I love my subscription to Viz Media’s digital edition of Weekly Shonen Jump. However, I recently realized I don’t particularly love reading Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece on a weekly basis. Don’t get me wrong, One Piece is still amazing, and I love where the story is going. After having spent so much time catching up to the current arcs via Viz’s volumes, though, reading the (mostly) week by week exploits of Luffy and the Straw Hats just hasn’t been doing it for me. Thus, I’m more than happy to re-read recent stories like the New World’s Punk Hazard arc in graphic novel form, and the latest volume doles out plenty of bizarre and memorable action that’s perfectly suited to the format.
Volume 67 offers up a gauntlet of new oddities for our heroes to contend with, as they get split up and kick off exploration of the tumultuous, unpredictable Punk Hazard island. One of the first curiosities half the group stumbles upon is a samurai who’s literally in pieces, his face scattered in chunks across the floor of a holding cell. As he tells half the crew of his search for his son, Luffy and the rest unwittingly stumble upon the lower half of his body elsewhere. It all starts the build toward this arc’s grand evil scheme, which includes giant drug-addicted children, a nefarious villain with gassy powers, and the development of a particularly nasty weapon of mass destruction.
There are plenty of threads to follow and characters to keep up with throughout this volume: The split-up Straw Hats, the plight of the giant children, Trafalgar Law’s involvement, Brownbeard, the meddling Navy, and the Gas-Gas Fruit fueled Master Caesar Clown. It’s not that Oda’s style of storytelling is convoluted or overwhelming, it’s just as wildly ambitious as ever and much easier to keep up with in marathon sessions. It’s also more fun, and one would be remiss not to mention the added bonus of the Question Corners, which, as usual, pepper in plenty of Oda’s personality and add insight into the thought process behind the manga’s creation and the various secrets and references hidden within.
One Piece is as fun, and funny, as ever here, with plenty of well-timed gags and the kind of larger-than-life action we’ve come to expect from Oda. He’s truly a master of depicting motion in single panels and expressing moments of awe and suspense in equal measure. My only complaint with these releases is there’s sometimes way too much going on in the panels for such a small format. Oda is great at making tiny figures visible in an absolute spider’s web of details, but you’ll still find yourself squinting at a few pages just to nail the flow of everything.
I read all of Punk Hazard as it ran in the weekly issues, and it was the first time in a while that I wasn’t feeling too crazy about a One Piece arc. I’m happy to say that’s been remedied by reading through it again in this collection, and while I doubt I’ll be able to resist the chapter-by-chapter allure of its Shonen Jump serialization—brief hiatuses and all—I’ll definitely be coming back to the volumes to experience the series in the way I find most enjoyable.
Publisher: Viz Media
Story & Art: Eiichiro Oda
© 1997 by Eiichiro Oda