Luffy and the Straw Hats are at that crucial point of the current Dressrosa Arc in which most of them are split up and doing different things, inevitably building to a final showdown and a timely reconvening. One Piece story arcs are pretty predictable—introduce the island, gradually work in the plight of the hour and increase the stakes, and set up a series of escalating showdowns—but that doesn’t make them any less enjoyable. One Piece volume 74 is yet another strong step in this one, full of action, drama, and Eiichiro Oda’s signature brand of humor.
Oda kicks off quite a few big fights in this set of chapters, from the ongoing last-man-standing action of the Colosseum to the bizarro members of the Donquixote Family and their insane powers. While the success of our heroes is never truly in question, there are plenty of moments that look like they may spell the end of characters, like Franky taking a brutal beating. Meanwhile, Usopp is about to pay the price for one of his biggest lies yet, and the way he deals with it shows that Oda does still have a full suit of narrative tricks up his sleeve.
The real highlight is the further exploration of the one-legged toy soldier’s backstory, which, in classic One Piece fashion, is the very definition of tragic. Yep, Oda’s preparing us for more heroic teardrops, and he’s doing so with polished, dynamic art that continues to impress.
One thing I love about One Piece is that Oda (and his assistants) are rarely satisfied with straightforward camera angles for even the most simple of scenes. A short conversation between current main villain Donquixote Doflamingo and his people is shown from a low camera that frames him between a projection screen and a row of ornate chairs atop a skewed floor. Similarly, Franky stands strong before the looming factory like Simon Belmont in the opening of Castlevania, soldiers peppering the background and a hint of fisheye warping the street below.
There are also even more new powers on display, including one of Doflamingo’s supreme officers, Pica, who ate the Stone-Stone Fruit and can, naturally, become one with any stone he touches. Thus, he grabs hold of the castle itself, fighting Violet, Luffy, and Zoro with the very walls, floor, and ceiling surrounding them. Oda occasionally lets the meat of a fight get lost in the overflowing details and cluttered panels, but that rarely happens here.
One Piece has had its ups and downs over the course of its never-ending run, but the good has outweighed the bad by a wide margin, and the Dressrosa Arc keeps getting better and better. The only real negative here is that the next volume isn’t listed for release until August…
Publisher: VIZ Media
© 1997 by Eiichiro Oda