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As we conclude the Arlong Park Arc, we explore Arlong’s complicated Nami feels, see Luffy having just about enough of this bullshit, save the day, have a party and set sail to a new adventure!

But first? The cartography room.

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I like the quietness of this moment, despite Arlong talking, Luffy is just taking it all in and there’s something almost somber about this space. Somber but awesome (and awful). I also love the exclamation mark, like now that Luffy knows it’s Nami’s, he’s even more interested in this place. Much like listening to the Baratie cooks speak of Sanji, he likes and wants to know about his nakama.

Also, man just look how filled up that room is. There’s just piles and piles of stuff. Without even knowing any details of her past, Luffy can see how much effort she put in to making these maps. That they’re accurate, too, shows another level of dedication to it. Arlong is definitely proud of what they’ve accomplished—and it’s a testament to what Fishmen and humans can accomplish if they work together (though through coercion not so much) – but even though he’s proud of it you can see in the top panel that he’s already destroyed a part of it with his Shark Saw. Power without precision will also end up biting you in the ass.

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I think it’s really cool that Nami is a genius, but she is like that quote from Einstein… A genius is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. She worked hard for her genius and suffered for it.

Arlong, naturally, is boasting about her genius only because he orchestrated it. He found her; he cultivated it in her by giving her data, tools and a heady dose of motivation. Nami’s genius, he imagines, is due to his clever thinking/scheming. And, you know, he’s not entirely wrong. Arlong is pretty shrewd when it comes to this sort of thing and his real genius comes from the ability to ruthlessly manipulate others into doing things that make up for what he lacks. We’ll definitely see hints of this from Nami too later on. Of course, it is still important to remember that Nami had extraordinary talent before Arlong ever came along—Leading to this sort of feel of hubris from him, taking credit for other people’s work.

And that pen. Ugh. Nami literally used it so often and for so long at one point that she bled on it. (Or at least that’s what seems to be implied.) Why, though? There are certainly others she can use and Arlong will no doubt buy her fresh pens should she want them…We’re never really supplied with a why and it doesn’t really matter, but I sort of headcanon that she kept it on purpose, partly because it was something she could control (he can make me make maps but he can’t make me stop using this pen) and partly as a reminder of who she still is and who she belongs to until she gets the money.

As for Luffy, he doesn’t need to be told the past, because he can see it and that it’s still going on. Nami bled to draw these maps for Arlong. She bled and kept on bleeding. This place is, in every way, an old open wound.

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This is such an interesting scene because it really shows this dissonance in Arlong in regards to how he feels about Nami.

The most obvious and overt feelings are the one he shows to her and most others. She is human. He enjoys screwing with her head and making sure that she and everyone knows that he is the dominant one. It’s obvious that he really enjoys this because it’s a hell of a power trip and all about revenge.

Deeper still, he has serious respect for her talent. In as much as Arlong goes on about strength, he really enjoys intellect and cleverness. (as we’ll see) Nami is skilled in more ways than one. He allows himself to indulge in her genius, since he controls it and it’s useful to him, he can give her that one… But I also think that he likes how Nami can keep him on his toes and is always fighting. That she has the persistence of mind to keep fighting even in the face of adversity. Though also in part because it gives him a chance to punish her should she step over the line—and sometimes I think he just wants to see what she’ll do.
The line about her happiness strikes an odd beat to me.

The chapter’s title is ‘Happiness’ so this is most certainly a callback to that… But why is he saying it? I think it has a great deal to do with bragging rights. Arlong is basically saying she’s mine for my ambition and she’s happy here so you’re never going to get your hands on her, no matter what you want her for. It speaks volumes, too, that Arlong assumes Luffy wants to use her. Why else would he, a pirate, want her? And want to fight so hard for her. I think it says a lot about the harshness of the world outside of the East Blue, but Arlong’s own harshness toward Nami as well.

Of course the using line pisses Luffy off, but before we get to that, I want to skip forward a little to wrap up Arlong’s Nami feels.

Luffy, looking angry and super badass asks Arlong: What do you think she is?

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Here he’s forced to recontexualize her again. For the sake of his own pride she has to be seen as better than a human, because why would he put up with anyone lesser? But for the sake of Fishman pride, she has to be considerably less than a Fishman. So he basically turns her into an animal. One translation even uses the word ‘pet’ and it’s an accurate description. It’s evident from the text that he has some degree of fondness for her. After all, Arlong needs to save up all the money that he can. He doesn’t have to be spending it on clothes or anything for her. He could keep her on the barest essentials without complaint since she is working to keep her village safe. Instead he indulges her.

(I actually think the lines in the bottom panel are Arlong working this out for himself just how it’s going to go. As the situation with Nami has changed, he has to find some other way to think about their relationship so he says this. I will keep her in food and clothes and all she has to do is draw maps which she likes to do anyway. )

However, even though he may be fond of her in a certain way (since he practically raised her and does admire her) it’s still framed as being abusive as hell. He will be the one to feed her. He will buy her clothes. It’s almost like she won’t have access to money except as he deems it and he will control every aspect of her life. In a way, I think Arlong is actually trying to justify this to himself. Like, yeah she likes to do this—and she’s just a pet so if she raises hell—well who cares? She’s just a cute kitten and if she’s a bad kitten she gets punished.

At the end of this, though, he elevates her above pet status by telling Luffy that she’s his nakama (or crewmate or partner. Take your pick on what translation) Like, it’s okay for him to think of her as a cute little pet, but Luffy damn well better think of her as a member of Arlong’s crew with the status to match and to not look down on her.

So all wrapped up then… Arlong admires Nami’s intelligence and is proud of her genius because he helped cultivate it. He likes her on some genuine level but due to Fishman Pride and his own arrogance, he can’t actually consider her as anything other than a pet. Mostly, however, he wants her at different levels at his convenience. In one situation she’s a human, in another she’s a pet, in a third she’s a crewmate. But also he wants the luxury of screwing with her head whenever he wants without the consequence of her getting away from him. I also kind of headcanon that he expects, or at least hopes for, affection or at least appreciation in return. Like hey I bought you nice dresses! And when Nami is pleased with it he can gloat, but also take them away at a moment’s notice.

Ultimately, Nami is his. She is the one person he can control directly and who directly serves his whims—and who is the key to his dream. As much as Arlong believes that he can take care of everything himself—even he acknowledges that he needs Nami’s abilities to make things happen.

But let’s rewind a bit and go back to Luffy. Going back to chapter 92 as Arlong is bragging about how Nami will draw maps for the sake of his ambition, we have this:

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When Arlong talks about his own ambition, the most Luffy has a fairly bland reaction. (In this case I like Viz’s translation better where he says “I see”) But even just hmm says that he’s listening to what Arlong has to say about it even though I don’t think he cares all that much about Arlong’s ambition except where it applies to Nami.

But when Arlong asks if Luffy could use Nami better? Luffy just quietly puts the pen down. Though it says drop, there’s nothing so careless as a drop about that. It’s like he’s deliberately setting it on the floor, treating it with an almost respect. This pen has a part of Nami on it. It’s part of her past. She’s suffered in using this pen and he’s not just going to haphazardly toss it away.

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And of course this, this is totally awesome because Arlong, as much in a rage as he is and the strength that comes with it, cannot move from Luffy’s anger. Remember too Luffy has a much stronger grip than Arlong. He can take his nakama from Arlong’s hands and Arlong is finally starting to realize this strength. He is sweating over it. Of course he ain’t seen nothing yet as Luffy is so angry he breaks through the blade with his grip alone.

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And Luffy keeps right on breaking it, too. XD The tines sort of look like Arlong’s teeth after they’ve been broken…

But aside from that, look at what it’s saying—Arlong can only move his blade after Luffy does as much as he wants to it. Luffy is in complete control of this situation. But again after he hears the ‘use’ part, he listens to what Arlong is saying. He’s sitting there listening—not to the past and not even the present, but Nami’s future situation. He hears how she’s disregarded. How trapped she will be. What her present life with Arlong really means to her.

And then this line:

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Here we’re just focusing on his expression. Remember that Arlong has a tendency to build up to a solid powerful attack and think it’s the coolest thing since sliced bread…and more importantly that he’ll win with it. This line is his trump card. His full house. His royal flush or whatever. Nami belongs to him. They are crew and nothing Luffy can say will change that because it’s something even Nami agrees on.

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I love this though. There’s just so much tension in the air, but also they don’t have any idea what’s going on. They don’t know anything about Arlong’s plans or his complex Nami feels or Luffy crunching the shit out of the Shark Saw. No one even knows about the room except Nami and she can’t even tell what’s going on there. The greatest part is, it doesn’t matter. They don’t need to know. All that matters is the results.

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And I love also Arlong’s startled expression as this happens. This was completely unexpected and not generally how banter goes. First he brags and then the other person either acquiesces or apologies or at the most has some bravado going on and tries to attack. But nope. Luffy straight up kicks a desk through the wall and Arlong has no idea what he’s doing or even what he’s doing it for. This is what makes Luffy such a dangerous opponent, and slightly annoying captain. It’s not that he doesn’t think, but sometimes he makes decisions in his head without informing anyone of them leading to bewilderment and desk kicking.

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Things I love about these panels.

A) How these guys are freaking out that it might have been Luffy but are relieved that it’s not. Especially them because they are mostly concerned with Luffy’s wellbeing. Why? It’s not because he’s the hero or even because they really want a win (which they do but that’s not the chief cause). It’s because they like him so damn much and really don’t want to see him go crashing through a window and I think that’s super special.

B) Usopp’s initial gut reaction of HOMG, LUFFY! Even if he didn’t sing it to that exact tune.

C) Showing Sanji’s worry by showing his relief. That scared the shit out of him but he quickly sees it’s not what he thought it was.

D) the imprint of Luffy’s foot on the desk, even the ridges of his sandal and perhaps even his toes. XD

Luffy continues to destroy the shit out of the room as Arlong asks what the hell he is doing… and Nami…

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Has some intense flashbacking going on. (also accompanying a nice shot of Usopp)
But it just really shows how freaking cruel Arlong was to her. How much she had to work. How much she suffered. Look how dirty her dress is. Is it dirt or blood? She’s just trapped in there, cut off from everyone she knows and loves, making maps for someone who killed her mother, and worst of all? Though she’s being coerced, it’s still partly a prison of her own making. She could sneak out if she wanted, or try, but that would mean the death of everyone she loves. We know that she tries to kill Arlong to get out but can’t and even in the end, still came willingly back to her prison for a chance at hope. For a chance that one day, she would get enough money and Arlong would leave her village the hell alone. Also it shows that Nami has always been a fighter. Has always tried. But she is in over her head and can’t move forward or back.

But now her prison is being destroyed. All that torment she went through, everything Arlong set up for her is being shattered into a million pieces. Nami didn’t have the strength to break her own chains, so Luffy is doing it for her.

But let’s rewind back and go to Arlong again for a second.

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Arlong finally realizes he’s destroying his own treasure in his fit of reckless anger. He’s not paying attention to the surroundings and thinks that every physical fight can be ended in a show of brute force. But power without precision can lead to mishaps. Also again despite his insistence that he is strong enough to stand alone, in standing alone he cannot protect his treasure. Without his brothers to check his temper and bolster him, this is the result. As a counterpoint, though? Luffy’s treasure is perfectly safe. A straw hat is fragile and if Arlong knew its value he’d be certain to take advantage of that. But Nami is holding onto it for him. She is keeping it safe. (indicating too that Nami is also his treasure. As well as the rest of his nakama)

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In Stephen’s translation (which I prefer), Arlong says it took him 8 years to get Nami to draw all those maps. Whatever the translation, however, I think it’s safe to assume that Arlong isn’t bitching about it because he’s annoyed at the loss of Nami’s hard work for Nami’s sake. No, this seriously sets him back. Even if Nami has all the data to redo them, it’s going to take a while to do so. There may not be any new maps for a while and in that time the situation may change. Even if not that, who knows what may happen to Nami, but he at least had the maps there to utilize.

Important too? Most of the stuff flying out due to Luffy is shelving and desks and such. It’s possible he knocked a few maps out, too, but they could be salvageable. It’s Arlong who is the one who cut the maps because Luffy got out of the way. It’s him that ultimately destroyed them. But he shifts the blame on Luffy like he shifts the blame on other humans for making him mad enough to do things.

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This is really the first we see of this and the reason why Luffy is such a force for change in the world. He does what he wants without the need to care about all the other stuff that surrounds it. He doesn’t care what went down or what Nami did or didn’t do. All he cares about is releasing her from her prison because he likes her. This is the core reason why Luffy does pretty much anything, because he wants to. And he helps people because he chooses to. Though this may prove to his detriment in the future but for right now it’s important to remember that Luffy does what he wants.

I also love him breaking Arlong’s nose like that. It shows that Arlong is not unbeatable no matter how strong he is and also that Luffy will try a million ideas until he finds the one that works. How he got there doesn’t really matter, but it’s the same thing as crushed stone being crushed stone whether it’s bitten or punched.

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This is a damn epic shot, but what’s even more awesome is the stuff behind it…
Because let’s recap what Luffy knows.

He knows she is tense and angry. He knows that she hates Arlong so much and is so frustrated she’ll stab herself in the arm.

As for this room, all he sees is a bloody pen and hears Arlong telling him constantly that it’s Nami’s happiness to be here and make maps for Arlong’s ambition.

And that’s it.

But he knows this room is hell for her not because of anything anyone said, but because of what Nami has done and his understanding of who Nami is. You do not work with a pen encrusted with blood if you are in a good place. Another example of Luffy not listening to what people say and seeing instead what they do, understanding who they are. But he also gets more than that. It’s not just about kicking Arlong’s ass. It’s not just about knocking him out by sending him down seven floors into a table. It’s about visibly shattering the prison that Nami couldn’t allow herself to escape from. It’s about saying that he is stronger than Arlong, but that he also understands her pain and that he is making it so she never has to hurt that way again. I think most of this is subconscious though. Like he’d never articulate it this way. If asked he’d say because I wanted to. But I think it’s still strongly implied that this is what he means to do.

And Nami’s reaction to all this is of course

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Perfect. Especially from a storytelling point of view, but the manga is great with subtle touches like this. As I said no one else knows what’s going on here. They may know her past, whether because they were there or told—but I’m willing to bet only three people conscious know about that room. (and one of them is due to be unconscious very soon). And ultimately this is what matters. Her reaction. Her feelings. Her sense of freedom that she can’t even voice.

As for the image itself it’s just such a strong one because this arc has been all about breaking down Nami’s defenses and seeing who she really is and you can see here how restrained she is at her own deep emotions even as they overwhelm her. (but no matter how intensely private she is about this part of herself, Luffy will understand it)

At any rate Luffy does kick Arlong through a few stories and Arlong Park starts to collapse, everyone freaks out and…

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I love how Johnny and Yosaku are kind of directing traffic here. They are reliable in a pinch by a frog’s hair after all and showing concern for the people. I think it’s also cool that the Cocoyashi Villagers have to be herded away from the building or at least reminded to stand back because they are just so in awe in staring at it. This is a building that has oppressed their lives for at 8 years and how can you really step away from that? Also Nami’s visibly terrified that Luffy will be hurt and seems to want to go in and save him or do something. I imagine they tell her there’s nothing she can do which stops her from going in.

But her immediate gut reaction to go help him betrays how much she does care about him and his well-being.

As we go in to chapter 94, Zoro is woken up by a rock to the face wondering what the hell is going on.

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And ugh, this is just such great tension because they don’t know what happened. They don’t even know who won or if anyone is still alive. Arlong Park is destroyed, yes, but the fear is still not over. Nami’s expression is fantastic. It’s set like she’s bracing herself for the worst news. You can almost see her thinking he’s dead, but not quite believing at the same time. Not allowing herself to believe. I love, too, how Sanji is more vocal with his concerns and Genzo not being able to complete that sentence. You can interpret Usopp’s expression in a number of ways, but I personally like to think he’s mentally urging Luffy to come out and to be okay.

Which of course he does come out in a suitably dramatic fashion.

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I love how Nami and Yosaku and Johnny are just relieved and happy to see that he is still alive after all that. They don’t even know if he won yet because at this point whether he won or not is not the issue. It’s just a testament of how much Nami cares for Luffy just for his sake.

And Usopp, too. Though interestingly with Usopp, a few things…

While it can be said that perhaps Nami and the others were too relieved to notice his wounds, it’s interesting that we seem to be in Usopp’s perspective looking at them. And fairly close up. Like he has better eyesight than the others and can see just how much damage Luffy has taken. It’s also a possibility too that his negativity extends beyond himself to others. He’s not convinced right now of Luffy being able to survive anything. Like he could just fall over right now. Also, of course, Usopp has no idea if he even won or not and isn’t going to take it for granted that he has. The fight may not yet be over.

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And this? Even more tension. Nami has no idea what Luffy is going to tell her. None of them do. I think it’s easy to take for granted that we know what happened, but they have absolutely no idea. He could say that Arlong is still alive. Or that he found something out that he didn’t like that changed his mind or one of many things. Especially since he’s yelling. It almost looks like she’s a little worried about it. Like she’s still expecting some kind of blow to fall or the other shoe to drop. Like it can’t be good news if he’s yelling like that and this can’t possibly end well.

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It’s obligatory to show the iconic scenes and this is one of the big ones. Aside from that, this is what is showing that the battle is really over and has been won. It’s not just Arlong being defeated or Arlong Park shattered or Cocoyashi saved. It’s about Nami being saved. Nami’s nightmare being over and not only is she being accepted into the group she loves so much, it’s as if she never truly left and Luffy wants her to understand it. This represents the ultimate win in One Piece. Belonging, coming home again, safety, release of oppression…and of course freedom.

And ugh Nacchan breaking down like this is so beautiful. This is ultimate relief. She can’t fight the tears, nor she can she fight the smile even though she tries to control her face. But the reason she can’t is because she’s just so damn happy.

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The most fantastic thing about this? They don’t even see Arlong’s body. They don’t know if he’s alive or dead. It doesn’t matter. I love the contrast, too, because you can easily see the difference between the Strawhats’ concerns and the villagers.

Usopp and Sanji? Luffy won! He did it! Their relief is pinned solely on him. As it should be. I also like that Usopp is the first to be shown stating it (even though Usopp and Sanji could have done it simultaneously) Usopp probably views it from a broader perspective in a sense because he knows all that was at stake with a village and everything, being very much a homeboy himself. (also his hell, yess! Expression XD) and Sanji no less relieved that Luffy won and overcome with the sentiment of the moment and the fact that he’s an idiot, goes for a glomp and misses by a frog’s hair. Probably for the best.

As for the villagers? Nojiko so happy she just says Gen’s name. Doesn’t need to do anything more than that—and the palpable relief in Genzo’s face. You can really tell that he can hardly believe that everything is okay now and that the sun has finally come out. And ocf course the cheering villagers. I love the hugging couple most of all just in front of the guy with the katana. And the guy with the hat.

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Also, rofl, the belly bump… The joy here is just so palpable.
And Luffy is like a sponge. In an instant all his anger and rage is forgotten and he’s just happy and joyful because everyone else is happy and joyful and even he really just freaking loves seeing people cheer and celebrate.

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And then the Marines show up. Isn’t that always the way?

But this is actually pivotal in our understanding of how the world works and Arlong’s role in it.

Nezumi is just like Arlong. He’s greedy, controlling, takes credit where credit isn’t due for his own self aggrandizement, confiscates money that isn’t his right and thinks he can get away with it. Perhaps even darker? Asking them to put down their arms suggests that he’s going to enforce this somehow. I can see him saying that none of this can get out so at the very least he gets the SHs, Nami included, out of the way. As well as anyone he can’t directly intimidate. Sort of worse than Arlong, though? It would be harder to rebel against a corrupt Marine as we saw with Morgan.

But how does this relate to Arlong? Well, simply put, it’s saying you don’t have to be a Fishman to be an asshole. Fishmen are not evil. Or rather Arlong is just the same as a human. Even if its’ a terrible comparison in that they are both terrible people, it puts him on the same level as the rest of humanity which was where he was trying to get all along.

Though also, Nezumi himself is worse than Arlong, as we’ve discussed before, because he is a Marine and supposed to protect the people. Arlong can destroy the village and kill them, yes, but Nezumi can put them in prison. He can ruin their lives for simply surviving and him wanting what they have.

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Fortunately, the Strawhats don’t have to accept Marine authority and are strong enough to trounce Nezumi no problem. Two things here though…

First, Usopp: I love that he’s relieved and pleased as hell that Zoro is still alive (and saving the day, too). Someone has to acknowledge that he probably should have been killed from being flung like that.

Also Zoro. XD Considering when he’s woken up he’s bloody and now he’s relatively clean, I think that he probably swam at some point to get here. Also he doesn’t have any idea who these guys are or what role they play. It doesn’t matter because they are obviously being assholes and Zoro does not appreciate him trying to take these people’s hard won happiness away. Third, he’s probably in a whole lot of pain right now due to the intense fight he was in and is giving off the vibe that Nezumi really doesn’t want to be on the receiving end of a kind of bad day.

Of course the Marines get trashed anyway.

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Mostly this panel for the Straw Hats' expressions. Usopp (who I kind of doubt hit so much as one Marine…but maybe?) Looking like, yeah don’t mess with us! (which of course is true, they should not) Zoro just being kind of irritated about the whole thing, like, I told them to knock it the hell off. Luffy looking down at them like, they’re kind of dumb, huh? And Sanji just wondering if the guy is even conscious of what he’s saying. XD

Also of course another parallel to Arlong. The most of what Nezumi has in his arsenal (other than subordinates) is the power of his words and position. When he’s outmatched and they don’t care about words or position? His words are meaningless. He only has as much authority in this instance as he’s allowed to have. (which is to say none)

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I love the little details here, too. Nami putting the hat back on Luffy and Luffy looking up… this is more than just returning his hat, but taking her place in the crew, where she belongs. Also the gesture itself is just such a deep one for Nami. She is not one to indulge in deep emotions (to one extreme or another… At least not at this point) and she’s not exactly the huggy type either. So this is reads to me as an indirect touch and almost intimate gesture. She could have handed the hat to him, but putting it on him is one of possessiveness.

Also in the left panel, Luffy wondering what Nami is going to do and Sanji just heartfarting at her. XD Like ah, she’s beautiful even when she just exists! As for Nami touching Nezumi’s face, I firmly believe it’s to lull him into a false sense of security so that the resulting pummel will hurt more. She’s is quite vicious like that and her revenge is swift and painful as she smacks him hard into the water.

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This is interesting, too, because she’s making him promise all these things—but what is going to say that he keeps them? Well her nakama for one. Essentially, Nami is banking on the intimidation of others to get control of the situation and get what she wants done. We’ve seen her attempt to do the same thing before to Nezumi by saying she was one of the Arlong Pirates and they wouldn’t be happy with him being there and intimidating her. Though, admittedly, slightly influenced by Bellemere (in the whole I’ll pay with my body stuff) Nami has the culture of Arlong Park ingrained in her in some ways. What she learned there and how she learned how to survive is always going to stick with her. (though will gradually lessen over time)

Which is not an inherently bad thing. It’s not the skills you learn, after all, but how you choose to employ them and here she is employing them for the benefit of others. But this is also another staple of One Piece. People cannot help but be influenced by the major events in their past or their upbringing, for good or ill, but that doesn’t mean the future can’t be different.

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For the right panel, I picture the conversation going down something like:
Nezumi: What’s your name?
Luffy: Luffy!
Usopp: Don’t just tell him what he asks! /whap/
The left panel is Nezumi, like Arlong, trying to have one last shot at dignity and control by saying that they’ll be sorry for messing with him and that he’ll have the last laugh.

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I like that Sanji just sort of randomly comments on things. Like I don’t know if it’s suggesting that what he said isn’t clear or he’s just saying it to see what Luffy will say about it (though likely it’s just the setup for a joke. But it’s still interesting.)
Speaking of jokes though, the three translations have three different versions and I like all of them.
From Stephen’s:
Sanji: Hear that? We're gonna get what we're looking for.
Luffy: How'd he know I was gonna be the Pirate King?

From Viz: (and kind of my favorite)

Sanji: He said something terrible is going to happen.
Luffy: How did he know about me becoming the King of the Pirates.

XD also Zoro calling him a dumbass. I headcanon he’s mostly just annoyed with Luffy interrupting the flow by being dumb. They’re making a statement standing here in a line and he has to make a dump pun. (not that Zoro has any room to talk in regards to dumb puns)
Also hilarious that Usopp never quite thought through the fact that being a pirate might get you into trouble with the law, or in trouble at all. In other words, he sort of wanted to be a pirate without the consequences of being a pirate. But actions have consequences and those will always follow you in the end.

Genzo reflects that he’d never thought they’d be saved by pirates and the doctor says: You just never know…

Which is a reflection of how uncertain the world is but also, I think, how times are a’changin.

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I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the drunk guy on the far right, carrying a gift. Why? Because Oda has given him a name and a backstory, saying he was on his way home from his daughter’s wedding (drunk) and just decided to join in. And while it’s possible Oda just made that up on the fly because someone asked, I think he put him in there with intention. Now whether Oda had any idea beyond just wanting to, I don’t know… But for me, this says two things.

First of all, as we’ll see later on, even in an oppressive regime, life goes on. Daughters get married. People may not be free but they learn how to deal what they can’t shake off and that is something worth celebrating.

Second, everyone here is a person with a name and a backstory. You may not know who they are and it may not even matter but the world is full of individuals who are only just a small part of your story. And that’s kind of amazing, too.

At any rate, we see Nami, Nojiko and Genzo at Bellemere’s grave and Nami is thinking to Bellemere that finally everyone is free.

And then this:

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I think Nami is asking because she genuinely wants to know… knowing that Genzo and Nojiko have always understood Bellemere much better than herself… and basically making her intentions known. That she is going to be a pirate. (also, perhaps, trying to gauge what they think about it?)

Genzo, of course, knows Bellemere well, but not quite well enough. He’s perhaps coming from the position he’d take and the fact that Bellemere was a Marine. (also he doesn’t exactly want her to be a pirate either)

And Nojiko does know Bellemere and knows that she wouldn’t stop Nami from doing what she wanted and following her dreams, passions and just what she wants to do with her life. Bellemere has always wanted their freedom. But I like that Nojiko also gives Nami a chance to rebel one last time, and make the choice of whether to listen or not. But of course she wouldn’t. She’s free now and free to follow her dreams. And even then would have made whatever choice she wanted because she is Bellemere’s daughter.

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A few things to love about this picture.

First, the villagers setting up for the party! It’s nice to see all the little neat details like the flags and the poles for other preparations.

Second, that is Zoro screaming in pain. Which is just awesome to me. XD Because it’s not as if he’s immune to pain at all. He just blocks it out until it’s over or perhaps (and more likely) doesn’t really feel it much until the adrenaline leaves his system and then it hurts like a bitch. Also something else which I’ll get into.

Thirdly, Sanji and Usopp just chilling together, as nakama do. The parfait incident forgotten (for now) But also worried about Zoro’s state of being. Sanji still hasn’t quite figured Zoro out, but is worried enough about his continued health to call him an idiot for still moving around. (That hiragana outside of the bubble is “aho da” aka idiot) Though as for Usopp, inasmuch as he says that it’d take him two years so of course he’d be screaming, he doesn’t really seem that overly concerned about it. I think this is largely because Usopp is still very present oriented , much like Luffy. When things are bad he worries, when they’re better, what’s to worry about? The understanding of consequences are perhaps still not a thing with him.

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More things to love.

First, Johnny and Yosaku sleeping peacefully.

Secondly, Zoro, you poor bastard. Did he really sew them up by himself? Did Usopp and Johnny just watch and flinch a lot while he sewed himself back together? Or did he just get a bottle of sake to numb the pain and do it himself while on watch and consider it a job well done. Or at least, you know, done. Tangenting a bit from this, I had forgotten about this part and supposed then that Usopp or one of the others had done it. But it actually makes more sense that they haven’t as they don’t seem quite aware just how deep he’s wounded as they would if they had to sit there and sew him. It also suggests that Zoro is very used to doing things for himself and never thought or wanted to ask for help.

Thirdly, Luffy wanting a musician. XD When you look at it from Luffy!logic, it makes sense. After all, he survived a pretty rough childhood without a doctor and so far they’ve patched up fine. When they really need a doctor, hey, here one is! But they don’t always need a doctor because they aren’t always injured. A musician, however, is another bucket of meat. Sure they can sing, but a musician would know how to sing more songs and maybe even play an instrument and they always need music and dancing whether they’re injured or not. As far as crew positions go, a musician is just under cook and navigator!

But this, of course, is really sort of Luffy’s flaw in taking things for granted which he does quite often, underestimating the danger that is around them. For the most part this just leads to hilarity because they are so strong, but sometimes, for instance when he assumes a doctor isn’t as important as a musician, it ends up putting him and those who follow him in a rough situations.

After this we get a panel of Genzo laughing happily and saying that they are definitely Bellemere’s daughters.

Then we switch for the last time (for now) to Nezumi who calls the Navy HQ and demands that Luffy be declared an enemy of the state and that a price be put on his head. Also mentioning that he took down the Arlong Pirates. It’s not really necessary to show the panels, but I want to put on two things.

First, just like Arlong, Nezumi relies on others for his revenge. He doesn’t have the power/ doesn’t want to come after Luffy himself and so gets others to do the dirty work for him. But this isn’t really much of a revenge because it’s all a big maybe. If they get caught. If they captured. Nezumi really didn’t have much to do with it as they are bound to get noticed sooner or later.

Second, Nezumi is pretty crafty. By saying that they put down the Arlong Pirates instead of taking credit for himself, he paints them as super strong and perhaps more of a threat than the Arlong Pirates were. Thus, in theory, sending stronger naval forces against them.

And then we have this:

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I love that this is the image that Luffy presents to the world, basically showing how he’s going to be as a pirate for a while. Just really damned happy. A lot different from most other wanted posters. I even half wonder if he saw someone taking a picture of him and kind of posed for it. It’s difficult to tell the timing of this photo—but it at least seems to me that it’s right after Nezumi was thwapped into the water as Luffy was hated and Usopp is still peering at the rubble. If that’s so, then it means in a way that Luffy chose to present himself this way to the world. Even if not it’s still awesome.

And now?


P A R T Y T I M E!!

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But more importantly, why parties are so essential. They celebrate life. Relief. Joy. If something good happens you should live it up and party, eating, drinking, having fun with friends and this really becomes an end of arc tradition with everyone celebrating and spending vast amounts of money. Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we may die. But for tonight? We live. And man everyone is living it up. Crying with joy and just having a blast.

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And I love this moment where Sanji and Zoro are just…getting along. Which sort of shows that they can, but also that right now they don’t know each other really well yet. Still this is also the core of their relationship. They are contemporaries in terms of being men and being fighters. They’re not really in the category of up and coming boy like Usopp and Luffy are—and are also professionals in their field. So this is basically them hanging out. At the same time it’s somewhat intimate in that they are crewmates, but had they not been I can still see them hanging together like this after having just fought side by side.

Going first to Sanji—I think it’s cool that he basically just gorged himself on all the food here because why not? He does love food after all. He has to in being a cook. And he’s not afraid to indulge. Also that’s a hell of a lot of plates beside you, dude. XD Though there’s no doubt that Sanji has the healthy appetite of a 19 year old super active male, I’m also willing to bet some of those plates are Zoro’s.

Also Zoro, oh you sweet summer child. It’s of course funny that he’s surprised by this… but think of it, they’ve never been in a position to eat just as much as they want. And Luffy has been eating probably nonstop since the party started. Zoro’s just starting to get a feel for the depth of his captain’s stomach. Also for someone who drinks as much as he does, he really has no leg to stand on.

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And here Sanji and Zoro indulging in their other passions. Mostly this because I’m amused by Sanji, but also Zoro passing out. Canonically he sleeps for about three or four hours a night (according to an SBS) but I think he bolsters that through light naps during the day, and probably moreso when he’s recovering from an injury/fight/lots of food. It’s also kind of interested how isolated Zoro is from everyone else. Which is not to say it’s a bad thing. But you have Sanji running off to flirt with the ladies (and you know he probably chatted to people about dishes or just generally shooting the breeze or enjoying himself) and of course Luffy and Usopp mingle—But Zoro stays by himself. I think even at this stage he honestly doesn’t have much interest in people outside of his nakama. It’s not that he doesn’t like them but he’s not exactly a getting to know you/buddy buddy type. At least not at the moment.

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Where Luffy’s idea of having a good time is eating (and hanging out with people), Sanji’s is hanging out with people and indulging in food (whether cooking or eating) and flirting, and Zoro’s is drinking, hanging out and sleeping… Usopp’s is probably a combination of all of them, but most of all being the center of attention, which is understandable given his situation. Here, though, he really just wants people to know this super awesome thing he did. That he doesn’t have to lie about even! (Though in other translation it’s vanquishers of Fishmen officers which isn’t exactly a lie but vague at best. And another where he says he brought down the Fishmen which is a little more of a lie than the truth but the fact remains there is truth to it)

But I also think that aside from being the center of attention, this is the seed of Usopp wanting to entertain people. Everyone is cheering him on after all, and it feels good that they feel good and even asking for his autograph? It’s a good day for Usopp!

We cut to Genzo, pouring sake on Bellemere’s grave and saying that her daughters have grown into fine women and it’s almost like seeing her again.

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This forms the bridge between two themes. The first is the idea of the party. It’s not that they will party every day, but that they will never take their freedom for granted because of the heavy price that was paid for it. They will never forget how long they struggled and what it took to survive and win their freedom… But nor will they be shackled by the memory of the hard times. They will remember and move on for those that couldn’t.

Luffy comes up, bellowing about ham melon and startling the hell out of Genzo. He asks about the grave and if someone died and Genzo said a long time ago… and then:

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Genzo is speaking for himself as the closest thing Nami has to a father figure, but more importantly, I think, for Bellemere. She can no longer speak but this is what she would say, what she would wish, and so Genzo wants to make sure that her words are heard and remembered. Also for himself as well to impress upon Luffy the seriousness at which he takes this. This isn’t just a platitude but something he is serious about—even though, of course, he has no control over what may happen—but has to have faith in Luffy.

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And this completes the bridge. Acknowledging the past but at the same time learning to live in the present and appreciate the freedom and good times without becoming bitter of what might have been. You cannot change the past. No one can rewind time and mistakes are made or unfortunate circumstances occur, but when times are good it’s best to acknowledge that they are good and to not take advantage of the freedom you have.

I also seriously loves that Chabo gets a character arc which runs kind of parallel to Nami. Disaster struck his village, he was angry enough to do something but not strong enough to do it and had to rely on someone else and endure. Also the idea that part of enduring is finding the ability to move on.

Also Nojiko picking on him. XD let’s look at that.

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First of all, I think the translation in the left panel is a little off. The other translations read as Chabo calling her a meanie and her saying she doesn’t mind being thought of as a meanie (Viz) and the other that she likes being a thug (Stephans) It’s interesting because being called a punk or a meanie undoubtedly reminds her of Bellemere. Though I don’t think Nojiko is exactly and less like Bellemere than Nami is. She’s certainly more emotive about things than Nami can be, especially when it comes to something intense and personal, for ex clinging to Genzo as Arlong Park fell. But at the same time, much like Nami she’s a little tsun, especially with things like gooshy moments like these. She’s proud of what Chabo has decided, but can’t really process a way to show it and so does it in a roundabout way. I think her brilliant smile at the end speaks for that as much as for thinking about Bellemere.

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I think that, while it’s convenient to do this now before they set sail, I find it interesting she chose a day of the festivities to hide away. In fact, we don’t really see Nami at all during the party. You can debate on whether she was there or not, but I’m really leaning toward not (as to why I think so I’ll get to in a bit). Suffice to say she’s choosing now to make a change—where no one but the doctor is there so no one can comment or make a big fuss. Because the tattoo is deeply personal to her, and part of what happened here to her will always leave some kind of scar on her that she’ll never forget. We’ve already explored how parts of Arlong’s own modus operandi and what she used to survive in her position has ingrained in her personality. But I love how aware of this she is. Of how it’s always going to be with her. And there’s not any brooding attached. As if she accepts it as part of her past for better or worse.

As to why? Well..

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First, I think it’s important to realize how traumatic this was for her to begin with. Even if she agreed to wear the tattoo, you know that she was pressured into it. It’s a measure of how much Arlong wanted to control her even then. It wasn’t enough to be his cartographer. She had to belong to him and she had to know it. So she got this against her will, branding her as a pirate, branding her as loyal to someone who killed her mother. Literally everyone can see her shame. And since it’s a tattoo? She’s basically changed for life. She’s never going to be able to forget that it’s there.

But what can Nojiko do about it? There’s nothing she can say to make it better or improve the situation for Nami…

But there is something she can do

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She brands herself, too. But her tattoo represents her love for Nami and her acceptance of Nami. Something that is permanent and will never go away no matter what Nami has to do. She makes sure that Nami knows that she’s not completely alone nor singled out. Because if nothing else Nojiko will be inked up right along with her. (also I’m willing to bet the doctor had a hand in helping her. Which shows that the community does care about Nami still even if they can’t say as much) In this way, I think Nojiko takes a little of Nami back for herself and out of Arlong’s control. It’s not much but obviously Nami is touched by this and happy even though she fights still this deep emotion. (which for a girl who showed every emotion on her sleeve is a sign to how much she’s changed already)

But I think this is where Nojiko’s personality shifted, too. She couldn’t really solve the situation by words anymore. She had to start solving them by action and hoping the message got through. Words are too easy to rebel against or not believe. But doing something like this isn’t something that can be reversed.

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I love the idea of Nami using this specific memory to just bolster herself.

Also, yes the scar is still there… But Arlong’s Mark is gone. She is no longer of that world and she can make the choice to free herself of the last vestiges of it. Not only that, but she’s making a new identity for herself. One that will define her spirit and pride in who she is. Though Luffy is the one who kicked Arlong’s butt, Nami is the one who unchains herself from him completely and doesn’t let what he did prevent her from moving on with her life and chasing her dreams.

At any rate the party continues long into the night and the next day?

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Let’s just appreciate the Merry sitting In the harbor, so big and proud and waiting for Nami, the Straw Hat Flag flying high. It really is a awesome moment and feels like an adventure is just about to begin. Also all the Cocoyashi Villagers there to see Nami off.

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Farewell, Johnny and Yosaku. Nothing really big to say here except that they exist and were a big part of the story since Baratie and did their part even if they made mistakes along the way just like anyone else. I also like that they acknowledge how much the SH have helped them with things.

Also the guys on the ship— Usopp looking for Nami, Sanji saying goodbye in his typical saying goodbye to guys fashion by not saying anything but just hanging around and conveniently not looking at them either. Not that I think he formed a great attachment to them, but I think goodbyes in general are somewhat difficult for Sanji. Zoro leaning against the wall, also not saying anything but acknowledging it I think probably. Having a presence anyway. I love how he and Sanji are opposite each other, kind of like a mirror of their personalities that are similar but reversed XD And Luffy just telling them to take care. But not saying goodbye because he never says goodbye.

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So much love. Usopp worried about Nami being late, but never stopping looking for her. Zoro being a magnificent troll. Though I think it’s more of an attempt to troll Usopp rather than Sanji. And I love that Sanji gets mad at Luffy about it. I sort of like his line in the anime about Nami being 99.9% of the reason he came along. XD which I doubt is that true but that’s his sentiment here. He was looking forward to her gorgeousness on board not all these dumb dirty guys, which, excuse you, Usopp bathes every two days.

Luffy, of course, has his own gripe about looking forward to something that didn’t come to pass. He had been looking forward to that ham melon and it wasn’t anywhere to be found which meant either that Sanji was fibbing which is bad or that he ate it all himself which is worse. This is almost as bad as that parfait that Usopp never got. (and thus ends that running gag. … for now)

Below? A testament to Nami’s character defining just what money means to her. That is, (at least in a large part) taking care of the people that she loves. And it’s also showing how much she loves them. But of course we knew that because she risked her life for so long just to get that money for their sake and well-being. As far as Nami is concerned, that money has always belonged to them. I also think, too, that a part of her would rather distance herself as much as she can from the past. It’s still too raw, considering it was like two or three days ago.

Genzo says that she should at least take the money since they are the ones that owe her and Nojiko says she’d asked Nami to take a little but Nami had refused.

Nami yells for them to set sail, and this is probably why:

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They are super pushy about it. (though out of love) They want to make a scene and thank her. Nami cannot deal with that kind of emotion now, I think. Or ever. The last thing she wants to be is thanked or reminded. Mostly I think because she did what she did not for praise but because she cared about them, so them thanking her is just too much. Also probably tears inducing. And Nami is going to leave on her own terms, not theirs. She is finally going just how she wants and wants to make the most of it. Also notice she’s wearing a t-shirt. I don’t think she wants anyone to see her tattoo or ask what it means, though it has a good meaning, again it’s much more emoting than she can handle.

This is also my reason to thinking she wasn’t at the party. Or, at least, wasn’t there very long. Like I’m sure she enjoyed herself with Bellemere and Genzo as the picture that headed the chapter suggested, but I don’t think she remained to mingle long. I can imagine the villagers would have definitely thanked her profusely and/or apologized and she wouldn’t have been able to get away. I think she very much wanted to say goodbye to the place on her own terms. I really liked what the anime did with this, having her be at their old house just…breathing…and the ghost of Bellemere pushing her forward. /grabs tissue/


But maybe she’s running in part because she feels they shouldn’t thank her or apologize. It was something she did out of love, and to her, perhaps they have nothing to apologize for.

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I love this because both Usopp and Sanji ask what they should do and Luffy is basically, let her do what she wants. Which is, of course, what he always does. He lets his nakama do as they wish. It’s great, too, because he doesn’t know the circumstances really. He doesn’t know why Nami is running. But that doesn’t matter.

Also Sanji’s comment here I think is wrapped up in a couple reasons.

First, his own goodbye. Similar to Nami’s, his was wrapped up in gratitude and making sure that Zeff knew he was damn thankful for everything. In this case it’s opposite, of course, with Nami being the acceptee, and for Sanji perhaps, isn’t it better for her if she accepts their gratitude instead of running away from it? Didn’t she earn it? How will this sit with her and the village? Will it cause bad blood? Though, of course, for Sanji, I don’t think he’d accept such crushing gratitude so well himself. (well all depending on the grateful party, that is)

Secondly, being a newcomer to the game and not knowing Nami really all that well, he probably has no idea she’s as strong minded as she is. Luffy, on the other hand, knows Nami is well aware of what she’s doing and if she’s doing it it’ll be without regrets.

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Also, ugh, just the background characters. This world is so lived in. There are no names to give to these people and yet they are all distinct and dramatic and have their own history and ideas about Nami. I especially love that dramatic woman in the far right with her bangs blowing. Like, how could you leave us so readily, Nacchan! I have so much to say to you and thank you for!

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I love how Nami will never let anyone define how she is or who she is. Rather, she makes her own impression. This was true even under Arlong, but here more so because she decides exactly how she wants to leave. As a punk. XD She makes damn sure that they never forget her, but also don’t take her lightly or that she is anything other than a pirate and not a saint. By stealing their money, too, Nami is basically saying she hasn’t changed from that girl who stole the cartography books and got into continual trouble eight years ago. She’s still a punk and they’d better recognize as she reveals that she's stolen all their wallets.

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With a satisfactory results, I might add. XD She also even stole from Johnny and Yosaku which is just hilarious. And the tone is automatically changed from something kind of sad and wistful to something full of energy and familiarity.

And gosh, all their reactions.

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Usopp I think is still kind of surface. Like at this point he doesn’t see why Nami would do such a thing. Just that she hasn’t changed. Like he can’t really make out why she’s doing what she’s doing other than being, well, Nami.

Zoro is missing huge chunks of the story. XD it’s debatable what he heard of Nami’s backstory if anything. The most he saw possibly was them concerned about her (as he was there when she stabbed herself a moment later) and going up to bat for her. And then he was doing nothing but fighting and trying to survive before Luffy chucked him and he spent a long time unconscious before coming back to make Nezumi knock it off—which, again, was seeing Nami in a strong moment.

He didn’t see Nami at the party, doesn’t know she left the money behind, and what he does see is her stealing from her own. So of course he’s going to be hugely suspicious. And that he is suspicious is really anchoring him into his role as the protector of the crew. He’s the one looking out for this and the only one with the presence of mind to do so (Except perhaps Usopp a little, but when things are good, Usopp tends not to worry—whereas Zoro is vigilant until he is satisfied)

Sanji XD looking like he’s a few steps away from a nosebleed or at least a whirlwind of mellorine love. What does he love? Nami’s quickness, cleverness, badgirl attitude, and of course sudden bare swath of stomach doesn’t hurt neither.

And Luffy just cracking up, joy lines radiating from him. There’s nothing about this situation he doesn’t love.

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And I just love this contrast. Nami, despite not being able to say goodbye, also has to watch them go. She doesn’t slip away like the others and her gaze is so fond. She loves Cocoyashi so much and is so glad everyone is happy and free and even though she stole from them they still love her and want her to come back. Also, her speaking to and saying goodbye to Bellemere. Telling her she’s off to chart the world and start her own adventure.

Contrast that to Luffy. Where Nami is completely worry free in that moment, Luffy carries the weight of his promise. His face is serious as he looks back—because you know it’s not enough just to say that you won’t take away her smile, but a promise carries so much more. Especially for him. But a thumbs up is all it takes. He will do all he can.

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And, at long last, Nacchan is free. Let’s just take a moment to enjoy her completely open and happy expression as she waves goodbye… and says (though not here) that she’ll be back soon. She won’t leave Cocoyashi forever. This is not goodbye, goodbye. More like an I’ll see you later.

What I love, though, is that it doesn’t end there. Instead we come back to this.

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First I like how everyone is just collapsed there on the dock, as if the emotional weight of Nami (and the SHs for Johnny and Yosaku) leaving was too much and they just had to sit down or fall down. And Nojiko laughing at Nami’s leaving but I think also trying not to cry. She left free and no telling when she’ll come back but she never really changed at all. But this is nice here because there’s a sense that these people are going to continue with their lives. It’s not just Nami’s story, but theirs as well…and though we won’t see them, they’ll continue to exist.

Also the doctor showing Genzo Nami’s tattoo design. That it’s a mikan, for Bellemere, Nojiko and the grove, and a pinwheel for Genzo, but also perhaps the simple happiness she won’t forget of just being cared for by him and the other villagers of Cocoyashi. That is best emphasized here.

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I love that Genzo wore it just to get her to smile because he wanted to participate in the baby’s happiness, too. I love that he still wore it even if she wouldn’t understand why. Maybe he was hoping she would see it and at the very least see something familiar and maybe a part of her would remember how to smile. Wearing it was also a show of silent support even when he couldn’t verbally support her for her own good. Also, I really love that the last we see of Nami in terms of Cocoyashi is her laughing face of just existing, happy and free.

And we part ways with Cocoyashi with Bellemere’s grave with a tangerine and a pinwheel lazily spinning as the Merry sails off into the distance.


Control … First to define control. Here I mean the ability to make a person/people do what you want them to do, or think of you how you want them to think.

…is Difficult to Maintain

For Arlong, control was a constant struggle to maintain. First of all, he had to keep his numerous villages in line. That he had to constantly make threats, coercion, get mad enough to flip houses suggests that they didn’t just knuckle down under his rule, no matter how hopeless they felt. Even Chabo, a kid, was set to go against him rather than being docile and accepting his decision. Moreover, the moment he decided to force Nami to be his cartographer, the moment Cocoyashi became a big problem. There was no way Arlong could wipe it off the map as it was Nami’s sole motivation for working for him. But he couldn’t let them know that and so had to keep constant pressure, but not too much so that they broke. He also had to control Nami and keep a constant eye on her, making sure she doesn’t make false maps and always on the lookout from being assassinated or perhaps having someone sent for his head. Though he was pleased whenever he could control her, he would have never been able to trust her completely.

Adding to that the delicate balancing act the Navy represented. That Arlong was forced to pay off Nezumi meant even he was intimidated by the Navy. (Perhaps Nezumi’s unit knew the waters in that area as well as Arlong did) But at the same time, he had to send a message to any Marines who did not get the memo, risking their anger, though at the same time spreading his own ‘unstoppable’ reputation.

Also, he constantly had to show how superior he was to the humans around him. He could not let himself slip up even once. This wasn’t even easy before Luffy as he was forced to threaten Cocoyashi and hope that they didn’t call his bluff. Also forced to overturn Gosa for not doing as they should. If people have one shred of hope or see one instance of weakness in him, more would be inclined to rebel. This only proved more and more difficult the longer he fought Luffy. It’s easy to see his struggle for dominance and proving he’s the one on top—even as Luffy repeatedly either meets or bests his challenges.

Nami, much like Arlong, had to have continual control, but of herself and how she was viewed by others. While she’s good at projecting a certain image for a while, she cannot maintain it indefinitely. She too obviously shows emotion like hurt or fear or anger when things start to slip from her tenuous grasp. She can only make people believe she is who she isn’t for so long before the truth comes out in one form or another. For instance, with Zoro, she’d half convinced him she really was a witch until she saved him and later freed him. Likewise for Usopp, she convinced him she was evil before saving him and hurting herself to do so.

…can be detrimental …

Not all control is born out of a need for dominance. The Cocoyashi Villagers are a rather controlling bunch themselves, out of love for Nami. Still this kind of control was hurtful in a big way, no matter where their hearts were at. First, they struggled to make Nami think of them as people who disliked or at least intensely disapproved of her. For eight years they kept up this façade. And why? Not because they didn’t want to become an accidental target for Arlong, but because they wanted to drive her out for her own good. Rather than allowing her to have her own agency and make her own decision, they attempted to force her hand. When that didn’t work and they could no longer maintain their coldness toward her, they decided that they should fight Arlong and she be left behind to survive.

As much as they did this out of love for Nami it doesn’t change the fact that: Nami was severely hurt by all this. Aside from Nojiko, she was pretty much alone for eight years with no community except for the toxic one that Arlong represented, where she was both loved and hated and teased at Arlong’s capriciousness. And you’d better believe he got vicious with her in one way or another. The villagers, in finally wanting to confront Arlong to protect her, forcing her to stay behind, made her so angry and feel so hopeless that she stabbed herself. (though admittedly they only had a small part to play in this as most of her rage and frustration was due to Arlong.) Nami

….must be given

Control is an illusion. Control must be given by the controlees to the controller. Which is not to say that those who are controlled asked for it… or that they should be blamed. After all, Cocoyashi did allow Arlong control, yes, but if they had not he would have killed them. Sometimes the price is just not worth it. On the other hand, had he killed them, he would have nothing to farm money from. But they could and did rise against him when it was too much.

The same goes for Nami. Except in her case, she’s not quite as aware of her position as Arlong is. I’ll get into why in a second but for some examples…

The Cocoyashi villagers allow Nami to think that they dislike, disapprove of her. Even, perhaps, that they are somewhat intimidated by her. Likewise Arlong allows her to think that she can hide her true emotions from him. But when the villagers want to fight Arlong, they don’t let Nami stand in their way no matter how intimidating she tries to be. And as for Arlong? Well no matter how closed off Nami tries to be, he always finds ways to hurt her or make her nervous.

But because she is allowed to assume she has this control over how she appears to them, she believes that no one can see through it. Which is why she grows increasingly frustrated by Luffy’s persistence. Because Luffy refuses to allow her to control him by emotional manipulation. He has seen who she is and until he has a satisfactory answer as to why she is so different, he won’t leave it alone or let her lies get to him. Zoro also called her on her bluff to an extent.

This isn’t to say she’s not good at manipulating others, of course, but as I said she can’t maintain it. When it comes to things that beat too strongly against her morals, she can’t follow through. This was even the case in the Buggy Arc when she just couldn’t kill Luffy.
Also, at the end of the arc, Nami herself did not allow others to control how she departed. She wanted to leave how she wanted to leave. In her own way. There was nothing they could say or do to stop her and could only wish her well from afar.

…can be maintained with a little freedom and the illusion of hope…

And this is why, though Arlong failed at the end, he was so good at it for so long. He let the villagers do what they wanted (with certain caveats to prevent rebellion) so long as they paid up. But Nami was the worst, of course. He strung her along by letting her think all she had to do was work a little harder and she’d be free. He also gradually loosened the reins… though I’m sure he made her earn it, all the while knowing it was to his benefit. For example he made her an officer, which meant she could order others, both for her cartography and protection. He let her wander around the seas collecting treasure…both for his benefit in terms of future treasure and a deepening of her understanding of the East Blue sea. No matter where she went, he knew Cocoyashi would draw her home.

He even devised some plans for after when he knew that he could no longer hold Cocoyashi over her or allow her the hope to buy it back, planning to resort to bribery with fancy things. This though? Shows that while it can be maintained through illusion and a little freedom, it’s still not something that is going to last forever. Hope can only hold out so long until you have to start paying up some dividends or it turns into despair and cynicism.

Need for Nakama

From this arc we finally have a full idea of what being nakama entails, by showing a variety of different nakama groups, building up to an ‘nakama ideal’. So let’s explore what groups we have.

The Cocoyashi Villagers are not so much a nakama group, of course, so much as village converted into extended family unit through a crisis, looking after one of their own. But it is worth noting that they form the base of any nakama group, that is supporting/looking out for one another and using solidarity to protect one of their number just because they love them. There is sacrifice here and no expectation of return of affection. In fact they would rather she didn’t because all they are looking for is her to be safe.

The Arlong Pirates form a more traditional nakama group with a rough hierarchy and a single goal that is largely tied into their captain’s dream, but also mutually beneficial. However it must be said that they’re a little different from most (pirate) nakama groups because they are more of a family. Because they are Fishmen, an oppressed people anyway and chose to follow Arlong out of admiration and respect, there is more leeway for weakness and mistakes.
They care about Arlong deeply. Though they admire his strength, they acknowledge his flaws, ex his tendency to rampage when he’s super pissed, and work together to get him out of the situation before he makes things worse. There is no sense that any of them look down on him or even think less of him. Likewise, there is the sense that they are quick to forgive him if he does mess up, or at least not get angry—as evident by the one whose face Arlong castaneted.

But it does not stop there, because Arlong affords them the same level of affection, care and respect that they give him. He is concerned about their well-being. He mourns when they are hurt. Though he is definitely in charge and does chastise them occasionally, they don’t fear him at all. His officers are even allowed to order him to stay put and not to interfere, which he does because he knows that they know what is best. And he knows that they can take care of themselves and beat the crap out of these interlopers.

So essentially, it’s taking the concept of familial love, but also adding common mutually beneficial goal and mutual respect and caring.

Then you have the ideal nakama forming, which is of course the Straw Hats.

Familial love, mutual respect, common mutually beneficial goal but what does Luffy have and they are forming to make it ideal? Teamwork. Doing what they can do to make up for each other’s flaws. It’s still very much a work in progress, of course, and there will be bumps and hiccups along the way—because they also have to learn to acknowledge their own flaws, their own strengths, and figure out the flaws in their nakama that they don’t even know they have… But essentially the ideal revolves around this concept of acceptance, love, fun, and giving all you’ve got for your own. We’ll explore this more as it develops.

Pride Comes Before the Fall

We see this in both the Arlong Pirates and the Straw Hats.

For the Arlong Pirates, very much including Arlong himself, it’s obvious. The Fishmen thought that humans would prove an easy fight, but they were proven wrong. The officers thought they could take down Zoro, Sanji and Usopp by themselves, they were also wrong. Because they didn’t work together, they lost big time, despite the tricks Arlong used to help the fight go along a little easier (such as chucking Luffy into the sea). But why they didn’t work together is because of their enormous pride…

And why they have their pride I think is largely due to Arlong continually prodding it into them. But this was all to their detriment in the end. He convinced them of their superiority so much that the Fishmen couldn’t even conceive of being beaten, even though Arlong knew how dangerous they were—at least Zoro. Arlong knew the full score. He always did. And what he was up against (to an extent). The officers didn’t know and couldn’t see it. That’s how Chu was continually tricked by Usopp because he was so convinced he’d win. That’s how Sanji pummeled Kuroobi because Kuroobi didn’t even stop to think that Sanji was only distracted.

Pride is also what caused Arlong himself to fall. He not only had to one up Luffy, but had to make Luffy admit that he’d been one upped, out witted, tricked. The less it happened, the more aggravated Arlong got and it made him careless in the end. I think that as much as he considered Zoro a threat, he never would have thought that Luffy would be that much of one. A tough opponent perhaps, but not one that could beat him.

Pride is what also got Sanji and Zoro’s asses kicked in the beginning because they both had to make a statement. But in standing alone were ineffective. Fortunately their nakama being alive means more to them than pride and so learned to work together in order to, not even win the day, but pave the way for Luffy.

The Sun Will Surely Rise…

The biggest theme in the entire arc was the nature of endurance. That hard times happen to everyone and there is no shame in just holding out til better times come. But let’s break this down a little more…

no shame in not fighting

This ties in with the ‘control must be given’ idea. The Cocoyashi Villagers gave Arlong control, yes, (after intense struggles I might add) but only because the cost of fighting him was too great. So instead they found a way they could endure. Even if it meant a continual wearing down on their pride and purses. (and it was largely for Nami’s sake that they did).
making the most of a bad situation

This is because enduring does not mean ceasing to live. In essence, this is what you do when you endure. Find a way to live with it. In Cocoyashi’s case, life went on as normally as it could. They worked, made money, got married… but Genzo also “collected” weapons…perhaps just in case for some day when they would have no choice but to rise against Arlong again.

But even as they endured, Nami endured as well, as best she could and as best as she knew how to live with. Though she tried to be proactive in her own freedom, when it failed, she never gave up hope. Even when Arlong had betrayed her she never gave up hope that one day she would be able to be free and that good times would come again. That is probably why enduring is so much harder than just going down with the ship. To have to live in this kind of hell while never knowing when the sun would rise, but still keep looking forward to the day that it did.
And when the sun does rise again?

Celebrate Good Times

When the worst is over, celebrate! It’s important not to take good times for granted, especially if you’ve had a long hard slog in getting to those good times. Smiling again is the entire point of enduring in the first place. Also it’s the first step to learning to live again. Though it’s not so much a celebration of things returning to normal, because there is no going back to what it used to be. But rather it’s coming together, making something new, reforging bonds and creating new ones and just enjoying life.

And keep moving forward

The best way to explain this is to use the old axiom: “Help me accept what I cannot change and change what I cannot accept”

Let’s use Nami as the prime example for this. She will always have the scar of Arlong’s Mark. She will never be able to get rid of the imprint he has made on her, or how he has shaped her way of thinking and who she became as a person. She can’t rewind time and save Bellemere or realize sooner that Arlong would trick her. She has no choice but to accept her past.

But she doesn’t have to be stuck in it either. She can’t accept Arlong’s mark? She gets rid of it and takes control of her own destiny by giving herself a tattoo to mean what is important to her. She can’t accept being bound to the island and not chasing her dream, so she gets up and chases it.

These ideas are the culmination of endurance. The final process of it. Not just holding on, but learning to let go and break free to build something new.

…and finally…


I think it’s important to realize that everything in this arc was motivated in some way by love. Some of it is obvious like Nami’s love for her village, Nojiko’s love for Nami, Luffy’s love for Nami…

And the Cocoyashi Villagers love for Nami. Because you know love isn’t easy. We see that with Bellemere. She loves them the best way she knows how but she struggles and she makes mistakes because she’s only human. So it’s vital to realize that the Cocoyashi Villagers, while it may have been hard on Nami doing what they did, it was the best thing they knew how to do . And at the end of the day when it was all over? They wanted to make up for it and apologize for it. Hell, even before that they wanted to, to take the burden off her shoulders. Whether it was a good thing or a bad thing in the end is up in the air, but the important part is they did it with her best interests at heart.

Likewise, I think it’s important to point out that, yeah, Arlong was an absolute beasts to the humans, but although he definitely wanted the self aggrandizement of the Arlong Empire, it was not something he was creating for his pride alone. There’s no concrete evidence I can pull for this, but I think you can easily infer this place was for Fishmenkind and for the pride of Fishmenkind. Some place where they could be the ones in power for once. Though it’s not even so broad a concept as that—but for his brothers that are with him to help him make this dream come true. He wants somewhere where they can be wealthy, they don’t have to worry, are strong/rich enough not to suffer discrimination and can be safe. This is pulling from things later on, of course, not just what is presented in the Arlong Park Arc alone.


Since I’ve covered a lot throughout, I will only be focusing really on Nami and Usopp since the arc is about Nami and Usopp had the greatest change in it. Still, for all of the Straw Hats, this is the arc which fully rounds out their personalities at the beginning of the journey. We’ve seen basically who they are, their strengths, their flaws, what impact they’ve had on the world, and their dreams. So from here on out, we’ll probably be more exploring how they’re starting to relate and bounce off one another.


At the end of the day, who is Nami?

Nami at her truest self is someone with a passion for life and exploration. Her love runs deep and she will dedicate herself to those that she cares about. She will even sacrifice herself for them if it is necessary. If not sacrificing herself in hard work, she will in sacrificing her own emotions. But, note, only when it is necessary. When all other options have been exhausted. (though we’ll explore that as we come to it) Other than that, she is brilliant and super confident in herself and her abilities. She knows just what she can do and how to do it. No one can shake her confidence or her belief in herself. Even if she’s probably overconfident in convincing people she loves she doesn’t love them, it’s only because she can’t hide her compassion for them. And she is compassionate and protective, especially to those weaker than herself (much like Usopp).

Also important to note? Nami is headstrong. She is never going to be anyone than who she is. Though Arlong left a mark on her that she can’t erase (aka not afraid of using people as her muscle, manipulating the shit out of others with either charm or threats, knowing how to use money to work for her, being incredibly closed off) he was never able to change her to something other than herself. Nami never gave up and never gave in. She never sacrificed her own morals for the sake of treasure (even though she was kind of tempted once or twice) But also, while Arlong influenced her? So did Bellemere, a lot more than Arlong. From Bellemere she got tough, fierce love and her protective streak. Her willingness to endure despite the odds stacked against her and short temper.

Also finally and most important, while she loves money, and has a somewhat unhealthy relationship with it, she nevertheless uses it primarily to care for other people. Though leaving all the beri with the village was a huge example and out of the ordinary, we’ll definitely see it later. (and we actually see it quite often)

Nami is at the beginning of a journey. Though unlike Usopp who is just stepping on the road to adulthood, Nami left her childhood far behind. Here she is breaking out of her shell and exploring the world as someone free to do what she wants and to feel the wind in her hair.


Usopp experienced the most change in this arc. He started out treating it like a game, taking in the seriousness of it only when it was happening right under his nose, but is slowly starting to realize that he can’t just say that he’s one of them and run away. If he wants to be a brave man of the sea and help his nakama, he actually has to act like it and put some effort in, do his best. Which he does and which he succeeds! We also see his push and pull in his concern for his nakama. Though he may have every faith in them while they are fighting, he gets really concerned for them when they are vulnerable and bleeding. He really doesn’t like seeing his friends get hurt and we’ve seen how his body moves without him. We’ve seen Usopp step up to the plate and hide behind a wall. He’s supportive of his nakama while still trying to be the center of attention and claiming victories that he has nothing to do with.

Ultimately, this arc changes Usopp’s mentality into something a little more serious as he starts to realize, accept, and step up to what he’s gotten into. Though that still doesn’t mean he wants to accept the full consequences of it. Like getting in trouble with the Marines. So we’ll continue to see Usopp going back and forth a while, between confident and boastful to freaking out over things he should have considered to begin with.


Nami vs. Usopp: Or, Cocoyashi vs. Syrup. Nami and Usopp have a lot in common. They are both considered part of the ‘weak trio’ (as Usopp coined it), they are both village brats and they both have about equal levels of courage. So where does Nami get her strength and confidence where Usopp falters? I think it has a lot to do with two factors…

First and foremost, Nami had to be this way. She had no other choice but to develop this sense of self or have it be chewed up by Arlong. Usopp was only put to the test after Luffy and co. showed up. In other words, he had more of a chance at a childhood and more opportunity to be soft.

Secondly, in as much as Banchina and the Usopp pirates did their best, Nami had a much stronger support system. Bellemere was the one who gave her her confidence by encouraging her to grow and do as she pleased. Likewise even if Nami only knew she had Nojiko, Nojiko was a strong presence and reliable. Someone who could be Nami’s emotional shelter if nothing else. And she also had the village before Arlong came. Genzo to look after her and the people to shake their heads in amusement. Usopp didn’t have that so much. Banchina loved him, yes, but she’s not a force of nature like Bellemere was (nor should she be). After she died, Usopp basically had no one and he had to bolster himself, hanging out with kids that were much younger than him and needing to impress them so that they remained friends with him. You sense a greater disconnect between Usopp and Syrup than you do with Nami and Cocoyashi. Though naturally, Usopp loves his home just as fiercely.

But… that’s okay. Whether their upbringing gave them good or bad experiences in the end is up for debate, but it’s okay that Usopp doesn’t have Nami’s sense of self and strength. Because he knows a much softer world. He knows what simple pleasures are like, or the comforts of a home, living in peace, even if it was lonely peace. When he gets settled in, he’ll bring that to the table. Nami, for as much as she was loved, also suffered serious upheaval. She knows how to survive. She knows what she wants and who she is. And she knows how to keep others alive too in the ways that count and that’s what she’ll bring to the table. But it’s interesting to see the compare and contrast.

Sanji<->Zoro They’re…still getting to know one another really. But they’re pretty okay with one another. It’s an interesting contrast to their later antagonism toward each other but even so, they never really lose that sense of working together when it is important to do so. (The Groggy Ring fight notwithstanding) But I posit that their sniping at each other later on is a sign of how close they are rather than how much they dislike one another. But we will explore that when we come to it. Suffice to say that they can get along, even just hanging out in the same space.

Date: 2015-04-02 04:21 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] viridiansoul
Before I read your analysis I never fully grasped the fascinating complexity of Arlong&Nami relationship...Arlong's obsession with Nami is understandable but kind of creepy, and it's really interesting how although Nami despises Arlong, some of her main traits definitely resemble those of his. Nami's relationship with Arlong strongly reminds me of the one Law has with Doflamingo, in that both of them were shaped by the ones they loathe the most to some extent. I know there's a whole new level of complexity, obsession and enmity to Doflamingo-Law relationship that is incomparable even to Arlong-Nami, but I know you'll cover that when you get there...maybe several decades later...? XD

Also, congrats on finally wrapping up all the major arcs of the East Blue Saga! I know there's Logue Town left and maybe you're thinking about writing on the cover stories as well but at least you're finished with the biggies. Not much left till Grand Line! :D

Date: 2016-02-06 10:36 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] the0nlykun
lol sanji wasnt thinking about nosebleed,the nosebleed came after fishmen island,
yeah he didnt know nami san really well,but that did not stop him from defending her against zoro or putting his life on the line for her ,
lol ,keep telling yourselves he was joking,youll be surprise after the wedding arc


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