Oh wow. It’s been a while since I’ve written about One Piece. Sorry for the delay but sometimes they are they are inevitable due to real life circumstances. Unlike my other blog posts, these One Piece Travel Logs take a long time to write. With my classes dumping into heavy gear for the last stretches of the semester, I haven’t had any time to work on one. With me being on winter break, a lot of time has opened up on my schedule to finally write this one at least. Maybe I can write up to some islands made out of baked desserts while I have the time too. Who knows?
The Dressrosa saga is split into two large parts. There is the Punk Hazard Arc which is the major tipping point and set up for everything that happens later with a lot of its concepts and chaos. It is the major surprise waiting for the Straw Hat crew because they don’t know the true cruelty waiting behind the world. In the beginning, it is a bit of a mess because it comes in 5 different pieces centering on the mysterious SAD concoction, Law is in the mix, child experimentation is a thing, smoker’s crew is somewhere in the mix, there a lost samurai who was split into parts, dragons exist, evil groups are here that are beyond comprehension, and there lies a mysterious attachment to Dressrosa by the name of joker we will learn about later. It was hard to read at first, but as the pieces came together, it all made sense and came with a wonderful conclusion leading to make Dressrosa more powerful and stressful. It’s only part one of a journey involving Luffy and the Straw Hats taking down the current world order.
The Dressrosa saga itself is very indicative to the start of how things will go on from here on. At least that’s what I know from the Straw Hat’s encounter with Big Momma right now. Dressrosa also feels like what would happen if Oda did a Dragon Ball Z saga. The Freiza saga in particular. Luffy even dresses up as Master Roshi for the majority of it. Dressrosa is a land where it seems to be magical at first with living puppets wandering around with humans, but they are humans oppressed for not following a certain leader Doflamingo. There is also a tournament arc and tons of criminals for each of the Straw Hats to fight against and every Straw Hat had one moment to stand out. Though, the match between Luffy and Doflamingo is the climatic set pieces. Law was the Vegeta who suffered under Doflamingos, which puts his entire being as the emotional core. That and it ended with the union of pirates. It may be long and messy at first, but it all worked out in the end. Especially with the absolutely epic second half.
The saga itself is upper middle tier for me. Now to look at each arc in at least a little more detail.
Punk Hazard Arc
This was a wild arc to even think about. Mainly because it has so many moving parts that it is just confusing to read until it all connects together. Despite that, it starts simply enough. The Straw hats hang out for a while and Luffy captures a fish that gets eaten by one fish which is eaten by another fish. At the same time, the Thousand Sunny and everyone else hitch a ride with a pod of whales before getting an SOS signal. An SOS signal that leads the Straw Hats to Punk Hazard. The G-5 Marines who are Tashigi, Smoker, and the rest, chase after them in secret. What meets all of them? An island that is locked down with Marine and Government markers. Why? Unknown for the moment but we will soon find out. This is a pretty classic science fiction scenario with a lot of hidden agenda behind it. Now just a lonely ship out in space/sea, but an island with who knows what is going on.
So what does the crew in this situation? Split up of course. That’s just usual Straw Hat game plan at this point. The difference? No one wants to leave Luffy to his own devices again and Luffy really wants to see what’s on the island. The chaos starts with Luffy, Usopp, Robin, and Zoro going to the island on the Mini Merry while the rest stay on the Thousand Sunny for now until later when they investigate the lab at Punk Hazard after being captured by G-5. What do we learn about Punk Hazard? It’s a land of fire and ice because the admiral Aokiji and Akainu fought for the admiral position for ten days after Marineford. Also, there is a dragon there as well. Plus, they found a part of samurai’s body in different . Lots of complicated things.
Of course, things always get more chaotic. With Brook playing dead (ha), Nami, Sanji, and Chopper escape out of their hold to find giant children. We also learn that Law is there performing his own experiments on children to get closer to Ceasar, the one running Punk Hazard for the SAD poison, a copy of Devil’s Fruit abilities. Plus, Smoker and Tashigi are in the mix themselves adding so many things in the situation with learning about the secret kid smuggling operation and questioning the admiral currently controlling Punk Hazard, named Vergo, because of his allegiance with a mysterious joker and how he used to be a pirate. Darn pirates, can’t even trust former pirates. Same with different body parts and islands all across the island, people transferred into different bodies, and all sorts of chaos everywhere. There is too much to throw into the equation for a good, short summary. Still, it somehow connects in the end like the body.
All these parts culminate in a samurai by the name of Kin’emon looking for his son getting put together and finding his son, Law tampering with Caeasar’s plan by exchanging hand cuffs that won’t hurt Luffy and his crew, and the uniting of Law, current warlord of the sea, and the Straw Hats to take down Caesar as the first step in their plan to take down Kaido, war lord of the sea, in the end. Same with lots of the Straw Hats showing off their strengths to return everyone’s hearts, the destruction of SAD, the capture of Ceasar after some cool fights and action sequences with classic action movie facility break downs, and things like that. The chaotic situation becomes under control, and the crew heads toward Dressrosa with Law and Caesar on the boat with the reveal that joker, Caesar’s contact, is a certain Doflamingo. So it begins. Also, Smoker and Tashigi taking the children with them is a warm-hearted ending too.
While I can see what Oda was doing and all the complicated things of the Straw Hats having a pull in the world government right now with everything they do, I can’t help but think that this was a little too much at this point? Same with how the panels were placed out to be constantly moving without too much explanation. It’s not bad per se, but it doesn’t make for the most compelling reading when reading one small part at a time wondering what is going on until all the small bits of what is going on are revealed. In general though, I enjoyed Punk Hazard a lot once I understood everything better. I think Oda found the limits to writing a weekly manga by this segment. This was told 17 pages at a time week after week after all. When the comedy hits and the dramatic moments hit, they were really good and everything had a point to it. I even think the chaotic situation makes sense too because in a real world considering that everything is such a mystery at this complicated location. How do you express that other than complicated panels? This was an experiment of an arc with experimental usage of panels. Very interesting to think about moving forward.
Let’s do that Dressrosa thing now
The beginning of the Dressrosa arc is two things. The first one being Luffy and half the straw hats entering Dressrosa itself and enjoying everything that it provides. A wonderful, european like city where magic seems to be a thing that exists and human plus toys live alongside each other. It’s very fun, very whimsical, and everything like that. There is some commotion that the recent king of Dressrosa stepped down from his position their and as Warlord of the Sea from a certain phone call with Law about trading over Ceasar from Punk Hazard to him. A wild thing to a lot of people. So in general, it’s all up and up until the dream of Dressrosa is shattered by a gambling event where a blind man named Fujitora breaks a literal hole in the ground. Not just a normal hole, a black hole. Talk about a wakeup call. That’s not all of the insanity though.
So there is some exploration to Dressrosa as a result that we start to see it’s more inner parts. Luffy serendipitously enters a dragon ball like tournament and also disguises himself in a costume like Master Roshi against pirates and brigands of all kinds of names. All for the flame-flame fruit from Luffy’s brother Ace and a placement in the mysterious leader’s service. Lots of cool and unattached fights until Luffy gets involved with the mysterious Rebecca. A person that the crowd hates for some reason. Plus, the former king of Dressrosa is under the stadium fights are happening with the rest of the losers? Also, Franky gets close to a mysterious one-legged soldier and starts to learn the secrets of the world. The toys used to be people and anyone who ever spoke up against the mysterious leader when they are inevitably forgotten by society. Not to mention a secret base building where is SAD and who knows what else is going on.
Then the other half of the setup is Law taking the other straw hats to make the deal with this mysterious “former” Warlord of the Sea and King of Dressrosa later on. A man we soon to learn to be is Doflamingo Donquixote of the Donquixote family who we have met before at Marineford and this is all Law’s plan to bring out Doflamingo to kill him. Too bad Doflamingo was prepared with his alliance with Fujitora who can drop literal meteors on top of people. Law was sounded defeated and the Straw Hats that went with Law split ways. Brook, Sanji, and Nami left the chapter after escaping the arc and headed somewhere else on the thousand sunny. The others helped Law survive on his way back to Dressrosa to meet up with who are left to create a front. (Also, Robin met some little people in a short amount of time who will be helpful later). With everyone at their lowest point, the first half of Dressrosa ends. All of this happened over fifty chapters and all the reveals happen very naturally at points that make sense.
The first half also cements whose story Dressrosa is. This is Law and Doflamingo’s story. Doflamingo, a former member of the Celestial Dragons after his father decided to step down and they faced the music from the public for all the oppression. With that hatred, Doflamingo unlocked his king’s Haki and formed a family of criminals that took Dressrosa by storm one night with his string string powers. Law is Vegeta to Doflamingo’s Freiza and faced oppression by the Donquixote family until a member who was a naval spy gave Law the op-op fruit to survive his disease. So there is this inherent hatred between the two driving them forward.
The second half of Dressrosa is the resolution. A somewhat long, but very memorable resolution. The Straw Hats, the former toys, and the crew are slowly taking down the Donquixote family in a lot of epic fights that extend over time. First is the transformation of the toys back into humans, which reveals that the one-legged soldier is Rebecca’s dad and a former coliseum winner, and some epic battles. This is secretly Usopp’s finest hour with his amazing sniper tactics. Zoro has his awesome battle where he shows his amazing abilities, Franky has an epic fight with a guy in a diaper, and unfortunately Robin does not do much besides background support. Lots of good moments and epic solutions here too. Not to mention the number of pirates and coliseum fighters following Luffy that eventually became a part of the unorganized and free fleet under Luffy later. Incredibly fun stuff that just happens naturally with typical One Piece energy.
Then there is the confrontation between Doflamingo, Luffy, and Law himself. Law had yet another confrontation with Doflamingo, but Luffy takes with his Gear 4 at least at first. There is limits of Luffy’s haki in that form which I find interesting and make me consider it as a sort of Super Saiyan 3 for him. Something which I like because it allows the citizens of Dressrosa to man up and show how much they want their freedom from Doflamingo during Luffy’s recharging stage. Even at the face of death and their nation being on a literal choke hold, they prevailed and Luffy was able to win the fight. Without their help, Luffy wouldn’t have had the hcance to and nothing would have changed. Criminal families can just be rebuilt after all. No matter how complex or moral Doflamingo is as a character, he is still a bad that will do bad things.
Dressrosa Saga In Conclusion
The end of Dressrosa sets up a new normal for everyone. Smoker, Tashigi, and their crew are no longer chasing the Straw Hats. Instead, it’s Fujitora, a blind old man who gambles, taking up that role. This is cemented by the Straw Hats escaping from his grasp on a different ship considering that the thousand sunny is away somewhere else. There is also the union of pirates that I talked about earlier. No unity like White Beard and his family, just Luffy and his sense of freedom given to everyone in their own way. There is a calmer atmosphere in the sea provided by Luffy’s actions and feelings. Pirate unity is fun like that. Also, Luffy did have one brother return in the form of Sabo from the supposed dead. That’s a positive. All of this madness leads to Luffy starting to lay claim to the sea today is his own way like any king should. Which, of course, leads to some resistance from those who laid claim first, the four emperors.
See you guys for more One Piece whenever I write the post for Zou and Whole Cake Island. I’m not going to rush to do it.