Like usual, let’s talk about this one shortly before This Saga is the first part of One Piece after the time skip from Post Marineford craziness. I’m sure you might know something about by now. Two years after that incident, the Straw Hats regroup at Saboady Archipelago again. With that time skip time, Oda has some fun with character redesigns because most Straw Hats are unsure about who is who at this moment. I would honestly do the same thing and Oda just seems to be in my head. You know, despite the fact that this manga came out years before I started reading One Piece. I just think, sometimes, his humor fits mine to a t.
The biggest surprise for me was The Fish-Man Island portion of this…Fish-Man Island Saga. This is the first time that the Straw Hats have fought in two years and this really shows that aspect pretty well in a lot of cool art and splash panels. At the same time, this is probably the most nuanced take on racism that I’ve seen in media for a while. Mainly because it was set up in the first place and this was built off of it. The relationship between Fish-men and Humans is a societal problem and it’s treated like that. The best part is that this portion didn’t even solve it completely, just for the Fish-Man Island’s perception of the Straw Hats and the start of a fresh foot forward to what could solve this problem. I like that.
There are so many other things to consider here as well. Like, this arc also plays into the how the world has changed since the time skip. White Beard’s death mattered and this show it. That’s not even how far this goes, because this arc is connected with Arlong Park from the East Blue Saga in a lot of ways as well. All spoilers though, so let’s dive into a slightly more detailed like at Fish-Man Island Saga.
A Deeper Look at Fish-Man Island.
(I said that I would only do this once for Thriller Bark, but I didn’t know there was another short Saga out there. I am a newbie One Piece Fan after all.)
The first part of this saga shows how strong the Straw Hats are and how they have changed through their meeting at Saboady Archipelago two years later. They don’t meet at the same time on Pier 46 where the Thousand Sunny is, so there is a little bit a drama with the group reuniting again. Especially with the appearance of the false Straw Hat pirates. I mean, they have been gone for two years and the age of chaos has awakened a newer age of pirates. Why wouldn’t they be there? Some pure souls like Chopper get confused by them so he stuck around them until told that wasn’t the case. Same with Luffy being confused by them as well, but as you would expect him to as well until he showed the false Straw Hats his true power.
In general though, it’s cool that the Straw Hats were happy to see each other after two long years as well. Nami and Usopp meeting each other was adorable. Same with Luffy meeting Zoro and Sanji after who knows how long, kind of. Alongside other Straw Hat members of course. (Sanji has gotten worse around women since his training with Ivankov. It starts with the Straw Hats women and gets worse. Interseting since Sanji is a massive part of this saga’s plot points.) Before sailing off with Rayleigh and Shakky’s blessing and undersea coating, seeing Luffy, Zoro, and Sanji easily defeat the Kuma robots from last time they all struggled with in a short moment was wonderful. Everyone’s fashion has changed for the better or worse, but Franky’s more super robot design is really cool.
The adventure done to Fish-man Island was even more revealing in some of Luffy’s abilities and how cool the special coating was on the Thousand Sunny. The bubble that forms around the ship is such a nice concept. Plus, it’s nice to see the crew on the ship again as well. Nami felt comfortable to take a bath on the ship despite the perverts on it. The art of the ocean view was incredible as well. It seems like sea pressure isn’t a thing in this universe and that’s fine considering how crazy things seem to be in this universe. Of course, conflict needed to happen and the big situation with the kraken and the Caribou pirates was interesting. Same with sea monsters. Luffy somehow can befriend a Kraken through Haki was pure him. Also, the caribou captain was pretty weak, but caused enough chaos so the Straw Hats barely made it to Fish-man Island
The biggest mistake the Straw Hats made in going in the city in Fish-man Island was leaving the weaker Captain, Caribou, on the ship uncheck. Yes, everyone can beat him but they all lost an eye on the creature. Considering how bad they guy was, that shouldn’t be a thing but they did it anyway. Still, the crew made it. They met Camie there and she showed them these people to her friends, mermaids. This is also a part where Sanji’s horniness plot takes place. He is a man who was repressed for two years and just met a large number of hot girls leading to him losing blood which led to the issue of fish blood and human blood that was not so subtly hidden on the surface of the show. This is where that craziness begins. The value of human and fish lives being measured here.
With the Straw Hats prophesied to cause doom to Fish-Man Island and Caribou running around stealing gold and kidnapping people, there is a lot of chaos going on here. Especially since it’s the Straw Hats being blamed for a situation didn’t happen yet and mermaids going missing. That’s just the complex situation between Fish-men and Humans. A problem that has been there since way back then. A time where Fish-men were treated where they were in Saboady Park and were just straight up slaves. It’s obvious that the undercurrent is still there in society and Fish-man Island is a safe haven for Fish-men. At least until the Straw Hats showed up to shake things up.
An interesting thing is there was a push for equality beforehand in Fish-man Island’s backstory. Fisher Tiger was a pirate that attempted to push for equality, but couldn’t make the choice leading to unite human and fish blood his body needed. All which lead to his death. The Queen Otohime pushed for equality and was assassinated in a way made it seem like humans did it. This led to the Arlong Park arc which as a location very similar to Sabaody Park on purpose, and the villains of this arc, Vander Decken and Hody Jones’ raise and craziness. Fish-Man pirates who want to kill all those who wanted peace previously and to defeat the Straw Hats.
Oda added some extra dimension to this conflict based on the fact here was that the Straw Hats couldn’t just simply fight against the pirates, even if they could. There is the whole racial logistics going on here. As Jinbei points on to Luffy, the Straw Hats fighting against Fish-men would just incite the human vs Fish-men dichotomy again. So instead, Jinbe set up a plan to where The Straw Hats would help him out after being caught in a trap. So it changes that relationship between the two races for the moment. At least in a way which puts the Straw Hats in a more positive position and a step forward for the two to understand each other maybe. Possibly. That’s how it’s read as, but it’s not always true.
The Fish Pirates themselves weren’t that tough, but they had the drugs put into play which made them stronger. Plus, the 10,000 forced soldiers on top of them versus the Straw Hats, Jinbe, and the Neptunian Palace Princes. This was the final moment where every Straw Hat member shows how strong they have gotten in two years. Zoro’s enhanced sword skills, Sanji’s powerful kicks, Jinbe being Jibe, Usopp’s improved traps and tricks, Robin’s better ability control, Nami’s enhanced weather abilities, Chopper controlling his beat form, Franky and his super robot transformations, and more things that Luffy can do with Haki and his fruit powers.
And the conclusion of the fight comes from Luffy almost destroying the culturally important ship called the Arc before it crashed into Fish-man Island and destroying it, but Shirahoshi finding her inner strength and capabilities to summon her Neptunians to stop the arc from falling anymore came at the right moment. The culture of Fish-man Island is saved. Also, Hody and Van Decker were thrown into prison along with Caribou being caught, the treasure saved and given to the Straw Hats for five seconds, and the mermaids were saved. All in a Day’s work. Luffy’s conclusion with his needed transfusion of blood from Jinbe to seal that relationship between humans and Fish-men was possible is a great ending to this drama. They are truly blood brothers now. Now, we see how this changes things for everyone else in the saga.
With the possibility of Fish-Man Island being under the Straw Hat flag in the future and Big Mama, one of the four emperors, and Luffy having at it over a Snail Call, this arc and saga comes to a conclusion. So many things to think about moving into Punk Hazard and the Dressrosa arc as a whole. Things I’m nervous about because I’ve heard mixed things.
I’ve left out some things. One was Robin’s continued look and hunt for the ancient language and weaponry before the missing century. She was able to talk to the King of Fish-Man island about that and he knew more then we realized. Something interesting to think about there. Same with the King’s attempts of reforming Fish-Man island in some ways. This is the first time that the Straw Hats had more of an affect then providing positivity to the island they just met.
But as this for arc/saga/thing, I really dig it. I think that Thriller Bark is a little better because it’s not also taking the places a character reintroduction arc and is more fun, but there is a lot of things to value from One Piece’s nuanced focus on racism and even the Straw Hats coming back together for another journey after two years. The character drama was great, the plot was interesting, and the focus on culture once again was nice too. I want to see where all of these things go in the next saga.