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Welcome to the Grand Line everyone!! ‘Bout time we got here.

What about the East Blue Wrap Up? You ask? Shh, shh, It’s alright. Maybe one day. Let’s all live our lives

In this chapter we crash into the Grand Line, crash into Laboon, discuss Luffy’s intelligence, Zoro’s inability to friend, Sanji’s passion, Nami’s frustration in getting these lunkheads to listen, the Great Captain Usopp’s fighting prowess—and the idea that everything you’ve loved and cared about can be lost in the blink of an eye –even if you do keep on your toes. This ain’t no playground, mate.

We start off wonderfully…

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Some great things about these two panels…


First we really get a sense here of Luffy’s adventurousness. We saw it a little in his wanting to explore Gaimon’s island and we’ll see it even more later on, but here it’s blossoming. It’s pouring rain in the middle of a violent storm and yet he’s hanging upside down on the Merry’s neck to see what’s coming next. He doesn’t want to miss a moment of their entry on the Grand Line.

But I also like that he’s fixated on the lighthouse. This is their “guiding light” which says to me that he’s not entirely used to trusting Nami yet. The Grand Line is no joke and is the summation of all their hopes and dreams so they have to land this one. All he knows is a lighthouse is the Important Thing. It’s not that he doesn’t think Nami can’t do it, more that he’s not used to the idea that someone CAN do it without looking at the Important Thing.
Regarding the lighthouse, I like what Nami says about it, too. It’s only a lighthouse. It’s like foreshadowing what they will go through on the Grand Line. Inanimate objects like a lighthouse or a compass or even a log pose can only do so much. Without a human element you are sunk. Also, and most importantly, Nami is confident in her own abilities and she reminds Luffy that that’s what she’s here for. Pretty gently, too, I might add. Even telling him not to worry. I just really like that.

But let’s step back a bit and look at the lighthouse from a (semi headcanon) world building standpoint. Who built the lighthouse? Who maintains it? Why? The entrance to the Grand Line is also interestingly “built up” as we’ll see. How long has the lighthouse been there? Was it there in Roger’s time? Before it? More importantly, who maintains it today and for what purpose? Going into the Grand Line is super dangerous…even moreso in Roger’s day.

While we could say it’s a Naval installation, or at least they maintain it, I’m not even sure if that’s true, though certainly possible. But what use would they have for it? They have kairoseki on the bottom of their boats so there’s really no need for it, and why risk valuable men and equipment going through the unstable entrance of the Grand Line? That the Marines don’t tend to use that entrance could explain why Smoker just didn’t run smack into them at the bottom of the Reverse Mountain.

For my own personal headcanon, I think it’s maintained by merchants. Pirates probably can’t maintain anything long, at least if they’re not all in a mad scramble to get to the Grand Line themselves. But picture hard scrabble merchants who want to transport their goods but aren’t rich enough to get kairoseki. They would have a vested interest in keeping a lighthouse to guide others through. Of course it could be just about anyone, even a lighthouse nerd with a vested interest in maintaining one of the most dangerous lighthouses in the world. It is One Piece after all. But why does this matter? Well, I suppose, why can’t it matter? Pondering things like this for me make the world seem even more rich and lived in. And, who knows, maybe one day we’ll get an answer.

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Two things here, I love the newness of their interactions. Luffy doesn’t know that Nami doesn’t want his special seat. In Luffy!logic, it’s super cool so who wouldn’t want it? Even though he’s known Nami for a while now, he hasn’t really gotten to know her that well (mostly because she hasn’t allowed it) and I just really like this interacting and learning about each other. I love how adorably selfish Luffy is, XD and how careless. And how Nami is clearly worried for his well-being as he hangs off the figurehead in a raging storm while also being a freaking hammer. Can you pls not?

I love how much Luffy instantly believes in her. Again they haven’t really had a test of her navigational skills and yet he believes her and her confidence right away. Doesn’t doubt her for an instant.

Secondly, I really just like what goes into being a Navigator. It’s not enough just to read maps, she has to have information about the waters she’s sailing into, so she listens to rumors and probably everything she can about the Grand Line. But this also underlines how unprepared she is for this to only guess that the rumors might be true about the Reverse Mountain. Of course it isn’t like she’s had a lot of time between getting the map and the whole Arlong thing and getting chased out of Loguetown to really get firm details, but they are super rushing into this. Which, I think is partly due to Nami’s own kind of overconfidence and assuming the Grand Line is going to just be an ocean like any other.
Nami tells the others that the entrance to the Grand Line is a mountain with a DON and then this shot.


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There’s such great character work just in the expressions alone.

Firstly I really super love the callback to Luffy’s childhood pre-Ace with the glass in his teeth thing. That’s such a great touch. I love too Usopp’s exaggerated expression, like come again? Even he has a hard time believing what he just heard. And Sanji’s just like, no shit, really?

But the star of the hour is Zoro. Zoro’s expression just cracks me up. He’s just like, a mountain? You’ve got to be shitting me. And maybe not entirely because there is a mountain, I don’t think, but that he finds it really difficult to believe something so damn bizarre. Like, there’ s no way something like that can exist. What kind of navigator are you? Zoro, you have no room to talk. Of course that is largely headcanon so interpret how you will. XD

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And here Nami is pointing it out…

I love how Usopp and Luffy have almost mirrored postures but their looks are completely different. Luffy clearly has no idea what he’s looking at except that it’s interesting. I also like that it shows how much energy he has because he just can’t keep still. Usopp is trying to get it with a much more intense focus. Also I really like the position of his legs under the table. It’s just such a neat detail. Sanji too is focused trying to figure it out and Zoro … well that he’s not leaning in could be that it’s easier to see the map this way—but all I see on his face is—nup. I don ‘t believe any of it.

Nami explains where they are and where they’re going, Usopp says it’s impossible for a ship to go up a mountain (because as outlandish as his lies are, Usopp is super sensible)

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This panel too adds to the complexity of the characters as we see how they react to this.
Usopp is looking at the map like it’s a map from Liar McLiarton because that’s impossible and as a liar, he wouldn’t trust it.

Zoro remains skeptical because Zoro is freaking stubborn like that and also skeptical due to where they acquired the map. But what does that mean anyway? Is he saying that Buggy is so incompetent/weak his maps would be, too? Or that Buggy would lie somehow? Of course Zoro has no way of knowing who made the map (and even if he did it probably wouldn’t matter) nor did he really see the lengths that the Buggy Pirates went through to attempt to get it back.

As for Luffy, Nami said to trust her so Luffy does immediately, not even thinking of why it can’t be and is just excited about the magic (or mystery) mountain.

Sanji is in a similar boat. Now, I think you could make the argument that he says things like this because he enjoys complementing women… But I think he really sincerely believes that Nami can say no wrong, without any benefit of proof. This is the guy that believes in the All Blue—which is just a fairytale as far as anyone is concerned. And so he believes in the women he puts on a pedestal with all his heart without needing proof.

Nami is similar to Usopp in the sensible category, but she also knows maps and moreover knows what she’s doing so she’s not going to let Usopp’s or Zoro’s skepticism tell her she’s wrong about what she’s reading.

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So, let’s look at Zoro first.

It’s interesting that he’s not really all that interested in going through the entrance. I think partly due to the fact that he doesn’t believe it exists as Nami says or the map is borked somehow. He’d rather just avoid it if that’s the case. It seems weird for Zoro to be avoiding something dangerous—but it’s not really a danger he can challenge himself with, therefore he’s not really that interested. He’s certainly not even half adventurous as Luffy is.

Secondly, Zoro knows a direction! And it’s not wrong! Well of course as bad as his sense of direction is, he does know what directions are. And while I’m not saying he can read a map capably in terms of actually figuring out where to go, he at least knows that South is down. And it’s a very Zoro idea. Let’s skip the stuff we aren’t sure about (and probably doesn’t exist) and cut a straight line for the Grand Line.

Luffy, however, is not going to give up his cool going magically up the mystery mountain! Zoro can’t take it from him! But of course this cements the idea that Luffy enjoys doing things because they are interesting or cool or fun and wants the most fun out of the journey as he can get. This is a man’s romance. Why go the normal boring way when you can go the cool exciting way? (I love how he calls Zoro dumb for it though. Luffy you are such a child)

Also? I just really love Zoro’s look as Luffy points dramatically at him. His expression is super interesting to me for what you can read into it. Though whether you read into it or not, at the very base level--despite the fact that Zoro and Luffy have traveled together the longest, they are still feeling each other out and learning about each other. So Zoro’s reaction could just be shock at Luffy’s vehemence. Like all he did was make a suggestion and what is Luffy “No!”ing so hard for.

But for my own semi-headcanon I think Zoro gets a little annoyed at being told No! We can’t do that. (or No way! –Viz or No! You’re wrong!—Stephens). I say it because while he does have the “startled” lines, he also doesn’t look startled, or the raised eyebrow thing that he does when he doesn’t know what’s going on. And Zoro really doesn’t like to have his intelligence challenged. Or being shouted NO at so suddenly. (or being told no at all, really) So it’s like: “What’s your problem”. And if you ascribe to this particular interpretation, this is where the battle for dominance begins, even though Zoro isn’t being particularly dominant.

And Nami is just annoyed. XD As much as Luffy is new to her Navigating into unknown waters, she is new to Luffy’s recklessness in wanting to do the cool dangerous things because they are cool and dangerous.

Also noteworthy is the foreshadowing of the problems of carelessness. Everyone was indoors, no one was keeping watch. That might be okay in the East Blue – but it won’t fly in the Grand Line, nor will it here.

At any rate, as the crew goes out and enjoys the weather, Nami realizes they’ve ended up in the Calm Belt, which is a pretty neat reference to doldrums.


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This is in itself another battle for dominance as Nami struggles to make her voice heard. Part of the problem is she is used to being a navigator for Fishmen that trusted her implicitly. If she told them where to go, they went. Also she’s freaked out about getting out of here right the hell now, not wanting to get into a huge explanation in the process. The longer they stay here the more chance there will be for them to get eaten.

And why are the guys not snapping do it? (Other than Sanji?) Because none of them (other than Sanji) have spent that much time at sea, and certainly not under the hand of an experienced navigator. They don’t know that when the navigator is panicking, it’s time to shut up and listen rather than talk back and wonder what the hell she’s on.

I do like that Luffy points out that is a sail boat rather than a rowboat without calling her an idiot about it. I sort of headcanon it’s something he had to learn himself as a kid. Usopp is just like, um, no? Are you nuts? He prefers the calm. But of course he’s not as safe as he thinks he is.

And Zoro. Oh Zoro. He doesn’t want to leave the nice weather either. But most importantly he assumes that he was right and that they are on the Grand Line now. He’s a little surprised that they are but at the same time not overly shocked, because of course he’s right. In Zoro!logic, it only makes sense. And poor Nami. XD If only they had one shred of common sense between them.

Alas they do not and the Sea Kings show up as it is their den.


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Everyone is scared shitless of these beasts. XD Even Nami (not pictured). But most interesting to me is Sanji and that tear. It is not an exaggerated ribbon of wet but a serious lining around the eye. Does this tear mean anything? Is it just comedic? Well you’re free to interpret it how you choose, however, compared to the others (even Nami who has the comedic ribbon tears) he looks the most vulnerable. Like he’s genuinely terrified he’s going to die. Mind you I’m talking about a gut punch fear that hits you in a second and your instinct takes over.

So why the tear? Well, if you’re just tuning in, I firmly believe that Sanji is a survivalist. Why does he want to survive so much? Two reasons and simply put… He wants to live and he’s terrified of dying. Enough as a kid to take on pirates twice his size because he convinced himself they’d kill everyone—and similarly to come close to killing Zeff in order to take his food. So I think it’s sort of a representation of this fear of holy shit I am freaking done for. (Because as much as a dreamer as he is, he is also in the same sensible camp as Usopp and Nami and knows a super serious we’re all going to die situation when he sees it.)

This idea for me makes Sanji’s willingness to die for the sake of others, hell for the sake of others ambitions (the Baratie), something even stronger and all the more important. (An important note here that risking your life and sacrificing your life are two different things. Sanji was ready to risk his life (put his life on the line) to save Luffy in Arlong Park even though it was tough. He was willing to sacrifice his life for the Baratie.)

Ultimately I point this out because I think it’s important to emphasize the vulnerabilities of everyone really, but the monster trio (and other badass characters) in specific, because I feel it’s often lost in the shuffle of badassery—but it’s a really fascinating character trait. And of course, as we go on, we’ll continue to explore Sanji’s response to situations where he seriously does have to risk his life (going in over his head when he knows it’s over his head) and sacrifice his life.

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XD and now Zoro has seen the problem, realized he has no real way of fighting the problem, and has decided the best course of action is to get away from the problem as quick as freaking possible. (which is interesting in and of itself when badass shonen characters run away. When do they ever?) But two super important things here:

Zoro is the first one to come up with a solution to the problem. It may be a simple solution and one anyone could have thought up (and hell, Usopp would have probably screamed if he were conscious) but Zoro moved the fastest here, showing that he can think on his feet.

Now, it’s difficult to tell the tone without reading the original Japanese, but here (and the other translations) Zoro speaks like he’s giving an order. He’s not saying okay guys let’s get the hell out of here. It’s not a suggestion. It’s this is what we’re going to do. In other words, he’s taking charge.

Anyway so the big beastie sneezes them off. They nearly get jumped by a massive frog and nearly lose an unconscious Usopp but Luffy saves their unconscious Usopp and then they’re all flung back to safety.

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This mostly for their body language. XD I really don’t like how Luffy’s line is translated because it’s a shade wrong for me. But aside from that, I love how Luffy has a hand over Usopp’s back and how Usopp is squashed against the deck. Nami and Sanji are basically just faceplanting the deck relieved as hell. And Zoro is not the kind to faceplant. It’s really interesting. You still get the impression that he’s seriously shaken by what just happened yet he remains sitting up as if he feels he has to be the strong one and to sit up without the luxury off flomping deckward.

Also making sure Zoro knows she has reasons for what she says because this is ridiculous.


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And yet he still doesn’t believe that this magic mountain is actually a thing or how it could work. Zoro is stubborn as hell is what I’m saying, and doesn’t believe things easily. (Unless it comes to himself and then nearly all things are possible. It’s really stupidly funny when you think about it)

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Also this is so cool. Not that Luffy is an idiot. Though that is adorable. But that Sanji thinks that Nami is amazing! But the thing is he’s not just saying that. I think even if he doesn’t completely understand it (and I don’t see why he shouldn’t completely understand) he recognizes just how damn smart she is and is super impressed with her intelligence. Who wouldn’t love her, seriously?

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Zoro being stubborn Episode XII the return of the sexy eyebrow. I mean no. Though I think he’s slowly giving into the fact that it might just be a possibility.
Also Sanji and Zoro getting along bonus! What I think is happening here is Sanji trying to connect with Zoro once more and figure out a way to relate. It’s sort of a continuation of what was started in Loguetown with Sanji asking Zoro if he believed in a higher power. In sort of a similar vein where he’s telling Usopp about the guy riding the lion that he saw earlier, I think Sanji figures (or guesses) that danger would appeal to Zoro and wants to sort of engage him in this discussion, or at the very least is mock-teasing him to see what he’ll do and how he’ll react.

Also what’s interesting (and forgive me if I mentioned this before) Sanji is still relatively new in figuring out how to relate to peers. Zoro is most definitely his peer in the ways the others aren’t—in terms of age, strength and attitude. So I really kind of think here that he wants to be friends with Zoro. (only probably not using that word)

Before that conversation can continue however, Magic Mountain ahoy!

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Well…the Red Line anyway. Still I love as soon as Luffy says it, Usopp is on his feet. Unconscious or not he’s not going to miss this sight. And Sanji’s “yo” just makes me laugh. Like good shitty morning. Sleep well?

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I love this because it shows that Luffy does retain some of what Nami says, even if it’s just the important bits (and seems a little inaccurate XD) I also love how gung-ho Sanji and Usopp are for this. Usopp especially is carried by Luffy’s enthusiasm as well as his own, and the excitement of the moment. As for Zoro, I really like Stephen’s translation: Well I’ll be damned. (though tbf Viz has I don’t believe it) But I really just love binoculars Zoro? (shut up) but also he’s going to see for himself which way the water flows.

So as they’re zooming toward the entrance to the Grand Line…

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I love this as a testament to just how intense this undertaking is. The whipstaff didn’t snap because Sanji and Usopp were pulling it in different directions, but that the current was so strong that it literally could not make that kind of turn. And man, with Sanji’s legs braced like that, think of how hard he must be pulling. Also, I love that Luffy is shouting directions. Usually it’s Nami, but in this case his eyes are open, his adrenaline is pumping, they are entering the place where he’s always dreamed of going and so he’s completely in charge of this exciting journey.

But what happens next is even more incredible.

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(First I have to mention Zoro’s sweatdropping at Sanji and Usopp falling. It’s kind of hilarious but at the same moment intense)

And speaking of intense, Luffy might not be very book smart, he might not even be very street smart in terms of knowing what’s going on and who you shouldn’t mess with.

But this is so incredible, because you can see how close they are to hitting that thing. Luffy has the barest of seconds to recover from the shock, formulate a plan and implement a plan. And he does. He may not be the best strategist, or really a strategist at all but he’s practically a genius at physical intelligence, especially in regards to his own body. He’s also an extremely good problem solver, finding the most straightforward solution.
And just the sudden shift of emotion right there from OH CRAP! To the more ‘shit have to act or we’ll die’

And Zoro being so attuned to Luffy that he’s there to grab the hat that Luffy flings at him. Because even in a moment when he’s desperate to act, Luffy remembers what’s important to him and can’t survive with him at the moment) Moreover, Luffy trusts his nakama so much, possibly even Zoro so much, that it doesn’t occur to him that Zoro won’t catch it.
That’s some incredible teamwork.

(But also from a world building standpoint… the entrance to the Grand Line is lined with these posts on either side. Who built them? Why? How long have they been there? They have kind of a sea dragon motif. Or a sea beast. Is it World Government work? Fishmen? Some other force? A combined effort? What are they there for? Do they act as infrastructure somehow? Was this entrance to the Grand Line created in the time before kairoseki was discovered? So much left to know!)

So after Luffy serves as a rubber buffer between Merry and the concrete/stone/whatever post, we have another example of split second stellar teamwork.

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Zoro has only a second to react to what Luffy did and to realize that if Luffy hits the water, they’re really never going to see him again. But he can only do so much. He can only offer his hand, it’s up to Luffy to have the ability to register what Zoro said and take the hand in an instant. And I love how Zoro basically slams him on deck, that’s how fast they were going, and nearly into Nami. (and poor Merry got a little bit broke. This is not the first breakage you will suffer at the hands of Lu, you poor little ship)

But ugh, I also love Usopp and Sanji celebrating their survival. Everyone being together. Hands over shoulders nakama jig of excitement and passion! And just I mean look at Sanji. Compare the super excited him of now to the super serious him of the Baratie. This is his adventure. This is what he was born for. Usopp, too, of course. There’s just so much joy and exuberance. They don’t stop to dwell on what might have happened.

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And the joy here, too! And the sense of freedom! Bursting out of the rain and storm into a sunny day and up the raging waterfall! I especially love Nami’s pose with her jacket off and just being so exuberant. Sanji crowing. Usopp clinging to the mast because he’s happy and excited but he also needs something to hold onto. Luffy just jumping up and being so happy and Zoro’s smirk. But it’s not just a smirk. He has his hand on (what looks to be) Wado Ichimonji and his body is tense, his hand clenched into a fist, he is heading into his dream, too and is ready for action.

So they reach the pinnacle of the mountain and:

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I just love Luffy’s excitement of this. He’s gotta be closer to see what they’re going into. I love that he just crawls onto Merry’s figurehead almost unconsciously and is clinging there like a monkey, trying so hard to see into the mists and what’s beyond it. The great sea of adventure. I love the wind in Nami’s hair and her joy as well. Zoro’s self satisfied contented smirk, and that Sanji and Usopp have moved up to the crossbeam XD Sanji is still as open as before which is great and Usopp being happy, but also smart, and less sitting on a cross-beam with his arms spread and more clinging to it.

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Can we just…take a moment to enjoy Luffy looking too excited and cute for words? Oh we can? Oh good. /basks/

Anyway, Zoro hears a noise. Nami explains that it’s probably the wind going around the terrain. Sanji says there’s a mountain up ahead which Nami is perplexed by since there should be open sea, and Luffy squints into the fog.

And though they would like to go further, their progress has been

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Labooned.

And look at the sheer size of him. I mean the Merry is one thing—but let’s look at the lighthouse. It’s impossible to measure exactly, of course, but say it was a pretty good sized lighthouse at about 50-100 feet tall. If we say that the lighthouse is 100 ft tall, then Laboon’s head is about 1500 feet tall. And even still, there are Sea Kings that are bigger.
Aside from that, I think it’s interesting that the first real look of Laboon we get is his face. Intentions wise, you could say that Oda wanted to show it really was a whale and not just some big black shape, but there’s kind of more to it than that I think. Labook is not just a whale, but a character. It’s hard to tell I think from first readthrough—but though he’s relatively simple in design, you can already see he’s covered in scars. And he’s active.
But we’ll come back to that. First, let’s go forward a bit

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I would love to know who is saying what here. XD It’s really hard to say exactly who is saying what here. What I get from it is this… I’m not sure exactly who is saying What do we do?! (perhaps Usopp?) But Luffy is the one asking if they should fight it. (Because Zoro has a different reaction as we’ll see and he wouldn’t ask) Either Nami or Usopp is telling Luffy Laboon is too big to fight, but I’m betting on Usopp since it seems more of his tone. And then Luffy again being like, but it’s in the way. :/


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I love how Sanji is stressed the hell out about this but also focusing super hard. But it’s interesting how similar their attitudes are. Sanji wants to know where its eyes are—which kind of implies to me at least, his first impulse is to look for connection—or at least understanding it as a creature and not just a big black wall of wtf. Nami already intuitively understands it as a creature and actually assumes the best of it. Or at least that it’s not doing this intentionally, but merely unable to see their arrival.

Neither of these thoughts are remotely helpful to the situation at hand.

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Meanwhile, Zoro doesn’t give a damn about eyes or not—or if it notices or not. He’s focused on the absolute immediacy of not dying. Also another example of Roronoa ‘where the hell am I’ Zoro knowing his basic directions. Granted, here, there are limited directions. He can tell his right from his left if telling his right from his left is important to their imminent survival. Otherwise it gets a little vaguer.

Also Usopp has a problem, but not necessarily a solution. In a panicked situation, Usopp cannot think on his feet. Which is to say he needs time to think about what he’s going to do and not just react. Zoro thinks on his feet, though, immediately charging toward a possible solution. (also I love the image of him vaulting over the railing). Luffy can also think on his feet…But we’ll get to that in a second.

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The far right panel because how much do I love that they have a hatchet on the wall? And something unknown… like a sword or spear? Where did they get it? It’s all pretty cool even if they don’t really use that sort of thing but weapon collections are cool yo. (nottalking) It’s also possible that the hatchet can be used for cutting wood or was maybe even a leftover of something Merry used to decorate the ship with. Who knows?

But I like the middle panel, because it really shows that even with two out of three monsters and a not too weak sniper, (esp in the arms) if you don’t have enough leverage and the current is strong? There’s just nothing you can do. It also highlights that Merry isn’t really designed for entering the Grand Line that way. (or any way) And also this idea of you have to sail the course you set. Related to actions=consequences, but more far reaching than that in a way. This is a consequence, they cannot avoid it one way or another, they can’t go around, they can’t fight their way through, so they’ll have to find some way to tackle the obstacle or die trying.

But so okay, here’s where it gets really freaking cool. Luffy fires the cannon to slow down the ship…

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And it works…

(and their reaction shots are priceless. It’s practically the first instance of “oh god, why, Luffy?!” that we see. Though Zoro’s expression is really similar to the one he wore before Luffy ganked him from Arlong’s grip and sent him flying)

But, it works--! Like holy shit, it’s incredible! Now, I understand how it works because of the law of momentum and the position of the cannon being in the front slowing down their forward speed just enough—and besides the fact that if this were a brick wall, they’d have a problem, but Laboon’s flesh has some give to it. But it works

And more to the point, Luffy knew it would work. Or at least he had a good hunch that it would. This is a kid who has only just started sailing and maybe fired the cannon once or twice and yet, he’s the one that thought of this.

Why?

I think it all has to do with the way rubber works. Because utilizing rubber is all about momentum, tensile strength and understanding equal and opposite reactions. In order to get as good as he is, Luffy had to know how hard to hit, how/when to keep the tension, how/when to release the tension and so translating that to firing a cannon and the backward momentum from that isn’t such a big stretch. I’d like to source a lot of things and perhaps the more science minded of you can drop a link. But here is a helpful video showing recoil and such to give you an idea

All this in mind, Luffy would be a master at physics, I kid you not. Once he understood the concepts? Man…

But aside from that, this again really highlights just how good he is at physicality and knowing what action to take… or at least having confidence in the action he took. It is just super cool.

(and also now that I think about it, why does the Going Merry have a cannon anyway? Merry must have installed it because there’s no way they could have gotten that cannon between Syrup and the Baratie. The answer, I think, lies in what we already know of the East Blue. It may be the most peaceful Blue, but it’s not entirely safe either from pirates, brigands, or Fishmen set on world domination)

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I adore their looks of terror here. Especially Nami as it sinks in just how close she came to death and how dangerous the Grand Line can be. And of course XD poor Luffy and Merry! Losing his special seat because he can succeed in a pinch but he’s going to have to be a lot stronger than that or he’ll just get things damaged along the way. That sound is, I think, supposed to be a grumbling (which is what Viz translates too) and just, the terror in the far left. You can just hear Zoro thinking ‘oh shit oh shit oh shit’ in an expression vaguely reminiscent of meeting the Sea Kings, while Usopp is just like frozen still, not sure if he wants to play dead or not… and Sanji’s reaction is interesting to say the least. The same of not daring to breathe but less comedic, more fight or flight tensing up.

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The silence itself is really interesting. Why is Laboon quiet? I mean, he wouldn’t have stopped if he didn’t feel anything. I mean granted he’s a big creature it might take a bit for these things to process. Also he’s probably at least a little sedated… but he felt something. So what if it’s hope that quiets him. That maybe someone has returned? Or maybe he’s just trying to process what just went on. Since I’m sure he at least heard the sound of the cannon so close.

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Once again, Zoro takes charge. I mean granted they are all thinking the same thing, but Zoro’s the one who says they run from it and now is their chance to do so. We’ll see a lot more of this later on (but very soon). It’s also interesting how Sanji is complaining about his ears. I sort of headcanon him now having really good hearing. Or sensitive hearing. Like okay granted he isn’t going to let a little deafness stop him from running away and Zoro has the tunnel vision that when he decides to get something done, deafness (or blindness or not having any feet or etc ) isn’t going to stop him. Still it’s a good headcanon so I’m taking it.
But let’s focus on Laboon. What is he doing? Being loud, yeah. Calling over the seas sadly for his long lost nakama. And really just existing. He’s not even being menacing, though it’s easy to assume he is given his sheer size. Tying back into the introduction to the Grand Line, what is it saying? On the Grand Line, things can kill you/make things difficult for you just because you happen to collide/run into it. There is no ill intention, but just nature and ‘being there’. So you always have to keep on your toes.

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So then this happens. (And there’s a wonderful shot of another round of oh God, Luffy, why, faces just below it) But what interests me here is two things
First, that Luffy does punch Laboon in the eye. I mean yeah the seat broke, but the only thing Laboon had to do with it was being there. Though all Luffy saw was the masthead bouncing on the deck, with no real clue how it happened. But that doesn’t matter right now. As much as Luffy generally isn’t one to leap to conclusions about people (and here he doesn’t really leap to a conclusion about Laboon’s personality or motive, just that he broke it) if something he cares about gets hurt his first instinct is to hurt back and right from the gut.

For Laboon, though, you’ve gotta wonder what he sees. (especially a little later when he looks down at them) I mean, it’s basically the equivalent of us getting punched in the eye by an ant on a tiny ant boat and then trying to process what the hell just happened. I think Laboon recognizes it as a ship with people on it, though not his people. And later he swallows them, but I ‘m not sure if he did it out of ill intent despite the fact he got punched. Because I’m sure if he’d wanted to he could have made sure they were good and smashed, if not on his teeth then against the roof of his mouth. I half wonder if he wasn’t sure what the heck to do with them really or what they wanted and so just kind of sent them Crocus’ way so he could deal with them.

Also this:

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Usopp and Zoro are terrified of this thing. And when Zoro is terrified of something it’s a pretty big deal. Granted, they did just have an encounter with Sea Kings—who seemed more perplexed than anything—and I mean it seemed like the frog was going to eat them but was it? And even if it was that doesn’t mean Laboon will. They both register Laboon as a monster they have to sneak around in order not to draw its ire… which kind of opens this dialogue about what is monstrous and what isn’t and the shades in between. We’ll see this kind of idea form through Whiskey Peak, Little Garden and perhaps even Alabasta itself.
Aside from that Luffy treats Laboon as if he were anyone else ready for a fight. Not only is he not afraid, he doesn’t think for a minute not to challenge Laboon to a fight.

But Laboon swallows Merry and Luffy falls off the ship, thinking to himself he isn’t going to die here and manages to bounce up to Laboon’s head.

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That Luffy is panting and trying to catch his breath seems to me that it was a really close call indeed. And you can see it if you read how much effort it took to get where he is right now.

As for the lower panel? It’s pretty intense. He basically just lost all his nakama in one swoop and might have even become a statistic of the Grand Line. All of the build up of the East Blue. All of the adventures, all of the dreams, and it’s a very real possibility he lost them all. Luffy looks almost on the verge of panic now. (and whose to say he isn’t?) And the worst part is, who can you really blame for it? It’s possible Laboon swallowed them because Luffy punched him, but it’s also possible he swallowed them because he is a whale and that’s what whales do. Nature can be pretty cold.

Either way, this kind of situation, it would be enough to make a normal person give up in despair. Since, once a giant whale has eaten everyone, how do you go about getting them back?

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Luffy, of course, doesn’t give up in despair, and that’s one of his biggest attributes. He never gives up. Even if keeping going seems hopeless.

Just because persistence is in his nature and can very much be a strength, it doesn’t necessarily mean that persistence is enough. Combine that with the idea that Luffy is a genius at physicality, but physicality is practically all he knows and you have this situation. He’s not giving up, no, but he doesn’t know what else to do but yell at Laboon and punch him/stomp him and yell at him with increasing desperation. But it’s not punching or kicking or anything he does that works. If he had not discovered the door on Laboon’s back, he might well have died. (Though I suppose there’s an argument to be made that he could have pulled himself onto the spit of land and then waited until Laboon surfaced again to continue the assault, even trying to get into his mouth/pry it open.)

But speaking positively of Luffy’s brand of persistence… It would be easy for anyone to believe that their crew is gone for good. And there’s no doubt that Luffy understands this possibility. But he doesn’t let what some might consider the inevitable outcome to tell him what to do. In other words, he recognizes it could happen, but doesn’t assume it’s going to happen-- not If he can stop it! And he will do his best to stop it/get around the problem even if he doesn’t know what to do.

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And yet, while he’s very much aware that he could lose his crew, I think there’s also this idea that he’s taking this idea as seriously as he should. In other words, he hasn’t had experience with losing yet and so even in this tense situation, he’s somewhat distracted by the door. While on one hand I’m sure he thought going inside the whale would help him find his crew, I think a lot of what drove him through the door was just plain curiosity. I’ll touch on that in a bit but first:

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Now before I get into this scene I want to point out that it’s pretty unclear who is asking the initial question. Though it seems pretty clear—or at least it holds throughout the three translations that I’m using—that it’s Zoro who they’re asking. Stephens goes:

Crew: What do you think?

Zoro: What do I THINK...?

Sanji: What am I supposed to think...?
Silly me, assuming that I was just swallowed by a whale.

Whereas the Viz translation is pretty similar to the fan translation except for Sanji affirming he was the one asking the question.

That being said, if it is indeed a question put to Zoro as it seems it is, then I can’t think of anyone else but Sanji asking the question in that tone. Or that question at all. (at least Sanji at this point of time) Usopp maybe, but he’d be more inclined to think something terrifying has happened without asking Zoro if it’s scary or not. It just doesn’t seem like Nami’s tone at all. I point it out because I can’t prove definitively it’s Sanji but it most probably is.

Especially as it seems to highlight their growing relationship—or rather Sanji once again attempting to relate to Zoro—though here in a way almost of deferring to him. I’m not saying he views Zoro in a leadership position quite, but almost as the more experienced on in this area and is talking to him and asking him this question so that they can figure out how they should proceed and what to do about this situation. Again, this is because Sanji tends to see Zoro as his equal which is new for him, Zoro sitting somewhere above the Baratie cooks and below Zeff.

This is not to say however he wouldn’t listen to Usopp or Nami if they had a theory, but I feel for Sanji they fall in the protected category (especially Nami) and shouldn’t have to think of these things unless they want to.

Speaking of the weak duo. XD I love Nami’s rigid stance of what the fuck just happened?! And Usopp (maybe unconsciously?) folding his arms like Zoro and putting on a brave face that’s not quite as effective as he perhaps thinks it is. They are not alone in shock however. Zoro is also like, what the hell is this? And though Sanji’s posture is slumped a bit, it almost looks like his ready for action pose and there’s tension in his face.

At any rate they agree this is a dream, probably, and the floating island is a hallucination—when:

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Giant Squid Attack! (Viz calls it a Neptunian Squid which…seems oddly specific since both other translations just use “giant”)

But, is it a giant squid attack? I mean it could be, it possibly is, we never get far enough to see what it will do before Crocus spears it. Could it be it just popped up in the wrong place at the wrong time? Could it be looking for a way out of being digested? Could it have indeed just been hungry? Why is this line of reasoning important? I’ll come to that in a second.

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Top panel because action boys. Unf. But also their expressions coupled below show just how tense they are. Those are deadly serious battle faces as they prepared to kick/slice the shit out of the thing. Even below, their tension hasn’t left. Their faces aren’t quite deadly, but they are still waiting for the next big shock. Like they both are realizing they’re kind of still over their heads on this one. Sanji’s expression in the lower panel is especially interesting to me. It’s a smirk, but it’s not because he carries too much tension in his eye. It could be that he’s trying to put a brave confident face on it. But I also like to think it’s the kind of expression where he’s inwardly thinking: if it’s some other weird shitty thing I’m going to lose it.

Also Nami. XD poor Nami. She was not prepared for this level of terror before they barely even touched down in the Grand Line. Also I love that Usopp is the one that realizes that Luffy is gone. I suppose the others haven’t because they’re too busy being kind of terrified /trying to figure out if they’re dead or not— That Usopp realizes he’s not there is pretty sweet and kind of similar to him being worried about Lu during Loguetown.

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And as someone comes out, their emotions and body language shift.

Zoro pulls back, arms folded, very much presenting the image of a strong front. Like he’s not worried, you should be worried whoever the hell you are. It very much strikes me as serious samurai mode.

Sanji seems to have relaxed a bit upon realizing it’s a person, but he’s still cautious. Still, I think he’s generally of the idea that people are easier to handle than giant terrifying monsters. (though it’s kind of interesting that he handled Momoo so well and here’s he’s as tense as hell. But I think Laboon rattled him.)

Nami staying in the background, still cautious with an ‘oh god what next’ face, but a little less terrified than she was before.

But Usopp is why I brought up the idea about the squid’s intent… As well as Laboon’s and Crocus’. The squid could have just been being a squid—just as Laboon was just being Laboon and Crocus will just be Crocus. But because something is scary or people are rattled by what they assume are forces out to get them the first impulse is to blow the shit out of it. It’s part of the reason why the Grand Line is so dangerous probably and why many come limping back—if they can even get back. If the nature doesn’t get them because they’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, I can picture another trouble that they run into is attacking the wrong things because they are scared shitless and then the things attack back.

We’ve even seen this idea before in the Baratie arc. What drove Kreig’s ship back? A storm. A storm has no intent. It is just a buildup of forces. Well—a storm and then Mihawk. Mihawk definitely has intent. But was he stalking them from the beginning? Or did they just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time? Either way, the end result is they were unable to adapt/triumph and ran back to the sheltered waters of the East Blue.

Fortunately, the Strawhats have luck and cooler heads than that. Sanji in particular here says to wait. It ties into the idea that humans are easier to deal with. But also that he would rather give a person a chance, rather than just attack out of fear or who he assumes they are/what they might be.

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Cutting back to Luffy. As I said, as much as he recognizes the consequences of his nakama being swallowed by a whale, he’s not too deeply affected by the potential loss yet as it seems the main reason he’s down here is because he doesn’t know what the hell is going on and is curious. Though it’s not quite just because he’s curious because he still has the angry face of trying to get his nakama back. But he’s curious. But the whale swallowed this friends! But there’s a door and a hallway what the hell? In short this is one of the first times we see Luffy’s emotions smashing into one another since he can’t not feel whatever’s in his heart even if it makes his expression confusing sometimes. (Much to Zoro’s later annoyance)

Back to our stalwart crew…

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Sanji, pls. Zoro, pls. Though I do like when Sanji says it’s a flower Zoro doesn’t disbelieve him. (or well I suppose that’s up for interpretation since a lot can be implied by tone… on the other hand I think he does believe him because why the hell not with all the other shit he’s seen today) This picture just mostly because of the developing headcanon that Sanji’s senses are just really good, both his ears and eyes. Maybe taste, too, since he is a fantastic chef despite his constant smoking (and Zeff’s comment about smoking scuttling his sense of taste making it an in-universe consequence) I also kind of wonder if that’s why he prefers more upscale looks, other than liking presentation, higher quality fabrics feel better against his skin. Of course this is all just headcanon, but it’s my meta so I’ll headcanon what I want.


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I love Crocus’ expression, too. Like, who the hell are you kids and where did you come from? It’s interesting how little we know about him—though one day we may know more… Still I wonder if one factor of Crocus that isn’t often considered (if Crocus is considered at all) is that he really loves Laboon. I mean he’s literally dedicated decades of his life to help Laboon out. We’ll look more at Crocus as he comes in this arc, but what occurs to me now is here is a man taking care of an animal that is a little more than a pet and a little less than a child (as in his child). All he’s known for a very long time is that Laboon is suffering, but that there’s only a little he can do to alleviate the pain. It’s very much like taking care of someone mentally or even terminally ill.

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I love the build up of tension here, first because it’s funny as hell, but also because of Sanji’s changing expressions as he tries to figure out what to make of him. The whole point, of course, is that they don’t know what to make of him.
The top is Sanji not really expecting a kind of goofy looking old guy to come out of the house, and not being a flower. (though that he suspected a flower first speaks to his whimsical romantic nature. I mean, I’m not sure if my first general assumption would be an ambulatory flower). Usopp kind of mirrors Sanji here in trying to figure Crocus out.

In the panel below that it’s impossible to tell who is speaking so take your pick but I think it’s Usopp. (Can’t remember what the anime did, though)
And then we have the cool (if slightly nervous) shot, where they await in badassery for some kind of explanation…

Which is not forthcoming and by the final panel, Sanji is cracking from not knowing if this guy is friend or foe or what while Crocus just watches….

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….And settles down with his newspaper with no fucks to give or explanations either. But why would he need to give either, really? He didn’t invite them in or ask Laboon to swallow them. They haven’t yet said who they are and are treating him like an enemy before they even understand the situation. (Mind you, he also I think, enjoys screwing with their heads a little.)

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Case in point. The most Crocus has done up to this point was spear a giant squid and then flop down to read the newspaper, but Usopp is still assuming that he wants a tussle/is a threat. Though, on the other hand, I also think that part of Usopp just really wants to use the cannon. He’s mentioned it twice now—like he just remembered its existence. Like, he’s pretty sure this guy is a bad guy and he, Usopp, can win the day by shooting a cannon at him. So in this case it may be he’s kind of assuming a fight because he wants a fight.

And then Crocus continues to yank Sanji’s chain (as seems tradition with those that have sailed with Roger.) and Sanji’s expression in the middle left panel is back to being tense and smirking. If this is a fight, he knows how to handle it, how to be cocky and assured—no matter who this crazy guy is.

But of course Crocus has no interest in fighting them (or anyone probably) and says so in a roundabout way. Essentially by implying that he’s the one that’s going to die, Crocus is telling them that he’s not a threat. Except that Sanji can’t really read that from what he’s saying—I think because again, he’s expecting a fight or something. He’s been keyed up for terrible things to happen since they ran into Laboon and this guy screwing with him isn’t doing his temper any favors. He doesn’t know how he should feel about this guy and it’s kind of making him crazy. I think too, at least partly the reason why it pisses Sanji off is because Sanji sets a great store in badassery. It’s kind of his thing and how he wants to appear, but Crocus keeps throwing him off and undercutting him, making him kind of look like an idiot in not knowing how to react.

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Similarly with Zoro, Crocus yanks his chain and pisses him off my making him look foolish.

But with Zoro, much like Sanji, that he gets annoyed is really on his own head and due to his own temperament. Let’s explore that a bit. At the first panel in the upper far right I love how confident he is. He’s not as tightly wound as Sanji and I think even realizes that this guy isn’t a threat to them. That face is an ‘I got this’ face and he’s sort of proud that he’s got this, too. That he has figured out a solution. But also he’s proud that he’s got a cooler head than Sanji does and can understand Crocus is screwing with them and is not affected.

But I love how Crocus calls him out and then yanks his chain anyway just to be a jerk. XD and Zoro reacts accordingly because, as I said, Crocus made him look like an idiot and there’s little that Zoro hates more.

This is also an interesting space to further explore the Zoro/Sanji dynamic (as in how they relate, not tied into slash) When Zoro tells Sanji to calm down, or rather, to not get so worked up, it seems to be from a place of superiority. As in, he gets this old man and maybe Sanji might be played for a fool but Zoro’s not going to be because he’s damn smart. He can handle this. But Sanji? He’s patting Zoro’s shoulder in comfort and telling him to calm down but it’s not mocking or anything. Just like, don’t get so worked up about this—or, it’s not worth getting so worked up over. In this case it’s almost as if Sanji’s unconsciously reaching out to Zoro and being more friendly with him than Zoro is with Sanji. But, again, Zoro doesn’t know how to friend very well. He may not even recognize what Sanji is trying to do (consciously or not) or think that it’s even worth thinking about.

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And here… Crocus is right? I mean, they are being kind of assholes. They come into his “resort” and act like he’s the antagonistic bad guy in this relationship when really he didn’t ask them to come, he didn’t force them to come and he’s done literally nothing to them except mess with their heads a little. But in a way you can tell he’s the stronger here, because he’s not the least bit intimidated by them and keeps his calm—even answering their question—though in the same breath kind of calling them out as idiots.

But let’s recap. So far we’ve met one (1) innocuous whale and one (1) innocuous old man (and one debatable squid) who are simply existing while the Strawhats blunder into their lives and accuse them of enmity.

He’s even further being helpful by pointing out an exit (which shocks the hell out of them but it would me too)

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Usopp also has good eyes (naturally) but I love the one that he realizes that it’s just a painting. Being an artist himself it’s just a neat touch. Though I’ve gotta say, Crocus is a master at hidden lighting because it’s super bright inside that thing, looking just like a sunny day, and whales don’t really have internal lighting (that we know about). Where is this lighting? What is it powered by? So many mysteries.
I also love how Usopp is so – almost mad in a way at just the absurdity of this. Why would a guy live in a whale? Why would he paint a whale’s stomach? What is going on?

While in contrast, Zoro doesn’t really care. I think that he thinks Crocus won’t answer and in any case it doesn’t matter. Zoro is pretty incurious about a lot of things. He’d rather just continue on. (also another note of Zoro kind of slotting himself in a leadership role in that no one else suggests acting)
Laboon starts ramming his head into the Red Line, stirring up the “water”. Nami points out the ship that Crocus is riding on is iron and Usopp realizes it really is stomach acid and that Merry will be dissolved if they stay here so asks Crocus what’s going on.

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So this is actually an interesting set of expressions from Sanji and Zoro. Kind of tellingly it’s not Nami and Usopp shown since they would be the obvious choice. But I think it’s meant to emphasize their worry at the situation. As cool headed as Zoro can appear to be, especially if he thinks he has a handle on things (and Sanji as well) it doesn’t take much (at least currently) to worry him. And it’s interesting that Zoro looks more angry than fearful (though Sanji’s expression is pretty much impossible to make out)

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Wherein Nami understands Laboon, and misunderstands the situation. I think it’s often overlooked that Nami is sensitive to people/creatures in peril/suffering and that, more than almost anything else, is what gets her motivated to act. Especially people/creatures that can’t otherwise help themselves. (Much like Luffy…and well, all of them really) I think Nami understands the nature of suffering due to her own life under Arlong. But as much as life under Arlong has made her sensitive to this kind of thing, it also hardens her toward a certain demographic, at least initially. That is to say a male in a perceived position of power (who she doesn’t otherwise know) In other words, she’s going to assume the worst. Of course this is just one person and we’ll have to look elsewhere to see if this holds true or if it’s just because, like the others, Nami is jumping to conclusions about the nature of Crocus’ being here.

And speaking to that, again they are assuming nasty things of him. I suppose you could ask, what other reason would a guy have to live in a suffering whale… And though slowly torturing him to death might be a sound idea, there’s also nothing Crocus has done that presents him as that kind of person.

(also man, take a good look at Usopp’s shoulder there. Monster he may not be but he’s packing a little something something)


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Let’s note another example of Zoro taking charge, but also that Sanji echoes him. Even though here it is framed more like a suggestion. (Though true intent is perhaps impossible to define without reading the actual Japanese). Yet here they are both of the same mind.

More importantly, this is a study of contrasts. Where Nami and Usopp are focused externally toward Crocus and concerned about Laboon’s situation, Zoro and Sanji are focused internally, concerned for their own sakes/the sake of the crew. I think this dynamic is important because it speaks to this idea that Usopp and Nami can afford to be externally focused. They are the ones being protected when things come down to the wire. Sanji and Zoro, being the protectors, can’t afford to think of others in this situation because the ones they are looking after come first.

Aside from that, I like that Zoro doesn’t care about the mystery, but isn’t really annoyed at them for being curious about it either. It’s also interesting that he’s holding Wado Ichimonji, which is the sword, I believe, he goes to when protection is on his mind. (But that still remains to be seen) In terms of focusing internally, he’s physically pulling back toward the ship and getting a move on.

Sanji, meanwhile, stays where he is, kind of a middle ground for the crew. And yet at the same time displays some of his cold practicality as a cook. Or perhaps as someone who understands the value of food. A whale is an animal that can be hunted like any other. Also note the word obligation (or duty). He has no personal stakes in this whale’s fate, and so has no problem in leaving. The life of his crew/himself is more important than Laboon.

(Just to side note about the whaling line… You can make a reasonable argument that he doesn’t participate in whaling himself, which I don’t think he does because why would he need to? I’m sure he’s served whale meat which is considered a delicacy in Japan. But just in terms of One Piece, it’s also interesting because there’s nothing to say that whales are being hunted to extinction, which is why it’s such a controversy here… but at the same time Sanji says he has nothing against whaling which implies that there’s a reasonably vocal group that has a problem with whaling. This line is supported by Stephen’s translation and is a much closer and far less awkward approach than the Viz line of: not to open the whaling debate but…)

Moving on, we take a short break from our stalwart(ish) pirates and join a new duo.

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Hi Vivi, bb! It’s nice to get to you finally!

So let’s go back to this idea of intent. Because while Crocus’ motivations are unclear, especially to the first time reader, Vivi’s and Mr. 9’s are in your face evident. They want to kill Laboon. Which is bad. But the reason why is so they can take it back to feed their village. Which seems like a good motivation, doesn’t it? A kind of do or die situation.

Well, kind of. First of all, they are intending to kill Crocus to do it. That’s pretty damning right off. This is not the first time they’ve tried to kill Crocus to do it either, it seems. As they know where they’re going and where the stomach is and that Crocus is in there. There isn’t even a clear indication that they need Laboon that badly, though it can be implied since it’s a pretty big operation. (and Viz has Vivi saying: “Our village needs this desperately”. While Stephen’s corroborates with this translation) But also, I think the question is, why Laboon? There are plenty of other fish in the sea (no pun intended). And I think part of that answer might be revealed when we reach Whiskey Peak… But for now I think the first half of that answer is: Laboon is easy pickings. He is big, which will serve them for months on end, and he always appears in relatively the same spot –making him easy to track down which is fairly rare in the Grand Line. Taking shortcuts is rarely as easy as they seem to be, and I think we’ll definitely see more of this as the story continues.

Also Vivi. Vivi. XD Our town’s sweet honey? Really? On one hand, she seems to be being overdramatic (especially in hindsight), as if this is what a villainess might sound like—but on the other, as we’ll see, she very much fits into the culture of Whiskey Peak. Even right here we see Mr. 9 is right on her level. But speaking of Vivi? She may be a princess who wants peace, but much like Zoro and Sanji are internally fixated on the crew, she is internally fixated on what will help Alabasta. Granted, we never see how far she’s willing to take it, but here she is at least seriously talking about killing a guy to take his whale from him. (And also, I wonder how much she did to get as far as she did in Baroque Works. I can’t imagine it’s an easy society to join. We’ll talk about this by and by, but it’s a really interesting facet to her personality)

Anyway, Luffy finds a mysterious waterway in his explorations—on the Merry, the crew is getting increasingly worried about being digested, they express concern over Luffy’s whereabouts, and Crocus dives into the stomach acid which Usopp spots and points out.

And then this:

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This is really kind of sobering when you think about it, because as much as we sympathize with him, there’s all this. He gobbles up people and ships as easily as he gobbles up fish. Of course we don’t know the circumstances of how these ships and people arrived here. It could be that they attacked him/Crocus first—and there’s some indication of that with the sword planted next to the skull. Or it could be that they simply got in the way of his mouth and he couldn’t avoid them, didn’t know they were there. But that’s the truth of the Grand Line, too. Even things you’re sympathetic with can kill you. But that doesn’t necessarily make them monsters.

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More taking charge.

First it’s important to point out that I think it’s Nami who is giving the commands. I’m saying this because in the first dozen reads I thought it was Usopp but his mouth is definitely closed, but it’s Nami’s who is open. Of course you can debate this, but I actually like that it’s Nami, because she tracks him through the water and sees his destination—and though she cares for Laboon, she’s all about bailing while the bailing is good (and maybe they can take care of this guy later, and maybe not, but the important thing is not to get eaten.) Meanwhile, Usopp looks concerned and conflicted almost. He’s not just scared, though he certainly is, but he looks almost angry, too. Like he doesn’t want to leave Laboon in the hands of this bastard, but he also doesn’t want to die either.
Also Zoro once again giving the order to row. It’s not exactly an order, but I still think it’s important that he’s the one who says it giving what is to develop.
We go to Vivi and Mr. 9 preparing themselves to burst in and take the old geezer by force, when Luffy comes catapulting down toward them, unable to stop, and slams all three of them through the door sending them hurtling toward a sea of stomach acid.

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And Zoro’s just like What. The. Hell.

But I love that Luffy’s first thought—before even his own immediate danger, is his crew. Glad to see them alive and okay. But then also asking for help. Which is interesting, because I’m not entirely sure he has before? Before this he’s had everything very much in hand (more or less) but now he’s like Uh, I don’t have time to grab onto anything so help me out?

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Incidentally, this is why I think that Nami was speaking in that last part instead of Usopp. The focus there is getting to the exit before the whale gets any crazier and (it can be implied) getting out. Meanwhile Usopp points out Crocus in terms of ‘getting away’. He’s the bad guy who hurt the whale and is Zoro really going to stand for that? Which is also a case of Usopp pushing Zoro to take action rather than doing it himself. Of course there’s no telling that he won’t—but I get the feeling that since Laboon’s not in immediate danger of dying, Usopp doesn’t have the hair trigger gotta save ‘em now shot on.
Whereas Zoro just doesn’t care about that guy. For him, crew comes first and most importantly Luffy right now. This line has various similar translations, but I like this one the best.

It’s also another example of external vs internal.

Let’s switch our focus back to Crocus for a moment as he gives Laboon a sedative.

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This is so poignant. Because it shows really that even for something as big as Laboon, there is an obstacle he can’t get through by sheer force alone. And here he can’t get through it at all. We’ll explore one of the reasons why in a bit, but here – what stands in his way? Not an enemy. Not some antagonistic force. Just the world as it was constructed. There are some things impossible to fight against.

And Crocus can really do nothing against either. He can only treat the symptom, not cure the disease. But he patiently does out of love and persistence. Considering how he says he’s almost out of tranquilizer, he’s probably said these words to Laboon more than once—but they never stick because Laboon is a whale without his pod and this is the only thing he can think of to do.

Laboon calms down (which Nami notices) the crew wonder who the strangers are that came with Luffy and then we have this little panel.

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So let’s break this down a bit:

Vivi is worried because they are pirates. I think this suggests a kind of black and white association she has, (though I’m not too sold on this idea quite yet) and assuming that this is something to worry about. (Which isn’t an unfounded worry as pirates are generally bad news)

Meanwhile it’s really interesting that Mr. 9 is banking on reasoning with them. I really like the Viz line where he says: I think they’ll understand if we explain the situation. But I think this comes from A) Whiskey Peak having a reputation of manipulating pirates and getting under their skin pretending to be friendly and B) of course pirates would understand greedily attacking a whale from the inside for meat to eat. They’re pirates.

For the crew itself, Usopp’s stance is kind of open, wondering who they are but doesn’t really seem threatened. Nami has a closed stance with her arms folded, meeting strangers and not inclined to trust them just yet. Even advancing on them almost menacingly. Zoro looks casual but his hand is resting on his sword. Of course Zoro’s hand habitually rests there, but here he’s making a point to cross his body and grab the hilt, ready for anything. Luffy looks like he’s still trying to puzzle out the situation and Sanji… well Sanji is gone lost in mellorine land. Nice to know you, kid. Though I do like that even though he’s kind of invading her bubble a bit, he’s not actively touching her and just kind of sitting there caged up and happily admiring the view. That dork.

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Ugh, I love me some statements of intent in One Piece. They’re always fantastic and this is no exception. Crocus is laying his life on the line to protect Laboon—for no other reason that he cares for him and for a promise he made.

Lu, of course, has no idea who he is—but it seems to me that Usopp is a little surprised by this. Like, why would he return to the scene of the crime when he knows we are on his tail? Wouldn’t he be more concerned with getting away?

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I really like the viz line where he calls them No-good bullies, because that’s kind of what they are, finding a victims weak spot and blowing it wide open. From here we also get a taste of what Baroque Works is like, even up to Crocodile. They do sneak in and exploit weaknesses wherever they find them for their own benefit. And then they gloat about their own cleverness. Because I think we’ll come to see that one of the tag lines of Baroque Works is that most of the operatives are sure of their superiority, especially in terms of intellect, (or at least sneakily tricking the enemy). Not ALL of them, mind you, because they’re a mixed bunch, but a fair number.

I also just love the image of him running to stop the …well…bazooka balls? I’m guessing? Not really sure what to call them. XD Suffice to say he catches them, shocking the hell out of Usopp, and gets injured in the process.


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The crunching sound you hear are Nami and Usopp’s gears trying to reverse. They are just totally mindblown by this situation and can’t figure out his motivations. Why? Because they were so sure that they were right and can’t quite get over the fact that they were wrong.

Meanwhile, Sanji’s: “what the hell” face. And Zoro’s: “Come on can we get the hell out of here already” face. They are both done with Crocus’ confusing bullshit and would just like to leave before horrible digestion pls.

Meanwhile meanwhile, Luffy having no idea what’s going on face. Which, I have to note, does not come from any stupidity but because he was late to the party.

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Now, Luffy’s line has a few translations here. Stephans: “I did that because I felt like it!!” Viz: “They had it coming!” and this one. I don’t really like any of them all that much but I kind of like a line that is an amalgamation of all of them. What that would be I have no idea. But I like Viz’s because it seems so very Luffy. Why did he knock them out? They had it coming. With no other explanation behind it other than Luffy!logic. Stephen’s has the same idea but a clunkier execution. The third one is …well I feel like it’s kind of the translator trying to figure out what the hell Luffy just did so just stuck that in there. Though there’s truth behind that statement, too.

So why did Luffy punch them? Well he doesn’t have any idea what’s going on. Not really. But what he does know is that flower head guy is willing to die to save the whale and is pretty injured in having done it. The whale can’t save itself from inside itself. And if he doesn’t punch ‘em flat, these guys won’t stop shooting. Plus, taking advantage of someone’s weakness like that is a pretty shitty thing to do.

A transition happens and Crocus explains how Laboon is from the largest species of whale normally found in the West Blue (this may become important later).

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This partly to reinforce the idea that Vivi and 9 have at least attacked once before. (Or at least others from Whiskey Peak. Maybe they have a rotating: "attack that damn whale" duty) But also that perhaps their need is not so dire so much as it is convenient. Though perhaps not. We’ll try to clarify this more when we reach Whiskey Peak itself.

For now though, I mostly just like this for body language and characterization. Because they could easily be all standing in a circle. But no. Luffy cannot sit still and is climbing the tree. Nami is actively listening to the story, as is Usopp, though it’s interesting that she’s open with her hands on her hips and he’s more closed off with his arms folded. I kind of wonder if she’s listening to the story to hear what he has to say while Usopp is either listening with focus or is hoping for some kind of damned good explanation of what went on here. Meanwhile Sanji is just really into listening to this story, almost with a sense of childlike wonder. He is completely relaxed with his legs crossed and his eye wide. And Zoro’s focused away from the group, seemingly disengaged from the tale but just kind of looking around like: “huh. So this is what it’s like being on an island in the middle of a whale’s stomach”


Whereas Crocus… is dominating the space I think, but also very closed off and far less relaxed than we’ve seen him before. I think that this story is very painful for him to relate.

So Crocus starts to explain why Laboon keeps bashing his head against the Red Line, and when he was a lighthouse keeper some friendly pirates came over the Reverse Mountain.

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Ah, babbu Laboon. It’s so amazing that we’ll get to hear more of this story four hundred chapters later. But of course this is the second emphasis of the Grand Line. You have to sail the course you set. Baby or no, Laboon chose to follow them over the Grand Line—yes, because they were his family and maybe he’d even been abandoned or left behind—but that doesn’t stop the fact that once there, he couldn’t return to where he came from.

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He also chose to wait, just as Yorkie chose to leave him there. Which is not to say that these are bad choices or that they were bad/stupid for making them but actions have consequences and the Grand Line is a dangerous place. This was in Roger’s time, too, so even wilder and unknown. Laboon very well could have been killed or lost or separated. So sometimes even good choices can turn out to have unfortunate consequences.

This also kind of speaks to the story of pirates in One Piece in general, leaving those you love behind. Here they were being responsible because the Grand Line is so dangerous—but on the same token, nothing is stopping them from staying behind. Yet they choose to go and follow their ambitions and dreams. But at least in the end Laboon isn’t left completely alone.

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Again I love the body language. Nami is completely open now as she puts the pieces together. Luffy, even though he is monkeying on the tree, is obviously paying attention. Usopp still has his intense look and I kind of wonder if he ever feels a sense of familiarity about this story. And Sanji. XD Man. He looks so sad. I think Usopp must feel sad, too. But I think where Sanji embraces the sadness and empathy to a point, Usopp holds back from it. As if he’d rather be stern than sad. And actually, his expression was a lot like the one he had when Nojiko was talking to Chabo back in Arlong Park. But we’ll get to that in the character section. Even Zoro is interested in this story, or at least is pinged by something. Perhaps the thought of a broken promise? —but I think it’s the breaking of the promise that gets to him. (or the potential anyway.)

As for Crocus… well we’ll examine this and what he says later because he’ll elaborate on that in the next chapter. For now, though, let’s bring this to an end with:



Themes:

The world is a dangerous place: Even in the East Blue, but especially in the Grand Line where even the most innocent of things can kill you simply by existing. Why is this important? Well I think thematically, it just really drives home the idea that the Grand Line isn’t a walk in the park. Neither is adventuring come to that. We’ll explore more dangers in the Grand Line as we go on, and mostly in the next chapter, but here the most important aspect is just how big and wild and dangerous it is… and how inasmuch as it brings crews together, it can also separate them—much as Laboon was separated from the Rhumbar. Even ginormous whales aren’t strong enough to get what it is they want against the natural strength of the world. But what is? That remains to be seen.

The world is a cold place: We’ve seen hints of this before now: Sanji’s backstory, Yosaku sick with scurvy, even Luffy getting sucked in by a whirlpool. The world just by its very nature nearly devastated them. Sanji’s backstory is probably the most relevant to this point. There we had two crews who were proficient at sailing and knew the waters they were sailing in. Zeff had even survived the Grand Line. But unstoppable force of nature crushed all of them into oblivion save two. The Grand Line is a lot like that. A lot colder. A lot wilder. We saw how devastating it was to Krieg’s crew. And really we can see how devastating it is to Luffy right out of the gate. He very well could have lost his nakama and ship and everything he’d dreamed about in one moment. I don’t want to put too much of a negative spin on this because it truly is a world of excitement and adventure—but it’s also a place where you can’t take anything for granted because situations can change by the hour. (which is not too different from real life when you think about it.)

Assumptions: There is the old adage that when you assume things it make an ass out of u and me. Now this kind of trope we’ve seen before (and will see again) in the form of others assuming various things about the nature of Luffy and/or his crew. It also played a huge role in Arlong Park with Usopp’s attitude toward Nami initially. Though that was a more curated assumption, meaning she wanted to make him think that… But here, all of them assume the worst of Crocus in the same way people assume the worst of them. They are afraid/rattled to one extent or another so they immediately paint Crocus first as an enemy then as a bad guy. And as we’ve seen, he’s done literally nothing to add to this idea of him. Here, while they don’t suffer any detriment for their assumptions (because Crocus is chill like that) it’s obvious that they, too, are susceptible to this line of thinking. Also I suppose one detriment would be, had they kept thinking of him as an enemy or done something drastic, they would have likely lost the help of a friend.

Another facet of assumptions really kicking their ass, however, is assuming that they are prepared for the Grand Line despite never having been to the Grand Line. We haven’t seen much of it yet, because of the world being a dangerous place and smacking them in the face with Laboon, but there’s no doubt that Nami is super confident in her ability to get around so long as she can get there. Also Zoro, Luffy and Usopp assuming the calm belt is a cool place because they only have their frame of reference to go by that sunny calm seas are pleasant ones.


Characters

Zoro: I know I’ve been harping on his tendency to take charge, but it is nevertheless there and nevertheless building up to something. I think it says something that he’s consistently been the one to speak up about what they should do. Which I’m not saying that he’s bucking for captaincy or anything like that—because he is loyal to Luffy, but I really think he is taking control out of his protectiveness and need to keep the crew safe collectively. Hell, he flat out tells Usopp to forget about that guy (Crocus) because Luffy comes first, kind of reshuffling Usopp’s priorities. This is in stark contrast to Luffy who generally let’s people do and think as they want. We’ll see how this builds and develops throughout.

What we see of Zoro aside from theory is more of his incurious and kind of brusque nature. He’s not as adventurous outside of a swordfight and, at least currently, doesn’t really much care about the mysteries of the world and more about getting from point A to point B. We also see how cold he can be. Because he is so focused internally, toward the safety of the crew, he doesn’t have much capacity to care about the life of a whale—especially perhaps when they are being digested by it.
We also see more of the idea that he’s just not very good at friending. While you could make an argument that he’s not interested in that sort of thing—I think his protectiveness of the crew (and kind of gentleness in helping along Usopp) shows that he does like them. I think really it’s more a case of his not having the experience of friendmaking (outside of perhaps a swordsman’s camaraderie with hangers on) and kind of not realizing that this is something he could have or would like to have. To make a metaphor of it, it’s like Zoro’s going in a straight line toward his goal without seeing or noticing or caring about the side paths that are open to him. But I think this is part of Zoro’s core nature. His core flaw if you will. Something he can’t really change. But his relationships with the others do change and becomes warmer as a closer bond forms. I’m not sure at the moment the vein in which that develops, but it’ll be fun to see.

Finally, we get a more clear idea of his skepticism. In contrast to Sanji who will believe in a thing that everyone agrees is just a myth; it’s almost like, with Zoro, if he hasn’t already fitted it into his view of how the world works, it doesn’t exist. Or he can’t readily believe in its existence. This also fits in the running in the straight line toward his goal, but also speaks to Zoro’s obstinate nature and his confidence. (I also love how, as confident as he is, he knows there’s things he can’t fight. But I also sort of wonder if this is a new development post-Mihawk. Would he have tried to attack the things had he not lost so badly already? In a similar vein, is he still kind of shaken from nearly losing Luffy because he just couldn’t get there in time?)


Sanji: It always amazes me really just how emotive that Sanji can be. He may be a badass but he’s a passionate badass and feels all the emotions as hard as he can. We don’t see much more development of his character than we’ve seen already, other than him trying to befriend Zoro sort of from the side—because Sanji is also a very proud badass and not about to admit weakness. I really do think that despite their later antagonism and bitchfests, he really respects him as a person, a fighter and even, dare I say, likes him. We’ll see how that relationship develops, too.

Other than that, we also see Sanji’s coldness. I think part of it is due to his internal focus on the safety of the crew and himself—but also I think that as a cook and as someone who is very against starvation in general, if you need to kill a whale to eat and save your village from starvation? He’ll help prepare it. Though I think this attitude will shift once he comes to know Laboon as a creature and with a personality. We also see more of his romatic nature and of course his joy to serve and observe womenkind.


Nami: Poor Nami has a hell of a time in this part. First I think it’s interesting to reinforce this idea that she was in command of various Fishmen, not just in maps but in giving directions. She was used to being listened to without a second thought. And here we see her having to argue her point. (though thankfully not for long) But Nami is a commander. She’s very much in charge of things and with it comes confidence borne of experience. In a way it’s very much like Zoro’s confidence, except here she’s fairly overconfident. We’ll see more of this in the next part, of course, but her overconfidence in a way makes sense. Once you’ve mastered the waters of one sea, the others shouldn’t be too much of a challenge. But that she does have confidence and intelligence and is not afraid to show it and believe in herself is refreshing.

What I really like here is we see the core of Nami’s compassion, but also, I think (utilizing the theory that it was Nami that was speaking in that one frame instead of Usopp) a kind of realism. She’s compassionate enough and empathetic enough to understand Laboon is suffering; but realistic enough to suggest they head on out of here before they get digested. I also kind of wonder if the situation had been a little different and Crocus had gotten away if Nami would want to, at this stage, go back and help Laboon. Right now I would kind of say no, but it would definitely harden her up a little against the journey. However that’s beside the point. What is interesting is that though she does express sympathy for the whale, she doesn’t suggest acting on it. So in the internal/external question, I think at this point in her characterization, she stands beside Sanji. Able to be external, looking out for others, while also being internal, concerned foremost with getting to safety.
Also it’s interesting how she has a kind of open body language when she hears the truth of Laboon’s story. I think it touches her deeply and more than she expects. But we’ll explore that later when Crocus expands upon the story in the next part.


Usopp: Usopp is pretty fun and very expressive in these chapters. However, I think it’s fair to say that while he has definitely grown since Arlong Park, and this is definitely not a game, he’s still relying on the strength of others to get what he wants done and not entirely thinking through the consequences of his actions. For instance he basically challenges Crocus to a fight. Why? I sincerely think at that point he just wanted to use the cannon and be as cool, if not cooler, than Luffy. But if he’d fired it and missed? Or if he’d fired it and hit him? Or hit Laboon? Would Usopp be really satisfied with himself after he found out the truth?
And some of what he wants to do is well intentioned. Unlike Nami, he wants to act on Laboon’s behalf but he doesn’t want to act himself. He doesn’t want to lay his life on the line to save Laboon from Crocus, but he has no problem kind of hinting that Zoro should do so. But this is because he has no doubt Zoro will win. Likewise with Luffy, Usopp is concerned about him, but as soon as Luffy reappears on the scene, his focus shifts into getting Crocus. It’s like he hasn’t quite internalized that strong people, esp those right in front of him, can be in danger. This is definitely an attitude we’ll see shift later on.

In terms of external/internal—Usopp here is very external, primarily because he feels in a safe space protected by the others and able to utilize their strength if he has to. He can afford to be worried about Laboon and want to do something for him. Because he has no one to look after or worry about (except perhaps Merry) he can look after someone who he thinks has no one to look after them. But even still there’s this disconnect. Usopp sees Laboon as a poor whale, yes, but ultimately just a whale. If he were super concerned about Laboon’s present fate, he would have acted almost before he thought. His reaction to Laboon’s story is interesting as well—but I think I’ll save that for the next part because it’s much more interesting there.


Luffy: Man Luffy really shines this chapter in terms of intelligence and showing what he can and can’t do. I’ve pretty much talked all I can about how superr all this is, but I just wanted to reinforce that when it comes to physicality and fighting and adapting, he is super capable. Segueing here, he’s also super external. Not that he doesn’t care about the safety of the crew, but he trusts them to be able to take care of themselves. (and I think as we go on we’ll find they take care of themselves so he can do his thing) But more than just showing concern—in fact he doesn’t really show concern all that much—he just acts. If he can see something he can punch he will punch it. Right now at least, he is strong enough to protect what he wants—and will whenever he wants. Also I love how he’s the complete opposite to Zoro’s skepticism. Luffy believes the impossible exists because why can’t it? And because it’s cool and fun and exciting—even if he’s heard of it or not.


Crocus: Is an interesting old man, and we’ll probably find more to talk about him in the next part. In this part, though, what is clearly evident is that he is in complete control of the situation with the Strawhats. While he jerks their chain, he still controls the situation in a calm, measured way. Much like Shanks did with the bandits (though that was more defusing) He radiates capability so much that the Strawhats automatically view him as a threat. This is kind of the definition of power and control. One who can keep their chill even when being threatened, and even feel free to jerk their assailants’ chains a little bit. Also indicative of just how strong he is? He can protect who he chooses. Maybe he can only stop bullets from hitting Laboon, but that’s all he needs to be able to do. He can also protect Laboon from himself a bit.

Aside from his strength, though, he’s a kind, compassionate man. There is Laboon who he practically dedicated his life to, but also he’s genuinely helpful to some pirates who sailed into his home and threatened him. He tells them where the exit was even though they were pretty rude. He even opens up and tells them about Laboon’s story even though it’s pretty painful for him to relate. There’s not much more to say about him just here, but we’ll definitely come to see how he’s fleshed out more pretty soon.


Vivi: There’s even less to say about her in this early date, but it seems that she’s internal pretty much on the same level as Zoro. I mean this can’t sit well with her. We come to know her as a compassionate woman, yet for her country, there is little she wouldn’t do. Granted we never see her going after Crocus directly, though they agree that they will, she mostly joins 9 in attacking Laboon. But on the other hand, again, you don’t just get to join BW unless you have some kind of street cred. Fortunately most of the work is attacking pirates so it’s perhaps likely she’s never had to step too far outside of her boundaries. But on the other, I can almost see her becoming too hardhearted if she’d continued on this path. (and/or dead considering she really wasn’t going to get much further. But we’ll get to that)


Relationships

Luffy<->Nami: Though we haven’t seen much of it yet (in terms of them being mutually crew and with Nami truly free) , there’s just so much to love about this relationship. We see how Luffy trusts Nami’s judgement. If she says there’s a Reverse Mountain, there must be! And he wants to sail it. Likewise I like how she explains things to him and even worries about him as he hangs from the figurehead. But at the same time not afraid to donk him on the head when he’s being an idiot about things.

Zoro<->Usopp: I think their relationship is the cutest. Here, Zoro is still in big brother mode to Usopp’s little brother. As we’ve seen before and even right now, he understands Usopp a great deal and, more to the point, he understands Usopp’s ambitions to be a brave man and a strong one and tries to nudge him in that direction—while at the same time reminding him what’s important.





That’s it for now! Also some business! I’ve compiled the East Blue Saga into two pdf forms. They ain’t pretty unfortunately because skilled at that I’m not, but maybe it’s something you’re interested in. If you are, feel free to drop me a PM with an email at either the Dreamwidth site or on the we-are-blog tumblr. Thanks for reading, my friends, and Happy New Year!! Year of the Monkey and of the Love Cook. It should be exciting.
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