it’s simply brilliant.
Now, I mentioned last week that I would talk about the socialist values that this arc perpetuates. After reading these chapters, I realized that I probably wouldn’t be able to do it all justice if I put it in this post. That or it would become several pages too long. Instead I’ll be uploading a second post tomorrow where I’ll talk about Hiruluk’s mentality, socialized health care, the contrast between Arabasta and Drum and why I think anyone who doesn’t understand the message of this arc should really do some soul searching. Anyway, I’m going to continue crying over here. I hope you enjoyed this week’s volume and I’m hoping you tune in for tomorrow’s extra post. Thanks for reading.