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And here we reach the most pivotal chapters of the first arc of One Piece, the part where the messages of the overall series really start to drive home, and the scene which, I think, is one of the most important to drawing people in. In this part, we’ll look at the nature of protection, Bellemere’s wish, and explore Nami as she reaches the end of her first arc of characterization.

We move on, from the trauma of the last chapter as we come into the beginning of this arc’s message and what makes it so powerful.

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I love that even though we just saw Bellemere die, we return to her again at the moment when her bright future is ahead of her. She’s just recovered from a battle in which she lost all hope, but she found it again with these two girls. Nami looks so sweet curled up against her shoulder, oblivious to the world. Importantly, she’s looking at Nojiko when she says this. She’s not looking at the villagers in defiance or anything else, because it doesn’t matter what they do or say. This is their first moment as a family. Also, I love how she has a hand for each kid. She’s holding Nami, but is keeping a hand on Nojiko, saying she’s included.

As for the villagers, well forget the “we won’t say anything bad” line, since that makes no sense. (and the other translations they’re just telling her to stop because it’s a bad idea). Though I have to wonder why they are so panicked about it. XD I think it’s likely due to the fact that Bellemere was a delinquent before she joined the Marines and all they can see is this decision going downhill. Perhaps she’s made bad decisions before and it’s gone downhill.

Off topic, I wonder what these Government Orphanages are like. I mean we’ve seen plenty of orphaned or abandoned children, but not one, iirc, who has been to one of the orphanages. (Ruminates on certain kids in these places being raised and trained for CP or Marine groups).

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I love how Bellemere is so scary that she makes them flinch back from her. She is such a strong woman though. The translation “I straightened up” is also translated as “I joined the Marines to straighten up” (whereas the viz just mentions she went to sea and war so is capable) Interesting how each translation provides a subtle variation for Bellemere’s character. Personally, I prefer the one that suggests that she joined the Marines to straighten up. This provides motivation for a delinquent to join—and showing that she does realize the flaws in herself and is struggling to overcome them. And, ho damn, she’s assertive. She won’t let anyone tell her what to do once she’s set her mind on something.

Also in the second panel, I love this to bits. First that she’ll raise them into fine women. How does she do that? Well we’ve seen it. She’s raising them into fine women by accepting and encouraging who they are. Being on their side against the world, but also not letting them stray into doing bad things—even when it would be easier. (Like stealing) She teaches them to endure by words, yes, but by enduring herself. By saying that next year will be better.

I think, though, ultimately what’s so amazing about that is, right now, this is a new concept for her. I don’t believe she started out so optimistic. We saw that she was ready to give up and die during the war. But she found the hope to move on and to go forward in Nami’s smile. Nami just who she was, just existing, was enough to not only save Bellemere’s life, but to give her impetus to move forward. Which is not to say that Nojiko had no role to play here. I’m sure if it was just here, Bellemere would have done the same, but I think it may have been a little harder. A little more serious. With Nami, again, there’s a sense to keep her innocence intact which is where all the ‘it’ll be better soon’ comes from.

Speaking of Nojiko, I love how quiet she is here and how focused she is on Bellemere even with people flipping out behind her. She really seems like a child that’s been traumatized and is looking toward the one stable person in her life right now. She can’t even react to being told she’ll be taken care of.

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Bellemere, please. Nami, please. I’m not really going to touch on it too much, because I honestly, I just think it’s something Nami picked up (having no idea the implications) and Bellemere probably isn’t aware that she uses-- Though springing from it, (and diverging slightly into headcanon territory) I think it does play into how Nami uses her body. I don’t think at all that all that she’s used it sexually. (in terms of physical intimacy) But she is obviously very comfortable in her own skin, and is fine with displaying it (on her own terms). So I can imagine her coming back to this line as her body starts to develop. Of figuring out how to use her femininity and good looks to lure those she’s stealing from into a false sense of security. We’ll examine that more as we get into things. However right now, of course, she’s saying that because Bellemere does it and it works and also to get him to react.

Also, I want to point out the other villagers having a presence here. They are reacting and grinning at her antics. A reminder that this is everyone’s story.

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I love that they are girls, (i.e. not really tomboyish) but still make the boys cry. Again. XD Nami and Nojiko are not to be trifled with. I love, too, how the mother of the boy(s) is so understanding. And then in the second panel a display of Bellemere’s childish temper as she pops the kid in the head. Ex-Marine or not, there’s still a lot of punk about her. XD

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It’s just so presh, though. All of this. Their faces as they carry the heavy basket and Nami presenting a huge mikan, Bellemere smiling and super proud of them. Also even girls have to be strong. I love this line. Even better because it’s explained. What is strength in this case? What does she mean ‘don’t ever lose to anyone?’ It seems like she’s saying they have to be physically tough in order to not lose a fight.
But what is she really saying? Let’s look at it in parts.

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Don’t lose yourself to hate, anger and bitterness. Even though the world (or the times as it’s also translated) are hard and has been really unfair, good things happened during those times, too. And there’s no point in dwelling on what you cannot change and lose yourself to anger over it.

This really fuels my headcanon at Bellemere having some tough shit to go through pre-Marine days. I can see her hating the world which is what made her lash out.

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This is both a harsh and important lesson to learn. The world is a cruel place and not everyone is going to accept them for who they are. They might have to go through incredibly hard times. But here she is telling them to be who they are no matter how hard it is. To never give up or give in to the ways others think they should act or be. Why? Because they are fine just as they are, flaws and all. Also to smile, which isn’t easy when there are hard times, but smiling and hoping is a way to endure.

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The sun will surely rise. And, man, what a hard time to have to accept that sentiment. To hold out and endure and not give up hope for a brighter day tomorrow. Their world has just been ripped to shreds (and will start to tear even further) and you can already see how hard this is for them and would be for anyone.
So the kids scream Bellemere’s name and then we have this.

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And I want to show this just because it’s interesting to me. Because yes he’s like ‘money or die’ because it’s a measure of controlling the people through fear and because he’s a bully—But I also can’t help but wonder if it’s such an extreme pushback because of what happened with Fisher Tiger. And then this level of brutality was something that stuck with him. I have no proof of it of course and it’s mostly just headcanon at this juncture—but I can see him saying it without having gone to this extreme before and then deciding that yes it’s good and a suitable revenge and even more so to make humans essentially his slaves and have them hate every minute of it—which is of course a response to the Tenryuubito (and other nobles/people) attitude toward Fish/Merkind for who knows how long.

At any rate, Arlong gloats over the beaten “pathetic” humans and then this:

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First the top panel? This shows more than anything that these maps are Nami’s treasure. And I think it goes a long way to showing how much confidence and self esteem she has that she wants them because they are hers , she made them and that she is going to sail the world with them. She trusts herself enough to follow her own maps and that is just really freaking cool. Since it’s also a reflection of Bellemere. Nami’s sense of confidence was cultivated and encouraged by Bellemere, leading to her demanding them back. Though of course she’s still very much a child and it’s a very: ‘that’s mine don’t touch’ about it. I don’t think it even occurs to her that she’s going to get hit for it (despite what happened to Bellemere) because she has a child’s recklessness.

Of course Nojiko knows how dangerous they are and is terrified of Nami meeting the same end.
Finally, Arlong, you raging asshole. You can already see the gears turning in his head—and of course we know how he is going to use these maps and what he’s going to make Nami do. The hardest part of all this is? Again this is her treasure to do as she likes with it. But her treasure is about to be taken out of her hands (as well as her agency) and warped by Arlong’s plans.

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I think Nami’s reaction is possibly less about what Arlong said and more Hachi reaching for her. I also love Nojiko doing her best to stop Hachi and Nami fighting to get free of him. They are already girls who fight—it doesn’t matter how big the enemy, they’ll fling themselves at them to protect the ones they love. The same, of course, can be said for the villagers of Cocoyashi as evidenced below.

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Aww Genzo. He was already beaten by Kuroobi once but he is still getting back up to fight. The people of Cocoyashi do not lie still for nothing. (well almost nothing) I love that he challenges Arlong for the sake of Nami. And Arlong doesn’t even turn around. (Though it also shows how much trust he puts in Kuroobi’s skill. It’s interesting that Kuroobi is the one with the sword rather than Hachi in this case… but I think Hachi perhaps is good enough to kill if he needs to but not good enough to not kill and Kuroobi, being good with Fishman Karate, is more controlled)

Also this is the last vestige of Nami’s protected childhood. She’s still going to be a child, but an unprotected one at the whim of a cruel manipulative adult. But for the first ten years, she was happy and carefree. And that’s something.

Kuroobi cuts at Genzo, giving him his scars and then:

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Genzo continues to be amazing, but I want to revise something—

I think that while I said there was a slight bias against Nami/Nojiko as strangers… I still believe it’s true, but it’s focused heavily on the doctor. I’m not even behind that 100% and I think that he’s a good guy still because it was the only solution he could have and he really wanted to do what was best. Beyond that though, the villagers all stand up for Nami’s sake to save her even though they have little chance.

As for Nami? It’s one thing for Genzo to get beat up by Kuroobi but another to see blood and she realizes that they could all die. Here she makes the crucial choice that is affecting her even now. She doesn’t want help. Anyone’s help. Because she doesn’t want them to get hurt because of her. And it’s more than just I think being scared of being hurt. I sort of wonder if it ties into a guilty feeling somewhat associated with Bellemere. If we were rich we could still be her daughters. If I didn’t make maps maybe this wouldn’t have happened. I can’t say it for sure but it’s something worth thinking about definitely. Whatever your headcanon or interpretation, from here Nami’s decided to take care of things on her own.

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Not that it works of course because Arlong can’t allow any kind of uprising. They stand up they’re gonna get beat down and he’s going to enjoy watching it. And man they’re really kind of brutal for not killing. Getting bitten in the neck and getting head slammed and cut… geeze.

And of course poor Nojiko, she is almost completely powerless and she’s lost everything too. I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s having flashbacks to the time when their home village was destroyed.

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Poor Nojiko. This is really hard for her. Though I love that she’s still protective even now, wanting to do something for Nami but not even knowing what— she’s so small and alone. :( I wonder if she was really close to any of the villagers as a child. It’s difficult to say.

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Once again, Arlong is smart. He can’t afford anyone running off and getting help just yet. If they do manage to evade his grasp, that’s less income for him. Also the line with the Marines (also translated as: “The Marines won’t respond, as I feared”) seems to suggest either that Arlong is already in cahoots with Nezumi (or someone like him) but given what the doctor says about Bellemere knowing they had no chance, I think the real reason is something different.

We find out as the townspeople are meeting and, realizing Arlong intends to set up a base here, discuss what to do. The doctor lays out the choices, which are either tough it out under Arlong’s rule in hopes the government will save them or fight to the death.

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In other words, it seems to suggest, the Marines weren’t responding because they are not equipped to handle Fishmen. We’ll just keep this part in mind for now, because while Genzo is right in some respects, he’s not entirely right in all of them.

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Aww, you guys. <3 Nami is still protected, far more than she knows, by people willing to die for her if needs be. I also love that we know nothing about the villager that spoke up but we don’t need to. This is still part of his story. He is part of Cocoyashi’s story. He’s not just some random blank faced guy or someone that will turn out to be a hero or that we’ll likely never see again. (Never say never with this series) Yet he has a very strong presence.

They all agree to fight for Nami’s sake (since they’ll all likely to be blamed and suffer the punishment which is kind of a hole in Arlong’s thinking with this group) when Nami comes down the street.

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Once again I love Oda’s expressions. Genzo is just so visibly relieved that she is here and that she is (presumably) safe. It’s such a dramatic change from his angry (or even usual!) expressions.

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But damn, Nami is strong. She’s gone from a relatively sheltered life to have everything upended—but here, not only has she joined Arlong’s crew in order to save everyone, she has to lie about it because she doesn’t want them to get hurt. Plus she can’t have gotten the tattoo too long ago and it probably still hurts (though not as bad as what she’s having to do right now)

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Right away, Nojiko is hesitant to buy it. After all, pre-Arlong, it didn’t seem like Nami was ever much for smiling through her tears, or not expressing an emotion when she felt it. Here, she’s seriously holding back. Of course, Genzo is trying to protect her and trying to believe that she was forced into it…. But given her record I think it may be a little easier to believe her than not. (And to his credit, they’ve all suffered from a series of devastating shocks, him included, so emotions are running a little high right now) Also I love Nami’s expressions as she shakes her head. There’s just something so dynamic and strong about the bottom three panels.

Nami yells at Genzo to let her go and they all respond with shock and horror at the tattoo on her arm. So Nami enacts the second phase of her plan.

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Make it seem plausible so they don’t ever try coming after her or hoping to save her. This is a technique she refines in later life, probably based on the consequences of what happens her, of making people hate her. It’s something we’ve seen her do continuously through this arc. Even before it, her main drive when interacting with others was to not let anyone close to her, though of course the SH, Luffy in particular, got under her skin.

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In another translation, Nojiko says “Don’t you know what they are?!” It’s sort of ambiguous, because she could be referring to what just happened—But I think it can also be read that she knows what pirates are like either from stories from Bellemere, or even first hand experience. I can very well see pirates being the one attacking her town and Nojiko dislikes them intensely and probably has some extra trauma associated with them. I am inclined to believe that she’s seen pirates and knows what they are capable of, since this is the trigger that hits her temper and has her believe the story that Nami is telling.

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This, of course, is not something to be taken completely at face value. Nami says things she doesn’t mean when she’s angry or stressed. And right now she’s more stressed then can be believed. However, there is a kernel of truth to it. As self sacrificial as Nami is, she doesn’t want to die like Bellemere did. She wants to live. She doesn’t care about bending or breaking the rules to do it or to get what she wants as she did with stealing the books. Which, you know, bad thing or good thing it’s up to you to decide, but it’s certainly a survivalist thing.

Nojiko reminds Nami that Bellemere died for their sake and Genzo tells her that’s enough.

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And Nami gets what she came here to do. There is no way Genzo is coming after her now. Or anyone else. I wonder if she even realizes what Genzo is really mad at. In other words, does she think it’s the money or the piracy? It’s hard to tell. Amazingly, though, despite this treatment and being cast out of the village she didn’t want to leave she doesn’t cry. I love how too, despite the display of temper, Nojiko is starting to realize something is really off with this whole situation.

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Man, as wrong as Genzo is about this, he’s also really broken up about it. He looks like he might cry, too, from all of this and I wouldn’t blame him! It certainly feels like a betrayal. But again, this is a hard time and emotions are at the boiling point. Of course he will reach another conclusion after he calms down. (and perhaps Nojiko will tell him a thing or two). As for Nojiko herself, no matter how mad she was at Nami, she knows the truth of how much Nami loved Bellmere. (and deep down I know that Genzo knows it, too)

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Ugh this because Nami’s expression just looks so had. She’s pouring everything she has into not crying it seems like as she stares intently at Bellemere’s grave. This is important as we’ll get to.

Nami tells Nojiko what Bellemere said about if they live on, good times will come.

And then:

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Remember the discussion we had about the Marines above? That Genzo believed it was because they were too small and easily ignored? Well that’s blatantly not true here. This is great because it’s heavily implied the East Blue Marines tried their damndest to get to Arlong with no avail. We don’t know if they were overcome with pride or not that lead them to ill-fortune, but I think it’s safe to assume that they fought hard and failed hard. It’s another hint that not all Marines are bad (evidenced a bit by Bellemere, too) and that they are actually the only protection this island can count on—and not even that.

That being said, it’s a problem that the Marines let go on for eight years. It’s a problem they knew was going on, too. Or seemed to since they sent rescuers to Gosa. In all that time they couldn’t have sent anyone from the Grand Line? Though it is possible they beefed up security a little, enough to make Arlong bribe Nezumi. It’s also possible Nezumi is controlling the situation, saying things are clear when they aren’t. We can’t really tell. But it does seem that the Marine Headquarters doesn’t care overly much about the fate of Cocoyashi or its inhabitants (at least not until it becomes a real threat for them, I imagine)…

And as for Nami, we see (as we’ve seen and known all along) her motivation for doing this. She doesn’t think anyone can beat Arlong. In a way it’s sort of like the hopelessness that Gin faced with Don Krieg. The big difference is that no one tried to stand up to Don Krieg. The people of Cocoyashi have tried to stand up to Arlong once (twice in Genzo’s case) and the people of Gosa try to stand up against him and suffer for it. They still haven’t given up, but Arlong really is the superior force when it comes to them vs him.

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Though Nami is very much a child over her head, here is where she starts growing up, taking responsibility for others and realizing that there are people with wants and needs outside of herself. No longer can she simply be protected and sheltered. As a testament to her strength, though, and her will—this is something she decided to do, which is why she works hard for it. Yes, she couldn’t have prevented Arlong taking her, but she is making it so no one else will have to suffer or try to rescue her. It also of course shows just how much Nami loves Cocoyashi and the people that surround her.

Nojiko the pragmatist points out the biggest problem, that it’ll be hard to work with Arlong but for Nami? She’s so determined that she’s going to smile anyway. I think partly, as I said to keep a strong face in front of Arlong, but of course this folds in another complexity. She’s smiling because Bellemere said she should and how important it was. Even though her smile is close to breaking she’s smiling for her own benefit and the will of her mother.

Also again? We see how well Nami actually fits in with Luffy’s style. She knows she wants to do a thing. She doesn’t know how she’s going to get the thing done, but she’s going to do it no matter how crazy it sounds.
And then we have this:

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Aww Nami. She’s on the verge of crying right here. And though Nami is strong and strong willed and amazing even at that age.

There are some things she just can’t do. Because of course, this is just her holding on and making the best out of a horrible situation. And so the backstory, as many in One Piece do, explains present motivations. Nami is convinced that Luffy and the others will just get hurt if they try. Her harshness to them throughout is a testament to how much she cares about them. We know this, of course, but it bears repeating.

We have a few more bits of flashback, showing where Nami hid the money and revealing that she’s going to be a thief who steals from pirates. And why?

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This is nothing surprising, but let’s look a little deeper in context. What is the Age of the Pirates? When we’re introduced to it (in the anime at least) there’s this great thrill. It’s an age of voyage and discovery and there’s adventurous music and sails unfurling. Roger himself is seen as an amazing figure who is worth emulating. Basically Roger made pirating cool. This whole age of Pirates, being a pirate is seen to be a good life, having adventures and seeking treasure.

But also, with all the groups we’ve seen so far save Shanks and Luffy, pirate groups are harsh and terrible, taking over towns, abusing gratitude, thieving and stealing and killing and leaving the Marines to struggle to keep up with it all. Whether the Pirate Age is a bad move or a good one in the end is up for you to decide, but Nami’s certainly understandable in pushing against this idea that pirates are awesome and for taking revenge on people for being pirates and making that choice.

Also, of course she has her own hatred for the Arlong Pirates (and has maybe seen other piratical groups at this point) and is not the kind to take from innocent people—so this way she can earn money and still keep her morality. (though that slides a little into sketch out of desperation as she stole from Johnny and Yosaku who were, by and large, innocent bounty hunters.

As the last of the flashback ends, we see Nami. Before we look, remember that the way she was framed right before the flashback showed that she was thinking of it, too. Her story. The reason why she fights.
The flashback finishes with Nami explaining she has a million Berry and Nojiko saying forget that lets treat your wounds. (because Nojiko is there to keep Nami together)

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Nami remembers and it’s hard as hell to remember, but it’s not all bad. She’s able to take strength from the good times and from the memory of Bellemere. It’s really the first time where we see someone take strength from the memory of a loved one rather than just missing them. And it’s fine to just miss them of course, because that’s how things work sometimes—but to be able to take strength even from the bad times by remembering what good there was and the people that loved and cared about you is super important, too.

So let’s look at two panels from slightly different spots.

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I get the feeling that his is the end of her usual arc of emotions whenever she goes back home. She arrives tense, gets pissed off at Arlong, destroys shit/visits Bellemere, remembers, takes strength from it and then moves beyond, reasonably happy and hopeful. She’s not the kind to dwell on her situation, but takes stock in what she still needs to do and keeps moving forward. She is also extremely confident in her abilities, knowing just how much she can get in any one trip.

We go back to Nojiko who has finished telling the story. She explains that Nami decided not to show her tears to anyone (even though Nami said that she wouldn’t cry at all, Nojiko knows her better than that) and lays out Nami’s motivation of fighting alone so that no one else gets hurt. She continues to say how painful it was for her and (while we’ll get to Nojiko in a second) Sanji and Usopp’s reactions are what you’d expect.

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Usopp first probably has a bunch of mixed emotions about this. Two things strike a huge cord with him I think. Nami is working her hardest to protect and help her village, something that Usopp knows too well having just come from that struggle himself. But also Nami’s mother dying at the hand of that asshole. Also, of course, the whole drama of Nami’s story and her continued putting herself at risk. Usopp is mad, I think, at Arlong and what happened… but at the same time is restrained. It seems to me like his inner monologue would be something like: ‘This is a really tough situation and I hate it and I sympathize with her…but if I speak up much more than this I’ll have to do something about it—and I want to but at the same time holy crap is this over my head.’

Sanji of course is right away with the killing and maiming of someone who hurt his beloved Nami-swan. He is pissed of course. Losing all calm because it’s a man’s pride to be outwardly pissed at harm done to a woman! But I think that had Nami been a man he’d still be just as mad (though take an entirely different approach to it in what he shows emotionally) of course that’s just my headcanon on the matter but I find It interesting. Sanji is fairly reserved for the most part but around women? This! XD

Nojiko bonks him on the head and says to knock it off because Arlong is starting to become suspicious and they could ruin everything.

And then this:

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And this is Nojiko’s motivation for telling them Nami’s past to begin with. Because she wanted to save Nami’s hard work, spare her the mental anguish of watching these people who care about her so much get hurt because of her. But it’s a little more than that, too, because Nojiko wants them to understand Nami as a person. Understand why Nami might be cruel to them. Understand her hardships. And to not just judge her like the Gosa boy did. In a way, Nojiko is trying to preserve their memory of Nami into a good one… Because maybe, just maybe, when Nami has finished gathering the money, she may want to rejoin them.

We cut to Luffy just walking around, seeing what he can see, and coming across Genzo leading Nezumi and his bevy of Marines. Before we hit that, though I want to reel back to look at Nezumi’s arrival at the Cocoyashi docks.

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The sad part of this is of course they don’t realize how duplicitous Nezumi is. But the really sad part? They don’t even expect him to help fix their problem of being taken over by Arlong. Just to investigate what happened. Probably just to file a report. This is how downtrodden these people are and not used to any outside help.

Nezumi arrives, he first asks to see Genzo and asks Genzo to take him to Nami.

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Firstly let’s look at what is evident (aside from Luffy being a dork XD but we’ll get to that in a second). None of the townspeople look happy at the Marines’ presence. I suppose because there’s nothing about the way that they are walking that speaks of anything but trouble—and Genzo doesn’t look exactly happy either. It could be the word spread that the Marines were looking specifically for Nami, or it could just be they are not acting in a reassuring manner or outwardly addressing the problem at hand—i.e. Arlong.
Of course Genzo is highly suspicious of this. Any Marine going after Nami is not going to be good news. But he can’t not lead Nezumi there because that would look doubly suspicious…and he can’t entirely know it’s a bad thing either.

As for Nezumi? He’s pretty canny holding his cards close to his chest. I half think he doesn’t want Genzo to mislead them if he knows the truth (as he probably heard of the town’s protective nature of her from Arlong) but also I almost think he just wants to screw with Genzo’s head and shock him by what he says. He seems the type, and as he does work with Arlong kind attracts kind.

Finally, though, there is Luffy who is hilarious and noticing the weirdest thing because Marines? Sure, usual. But a guy wearing a pinwheel?! Woah! That’s kooky! And cool. XD

It seems like Luffy is having a dumb moment and yeah I can see you arguing this for a reason for Luffy to be dumb… Because hello, they are Marines? But Luffy has no reason to fear Marines at this point because he doesn’t even have a wanted poster. He’d have to tell them he was a pirate, not that he would because he has no reason to do that either. I say this here because it would be interesting to see when/where/if Luffy does become more conscious of the Marine presence.

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I love how Nami is already on the alert. All of this smacks of the unusual and she’s not going to be caught off guard for a second. But at the same time, she doesn’t assume what it might be. She just notes that they’re there and waits to see how it unfolds.

I also sort of love the detail of Nezumi holding out his hand. It’s partly telling his men to stop I suppose, but also in a way putting out a hand to stop Genzo from interfering in what is about to go down, or show who is in charge here. Also look at that shit-eating grin. There isn’t a part of Nezumi that doesn’t enjoy the hell out of this, and this is another way how Nezumi is like Arlong—He’s a bully who likes to revel in his power and the slow reveal. Also he’s extraordinarily calculating—especially in approaching this encounter.

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But Nami is clever, too. I think it’s a pretty safe bet to assume this is not the first time she’s used Arlong’s name to help her out of scrapes, and there’s nothing in her that’s worried. There’s no droplets of sweat and no obvious tension. Yes shes’ folding her arms but it’s more to look badass and composed then shuttering herself. Whatever this Marine guy wants, Nami supposes, he’s going to be scared off by Arlong’s name. And again, there’s the sad fact that Nami is utterly confident she can use this. That the Marines have been largely ineffective in this matter so she’s not afraid of him at all.

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But Nezumi, of course, is playing a game while knowing her hand. He’s careful not to say that she’s a pirate. If he does, of course, he’ll be more or less forced to act on it and acknowledge Arlong’s involvement to some extent and open a whole can of worms in his lies that just wouldn’t work.Because if she was a pirate, he’d have to arrest her and why wouldn’t he? And he would have to hurt her perhaps but Arlong wouldn’t be happy if she was hurt.

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So I have to sort of wonder why he’s going through this whole thing. I think mostly he’s being an ass and jerking them around. It could be said that he is trying not to indicate Arlong, (though if that’s the case, he clearly doesn’t try so hard as we’ll see later on). I think it’s really just to show that he and Arlong are the same side by side, and juxtaposing them together in blends the line of Fishman and human. That is to say, there’s no sense that Fishmen=evil despite what we ‘know’ at this point about Jimbe (releasing Arlong into the wild so to speak) because Nezumi is just as evil and using his superior strength (via law and military might) to do what he wants and crush the weaker under his thumb right where he wants them.
Also, of course, it’s hypocritical as shit. A thief is a thief and a crime is a crime… Yet of course Nezumi is going to take the money Nami has already stolen and keep it. Not that Nezumi cares that it is.

Nezumi tells Nami that she is going to hand over all her goods to them. He then orders the men to go in the house

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I love how Nami just pops two of them because, really, what does she have to be afraid of—and even if there is a risk at getting in deeper trouble with the Marines, she will not hesitate to call them out on this bullshit, and to tell it like it is, maybe giving them the benefit of the doubt that they don’t know what should be freaking obvious.

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And of course this whole page where Nezumi just runs roughshod over her is a representation of the corruption in the Marine forces in general, even moreso than Morgan was. Granted Morgan was pretty bad because he, too, was keeping an entire town under oppression for his own need for money and control; but with Nezumi it’s worse because he and his men are complicit in this action of actively ignoring a situation for monetary gain. There is no hint that his men are being forced into it. You can maybe read a little reluctance in them but certainly not enough to make them stop or even hesitate and they have to know it’s the wrong thing.

And I love love love how Nami just continues to call them on their bullshit as she becomes further disillusioned with the Marines. She just drops all guise of being a badass pirate lady to yell at them about the situation. Hell she’s almost asking for help or demanding that they help, only to be ignored and shut down and her precious home torn up for money that isn’t even important to return. I mean even if they were legit, it’s really petty because how would they even find the people the money belonged to?

Nami whacks a few more Marines away from her orchard, telling them she’ll never let them touch that money with their filthy hands and Genzo…oh Genzo.

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Genzo is a man I believe that fundamentally believes in justice and how things should be. He is trying to protect two things here; the continued safety of the village, and tying into that the hard work that Nami put her heart and soul into for eight long years. All the struggle she went through that went into that money is represented there. In the end he is still trying to protect her. In the end, he is still trying to get the Marines to see reason. Even as he speaks, though, he’s making a sacrifice.

Of course Nezumi is having none of it but can easily get Genzo on insubordination for daring to speak back to a marine captain, which is another sign of corruption since the Marines are supposed to be there for the safety of the common people, not because they are better than them.

But what sacrifice is Genzo making? Well—first it reveals to Nami that he knew and he tells her they pressured Nojiko into telling them the truth

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Man, Nami is just having a day. She looks so broadsided by this news like she can’t quite believe what she’s hearing and that they would do that for her. And it’s a hell of a thing to do, really. To not fight back. To survive and endure the pain and pressure and uncertainty for the hopes that one person can escape—even if they will have to deal with the fall out in the end. Nami I think in many ways, despite not even being on the registry as Bellmere’s kids (though I sort of hope they fixed that one day) is the town baby. They would sacrifice so much for her. But it’s also very much a throwback to when she was a child and they were going to send her and Nojiko away in hopes that they could find a better life and not die. Nami does not want to leave this island that she loves, at least not in the state it’s in. It is, without a doubt, her home. Also she’s very much dedicated herself to this task.

Nezumi continues to be a raging asshole. I think this is actually working out well for him because if he can threaten the town with legal action or invasion or arresting, even if he can’t do follow through, it doesn’t matter because he can have them under his thumb and do as he likes within reason. I’m not sure that he actively would. (since Arlong will always be a problem). I mostly just think he’s screwing with them.
And damn, Nojiko has balls of steel and no problem telling them like it is with force.

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Nojiko continues to be boss, but what I find most interesting is that Arlong again is used as a threat. In a way he’s both a blessing and a curse. Because yes, he’s just a parasite and keeps them in fear and takes their money. But he’s not unpredictable and he’s invested in keeping them alive unless they push too far. He keeps the other parasites and predators away and protects them in a way. Even Nezumi can’t make a move in Cocoyashi with Arlong knowing about it and being behind it. Not saying that they are better off with Arlong. Hardly that. It’s just an interesting duality.

Anyway, Nezumi continues to fail at being sneaky… either he really does suck, is smug enough to overtip his hand or wants to hint that it’s Arlong just to be a douchecanoe because even if it is Arlong, there is shit they can do about it and he revels in their powerlessness. I’m inclined to believe the last one.
In any case, it doesn’t take long for Nami, Genzo and Nojiko to catch on who is really behind it.

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Ugh the expressions. It’s so horrible and so wonderful. Genzo nails the truth of it all right on the head, being older and more politically minded as the town leader and all. And I very much think (because we have seen) like “as goes the captain as goes the crew”, “as goes the leader, as goes the town” Especially in small towns like this one. And in this case it’s super interesting because Genzo has been lying down and taking it voluntarily. But he will call a spade a spade and corruption for what he sees and he’s absolutely furious.

Nojiko I don’t think quite gets the full situation of it all. Which is fine really because why would she? But interesting is what she says (especially in a different translation: “How can the Marines stoop so low as to be pirates' lapdogs?!!”) It shows that Nojiko has a healthy respect for Marines. And why wouldn’t she? She was old enough to remember Bellemere was one and has seen the Marines fight in her town. Marine powerlessness she can accept, again because of Bellemere and her past and the overwhelming force that is Arlong. But this is just a deep seated betrayal of everything she knows a Marine to be.

And of course Nami is just furious as fuck at Arlong for doing this and breaking his promise. But it’s not just anger, it’s a desperate rage at this utter betrayal especially after she’s come so far and she’s so close and it’s been eight years. Of course it’ll only go downhillfrom here.

The bottom set of panels mostly because of Nami’s expression. And the interesting movement that is implied that we don’t see. Nezumi just says to take them away. Not to shoot them. I am not sure the soldiers would be trigger happy especially since they wouldn’t want to injure Nami…I believe the anime colors this in somehow, but I can’t exactly remember—still I think it can be heavily inferred that Nami was no way in hell leaving Bellemere’s orchard (and her money) unguarded and neither was Nojiko… so Nami moved into attack perhaps? Hmm.

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I think this is interesting mostly for the panels that followed. But I love the chaos that this produces in the town. Everyone rushes to see what’s going on. Also right away the Marines are suspected of doing this. I mean granted there aren’t a lot of other options of people who would shoot Nojiko, but it just shows how trusted the Marines aren’t. Either way the whole town converges on these people that they care about to get the news and probably to see if they can help.

I also love Luffy just hanging around there, as if looking for a place to chill out and people watch and what better way to do it than by the main thoroughfare of town? He obviously sees what’s going on. How can he not? And that someone got shot and while it’s debatable he knows who Nojiko is insofar as her name goes and whether or not he can see who it is can be up for some debate.

The reason why I bring all this up?

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What is with that expression and casual way of speaking?

Well, I don’t think it’s because he’s dumb (because he’s not and I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise) and he certainly has awareness of what’s going on.

But first of all I don’t think he knows how bad it is or who it is that got shot.

However, mostly, I think he’s just geeking out that there’s a crises and that Nami may want his help finally and if he gets to help her out he can sort out whatever it is she’s sad about and then she can come be his nakama! Which is sort of selfish and nearsighted I think on Luffy’s part, because he’s not really emotionally connected to the feelings of the townspeople. But this kind of narrow focus and not seeing or caring about the bigger picture is part of who Luffy is, especially in the beginning. Right now the only thing in his mind is being hyperfocused on Nami.

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And I just love this whole sequence. I love that Luffy’s just the tiniest bit scared of her, as well he should be, and Nami is so pissed and so aggressive that she hauls him up and just knocks him down like he’s nothing. She has reached the end of her damned rope with him really and him being here is the last thing she needs and that anger fuels her. All in all it’s such a strong dynamic. XD

But she is pissed and she’s going to confront the source, racing toward Arlong park and chanting Arlong’s name in her mind and then this.

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The terms of the promise are important to remember, because Arlong doesn’t lie when he says he’s serious about money. It’s odd to me that it’s in a single payment, because it seems that he could get more money over time if she just gave it to him bit by bit. On the other hand, it would be a hell of a lot harder to get out if he needed to and this is supposed to be an impossible task anyway.

Nami bursts into the park, bellowing Arlong’s name.

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I sort of like how Hachi is startled. I dunno it’s just a great expression.
But man, Arlong, what an asshole. What’s wrong. He knows what’s wrong. He’s got to know. And he’s just being a little shit about it.

But I love how angry Nami is. She never keeps her anger back and when she’s mad she gets physical. Arlong is so big compared to her but she just grabs onto him and you can see how strong her arms are and the wound that she got protecting Usopp’s stupidity and she’s just mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.
Also she’s brave. Nami is not afraid of Arlong so much as what Arlong would do to the people she cares about. And she’s pissed enough to not care because this promise was everything.

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And this UGH he is SUCH an ass but as a villain it work so wonderfully because I really just hate him here. He shuts Nami down, doesn’t even let her finish, just grabbing onto her and Nami can’t pull him off and she is just crying tears of rage and frustration and those shots of him are just wonderfully evil and douchy and I love how much I loathe this asshole.

Because what makes him even more of an asshole is he’s right.

Arlong promised to free her if she gave him the money. He never said he wouldn’t steal it. Or have someone else do it. (He’s also not admitting to telling the Marines to do it).

But even worse than that? Arlong can’t just let it rest there. Because he’s even more douchy than that. He has to have the upper hand and crush her into the dust with it. So what does he do?

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He just rubs it the hell in. And has her literally by the throat, too. It’s just so heinous. And the fact that he says that all she has to do is save it up—though even saving up this much took her eight years. But for the most part Arlong is just milking as much as he can out of it, glorying over his complete victory of this situation. Also it’s worth noting on Nami’s end? The second time we’ve seen her cry as an adult. She can’t help it and who can blame her? Everything is falling apart.

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But gloat as he might, it doesn’t stop him from making sure that Nami keeps working for him and doesn’t attempt to run or duck out of it. Once again he holds her beloved village over her head. Because he’s canny and he’s smart and he knows how to hold Nami under his sway as he strips even more hope from her.

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Remembering that? Nami knows what the people of Cocoyashi are going to do and is going to go out and stop them. She’s desperate now to keep that one last thing whole and so races back to take care of it. I think it’s really cool that, though Nami didn’t understand how much they cared for her, she otherwise knows them so well and their true character and what they would do.

Arlong of course has no idea what she’s doing and nor does he care. He obviously doesn’t think she’s running away because he knows her better than that and he’s just even more gloaty than before as nothing can go wrong.

Before we follow Nami, though, I want to take two brief side tracks.

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Firstly, the 30% means that Arlong gets 70% of the cut, which you could reasonably argue should count toward Nami’s amount. However, I can imagine the answer would be that she didn’t give it to him herself. But really I think that’s why Nezumi has it to begin with. So that Arlong can take the money without Nami knowing about it. He obviously couldn’t steal it himself because that would be the same thing as her giving it to him more or less.

Also that is literally blood money. Nami worked hard for it. Yes she stole, but she put her life on the line to get it and bruised and bled for it. Also what other way could she really make money in that timeframe? As Nojiko said, 100 million was more than an adult could make in a lifetime.

Thirdly, while Nezumi is chewing up the scenery a bit here, it really cements that he and Arlong are very much alike. They are both cruel and cunning, obsessed with money and are bullies to the core.

Now let’s jump to a little after Nami pushed Luffy away (literally.)

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Lu is such a brat. XD I really think he’s half pouting here about why she won’t let him help when she very obviously needs it. But also has no idea what’s going on or any of the dynamics—which is fine because he doesn’t need to, he just needs to know where to punch. But Nami is stubborn and I think in a lot of ways Luffy really doesn’t understand her. But for right now? What’s important is that he’s here to witness what’s going on.

Now to go back to Nami herself.

We see Genzo rallying the troops as it were as Nami races to confront them.

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The shouting villagers because it was hard to cut out but mostly yes, Nami knows what’s going to happen and what they are going to do and she knows without a doubt that Arlong will kill them if they fight. She’s trying to save everyone she can. To hold up Bellemere’s ideal which she believes in with all her heart and is just hoping that she can stop them in time.

There’s a shot of the torn up Mikan grove and the place where Nami buried the money dug up which looks like a grave and a burst mikan. It’s really powerful stuff and then Genzo.

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I love just love how it was all for Nami’s sake. Without their love for her and their protective nature over her mental welfare, Arlong would have not been able to hold onto this village. Cocoyashi would have stood up against him so much he would have had to have mown them down. But for Nami they endured and for Nami they lived. But now they are also as mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. They cannot bear another 8 years of enduring Nami’s suffering.

But what I like about it is that, I think the main reason they did an do endure is because Nami endured for them and worked for them. It’s not because she’s the village princess or anything (tho definitely the village baby in some sense) but that she loved them so much to do this for them and so they helped her out by doing the only thing they could. Plus the fact that they do care for her and love her just for existing and being the person she is and that’s the most powerful love there can be.

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And ugh I love this too even if they are just repeating what I’ve already explained. The main reason they’re fighting now? The main reason? Other than that there is no hope of rescue from any quarter. Is that Arlong broke Nami’s heart. He made her work all that time. Made her basically throw her life away. And then pulls this shit. And for this reason they will get revenge even if they die for it. Also yeah, Genzo. “Weapon Collection” my ass. I’m sure they were not just for keepsakes ; )

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And just… Nami’s smile which you know is forced. It has the radiant beams of a happy smile that we see but she’s sweating and it’s just she’s pouring everything into this one cheerful expression to stop them from throwing their lives away and everyone knows it and it just hurts. Once more she is willing to sacrifice and throw who knows how many more years of her life away.

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And ughh this. It’s so powerful. Genzo is pretty much like a father to her in a lot of ways and here he is telling her he understands what she went through and how she’s done her part and put her all into it and just how much they appreciate it. But to try again is futile because of course it is since Arlong can keep on doing shit like this and as long as they are a liability, Nami will never be free.

He tells her she fought well and that now she can go. For the third time they’re trying to get her to leave the village. But the big difference here?

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Nojiko is in on it, too. In the most supportive way possible. I love this because of how much she believes in Nami and believes that Nami can make it. Also that she wants Nami to follow her dream. To do what she started and wanted to do so many years ago buthad to put it on hold and warp it due to Arlong. And, this supportive nature? Nojiko got it straight from Bellemere and I think it’s just wonderful and telling how Bellemere and parents in general influence and shape the lives of their children.

Most importantly, though, what we’re touching on here is the notion of family once more. None of them are related by blood but that doesn’t matter. They love each other with the same strength anyway. And it’s arglbnlargle I need a tissue.

Nami gets in front and tries to block their way with a dagger.

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But they are not sub-par pirates or kids she can easily scare. They are adults who have been trampled on all their lives and now they are going to trample back. They have the courage of conviction and are putting their lives on the line, knowing they might die. But if they do? It’s not going to be with regrets. Again we see this idea of you don’t have to be a supernova or a hero to fight for what it is you believe in. They are getting up and going at it themselves and that just incredible.

Also Genzo grasping the knife is a way to show his conviction yes, but I also think shows how strong he is. He’s showing Nami how strong he is, even heading toward death. And that he is stronger than her as adults and parents should be. He’s protecting her as they all are.

And Nojiko’s expression at the end just kills me. She knows how much this has got to be hurting Nami and that this is probably goodbye because you know she will die with Cocoyashi but all she can say is Nami’s name.

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And I freaking LOVE this. Nami is not afraid of and will not be pushed around by pirates. She stands up to Arlong in any capacity she can and recently just grabbed him by the shirt and yelled at him. But Genzo roars and she flinches and moves out of the way. And it’s not to say that Genzo is abusive or anything like that, no hardly. But because he is so much a part of her parental sphere, authority and someone she loves and again it’s this dynamic of him being the adult/father/parent and her being the child…because she will always be a child in his eyes… (But again not in a ‘look down on you, way’ but ‘I will love you and protect you forever’ way)

And then we have the pivotal moment of the series. The one I think that made a lot of people realize that One Piece is something special.

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This is Nami’s darkest hour. She has lost all hope. Everything has come undone. All those years of work crumbled to dust. Everyone going to die anyway for her sake. Her hate is so intense that all she can do is stab the tattoo to get the pain out because there is no other way to express it. It’s such raw and intense emotion. There’s anger and anguish and frustration and the feeling of impotent rage and hopelessness.

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But Nami is not alone.

And, god, just Luffy catching the knife and watching her like that…

I’ve seen comments about why if Luffy was right there, he let her stab herself so much. The answer? Because she wanted to. Because he lets his people do as they want because he wants to be free and so allows everyone else to be free to do as they choose. And he’s not going to take away Nami’s choice.

But he also stops her, because it’s enough, because it won’t solve anything, because at the end of the day he can’t stand to see anyone hurt the people that he loves, even if it’s themselves.

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I love this too because Luffy is so patient. He’s standing there letting her go through shit but there for her. Just there. Watching over her and listening to her and responding. He’s not happy with the situation. His hands are balled into fists and he really wants to be proactive. But Nami isn’t ready for that from him. So he just waits. And Nami again desperately tries to push him away with the last vestiges that she has. Throwing dirt at him. Just trying to get him out. Because he doesn’t know and it’s not his affair but of course to Luffy none of that matters.

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Ah god, this part. Nami is so vulnerable here but the most important part of that is that it’s her choice to do so. She asked for help of her own will. She wasn’t badgered or prodded. She is just at the end of her rope and basically gives Luffy permission to come into this and get hurt for her because she wants to save her village and everyone she loves and unlike them? She knows how strong Luffy is. She’s seen him take on and beat tough pirates. Maybe they aren’t Arlong level but there’s no one else she knows that’s strong enough.

And I just love his waiting. He’s not impatient. He just watches and waits and lets her get it out. Lets her ask. Lets her be exactly who she is and ask him exactly how she wants.

And the moment that she does?

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It goes from serious to goofy as hell. XD But honestly? That face at on the last panel? That is everything Luffy was holding in. From when he watched Nami stab herself and listened to her grieve. He has to yell out his feelings this way. I also love the line. Of course he would help! Nami is nakama! Why should she doubt that? He is gonna help Arlong into a wall or two! And I love how startled Nami is that he’s so violently for this. Because I also think partly here, too, Nami didn’t know how much she was cared for. Yes, Luffy followed her around like a lost dog, but that can be chalked up to Luffy being dumb and persistent. But this is the first time I think she realizes he does care a lot. (and it won’t be the last)

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And then she realizes that she’s now wearing the Hat. And she knows how important it is to him. And again is starting to realize how important she is to him. He is trusting her to take care of it but it’s also a sign of his promise to her.

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And then we have this awesome moment and a moment of how the hell long were these guys there?

I think they were there from at least the mob scene. I think that they saw Nami stab herself. I think that is why Sanji and Usopp are turned away from her. Sanji because he cannot stand to see a woman in that much shitty pain, but he won’t stop her from doing what she needs to do. This is not his moment to interfere and he knows it.

Usopp too, probably can’t see Nami stab herself, but I think he’s turned in order to give her some privacy because it’s kind of a pain that he understands. I think it’s also why he’s sitting and kind of closed off because he feels empathy for her.

And Zoro’s pose is interesting, too. Because Zoro would watch out of respect for her strength and her pain. It’s not something to look away from but acknowledge. And yet he also seems pained, too in a way. Holding the Wado as he is, resting against his head—the sword that holds the weight of his promise and also starting to become protection as well. I wonder if he feels he wishes he could have protected her from this kind of thing. It’s difficult to say exactly but I think it’s a viable interpretation.

Oh yeah and Luffy is pissed. Heh. But this is Luffy in Captain Mode and getting things done for the sake of someone else. In other words it’s controlled anger rather than rage.

Also? In slight foreshadowing… He is saying he will help. But his helping very much includes his nakama. He does not go into battle alone.

And man the shifting in postures here…and lack of XD

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Starting with Usopp? He pulls his goggles down. Fairly typical getting ready action, though we know he’s going to have a little trouble with the follow through, for now he’s being carried with the emotion of the moment and strong on the tide of his own courage. Being surrounded by three strong guys doesn’t hurt either to bouy his confidence.

Sanji doesn’t change so much as we see his expression clearly and he looks angry and a little upset—again because Nami is so hurt I think. So he’s just grinding down on his cig and ready to go kick some ass.

Zoro’s posture has changed, he seems to be sitting straight now and of course the sword is no longer propped on his head and he is ready for action at his captain’s command. The shing is a particularly nice touch. He is also ready to kick ass and take names. (and I don’t know why he is raising his eyebrow like that but he’s gotta stop it because that popped eyebrow plays havoc with my hormones)

And Nami of course, I think, realizes that they all care for her (Well with Sanji as an outlier because she doesn’t really know him from parfait. Which means he should have given it to Usopp who really would have appreciated it more but it’s too late to resail that course now) but also I think she’s super worried about them because as strong as they are…well three of them (oi, oi) She’s still not sure they will even be effective against Arlong.

Annd now there are other things I want to talk about, like a short scene with Arlong and Chuu and then touching briefly on Johnny and Yosaku, but I think I will hit on that next part.

For this one though? Let’s end it good.

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Courage of Conviction: The Cocoyashi Villagers have it in spades. They have the conviction to endure and they have the conviction to fight when they can no longer endure. They are a very strong people but I think it’s also important to note that for all intents and purposes, they are a very normal people. And yet they will stand up for what they believe in, come what may and hell to pay.

To Just Exist is Just Enough: A variation of everyone has flaws. Flaws are fine. But always be exactly who you are. It’s most epitomized in Bellemere at this point, Nami, too. But Bellemere wasn’t anything more or less than what she was. She tried to change her own life and straighten up and took in her two girls, but her nature didn’t change. She was still hot tempered enough to pop kids over the head if she was insulted and Nami certainly picked up some not entirely kosher things from her XD but just her being there and doing her best was enough to influence Nami and Nojiko for the better.

The World is Still Brutal: This is more of a worldbuilding aspect perhaps than a theme but it’s got enough elements to talk about it—because now we really see what corrupt Marines are capable of. Not to the full extent certainly, but Nezumi does so much damage just based on his power alone. They don’t really have the capacity to fight him and Arlong. Especially when he could and likely would arrest them. Also again the people of Cocoyashi don’t seem to put much stock in Marine capabilities beyond investigation already. So it’s sort of a bleak existence with only a glimmering of hope to keep them going. This is not the only example of Marines just sort of shrugging off or taking advantage of the suffering of others, but it’s definitely a cornerstone in our understanding of them. And boy will our understanding of Marines and world politics get complex.

Just Keep Smiling: The overall theme of course of Bellemere. Though it comes in two parts, I think. Endure until better times come. (The Sun Will Surely Rise) and we’ve seen that throughout, but also keep smiling and continue to be yourself even if it’s difficult. Never let someone else define who you are and have confidence in yourself and your abilities. Which I admit is a bit of a stretch textually, but we can see this evidenced in how Nojiko and Nami are raised and how they have developed. Also a third aspect, don’t let hard times close you off from the good there is. Arlong’s oppression is bad, no doubt—but Nojko and Nami still find reasons and ways to smile. Most of it centered around their bond. I think Nojiko has a bit harder time with the smiling aspect because she’s the negative to Nami’s positive, but she channels that into being protective of people like Chabo and Genzo and overall just trying to be a big sister to anyone who needs it.

All About the Beri: Easily won, easily lost, it’s as simple as that. Money can be treasure but it’s never the kind of treasure you can really hold onto because then you’ll have to cling forever. Though of course this arc shows without a doubt that money is not her treasure but a means to an end and the only means she knows how to protect her village. For Arlong it’s pretty much his entire driving force and for Nezumi it seems to be his whole driving force. (Since Arlong is at least a pirate and not obligated to be nice and Nezumi’s job is to protect the people)

Protection: Just protection because I haven’t quite parsed it out yet. But there’s this really interesting idea presented here that protection can be forced or protection can be asked for/wanted/allowed.

(There’s also a protection that can be given without being asked, but the difference between that and forced is that forced is generally unwanted)

For the first kind, Bellemere decided that dying was the best course of action and wouldn’t let anyone dissuade her. Maybe she was right about it, maybe she was wrong, but she nevertheless took the power of choice away from those that loved her. (I mean granted Arlong took most of the choices away to begin with, and she was saving her daughters’ life. I’m not saying it’s bad nor am I saying that it’s good but just stating what’s there.) Nami, too, tried to force protection on the villagers of Cocoyashi. She did it with Chabo who tried to avenge his father, and then later when she tried to confront them to stop them from charging Arlong Park. But it didn’t work because they force protected her right back. Oh they did it with love, of course and a love of her. But she was still devastated and left hopeless.

The other kind of protection, the kind that is asked for/wanted/allowed is all about choice. Instead of being shoved into one position or another (protector or protectee), Nami was given the freedom to choose what she wanted and this is so so so important. Because for the first time she had a voice in her own protection and the protection of the people she loved. As we’ll see a little later on, this gives her the strength to stand up once again. It gives her hope. Though the greatest example of allowed protection is the villagers themselves. They allowed Nami to protect them for their own good. Because of this they never get that sense of helplessness of their own will. In other words, while they can despair of the village ever being saved, they still know they have the choice to fight or endure. They are still doing it for a reason and can remind themselves of that reason—and when they want to change, they can and do. They are still powerful in this.

Of course I’m not saying which one is better because, like so much in this series, everyone is going to have their own ideas about which is over the other, and I think they both have merit. I mean, yes Nami had forced protection, but she did survive to adulthood… and if the Cocoyashi villagers had their way would continue to survive to follow her own dream. Of course whether or not she wanted that at the expense of everyone she loved is not taken into account. And of course the asked for protection can be great and empowering as long as you can ask for it. But on the other hand it can also be a shield and stunting your own progress (as we’ll explore with a certain character when it comes up)

But I don’t want to leave the impression that Bellemere/the Cocoyashi villagers are douchenozzles because look how much they hurt her. Since it’s true that she was hurt but hurt of some kind was inevitable in this situation. They were just doing the best they could and the only thing they could think of to do.

Because the biggest use of forced protection is a continuation of Bellemere’s will that Nami should be protected as much as could be against the horrors of the world. They want to protect her mind, her heart and her smile. They can’t protect it while she is working for Arlong, especially discovering her quest was futile. But they can give her the best shot she can get which is a chance to go after her dreams. This kind of protection meant that Nami was allowed to be a child for a while despite the hardness of her past. To know how it was to be able to talk back and steal and get in fights and still be loved and encouraged. Also allowing her to protect them from Arlong was giving her strength to keep going. Was adding to her confidence and courage. They never allowed her to feel hopeless and let her fight hard for them for her sake. But they wouldn’t and couldn’t let her do it again because honestly the second time around would be even harder and Nami was already breaking.


Nami: This of course is her pivotal moment, her darkest hour and lowest point. She can no longer keep going on the path she was—she cannot keep doing it alone. But what I love is that it’s up to her to change, and up to her to ask. She has to be the one to realize she has to ask people for help when she needs it and trust them to put their lives at risk for her…which is an incredibly hard thing for Nami to do. I mean, yes, we’ve seen her even before tell Luffy that he can take care of it because no way is she fighting. But then she’s reasonably assured he can take care of it. With this? She’s pretty sure she’s sending him and the others in to die or at least get horribly injured. But he is really her only hope of saving anyone. Of lessening the damage. And I think she still has faith in him that even if there’s a 99% chance that he’ll lose, there’s still that 1% that he’ll win.

Also, I think it’s important to look at how much of her life up until this point is wrapped up around Arlong. Much like Nami is a child to Genzo, I think she’s still very much a child to Arlong, even if she’s fighting against it. But she grew up thinking he was the strongest and most terrifying thing and that he could not be fought against. As much as we see Arlong threatening and reinforcing the idea of “he’ll kill everyone she loves if she doesn’t toe the line” today, I think it’s fairly reasonable to say he did it all the time as she was growing up. Of course the biggest problem is, with the lack of Marine presence or anyone that can stand up to him, her fears are well founded. But all this means Nami grew up in a place of fear and anxiety. While she was a very passionate kid about what she loved and what she hated, as an adult she is more reserved. I wonder if there’s this subconscious notion that she can’t reveal what she loves (in terms of people) for fear Arlong will take them away from her or use them against her or destroy them. Arlong is basically a monster to her and she cannot fight him.

Additionally, what also hurt was the Cocoyashi villagers, well meaning though they were, in trying to save and protect her, only furthered her sense of isolation. It did, in a way, give her armor. If they thought she was evil and a witch, then she could use that to her advantage for her own good, seen with Chabo. And of course she tries to use her ‘evil nature’ as a weapon against Luffy and the others. Still despite the advantages it had, I think it made her grow harder on the inside.

And yet… despite all the suffering she endured and pain she went through, she took Bellemere’s ideal to heart and carried it with her. She endures. She smiles. And not just the expression of smiling but when Nami has the freedom to be happy, she is happy, not letting the situation at home drag her down too much. She also didn’t become closed off to the world due to anger and hate. Yes, she hated pirates to begin with. But she allowed Luffy to change her perception of what a pirate could be. Not that Nami will ever love pirates I think, but she loves Luffy and her own nakama and that is enough. Because she loves and remembers how to have fun. And at the end of the day she does the hardest thing she can do, just opens up completely and full of vulnerability to put her trust on Luffy’s shoulders (and by extension the others with him) and that is amazing.

Arlong: We won’t touch on him much here and an antagonist at his height of power is not entirely compelling because we’ve already explored all and sundry ways why he’s a jerkface. But whevat I think is interesting is that, almost opposite to Nami, Arlong didn’t really endure. We’ll touch more on it when we get to that arc—but rather than endure and find happiness—he let hate overtake him—specifically for humans…and revenge is foremost on his mind and so that is why he is so cruel because he revels in it. It’s not just a one time revenge but a continuous torture of making them suffer. He’s happy now that he’s on top… but he very very shortly won’t be happy at all.

Luffy: He is so intense in this part in a whole bunch of different ways and we get to see a lot of sides to him. But this is the first time we see the Captain side of him come to the fore. When helped Usopp in Syrup, it wasn’t because Usopp was nakama at that point—but because he liked Usopp and Usopp was in way over his head and needed their help. It was a personal stake in other words. When he fought for the Baratie, it was out of gratitude and also to help out people he liked. Sanji was not nakama at that point (officially). Here? Luffy is fighting for Nami’s sake as she is his nakama and she never stopped being it. It’s not just that he likes her, it’s that he’s her captain and he wants to protect her. And the biggest difference between Luffy fighting in a personal stake and fighting as Captain? He tells the others to come with him. Because when you fight for the sake of nakama, you fight together.

We also see here how incredibly patient Luffy can be even when it’s incredibly hard for him. He waits for Nami to work through what she needs to work through. Waits for her to ask. Yes, he asks if he can help but when she pretty much rejects him he just flops down and waits more. And another side we see is this side of him where he’s narrow-focused in a way. I can’t say that he wouldn’t take care of Arlong without Nami’s presence—because who knows who Luffy would end up bonding to? But Luffy fights primarily due to his bonds. He didn’t care much about Morgan outside of Zoro’s direct problem (tho the fear and torment of Rika might have got him going), Buggy he had to fight anyway and for the sake of Shushu’s ruined treasure, he fought Kuro because of Usopp, fought Krieg because of a combination of Zeff and Sanji—And is fighting Arlong due to Nami and for her sake. Would he have been pinged by the injustice of it all? I’d say yes, but they would also have to ask him I think. (the difference between them and Shushu is that Shushu doesn’t have the capacity to ask and again it wasn’t about protection but revenge) But we’ll see how and if this changes throughout.

Nezumi: As I’ve said, Nezumi’s is Arlong’s human reflection. Like attracts like and they’re exactly the same kind of people. Though I want to use this section to say that I think that Nezumi is a far worse antagonist than Arlong. True, he didn’t subjugate Cocoyashi for years—but at the same time he is working with Arlong specifically for the money. He is not being intimidated into this. If he could be at all, I don’t think Arlong would have to bribe him and Arlong wouldn’t if he could get away with it. Yes, going up against Arlong would be dangerous, but Nezumi has the wherewithal to try. He can even report Arlong back to the Navy and any intel he found or push for a greater force to be sent out. But he doesn’t, and he wouldn’t, because he’s greedy and selfish and a bully and even moreso than Arlong because he is supposed to protect the people. That is his job and the reason the Marines are paying him. (not that the WG doesn’t also pay Marines to destroy the shit out of things but Nezumi’s job is very much in the protection arena) It’s a little like Krieg using the Marine or medical flags to get people’s guard down and ruin their lives, except that of course Nezumi doesn’t need the ruse. Also he’s just a jackass to people. Though I do like that even he’s a little more complex than just being an asshole. For what it’s worth he’s not forcing his men to do what he wants them to do.


Nami<->Luffy: For Nami, her relationship with Luffy has reached a turning point. Of course she saved him first, figuring he was an incompetent dork, but what really changed her attitude is the scene in Syrup after he fought so hard because of his notion of nakama (and helping Usopp was definitely part of it but that was where he raged the most). From that point she knew just how much the idea of nakama meant to him. And of course I think she very much views him as a source of strength and dependability, but that’s something that snuck up on her in a way. Mostly, maybe because he was there on the pheriphary, not to be driven away by even her or her ‘evil’ (and even more impactful from a metatextual standpoint? He has no idea of Nami’s past. She could very well be the witch of Cocoyashi—but he recognized she was hurting and that she was far different from the Nami he had known up until that point. His only hangup was the brief Usopp situation, but otherwise, no matter what Nami may or may not have done in the past, he is there for her when she needs him) so Nami is hoping beyond hope that he is just as strong as she feels he is and can, if not win, at least make things easier.

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We Are One Piece

February 2017

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