This might be the fastest that I got one of these posts out. Yeah, the only reason why that is happening is because of the fact that Thriller Bark is the shortest saga in all of One Piece. At least so far. 48 chapters which is so puny compared to everything else that has at least had 100 chapters so far. I doubt a saga of this size again considering the fact that One Piece’s story is escalating more and more and more. So far I am barely in Summit War and it’s getting stronger. Stories can’t seem to be standalone anymore because the world is watching them now and moving. All of that makes sense considering that One Piece feels like a living, breathing world. That just means that I have a lot more to read in the future. Still. For a long time.
To write my short review here, I am impressed at how well this saga was structured. After the Straw Hats discovered a skeleton pirate without a shadow, Thriller bark started small and in a very fun way in a haunted house scenario with a certain Dr. Hogback and his mad creations. Then more and more parties and villains appeared with a certain Warlord of the Sea, Gecko Moria, made his appearance where he effected all sorts of parties with his shadow shenanigins and placement. Fights were easy to follow and had value, plots were easily handled and progressed side character Straw Hats, and the conclusion was perfect. Just going to say it, chef’s kiss in terms of quality.
And now for the deeper look.
Digging Deeper into Thriller Bark
(This is the only time I will use that caption because Thriller Bark is only one continuous arc and not multiple parts like most of them have been.)
Thriller Bark started with the Straw Hat crew on the Thousand Sunny headed towards Fishman Island. Of course, they wouldn’t naturally get there. They needed to face the horrors of the Florian Triangle. We saw a grave yard of ships and suddenly a deep mist. The Straw Hats meet Brooks, an immortal skeleton pirate without a shadow who can’t leave Thriller Bark at all or he will disintegrate. Luffy asks him to become a member of the crew regardless. All of which set up some horrors and story elements to come.
Landing on Thriller Bark, there is the appearance of the first ever Mini Mary ship where Nami, Chopper, and Usopp ride on the small ship and check out a haunted manor. A manor that is for the moment, controlled by the mysterious Doctor Hogback. Someone who Chopper knows about. Of course, we got some classic horror things like the door locking behind them, shower horror when she takes a shower in the mansion and an invisible man sees her, and a lot of quirky things as well.
Like, I really do enjoy the fact that Doctor Hogback’s assistant Cindry hates plates and refuses to use them when giving anyone something to eat. Why? I don’t think the manga ever explains this and I am ok with that. It’s pretty classic One Piece craziness that I enjoy. Same with the stronger Straw Hats showing up to the graveyard and Luffy pushing down one of the zombies into a grave. That’s goofy and we also learn that these zombies are sentient and want their shadows back. There is a strong forward momentum here creating a natural cast of people for our crew to interact with.
Because that is One Piece, that was only an establishment of things to expect and such. The stakes quickly grow as a War Lord of the Sea, Gecko Moria appears with a huge crew of people underneath his wing. Perona is a female Beetle Juice looking girl whose abilities pray on the weakness of the mind, and some other members of the Mystery Four like the invisible man, a zombie with Brook’s shadow, and such. There is just a lot of crew members and pirates and thing that the Straw Hats interact with in their own way.
Chopper has an arc and fight against Doctor Hogback and his misplaced morality that Chopper defeats with help in her right, Luffy, Sanji, and Zoro get their shadows stolen by Gecko Moria’s Devil Fruit Power, and Luffy’s shadow is given to power up the giant monster of legend, OARS. A horrifying creature that acts like Luffy in the most hilarious way. Nami has arcs centered on her being wedded to an invisible man which Sanji saves her from and a complicated with Lola, Franky and Robin act like a married couple, and Usopp defeats Perona with his smarts and levels of negativity. It’s a great arc that gives every Straw Hats something to do in ways which actually matter. Did I also mention that the Thriller Bark was the largest ship ever? How wild is that? I love it!
Like, the shadow power came into play when Luffy was given one hundred Shadows to defeat OARS who has his own shadow with his crew all in alignment in the perfect sort of scene ever. Full of great team work, battle abilities used in the best places, everyone getting a piece of pie to distracted and detain OARS in a meaningful way. All frantically done too considering that the sun was coming and the Straw Hats and other people they met along the way and created alliances were about to die. Gecko Moria was also defeated in the right time because everyone survived!
This saga just continues to deliver and deliver because this part escalates even more when reality takes away the fun they’ve all had. At the beck and call of the world government, Warlord of the Sea Kuma appears with his Paw Paw Fruit Abilities and defeats Luffy and others easily with his air and power manipulation. Luffy gets knocked out and Zoro frantically defends him and even asks to put his own life on the line instead of Luffies thus giving up his dream in place of Luffy’s. Kuma accepts and takes all the damage from Luffy and gives it to Zoro in reparations. Kuma seems interesting for the short amount of time he’s given because he clearly has some morals at play.
A celebration happens the day afterwards, Luffy returns to consciousness with no issues, but Zoro is out for multiple days afterwards. Of course, he never says any reason why. I kind of cried at that because it just shows how much Zoro and his crew mates will sacrifice everything for their captain. Brooks joins the crew to perform the bard roll for the Straw Hats, everyone involved goes in their own ways for a future date, and so on. It’s a happy ending to a very fun horror themed arc that somehow fit the fact that the Straw Hats declared war on the world government into it naturally. Thriller Bark is good with tons of fun aesthetics, questions of morality issues, sensits humor still in play, and its sense of controlled momentum where everything made sense. Like, three different plot escalations didn’t happen in one chapter which happens sometimes.
At the same time, there were some problems. Sanji is an obvious one, right? Sanji always seems to have his attractive women problem and the fact that it’s pushed on by Luffy to make sure Nami gets saved is pretty frustrating too. Come on, man. Do we need to pay attention to the most annoying member of the crew even if he has cool moments from time to time? Nami doesn’t get away with anything with her man or “Namizo” play with Lola to stop the ensuing insanity. Even if Lola knew Nami was messing with her so there is self awareness going on, maybe don’t write in that situation in the first place? That’s an Oda problem.
In general though, I really enjoyed Thriller Bark and the constant ride it gave me. I suppose come back in an unspecified next time for The Summit War. See you all then unless you read my other posts. Who knows when that Summit War post will come out? I certainly don’t.