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Are you ready for the We Are Super Deluxe New Years Analysis Special? I know I am! My fingers are going to fall off, but what’s a little sacrifice for love? In this super long update, we’ll take a look at a whole bunch of fighting dynamics, the character growth of all of the Straw Hats, take a peek at the Fishmen’s personality, discuss every power has a weakness, pride before the fall, everyone’s a hero, and quite a bit more. So buckle up and get your reading glasses on, kids. This one is a doozy.

So before we go onto the spectacular fight that marks the first part of the climax of the Arlong Arc, let’s take one or two steps back.

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First, this. I love that Johnny and Yosaku are guarding the door. I haven’t talked much about them because they don’t really have much individual character, which is fine. lovers’ personalities tend to merge overtime |D But I like what this says about them and the theme of the arc overall. You don’t have to be strong to fight. But there’s also the hard truth that fighting when you’re not strong can really get you trashed. So it’s a nice setup and a sort of realistic consequence for it. But it shows that as much as they can be afraid of things and rather avoid fighting people stronger than them when they can (and realistically, I think a lot of people are like that XD)

But when they realized that Nami’s full story? They are there to try to save the day themselves… and are lucky to escape with their lives. It’s pretty heroic of them when you think about it. But I also think they were hugely motivated by gratitude. It was Nami who saved them when Yoasku was suffering from scurvy. She was the one who knew what to do. And of course they spent some time on the Going Merry probably getting to know her. At least three days if not a little more. They’re very noble in that sense. But of course, this is a harsh world, so nobility doesn’t necessarily mean you win.

But it’s not necessarily to say that they fail either. Because while they can’t beat Arlong, they can protect the Cocoyashi villagers from destroying themselves by guarding the door. They can protect them in Nami’s place. Also they can put a ton of faith and trust in Luffy and the others with him, that they’ll come and save the day. It’s interesting to consider, really, because neither of them know that he kicked Krieg’s ass. The most that they saw was Zoro getting filleted by Mihawk. The rest of it is kind of guesswork, but they can either guess Luffy did it (or were told and have to go on faith). Either way they believe in him and that’s pretty fantastic. Well—of course I have to temper that by saying that they really believe a whole helluva lot in Zoro, too. XD and probably more Zoro than Luffy (but just by a frog’s hair) because they do know him better and he is still walking around and (seemingly) unfazed by his recent near filleting, so there’s that.

And to take half a step back from this scene?

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I’m not really entirely sure how to read this … and I don’t think there is any meaning beyond what it is. I just think it’s interesting that Chu brought it up like that. (Translated also as: ‘You have some pretty devious plans’ and interestingly from Viz ‘you sure have a cruel streak’ Though this is partly why I don’t want to rely solely on dialogue. XD) Really though it marks Chu as an interesting character to even say something like that. Kuroobi certainly wouldn’t and Hachi is too bubblebrained. I mean I don’t think Chu has any sympathy for the humans but I don’t know I just really wanted to point that out. Like is he admiring Arlong’s capacity for deviousness or cruelty? Or just commenting on it? And is he laughing with the others below? Probably. It can be read ambiguously, I think. I doubt we’ll ever find out about Chu but I just wanted to look at it.

Also Arlong is a bag of dicks.

Moving on.

Now to near the end of 80 before Luffy busts through the wall.

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Firstly, Zoro’s crew. I think I may have touched this before, but even if I have, I want to say it again—I love the emphasis on it being Zoro’s crew, Zoro being the leader. And well I think a lot of it is to do with Zoro being a known entity and having a name for himself besides. Demon of the East Blue. So it would be easy to assume he is the leader other than newcomers like Luffy. But the fact that Arlong asks is interesting as well. He’s a cautious guy and he’s not going to dismiss out of hand that they are an unrelated incident to Zoro. After all, he’s probably rarely had humans stand up to him before and the only one recently has been Zoro. So he’s trying to piece together just how much of a threat this guy is and how dedicated.

Kuroobi here showing his idea of crew which maybe relates to Arlong’s idea but it’s difficult to say. The idea that, in order to be in a strong crew, all crew members must be strong. Kuroobi is a pretty stern guy like that though and I’m not sure that it really applies to Arlong’s crew as a whole. Like I don’t think that Arlong bases his own idea of crew on who is strong and who is not. Though at the same time, he probably hasn’t had to think about it much. Considering where he is, there’s an idea that even the weakest Fishman is stronger than a (East Blue) human. Anyway, I don’t think it’s that important, just interesting. Also showing Kuroobi’s hubris about opponents needing to be strong enough to be worth killing. It’s not because he has sympathy (at least not insofar as I understand) but that he’s not even going to grant them death, rather letting them live with the knowledge of their failure.

And now we go into chapter 82. This is going to be quite difficult because there’s so much I want to show just because it’s cool or funny. XD But I will try to restrain myself if I don’t have anything significant to say about it. So I suggest you read the chapter first just because it’s pretty funny and awesome as hell, as most OP battles are.

Moving on, Luffy has just punched through a wall and asked which one was Arlong. Arlong says that would be him.

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Fff. Luffy looks so tiny and unassuming here, especially compared to the obvious aggression and danger that is Arlong. But two things, first that he introduces himself. That’s a common thing you see in Japanese media, especially those centered around fighting, but looking at it from an instory perspective, I like to think Luffy says it partly because it’s a thing you do, but partly because he wants Arlong to know his name.
Also just emphasis on how little Luffy is known at this point and an interesting question Arlong brings up. Because from Arlong’s perspective, he’s definitely several notches above Johnny and Yosaku… but is he with Zoro? Part of Zoro’s crew? (which would presumably make him a bounty hunter) Or something else altogether?
Two large Fishmen get in Luffy’s way, asking him who does he think he is walking right toward Arlong and…

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First, you can see Luffy’s growing anger the closer he gets to Arlong. Also that he makes a beeline in a certain direction and doesn’t mess with people he doesn’t want to mess with. No one stands in his way.
Second, Arlong is startled as hell (he made a similar expression after Luffy busted through the wall to begin with. The expressions are not dissimilar enough to do a compare and contrast-- Only in the previous he had an anger vien and here he looks startled and pissed. It’s one thing to bust down a wall and another to bust down Fishmen with no apparent effort. Also, he’s startled? Yes of course he is. But he’s not completely flabbergasted as his men are. I would posit that he’s actually a little alarmed, knowing Luffy’s strength.

But in the far left panel? He dials it back, unreactive, planted very firmly where he sits. He can not afford to be intimidated or even flinch. The lines, too. What does a pirate want with me? It’s kind of funny in a sense. Since he is a pirate (and not a bounty hunter) he is likely not connected to Zoro and therefore not connected to Nami. He may be but so far he looks like a completely unrelated third party (or maybe fourth if Johnny and Yosaku are also not connected to Zoro). In other words, Arlong has no idea who Luffy is or why he’s here and there probably hasn’t been another pirate around for a while who isn’t intimidated by Arlong’s very presence.

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I don’t have too much to say about this, other than the just the gosh darn good feeling it produces to see it. But mostly I want to remind you that, as far as Arlong is concerned? This punch came right out of the blue blazes of nowhere. He doesn’t know the kid from a potato and yet he comes in, obviously annoyed at something and looking for Arlong, then just lays one on him.

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I just love how progressively angrier Luffy is getting. Before was just glaring but here his temper is peaking. It’s not even a one shot rage face like when Kuro pissed him off about nakama or Mihawk cut down Zoro. This is just building anger where one punch just isn’t enough.

Also the Fishmen pictured being startled as hell—are not the Fishmen who we know for sure have sailed with Fisher Tiger. In other words, it’s possible they are new recruits who have never seen or even considered that anyone could lay a hit on Arlong, let alone this tiny kid.

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That is one scary ass face. Luffy is as pissed at this as he is over nakama and Zoro’s hit…but this is very directed rage at one specific aspect. Because while it’s all about that she cried, it’s not just because of the action but all the things that lead up to it. What Luffy knows is that Arlong stripped her of her hope completely, is trying to hurt the people she loves and whom she can’t even protect from themselves, and got her so angry and frustrated that she wanted to stab the mark right off her because she hated it so damn much. It’s not even crying because times are hard or she’s afraid to put her life on the line. It’s crying because she has, and she’s suffered and sacrificed, and it still isn’t enough and it’s all Arlong’s fault. (which also goes to show that Luffy doesn’t need to understand the past in order to very solidly understand the present)

Also, of course, Luffy’s navigator. XD In his mind she never left.

So the Fishmen rush to attack Luffy and, I love this sequence.

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What we have here, ladies and gentlemen? The beginning of our first group fight. In Syrup they fought in individual parts, not starting out with a particular cohesion. In other words, first Usopp fought then Zoro fought then Luffy fought and Zoro and Usopp were together. In the Baratie, Sanji and Luffy were fighting their own battles and when Sanji was done, he was merely an observer of Luffy’s. But here they’re standing as a united front.

Fitting then the first thing that Sanji does is clear the no-accounts out of Luffy’s way. I believe him when he says he wasn’t worried for Luffy, because he wasn’t. (XD Though considering how much Luffy managed to do before they even showed up, I imagine him racing ahead impatiently just to get at this bastard) But to Sanji, it’s sort of as if, if Luffy had to take care of those guys he would be forced to shift his focus, however briefly, from Arlong. While that wouldn’t have done anything much, as part of the crew’s pride the captain shouldn’t have to shift his focus and deal with the small fry. It’s the look of the thing and Sanji is very much about the look of the thing. But also? This can be sort of related to the kind of thing he did for Zeff. Zeff could fight for the Baratie but Sanji told Zeff to stay where he was because it was something Sanji wanted to do. Of course the tone is slightly different, but it’s an interesting shift.

He’s also the one complaining about it because Sanji is a talker XD and Zoro keeping a more sedate pace behind and not particularly worried (though it could be he’s also sort of laconic because of pain) and then XD I love Usopp being like holy shit that’s a mess.

Also Arlong being startled and pissed. He’ll have that expression a lot throughout.

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For Sanji, though, this is very true, too. XD No way is Luffy going to get all the fun fighting while Sanji has a Nami-chwan to save. He has to make his presence known as her prince after all, and while he’s not gonna take on Arlong because that’s Luffy’s thing he’s going to make sure he shines! D;< Okay headcanoning a little XD but obviously Sanji is not going to go without a piece of the action. And Luffy understands a new thing about him.

Before I go further, my favorite translation of this dialogue is the Viz one:

Sanji: Just save a little for the rest of us.
Usopp: I-it’s okay with me if you don’t share, Luffy.
Zoro: How generous of you, Usopp.

First? XD I adore Zoro’s snark. I will always call attention to his wit, because he does have it.
And Usopp, just holding it together. Sure he wants glory, he’s a brave man of the sea, but you know brave men gotta start somewhere and it’s probably not a good idea to get too much glory so early on. Could lead to glory indigestion or something. /waves hand/


But seriously I think the point of this small side conversation is Usopp wanting to be part of the group, of course, and show himself as just as strong as they are. But at the same time, he’s carefully wording it so, hey if he doesn’t get any glory? Well that’s because Luffy didn’t choose to share with him and that’s a’okay by his book. In other words it’s something he can use as an excuse. (not of course to anyone’s detriment) It’s again the push and pull of Usopp’s personality, wanting to be brave, and more importantly for people to recognize it, but also very sensibly not wanting to die and not wanting people to take him at his word too much because what if he really does have to fight? But he can’t have it both ways. He can’t have recognized bravery while sneaking out on the earning it part.

Hence why Zoro says something. I think it’s basically the equivalent of Usopp, pls.

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I love how Zoro is instantly recognized. Before Hachi even says anything Kuroobi sees him and knows who it is. He also looks a little worried about it. I think if anyone Kuroobi would be the one most up to date on the strongest people and what needs to be worried about in these seas. He very much strikes me as the first mate. Also the middle panel just to wonder in the last panel if Arlong is aware that Nami tricked him. It never comes up really. I think that if he is, he wouldn’t say, obviously, because that would be giving Nami a point and he can never ever let her win, not really. But if not, it’s a sign that her tricking him didn’t even occur to him and still doesn’t. I think you can read it either way. Whatever he feels, he makes the connection fast.

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And this is the beginning of hope for the Cocoyashi villagers. They’ve never even seen someone who could take Arlong on so readily and even to hit him, much less send him careening into a wall. Even Nojiko is startled at this. She knew they were annoying but she had no idea what they were even capable of. Also Johnny and Yosaku and their profession of faith…

But the important thing here? It’s not just Luffy… or that guy… It’s those guys. All in a group. Luffy, Sanji, Zoro and Usopp, standing up to the big bad. If these guys… if all of them… can’t stand up to Arlong than no one can. And it’s also Johnny and Yosaku. They are part of this battle even if it’s in standing defense, as I’ve said. Had the Cocoyashi villagers rushed in there? They would have been a liability. Much like Mayor Boodle getting in Luffy’s way in the Buggy fight. And Arlong would have used them against him because Arlong uses every advantage he can get.

(though that’s another point against taking what people say for face value. Insofar as Yosaku and Johnny know, there is no one else strong enough to take Arlong on and the East Blue would be doomed.
I don’t believe that’s entirely true.

The admirals we know can trash him. But even aside from that? First, Arlong does have to bribe Marines so there is some threat to his rule. Second, if he got too close to or took over Fushia—Garp would damn well have something to say about it, not to mention Shanks. Even if they couldn’t get there right away they’d get there eventually. Also? Goa Kingdom on that island. Touch the home of the nobility and Arlong would likely get some pretty heavy fire on his tail. And if the tenryuubito were affronted? He might as well put his head between his legs and kiss his bum goodbye.

Of course they don’t know that and there’s no reason why they should, but it’s just a nod to how complex the world is and much bigger than even they know in their little corner)

Genzo asks why they (Johnny and Yosaku ) are doing this and they say because Arlong made Nami cry and they need no other reason to risk their lives, and I am willing to bet they are 100% sincere. And of course, bringing it back to the others, that’s what Luffy, Zoro and Sanji are doing, too. Usopp yes but not 100% (yet). They are putting their lives on the line for the well-being of someone they care about. (Though it’s slightly more complex than that. Of course Sanji’d do it because Nami is A) a woman and B) Nami is someone in very great need of help. Zoro, I think, hasn’t completely warmed up to Nami yet because it takes him a while to warm up to anyone, but he is here for Luffy’s sake rather than hers. Usopp is there because he feels for Nami and wants to help and very very much so because the others are there. He would not be in that exact spot alone because he’s not quite about to put his life on the line for this)

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Arlong completely misreads the situation, of course. They’re here to ‘get’ her as in steal her or acquire her, because for Arlong, Nami is more of an asset than a person (but a person enough for him to take pleasure in tormenting). And of course the second line because he can’t show any weakness whatever, even smashed against a wall as he is (though not visibly hurt) and his first rule of battle is psyching the opponent out.

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Hachi doesn’t have a great estimation of their abilities. And I don’t think he’s able to read a fight very well at all. But his line of him calling Momoo is very similar to the idea of Sanji kicking away the small fries—that Arlong is too good for the likes of them. Maybe it’s not something that’s conscious in Sanji’s mind now, but it’s very much the similar idea of those guys being too weak to fight Luffy. And.. XD of course Momoo’s face as he arises, oh sad cow. And Hachi’s expression. XD All squinty like: “what the heck happened?” It’s just hilarious to me.

Of course at the surfacing of Momoo, everyone freaks out (except of course the monster trio). Momoo spot Sanji and Luffy who are just looking completely unfazed by this and starts to swim away while Hachi tells him to wait and asks him where he’s going and then Arlong steps in.

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This is the first time Arlong has been remotely threatening to anyone on his side—and it’s very much implied that Momoo will get his ass kicked or worse if he doesn’t comply. But I think it’s because Momoo is a seacow and not a fellow Fishman that Arlong does this kind of thing. He is a lesser creature. Of the sea and so loved in a sense, but not to get away with not doing as he should. I also say that he’s never threatened a fellow Fishman because we never see the Fishmen afraid of him, whereas Momoo is terrified.

Also another angle? I don’t know if he thinks that Momoo can take care of them completely. Not if he was punched so easily. But it can least whittle them down a bit or distract them. Of course I can’t say that for sure but I think that it can be read from it.

In any case, the threat works. Momoo attacks, the small fry Fishmen follow his lead and charge:

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I absolutely love this. The top panel everyone getting ready.

Zoro looking kind of bored with it.

Sanji smirking like bring it on. (and interesting about Sanji is he’s probably used to fighting the unwashed small fries en mass. A one on one fight is probably unusual for him…mostly because it would take a lot for someone in the East Blue to be strong enough to give him a challenge.)

Usopp screaming a cry of battle which sounds like a cry of fear but it’s really not since he’s never had a cry of fear because he’s super brave and even if there’s a little fear mixed in there it’s mostly battle. /coff/ Seriously though it probably is fear and trying to pump himself up because he does have his slingshot out in the bottom panel.

But Luffy’s got no time for this shit and wants to get right to the point without having to pummel everyone in the process. And I love how he draws the other three up short like what is that? Gentlemen, welcome to a group fight with Luffy.

Luffy slams his feet into the concrete and spins himself around and we have this little gem.

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A testament to Zoro having never fought a group battle with Luffy before. To even have to question that this will be ridiculous. Which, of course he knows it will be but he’s still all the unsure. B/
And Sanji (with his collar undone. Mercy) just all like what the shit is this all about? Because Sanji’s more of a strategist than anything and he wants to know and also it looks really goddamn ridiculous, Luffy please, you’re making this look bad.

Luffy grabs Momoo’s horns with stretchy arms and the Fishmen react to his stretchy powers and we have this fantastic gem.

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That is not the face of a confident Fishman, Arlong, just saying.

Also with these guys XD

Zoro’s just wanting to get some distance from whatever disaster Luffy is going to cause. Usopp is already ahead of them because, he’s much better at spotting IMMINENT FREAKIN DANGER than them.

And Sanji’s just gotta know what Luffy’s doing. He just has to know. I love his insistence. Like I have to plan around it! I can’t just bolt away without knowing what the shit he’s going to do!

Luffy pinwheels the feck out of Momoo, sending him flying, and says he didn’t come here to fight these small fries and the one that he came to take down

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Arlong is grinning yes. But he’s got veins, man. And it’s hard to say whether that’s water or sweat. I don’t think that he doesn’t think that he can kill Luffy. But I do think he’s a little intimidated by that Devil Fruit ability. So his words are sincere, of course, and badass sounding since he has to maintain his image for the sake of his brothers AND himself.

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For the Fishmen, it’s very interesting on what they focus on.

Kuroobi says they’ll have no choice but to fight? Why? Because if Arlong fights he’ll wreck everything. For him it’s less about dignity (though that’s part of it) but sensibility and keeping what they have.

Hachi, it’s all about his brothers. How dare you hurt his brothers and the people that he cares about.

Chu takes a more racial angle, out to prove something and I think he believes Arlong’s rhetoric the most.

As for the Straw Hats, Zoro you stop that. (fans self) I love that evil smirk. It’s sort of amusing that he’s right back to business with this. I think mostly because he’s sees them bringing on a challenge and is bringing on his own right back.

But the fun part is Sanji and Usopp completely ignoring the blatant threat to yell at Luffy for being so damn dangerous is he crazy? But I think they come at it from different angles. For Usopp it’s a matter of it looking dangerous and being dangerous and he did not sign up to be a pirate to be clobbered by a monstrous sea cow thanks. For Sanji it’s partly that but I think he’s also reacting to the fact that he’s not used to battles like this. Granted we’ve only seen one battle on the Baratie, but Sanji was very much in charge of it. He gave the orders. The cooks formed a more or less coordinated attack. There was little out of his control (until it all was) and there certainly wasn’t a Luffy just swinging a massive sea cow around.
But the funniest thing of all? Luffy isn’t reacting like that because he’s being berated. He’s reacting because he just realizes he got his feet hopelessly stuck in concrete, that dumbass.

As we go into chapter 83 we see the aftermath of just Luffy’s entrance with the busted wall, messed up concrete and passed out Fishmen. The Cocoyashi villagers are stunned, naturally, by what they are seeing.

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But none of them are counting their chickens just yet. They are watching intently, sweating, hardly daring to believe that what they are seeing is actually the real deal. That they can hope.

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The monster trio (special guest: Usopp) with a Dodon!! This is important because we’re seeing them from the persepective of the villagers (and yeah a low angle but shhh. It’s just to emphasize how impressive they are and larger than life)

Usopp is a little way from the group and his posture is not as self-assured as the others, and yet one hand is still clenched into a fist. It’s as if one side of him is there for the fight and the other side of him not so much.

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First, Arlong and the Fishmen. They look badass and tough and well put together. But there’s again this idea that while Arlong may have massive strength, he pretty much shoots himself in the foot in a place he wants to preserve. (Though in a contrast to Krieg and all the other captains, when his crew asks him to please sit tight, he does. Because he knows they are right)

Then we go down to the Straw Hats who are not quite so put together.

First Zoro, starring as Captain Obvious. The octopus is doing something. What that is? No idea. But he’s where the first threat will come from apparently.

Sanji, posturing and being badass. Which is fine and all…

Only Luffy has something kind of important to tell you, you guys. But this is interesting because it’s the first group battle and so the first time Luffy asks for help.

Of course, even though this is a group battle, everyone is still operating on an individual, everyone can take care of themselves, stance. (Sanji kicking the small fry out of the way nonwithstanding)

And it cracks me up that Usopp in the background has finally slipped into his DON pose, a little after the others and very much behind the others, yet he is there with them and he will don as one of them! Though, uh, a little further from harm.

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Sanji is so unprepared for this attack XD I think largely because he was posturing and not paying attention to it. Zoro isn’t either but at least he noticed Hachi was doing something and has a sliiightly more controlled jumping out of the way than Sanji who is just flinging himself bodily from this shit.

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I love that Zoro’s shocked that Luffy didn’t move. Which says more than anything Zoro’s estimation of Luffy’s abilities. I love in the top left, Usopp freaking out over Luffy about to be smashed by a concrete block.

And of course Luffy being blunt about the problem at hand. Which is great communication skills anyway A+
But Sanji’s expression. Sanji’s expression. He’s like what the shit am I witnessing. Is this a serious shitty fight? Am I going to follow this shitty rubber idiot to the Grand Line. Am I? Because among other things it looks shitty ridiculous.

And poor Zoro. He’s just. 1000% done with Luffy right now. I think this is the first time we’ve seen him face palm.

Usopp’s reaction, too. XD Though I’m not quite sure about why he says that specifically. XD Maybe because why did you do it if you couldn’t get out of it.

Hachi smashes the concrete block down on Luffy. (Arlong doesn’t entirely look convinced it’ll do anything but it’s more of a waiting expression than anything)

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Sanji is completely badass in the above. XD And he is right about the dumbass part. Even knowing Luffy was kind of a goofball as a chore boy, he saw him attack Krieg constantly and even get hurt. So getting his feet stuck in concrete is something new and potentially disturbing. Zoro, too, has at most seen Luffy fall under Jango’s spell, I believe. And they’re like really? Really? But it’s the look of the thing of course more than anything. You present a certain aura when you go into battle damnit.

And of course Usopp fanboying over Sanji’s ability as this is the first time he’s really seen it and his reaction is super cool. XD

Sanji also has a badass line in the far left, and he says that… but it’s also the only legitimate compliment he can give the crew and his captain right now. XD which is kind of funny. It ain’t much and he’s a shitty idiot but at least he isn’t hurting ladies so I’m good here and I have a badass line.

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Firstly, I like Sanji and Kuroobi’s discussion. (Though I think the translation of “Being raised by a pirate” is more accurate) Kuroobi seems to have a certain idea of what pirates are like. Chivalry is not part of their makeup. Since, for Kuroobi, being a pirate largely means vengeance on humans and achieving their shared dream. Essentially he is equating chivalry with not being strong.

And that I think is something Sanji has had to defend himself on. That he can be tough and chivalrous at the same time. And no matter how chivalrous he is he was still raised by a pirate and knows how to be tough as nails. (also raised by a pirate. Pretty much admitting that Zeff was a father figure or at least a paternal one. Not that he could ever do it to the old man’s face. Not that Zeff doesn’t know already)

Also I love Usopp trying to pull Luffy free, totally unprompted. He sees what has to be done and that he can do it and so he does it. Mostly what he’s concerned with here is getting Luffy to a place where he’s safe, or at least safer than being stuck in one place. Also, I just kind of find if funny that Usopp is used to pulling rubber due to his slingshots. XD

Hachi asks if they think they can just go around Arlong Park as they wish and then:

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I love how even being chased like this and terrified, Usopp doesn’t let go. He’s gotta get Luffy free because as far as he sees it there’s no way Luffy can get out of this situation without, you know, dying horribly, so he’s doing the best he can with it.

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Where do I sign up? =D


No but seriously. TEAMWORK. Zoro pulling Hachi into a fight so that Usopp can do his thing and attend to Luffy. Also Hachi is really sort of bubble brained to put his back to Zoro—who, if he was unscrupulous, (and, granted, he can be. But right now there’s no reason to be) would certainly take advantage of it. But also, of course, it’s typical of Zoro to draw the fight onto himself. This is both because he enjoys the challenge and he is protecting those who are not as physically strong as he is or are otherwise occupied.
Annd the thing in the top right panel is Luffy’s legs I believe. I say this because it stumped me for a while what even was going on so maybe it might clarify it to someone else.

Hachi grumbles at Zoro for deceiving him and:

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This is interesting in both perspectives.

For Hachi, again, this is the thing he’s really concerned with. Being tricked first, yeah, but also the fact that his brother’s have been hurt. That’s what he’s pretty mad about. Though we’ve never really seen him madder than this so honestly I don’t think that Hachi is the kind of person that gets much beyond simmer.

Also I think he’s sincere in what he’s complaining about because he doesn’t seem like a manipulative sort of person.

Not that Zoro knows that, of course. I can see Arlong using this moralistic standpoint if he had to in order to psych someone out or at least make them hesitate, but no matter Hachi or Arlong, Zoro feels zero sympathy for them. Which is sort of fascinating because it sort of suggests that had things been different he would have had some kind of sympathy. Like, not that it would have stopped him from doing what he did, but he would have, perhaps, not pursued it further. Mostly because perhaps they are weaker opponents and Zoro doesn’t really go out of his way to fight those kind of people when there is no pressing need to do so. However, it is now Zoro’s intent and desire to fight them and cut them down. I also think it’s interesting that he knows what’s going on for the most part in Cocoyashi. Which means he wasn’t entirely asleep through Nojiko’s story, or he was there to see Nami try to stop the villagers.

However, Zoro’s good intentions don’t go as far as he’d hoped because Usopp totally slips out of battlemode to wipe his forehead in relief, sending Luffy smacking into Chu. Luffy is still stuck and now Chu is pissed at Usopp. Usopp’s realization face is choice XD which is another reason you need to read the chapter.

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So take a note of the above panel. It will be important.

Below, first, I like how what Usopp does is recognized—though he’s rarely around to see it. They know him as the one that saved Genzo. This is not a huge start or anything—but he’s definitely leaving an impact of some kind of the world.

Also Chu cuts an intimidating figure. Inasmuch as he said Arlong had cruel or devious plans, he’s got a hug species angle, too. And here he’s, of course, momentarily forgotten his prey in favor of putting the inferior villagers in their place. But note also while they are standing there shocked and nervous at his presence, that doesn’t stop one guy from drawing a sword. Intimidated as they are, they are still ready for a fight.

Regardless of their willingness to fight, Chu is a undeniable threat and power house and they well know it.

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Fortunately, they are not alone either. Now remember the panel I told you to keep in mind? Close up, Usopp is in a panic. But at a distance, Usopp is full of confidence. He’s not even sweating but full of a sense of pride… but also very much a sense of story. XD In other words, at a distance he can be the Brave Captain Usopp! Shooter of Fishmen and Rescuer of Damsels! With enough distance and out of range of being hurt immediately, his story side takes over.

The biggest thing here is? He knew the villagers were under direct threat of attack by Chu and turned the hell around. Much like Zoro he draws the attack on himself to protect them. Granted unlike Zoro he’d rather draw the attack and not suffer the consequences of doing so, but one step at a time. XD But this action really speaks to the heroic core of Usopp. (which is slightly different from Zoro’s self sacrificial core. Since Zoro is prepared to take the hits but Usopp is very well not)

At any rate, this hit doesn’t hurt Chu much but it rankles his pride and he tears off after Usopp anyway… And Usopp really fekkin hates this decision as he runs. Genzo wonders who the heck Usopp is and the Doctor reflects that he’s a strange man… and then Nojiko.

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It can’t be stressed enough that 9 times out of 10, pirates a terrible. So it’s only natural that Nojiko be shocked by their actions. XD but also Usopp running away instead of being cocky about things. And you could argue, well she only knows Arlong Pirates. Which is not exactly true. Nami stole from pirates and knows pirates well—and she undoubtedly told Nojiko much about them so this is a surprise based on at least a second hand experience of what East Blue Pirates (generally speaking) are like.

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For Arlong’s expression, I’ll just leave this here.

Arlong approaches the monster trio. Kuroobi reminds Arlong not to fight. Arlong says he isn’t going to fight but… Also in this sequence. Luffy spots Arlong, remembers what he set out to do and throws a punch which Arlong catches.

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Arlong is bursting with confidence here and not even trying to psyche them out at this point, only knowing he has an idea that is going to screw with their heads awesomely, put him on the top of the heap and maybe give him an advantage.

Of course even if he was trying to psych them out, they aren’t ones to be so easily tricked by words. They just speak right back at him. I love Sanji’s line and just his whole expression. Cool as shit and not even bothered. His is a challenge in a sense of ‘what are you going to do about it’. I sort of read it as him saying, you may be tough but we’re tougher.

Luffy yelling at Arlong as is Luffy’s wont and demanding Arlong let go as is his wont. Which is basically, let me go so I can pummel you into submission and it’s really an unreasonable request when you think about it. But his is less of presenting a challenge or telling Arlong to prove it or shove it. He’s saying he’s stronger than Arlong, he’s going to beat Arlong, so stop all this wasting time stuff, and let him go so you can be beaten!

And then Zoro (and the translation bugs me because what? Let’s go with another translation: "You seem to have some kind of point to make.”) Zoro’s expression alone speaks volume. (the eyebrow, the nose wrinkles, the dimple. Goddamnit, Zoro, knock it off) he’s not intimidated in the least. Like Sanji he’s presenting a challenge. But unlike Sanji he’s pretty much sneering. I see it as him saying that Arlong isn’t as strong as he claims to be. So he has to prove his point (or strength) to them in order for Zoro to take it seriously.

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Right away? You see the true measure of Arlong’s strength. Yes, he has brutality, but his strength lies in his cunning and in his cheating He makes it a game because this way he can still be the winner. He takes out one of the strongest players on the board, and emotionally compromises the other two. That is what he does best and calls it Fishman strength, partly because he wants it to be but partly because for Arlong, strength=winning. If you can’t win, you’re not strong.

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And it’s not an ineffective tactic. Zoro and Sanji have gone from cool and confident to freaking out. I love how their worry is differently portrayed. Zoro looks pissed and panicky while Sanji has an epic ‘oh shit this is not good’ face. I also like how they both know what Luffy’s deal with the sea is and they’re both impacted the same by it. Already they are tightly bound through the common bond of Luffy and it’s not something they even fully realize yet I don’t think.

This is the first time we see Luffy in a really harrowing situation. With Krieg it was pretty bad but it was frustration more than anything. Here, there’s a very real sense he’s going to be chucked into the sea. So what does he do?

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He keeps fighting. Any way he can. Anyhow he can. He’s not going to waste a single moment in freaking out but going to try all the ways he can think of to beat Arlong and/or get out of this particular situation. Whether that be punching him or biting him. Yes it may be obvious to others that biting Arlong isn’t going to work. But on the other hand it’s only obvious because it doesn’t work. In short, Luffy is going to try everything he can think of no matter what it is.

I also enjoy Arlong’s expression after being bit. XD In a lifetime of biting people I can easily believe this is the first time someone bit back. Kuroobi and Hachi’s expression also. Kuroobi being, what the hell is he doing? While Hachi looks like he’s wincing. XD I can imagine him thinking that must hurt. Or you can easily read him thinking the same thing as Kuroobi. It’s hard to tell really but I enjoy my interpretation.
Arlong chucks Luffy into the water. Now, Lu has ended up in the water before, but that was at the culmination of a fight he’d won. Here? It’s right in the middle of a battle he needs to win, because if Arlong wins everything is going to go to shit in a hurry. But there’s nothing he can do but sink. But it really does introduce the idea that every strength has a weakness. There is nothing undefeatable.

And this next part? So cool. Zoro and Sanji reflect and refract off each other like mirrors and it’s so fascinating.

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Firstly? They are so intensely dedicated to Luffy. Luffy has earned Zoro’s dedication. For Sanji it’s partly that but a great deal of it because he likes Luffy anyway and Luffy is a person.

Secondly, the contrast. Zoro is freaking out. He is just bellowing Luffy’s name, knowing that there’s a really freaking huge possibility that Luffy will die down there and the idea scares the shit out of him.
Sanji is pissed that Arlong even thought to do that. To cheat like that. (he’s probably had it up to here with cheating assholes who use loved ones against him anyway) He’s probably also afraid, too, but mostly anger.

And yet

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While Zoro is afraid of Luffy dying, he stays and confronts the enemy.

While Sanji is pissed and wanting to kick ass, he goes right to the source to save Luffy.

It is a study in their core personality. Zoro is focused on the fight and getting the people out of the way of the goal. Sanji is focused on the more personal aspect of the goal and helping the one who is in the most trouble at the moment.

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Now I’m not going to say whose right or whose wrong here because I mean there’s really no saying in this situation. Just dealing with it. But Zoro does have a valid point. He’s thinking like a fighter. Advantages. Disadvantages. Zoro may rush headlong into danger but he nearly always knows what kind of danger he’s rushing into. IF they’re going to fight, they should do it on land where they have the advantage rather than in the sea where they definitely do not.

Sanji sees his point. Moreover sees his point without even Zoro having to make it, just guessing. Why? Because Zoro pulled Sanji into a fighter mode where he also thinks about these things. I think within Sanji is also the push and pull of the tide. To be aggressive and fight or to be …I don’t want to say passive but let’s say…softer, in a sense, to save the person in need of saving. His fire and his compassion push and pull. He knows that Luffy doesn’t have a lot of time under the sea. He knows the sea after all and more intimately than Zoro does and he’s pissed but I think also really freaking worried at the same time. Not that Zoro isn’t, of course, but Zoro looks better able to channel his worry into fury.

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And right away? It’s freaking ON. Zoro is no longer taunting. He’s got Wado out and ready to do some fucking damage. I also like his other hand out like that as if he’s absently holding one of his unnamed swords. Sanji is immediately prepared too. No cocky swagger here. His head is down, shoulders hunched, legs braced and ready to go in any direction he needs to. All the while Arlong cackles in the distance.
But he shouldn’t.

Because they aren’t emotionally compromised, they’ve got all the stronger reason to fight all the harder. These aren’t East Blue villagers who are strong, yes, but soft from a good life. They are warriors of the sea, each the peak in his particular field, and not to be trifled with.
As we go on we see Luffy sinking and Usopp running.

As chapter 84 opens we have a recap of what happened more or less, Zoro facing off against Hachi and Sanji against Kuroobi. As Zoro fights Hachi:

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First of all? Zoro’s claim. It’s pretty matter of fact. He’s not bragging or posturing and actually pretty angry looking. He also might be saying it to remind himself. But of course it’s interesting because he says what he will do but we know he’s not going to end it in five seconds, even given stretched out manga time. It’s not important that he’s punctual in his words but that he throws himself behind it with every ounce of will he has.

Secondly? Zoro learns. If you call out your moves, he’s going to dodge them, which he does. It’s rare that the same trick works twice against him.

Third, his position as he runs toward Hachi really looks like one side of an Oni Giri. And I think if he had all three swords it would be because of Luffy but also because of another very important fact.
Hachi manages to duck out of the way only getting the top of his hair cut off (and with an Oni Giri I don’t think he would be so lucky)

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XD Hach is kind of bubblebrained, but sincere and an easy going Fishman for the most part. We’ve got no indication that he doesn’t mean this 100%. Hair will grow back so he’s not really mad. Not about that anyway.

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Zoro is really starting to be bothered by being cut up by Mihawk and the great thing is? Sanji notices it. He may not know the cause of it yet, but he is finely attuned to Zoro’s flagging expression and is angry and worried. Why is this? I think a large part is because Sanji is used to noticing the guys fighting around him and making sure they are alright. He is kind of a battle commander of the Baratie after all and observant enough to rescue Patty’s knife. So of course a choice glance at Zoro and he recognizes something off when he sees it. Of course he nearly gets nailed by his concerned and only just barely dodges Kuroobi’s attack.

Notice, though, too, that Kuroobi is not paying the least bit of attention to Hachi. He is solely focused on Sanji. Whether because of this Fishmen ideal of superior strength or he’s simply not used to taking the well-being of others into account, Kuroobi isn’t used to looking over.

Sanji recovers nicely having a really great line afterwards, cocky as ever in his element, while Zoro continues to struggle against Hachi who, unfortunately, does not fight as a swordsman should and—it’s actually a pretty big deal. For one thing, Hachi is pretty loosey goosey about the whole thing, see the failed but not so failed swordcatch. For the other, he’s quick. He dodges Zoro and ends up here:

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Zoro does not have time for this. Both because of Luffy and because of his own failing strength. It would have been less of a problem had Hachi fought like a swordsman. Think about it. In the fight against the Nyaban Brothers it was a continuous assault. All he had to do was to worry about blocking. Cabaji didn’t play by the rules and Zoro had trouble with him, too, letting himself be stabbed and acting blasé about it until he could counterattack Cabaji like a swordsman should. Hachi definitely doesn’t play by swordsman rules and unlike Sanji who has kept his cool and has good lines, Zoro is just frustrated as shit because he can’t figure Hachi out.

Part of this is, Zoro is strong and an excellent swordsman, but he’s not entirely good at thinking outside of the box. At least not at the moment. He’s also not good at thinking outside of the box quickly. Unlike Luffy who tries something, and then tries something else when it doesn’t work. Here, Zoro is trying the same thing (ie trying to engage Hachi as a real swordsman) and it’s not working and he’s just frustrated and wasting time. But again? Every power has a weakness. In this case it’s Zoro himself and his personality and way of approaching things. (on top of the situation at hand)

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Also XD his pride doesn’t help either. Though in this case he doesn’t really have two other swords (or it hasn’t yet occurred to him where he can get it)

We cut to something with the villagers which we’ll get back to—but staying with this fight for now. They do comment on how Hachi is wasting time. (Though I don’t think Hachi is wasting time on purpose honestly. He could be I suppose but it seems to me he’s just warming up and/or trying out new moves and/or showing off)
In any case, Hachi starts telling Zoro he could never beat him when Zoro just outright collapses.

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Biggest thing? Sanji is completely turned form Kuroobi to focus on the collapse. Also that he puts together what must be happening. Sanji is really damn smart, guys. Also he’s worried as hell about it. Arlong and Kuroobi have no idea what’s up. But for Arlong he’s no longer laughing. He looks even suspicious. Like what the hell is this, some trick? Because for Arlong, he knows Zoro is the demon of the East Blue. He knows. So Zoro just fainting is completely out of anything he’d ever expect. Kuroobi just…doesn’t get it. And Johnny and Yosaku are completely startled by this, too. Like they’d never expect Zoro of all people to collapse.

Hachi jumps off the pillar he was stuck on and punches it, sending a bit of roof falling toward Zoro (and it’s interesting, too XD Hachi has power but little control and so breaks more of Arlong Park anyway) And remember what I said about Zoro not easily thinking outside of the box?

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It’s not that he can’t do it. Just that he’s not really quick about it and inspiration tends to strike at the very last freaking moment before he’s clobbered in the head. But when he does think out of the box? It’s fantastic. Also despite the fact that Hachi is quote unquote a swordsman, Zoro is not treating him like one. He’s injured and Luffy is dying so it’s anyway he can win, he’s going to win. I think this is also largely due to the fact that Hachi has yet to even draw his swords.

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And of course as much as everyone else believes in his strength, specifically here Johnny and Yosaku (who finally catch on.) Zoro believes in his own strength and is frustrated at himself for having this sort of thing now when he can barely stand up as if it’s a surprise. But I can kind of guess his train of thought. Why didn’t I last longer? Why aren’t I stronger?

Sanji, of course, has a really shitty good estimation of Zoro’s strength and recognizes what strength he hasn’t goddamned got. He is pissed at him and worried about him at the same time because partly Zoro is a person and partly Sanji admires him and probably likes him a little but that doesn’t stop him from being royally pissed at him for being hurt and fighting anyway. This is not the last time this will come up either.

Buut as strong as Sanji is and as much ass as he can kick?

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Every strength has a weakness and Sanji is completely nailed by his. Not that compassion in and of itself is a weakness, but it’s seriously distracting him from the fight at hand which is why he subsequently gets punched through a damn wall. (And I really love these couple of shots. You can really feel the blow from the hit and it’s fantastic)

Now let’s skip back a bit to Johnny, Yosaku and the Cocoyashi villagers who are watching the fight and realizing that Hachi is wasting time by clinging to the pillar.

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This is important for two reasons. The first is, the seed and theme of this particular fight and the SH in general is planted. Yes, with Johnny and Yosaku. They know Luffy is in the water. Up til now they’ve been spectators, trusting in Zoro and Sanji’s strength. (and even when they were guarding the gate, they had faith in the strength of others to take down the Fishmen) However.

The day cannot be saved on Zoro and Sanji’s strength alone

They cannot save Luffy, so it’s up to Johnny and Yosaku to save Luffy. Maybe they don’t have the capacity to fight Fishmen, but they have the capacity to help.

Only not because they are whacked by Genzo because they are injured (and also it seems to be the Cocoyashi culture to pop people on the head for their own damn good.)

I love that Genzo volunteers.

But also:

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The villagers want to go, too. And they are villager villagers. What I mean to say is, Johnny and Yosaku, while weak in the face of many of what the SH have gone against, are at least bounty hunters in some capacity. They’re at least used to dangerous situations and fighting with a good grip of their weapons. Even if they’re only taking out low level pirates it’s something. The Cocoyashi villagers have endured for eight years. Maybe they can sneak in training, but they have no capacity to fight. But even if they’re the ‘weakest’, their hands are not tied. They can do one thing and so they will.
And why do they want to save Luffy?

Because they believe in him. Because they recognize that Arlong cheated and had he not done that? Luffy would have had a chance. Maybe it’s a slim hope. But it’s there. Give a people an opening and the Cocoyashi villagers will do their best to bust open the door.

But Genzo is of course going alone. What he says does make sense but it also ties into his ideas of responsibility as the village headman. He is, in a way, forcing protection on them but they accept it because there’s a reason behind it. They seem to reluctantly accept at any rate. Johnny and Yosaku less reluctantly accept. XD (though I don’t think there’s any shame in accepting help that’s pretty much bludgeoned on you anyway) Nojiko however?

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Yeah, no, she’s not going to accept. Stomach wound or not, she’s stood by the sidelines for too long and she will be proactive for Nami’s sake. Also I wonder if a small part of it is because Nami considers them her friends (whether she likes it or not) and so much vice versa.

This done, let’s jump forward now. Sanji is out for the moment having been punched outside the wall. Zoro is taking a dirt nap.

Kuroobi asks what to do with Zoro and Arlong says to just throw him and the other corpses into the sea because they couldn’t even put up a fight. How boring. Uh huh. Whatever Arlong. We saw how worried you were.

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Also this is interesting. Despite the win, Arlong doesn’t seem to be in the best of moods. He seems to have a dangerous face as he talks to Hachi, or at the very least tired, but I think that he thinks that Hachi is either goofing off or playing around. (which sort of seems to be the case) Why does he look like that? Well for one thing it’s important that they keep a strong front. Not one of the Fishmen can be shown to be beaten by a human. So it’s vital that Hachi get up, especially when they are being watched.

When Hachi does emerge he says he’s the number 1 swordsman of Fishman island and um… WELL … I seriously doubt that. Of course there’s no proof either way and you could take him at his word… but given all we know of Hachi past this and into the Fishman Island Arc itself? He doesn’t really seem like the number one anything. He could have been at that time, or he could have been before he left Fishman Island to join up with Fisher Tiger. Or he could just think he is because he has a lot of arms and a lot of swords (but not a whole hell of a lot of skill it seems) and even if he says that, you can take him at his word and I can’t say you’re wrong, but for me I don’t see it.

Buut of course the biggest problem with letting the Straw Hats take dirt naps and not taking care of them right away? Is that they wake up. Hachi brags about his six swords. Zoro says don’t make me laugh and that it’s not so great.

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Firstly the line in the above panel reminds me of the fic by X-Parrot: He Comes For Us All.

Secondly, holy damn but that’s a nice shot.

Thirdly, Hachi has gotten out his swords so Zoro can take this fight as a swordsman. He may not know how to approach a swordless wiggly Hachi, but if you bring out blades he’s going to fight right back. Also he knows he has to go all out because he’s not got much juice left.

Fourthly, psychotic face. Yes pls.

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Sanji is pretty badass here, too. Yeah he got kicked through a wall but as he says, he’s pretty damn durable due to a lifetime of Zeff and other things. But I love how he lights a cigarette first. If he’s going back into the fray, he’s going back into the fray with style. A cigarette means nonchalance. A cigarette means that was nothing. He is going in to kick ass and take names.

Meanwhile, Genzo and Nojiko are swimming to help Luffy and Usopp is still running from Chu.
As we come into 85, Johnny and Yosaku are worried about Zoro’s condition but decide to trust him. Hachi asks what he’s going to do because he’s wounded and Zoro says that’s none of his concern while he ties the bandanna on which is a sure sign he’s going to go hardcore.

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First of all, Zoro, you are a dumbass. Not every problem can be solved with moving around and exercise especially when you have horrible wounds that are opening as you speak

Nevertheless, he stands there as the swords swirl at him. Why? Well for one thing Zoro is an idiot. For another he’s a big believer in fate/luck For a third, he trusts Johnny and Yosaku have thrown the swords straight and he’s not going to take his eyes from Hachi who is also explaining his moves. Which—as Hachi says his advantages—I mean it seems the only ones he’s got is that he’s got six arms and is flexible. Which isn’t bad but it’s sort of like being the best swordsman by default. (if he even is)

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So what is Zoro doing while the Hachi (and the swords) come flying at him and Johnny and Yosaku freak out? Well he’s not just watching. He’s analyzing. He’s seeing how Hachi attacks, how he moves, just about everything, because when he catches the swords? He’s already moving into attack and defense at the same time. He’s not just trusting instinct or that his body knows what to do, this is something he thought through in the nth of a second.

It’s a really cool attack, too, as he sweeps through Hachi’s sword dance with a Touru Nagashi ( or streaming wolf swords). You can see how hard Hachi is working and the absolute focus on Zoro’s face.

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Zoro doesn’t look. It’s fairly clichéd in a sense (real men don’t look at explosions anyone? XD) but at the same time what it does show is utter confidence. He knows he cut. He knows how much he cut and how deep. It may only last a second or two but he has utter control over his blades. Also, notice the Fishmen? They both look kind of concerned. Kuroobi perhaps more so (and maybe a little stunned) Arlong seems to be mentally saying ‘shit’ while trying to repress any such emotion.

Johnny and Yosaku are jubilant. The villagers are stunned. Hachi is really mad now. He tells Zoro that he has six swords to Zoro’s three so obviously he’ll win.

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The weight of his swords here he’ll go into, but of course we know that it’s tied into Mihawk as he sees, but Mihawk is only a means to an end. The weight of his swords carry the weight of his promise to Kuina, and that’s something super important to he reminded of.

Meanwhile, Genzo and Nojiko work to free Luffy from underwater, but there’s too much water resistance for Genzo’s mallet to work properly. The main thing is getting Luffy to breathe which they can’t figure out how to and then get an idea.

Now Hachi and Zoro’s fight progresses which you should definitely read. I’m going to pull a couple of scattered snippets here and there, but the main thing to take away from that and what we’ve seen already is that Zoro is incredibly intelligent when it comes to swordplay. It’s not just strength, nor conviction; he knows what it is he’s doing. It’s precision and power.

In any case, Hachi doesn’t understand about the weightier sword reference and says that his swords weigh 650 pounds.

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Hachi is bubblebrained and takes words at face value but also I think he’s not really an idealistic swordsman like Zoro is. To Hachi, swords might be a technical thing but for Zoro swordsmanship is more on a spiritual level than anything. He couldn’t explain that to someone who didn’t already understand. Nor would he waste breath on an enemy like Hachi.

Hachi does the tako pot stance, knocking aside Zoro’s swords and headbutting him. Then six swords waltz

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And freakin Zoro, that idiot. He’s spinning on the blades as Hachi says later to avoid getting sliced and diced by them. But that look as he’s falling? It’s almost as if he’s preparing himself because there’s definitely a spurt of blood as he spins on those damn blades as if trusting some sort of fate or his own stupid shithead endurance to not kill him. It doesn’t and he manages to cut Hachi’s hands on the way down.

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And this set is super important here because I think we take Zoro’s insanity for granted sometimes and it came from this point, really. I think up until Mihawk, Zoro hadn’t been defeated to the point of death a day in his life. Or defeated at all for that matter. But when he fought Mihawk he was ready to die if he didn’t win. Here? He’s determined to not die no matter what. He’s standing up and forcing himself to go on and endure for the sake of getting stronger to face Mihawk again. Of being able to face Mihawk again.

I also think that right here in this fight at this moment? It has nothing to do with Luffy or anyone but his own ambition and the weight of the promise that he owes Kuina.

Anyway, during the course of the fight, Hachi tries a tako pot again, but remember, the same trick doesn’t work on Zoro twice and he breaks Hachi’s swords this time. Telling him: “Now do you understand the difference in the weight of our swords?” Before Tatsu Maki’ing the crap out of him.

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And now it’s snapped right back to Luffy for Zoro. Hachi out of the way, Zoro doesn’t care about anyone else and knows he has to get to Luffy somehow. Especially since he’s fading pretty fast.

Also notice the reactions of the Fishmen. Hachi didn’t see it coming at all. Kuroobi is shocked that he lost to a human.

And Arlong? Arlong who is so convinced of Fishmen strength and they’re so superior to humans? He just says Hachi…and sweats. Yeah you could say he was a little shocked. But he doesn’t say. How can this be or it’s impossible. He just sees Hachi get hit and get hit bad and is worried about him a great deal but also knowing that his defeat is so utterly not good at all.

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And of course Zoro is collapsed and tring to get his breath and he is very much a sitting duck for Kuroobi. He has a grip on Wado but it’ll be a contest to see who is faster. And the answer would be Sanji because Zoro is not alone and Sanji proceeds to defend the fuck out of him. Because teamwork.

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Sanji’s absolutely right, though, but more than that. What’s really being underestimated here is the people of the East Blue. I think the Arlong Pirates have pretty much lived a soft life that consisted of getting their way all the time so of course they thought they could always get their way. This is not the case. But also, note: “There’s a human in the East Blue” who can survive. As in there are other Blues or even in the Grand Line where humans are much better at this sort of thing. Another hint that this idea of Fishman dominance is something they want to believe but is not necessarily true.

Also it’s time for the self-sacrifice Olympics everyone.

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Zoro is pretty much trying not to die here, but his first impulse after the fight is over is to try to save Luffy. I love that. Especially since him going to save Luffy puts him at an even further risk of dying. And he can’t die, he said, even if he should. But if he went in and did die, not only would he lose his dream, but it wouldn’t even be at the end of a sword. He is risking a hell of a lot for Luffy.

Also what Zoro says? He’s still working on the concept of one on one fights here. He fights his guy. He wins. He takes advantage of Sanji fighting his guy to save Luffy. And of course Sanji fighting his guy on land because that’s what makes the most sense.

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But Sanji changes the game plan because he’s a little more flexible and he knows his strengths, too. He is the best swimmer in the Straw Hats and is probably banking on that to get to Luffy before he gets into trouble. Also he’s not, you know, liable to die. Yes he’s been punched through a brick wall but he’s not in Zoro falling apart at the seams so he should be fine.

Kuroobi looks pleased and confident at this as well he should be and

Zoro is freaking out. I love Zoro freaking out. It’s so amazing. He’s like don’t do that you idiot! You’ll die! He’s already got a protective streak of Sanji (and I didn’t mention but he probably found out he was crew long before this. Likely when they met up with Luffy before Nami stabbed herself) But he doesn’t yet know Sanji’s ability or entirely trust in it. He also, clearly, has no idea what Sanji is going to do until he does it.

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Of course, Arlong is happy with this because he’s understandably confident that this is a battle they can win. He is so confident that, at this point, he doesn’t even bother to fight Zoro and get him out of the way. Why would he need to? This will prove a mistake on his part of course, but he doesn’t know that yet. Still it sums up the kind of fighting the Fishmen do which is sort of indicative of the kind of fighting that the Strawhats have done up until now. Each fighting their own specific enemy. Kuroobi didn’t help Hachi win, nor defend him. Just tried to take revenge on him when he was down, only of course to be stopped by Sanji. It’s a start of teamwork, but we’ll see that develop further.

Anyway, Sanji is in the water and spots Genzo working on Luffy.

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Firstly, for Genzo and Nojiko, they are adept at thinking outside the box and working with what little they’ve got. If they can’t bring air to Luffy, they can bring Luffy to air. But at the same time, Genzo is exceedingly vulnerable here, not the least of which is because he can’t fight the Fishman on land let alone in the water. (As a side note, I also love the detail of him holding the mallet under his legs so that he can anchor himself to the sea floor)

For this part, it’s another example of the difference in Zoro and Sanji’s fighting style and motivations. (though I want to stress that this is how they are right now. We will look on if and how they develop when they do) Zoro goes for the fight. The only way he can see to win the battle is to beat the people standing in front of him. In other words, he is mostly the offense. Sanji is more flexible because while he is a warrior, it’s something that comes from his need to protect (and show off), rather than being his sole occupation. He is also good at understanding the bigger picture and thinking of different ways to solve it. Part of it, too, is that Sanji has had more practice in and is better able to rely on other people. He knows what he can do. Break the rock. The rest he will leave up to Genzo to take care of, trusting the man to play his part. Unlike Zoro, too, he doesn’t try to shoulder the bulk of the responsibility.

Also, man, he has a pretty grin.

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This to show that while Nojiko and Genzo aren’t giving the most epic show and are not warriors, they are also working hard at what they can do and putting their lives on the line for the sake of Luffy. Much like Sanji and Zoro, they are doing what they can at their full capacity to do it.

Sanji is nailed by Kuroobi again. Kuroobi spots what Genzo is doing and swims to intercept. Sanji moves to stop him by grabbing onto his legs and you can clearly tell that it’s not really going to stop Kuroobi much however—it does, and why?

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Kuroobi’s sense of dignity is his personality flaw. He cannot allow humans to defy them or underestimate Fishman strength. It’s why he jumps in the ocean after Sanji to begin with. Not because he was afraid of what Sanji would do, but because he wanted to show just how stupid it was and how stupid Sanji is for trying. Swimming to stop Genzo from saving Luffy is the same thing. It’s the principle of the thing. And so because he’s concerned about showing Sanji what’s what, he doesn’t stop Genzo or can even recognize Luffy as a threat.

Sanji’s expressions are awesome. Firstly, because he doesn’t approach battle as the same way as Zoro again. For Zoro he expects to get hurt and even allows himself to get hurt in order to bully his way through where he needs to go. Sanji doesn’t really want to get hurt, though understands it’s a shitty part of battle. And while yes he allowed Gin to whale on him, that was when his self-sacrificial nature kicked in. Also it’s awesome because unlike the Baratie fight where he was held back, tightly wound and cool throughout for the most part—because he was under a great deal of pressure not only to protect the Baratie but to present a certain image to the cooks and to Zeff—here he is just reacting. He startles when the hair wraps around him.

He knows it’s going to hurt even if he doesn’t know how. He expresses it clearly because of course there’s no one to see and no one to show off for. (and I don’t even think it’s a conscious decision. Despite this battle dangerous, there’s less pressure squarely on him. He doesn’t have to act a certain way to maintain his pride or reassure anyone and there are people helping him with the end goal)

Kuroobi proceeds to knock the crap out of Sanji because Sanji’s strength is halved by the water. Which is understandable as it was already brought up with Genzo and the mallet. The water resistance is too great. Plus while Sanji is the best swimmer, he’s likely not trained at all to fight underwater. I bring this up because while he’s getting the crap knocked out of him, it’s not because of any self-sacrificing intent on his part, just not quite being strong enough to have his own way.

Kuroobi knocks Sanji hard into the cliff wall, Genzo reacts to this in concern/fear/etc

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I really super love Sanji flailing like crazy for the surface and I love his panic at not being able to breathe. (Because aside from the flailing being entertaining) It shows Sanji’s vulnerability and just makes it a very human and grounded moment. He is a tough badass and there’s no denying that, but he’s also a tough badass who really freaking needs to breathe right now, and it highlights just how tough a fight this is for him or any human who tries to take on Fishmen under the sea.

(also really? I hurst too much? I lost too much air, crazy translators)

Once again, Kuroobi mocks Sanji’s chivalry and says that try as he might to escape, the Game is Over. That he’ll kill the longnosed man, Zoro, Luffy and Genzo and the villagers that tried to rebel.

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I love this because Sanji is pissed at this. He has his pride, too, as much as Kuroobi does. And it’s interesting that it’s not necessarily about being strong, but his ability to protect people with that strength. (also that is just a really nice shot of him somehow. His cheeks make him look comical but his eye is just blazing. It’s completely awesome)

Kuroobi says that he will show him how pathetic humans are by taking him down into deep pressure (and of course he has to for his own personal pride. It’s not enough to be better and stronger, but he has a compelling need to prove it) For Sanji?

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As much as Kuroobi’s need for dignity drives him and distracts him, Sanji’s need to prove himself capable of protecting others also drives and distracts him. Here he’s leaving Luffy to Genzo where Luffy should be a priority. Granted, first he has to get away from Kuroobi anyway to get at Luffy—but there’s a difference between doing everything to get away from a Fishman to break the rock and continue the fight—and continuing the fight until the end and then breaking the rock. (which is what we see him do) He is going to prove himself and then get what needs to be done done. Of course, again, granted Luffy is not currently dying. Sanji can afford to take this step in those terms. But he’s still very much fighting for the sake of his own personal pride.

Good thing or bad thing, well, who knows? But even after his ribs are crushed

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It gives him anger and focus intense focus. In this phase he’s not going to be distracted by Luffy or Zoro’s predicaments (unless something intensely drastic happens I imagine) but he is going to kick Kuroobi’s ass. But Sanji is smart. He’s driven by his anger sure, but he’s not reckless by it. He gives this signal as if to say ‘one more time’ and then Kuroobi pulls him surfaceward. This gives Sanji breathing (haha) room and time to think. And think he does.

First he analyses what he knows about Fishmen…that they use their lungs on land and gills in the water and then:

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Again, showing Sanji’s own branch of intelligence. He is able to pull bits and pieces of knowledge he has into a unified whole and apply them to the situation. In this instance, it hinges on his observation of people (lungs vs gills) and his knowledge as a cook…which is not really knowledge any of the Fishmen could expect him to have and, hell maybe they don’t even know this is a thing. It also works as a direct contrast to Zoro once again. While Zoro may be brilliant with swordplay, he has trouble thinking outside the box. With Sanji he is flexible, not relying solely on strength or weapons but anything he has on hand to get the job done.

Finally, every power has a weakness. Yes Fishmen are near unstoppable under water and that is no joke. But they are only nearly and not completely unstoppable. Mixed in with this is the idea that precision is power. Sanji wins this round not by any test of strength but by endurance first and foremost, and the knowledge to know exactly what and where to hit.

Sanji surfaces, gasping for air in an unattractive but realistic way.

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Arlong looking not happy as usual. But for mostly, Sanji surfacing. Now Viz here has Zoro say: Sanji! Which is pretty significant, but this translation says “hey” and so does the other one I use. Annd I’m pretty sure you can’t confuse hey for Sanji—so if we’re using those two translations, Zoro’s hey is pretty ambiguous. We can make a guess though that he is commenting on Sanji’s surfacing. Whether he is or he isn’t though, Sanji either assumes (or guesses) Zoro is referring to Luffy, or brushing away concern to deal with the important shit first. Telling him that Luffy is half alright so that he can kick Kuroobi’s ass without Zoro worrying or jumping in the water himself.

And then, he calls Kuroobi out. Because again, his pride is on the line and he is going to prove his strength where he is strong. (Just like Kuroobi proved his strength where he was strong)

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Of course the real difference in their competing pride is that Kuroobi doesn’t recognize Sanji’s strength or his own weakness. As far as he’s concerned Sanji is just a struggling flea, despite the fact that he lost that round and the fact that Sanji already survived a blast through a concrete wall plus everything else. He is still certain he will win because he is a Fishman and when it comes to the East Blue of course he can kick that man’s ass. Can and will.

Only won’t because Sanji kicks the everloving shit out of him.

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This because it’s badass and Sanji has incredible wit, because words and presentation are his thing, remember. But man, think of what would have happened if Arlong had stepped in when Kuroobi was getting creamed. Sanji wouldn’t have stood a chance. But he didn’t and now Kuroobi is down. Because of course Kuroobi didn’t have any respect for Sanji’s strength. Also why can Sanji kick so much ass now when he couldn’t before? Simply put, he had nothing to worry about. Luffy is being taken care of. Zoro is fucked up, yes, but no worse than he was before and in no current danger from outside attack. He was able to concentrate his full energies into kicking ass and so he did.

As we come into chapter 87, Arlong is pissed at the sight of his fallen brothers and once more says their names.

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Sanji being badass, snarky, and pretty much giving as good as he got. Also honest, pretty much. Kuroobi and Hachi really aren’t much comparatively speaking. The reason they got as hard hits as they did was because of a streak of luck due to circumstances they had no part in. Had Zoro been uninjured and with three blades from the start? He would have kicked Hachi’s ass no question. Also, had Zoro been fine, Sanji would have been fine and kicked Kuroobi’s ass no question. I mean, he can kick his ass this much with busted ribs so Kuroobi is no damn problem.

The shot of the astonished Johnny and Yosaku is priceless and the intently staring villagers are awesome. Everyone is shocked and waiting but Pandaman. He believes in them with his full strength. Rock on, Pandaman. Rock on.

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Man, he just looks terrifying in this shot and probably the scariest we’ve seen him. Why? Because his brothers were injured. Because that pisses him the hell off to see humans wreck his closest friends who have been with him ever since he was a kid. Humans do this as humans always do. I’m headcanoning it a little, but there is a lot of hate and fury in Arlong right now. But of course, as I’ve said, as much as an asshole as he is, he is not Hody. He cares for his family immensely. He does not blame them for getting their asses kicked. But he wants vengeance for their asses being kicked. In this rare instance, the fight is not (entirely) about him.

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Zoro? Preparing but not really caring about the shit Arlong is spewing. He knows there’s going to be a fight but his main concern is Luffy.

Sanji smirking because he is all about presentation, still, and communicating with Zoro, which is awesome. He’s telling Zoro that it’s okay now and he’s still going to fix it so that Zoro doesn’t have to worry about that particular aspect. Just they need to get Arlong out of the way first.

We cut back to Nojiko and Genzo. Genzo can no longer hold his breath so Nojiko volunteers to go down instead, saying they’re almost there.

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And this. BAM. Main theme of the Straw Hats in general and Luffy in particular. They bring hope to people. Note first that Nojiko says it about the contributions of others. Zoro and Sanji are very much part of this process and inspire this hope. And, let me tell you, the hope of the Cocoyashi people is NOT easily won. Especially not for Nojiko who has suffered for so long. But seeing all this has started to repair it. Also of course Luffy represents hope, because of what he’s already done to fight Arlong and why he’s fighting. We’ll definitely see more of what Luffy brings as the arc culminates. Nami of course has spent eight years cultivating the small flame of hope the Cocoyashi villagers had, even if it was for her own safety rather than theirs.

And Usopp? Well we’ll come to him in just a second actually. Even he inspires a little hope, though we haven’t quite seen it yet. Here though his main contribution is giving hope a chance to get through. Like the little sands in the bucket tipping the scale. He was the one who saved Genzo from Arlong and the rebelling Cocoyashi Villagers from Chu. It’s small, but it’s super effective. Because for Genzo alone…who would have lead them against Arlong Park should Genzo have been grievously injured? Who would have volunteered to save Luffy? Genzo is a super important cog in the machine and without Usopp everything may have fallen apart…or at the very least been that much harder.
So where is our great hero?

Currently playing dead in the middle of the road.

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It looks fairly realistic and is realistic enough to fool Chu, though how easy or hard that is is difficult to say. I mean Chu doesn’t seem as if he would be fooled so easily and yet people in this series are always stupider than you’d expect about certain things. XD I’m more inclined to believe it’s pride, though. Chu is one of the ones who seems to most believe this ideal of Fishman superiority. So of course Usopp would be taken down by one hit. He doesn’t even have to bother to check. That’s how much pride he has. (though it’s certainly not a pride relevant only to him)

But for Usopp, it’s actually a pretty clever and complicated plan. He had to ready the ketchup star, run like the blue blazes, dodge the water gun while acting like he’d gotten hit and then played dead in a second. Now granted he could have gotten caught in the water gun’s passing and been knocked over, but whether he preconceived the plan as he was running or came up with it in the ten seconds he was falling, it’s a pretty damn good one!

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But Usopp, oh Usopp. Now that people are not in danger right under his nose and the immediate danger of the Fishman is walking away, he is having time to think about how terrifying they are and how strong they are and how strong he isn’t. The problem here isn’t that he is afraid of them.

He feels sorry for Nami and he does want to help her out…but he’s not willing to put his life on the line.
Now we’ve seen Usopp put his life and even his beloved reputation on the line for his village and the people he loves. We know that he’s capable of it. But it’s easy to defend your home and somewhat more difficult to defend the home of someone else,

…Even though Nami put herself at great risk for his and his home’s sake.

But even that isn’t the main problem with this.

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Running is fine, being afraid is fine, even if he decides he’s not ready for this is fine. It’s not even really against the idea of putting his life on the line. Because he can still put his life on the line for his own goals without doing it for hers. (except of course his goal relies on being a brave warrior of the sea so this doesn’t quite fit)

No the real problem here is he’s going to lie about it, and lie in such a way so that he comes out looking good. Not as a coward but a noble hero who just didn’t win. Because he doesn’t want to risk his life by being a brave warrior of the sea, he’s going to fake it.

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It’s interesting that he first thinks of Luffy. In this context, he’s remembering what Luffy did for him, saying that they are nakama. If they are nakama, Nami is also nakama…and even if she wasn’t, what is important to Luffy should be important to him. Plus this is sort of how he sees Luffy because it’s all from Usopp’s perspective. Luffy is his friend. The one who called him nakama which was not something Usopp even really hoped for. And yet in an instant he had people to sail with and have adventures with and someone who he liked and had a connection to besides via Shanks.

For Usopp, though, his excuses just get worse, especially the last one.

First of all, it’s almost as if he thinks that his nakama aren’t strong enough to beat the Fishmen. Which—you know isn’t terribly unfair. He’s not really seen the full extent of their abilities and Zoro did take a fair amount of abuse in the Nyaban Brothers fight—and even if he didn’t, Mihawk toasted him pretty bad. This isn’t the bad part.

The bad part is that he knows Nami is going to cry. This suggests that he knows they are going to lose. That Nami crying is a result of that losing. That allowing Chu to walk away is going to be the cause of that losing—but saying he’s going to say that well it’s only natural that we lose but framing it so that he looks good, or at least not someone who faked it and didn’t even try, pretending to put his life on the line when he didn’t.

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To Usopp’s credit, he goes beyond himself. He gives an excuse to all of them in his imaginings, sharing his tragic hero narrative and well we did our best narrative.

But he can’t keep his nakama’s faces out of his head and what each of them represent.

Zoro represents the ultimate representation of dreams and ambition. Someone who would rather die than take one step back from his dream. He, who wants to be the best, wouldn’t let a fishman walk away. He will take on a swordsman a million times his caliber. Just because that is his ambition to do so. It is something that Usopp wants to be (though not necessarily the pain and getting stabbed and dying part)

Sanji represents the crew. Usopp doesn’t really know him all that well. But what he does know of him in the context of the crew is that he saved Luffy from getting crushed by putting himself at risk and getting in there. Also even though Sanji hasn’t even been nakama (as far as Usopp knows) for more than a few hours, he is still proud to be a part of it and looks out for the welfare of it.

And Nami, Nami of course represents herself and in the hardest most intimate moment. She is the one they are fighting for, yes, but she fought by his side once at Syrup and here she is saving his life, at the detriment of her own hand. At the risk of her own business and everything she’s worked for. He can understand that now just what she risked for his sake. Because of course what she is saying, for the sake of my business stabbing myself in the hand is the only way I can make this look real and give you a chance to escape so don’t worry about me and get the hell out of here.

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And Usopp recognizes not only the strength of those he is most familiar with, but the strength and endurance of everyone. He recognizes that everyone has suffered. Johnny and Yosaku…Johnny who abandoned Zoro with Usopp and then later abandoned Usopp, is willing to fight and get his ass beat for Nami. Nami endured all that time and Nojiko with her and the people of Cocoyashi. Usopp is starting to come out of himself.
There’s an idea that everyone is the protagonist in their own story, and for Usopp who has been alone for a long time, he can’t help but center himself as the protagonist. But he’s starting to come to grips with the fact that it’s not just his story but everyone’s story and lying just isn’t going to cut it. That these aren’t just characters and he can’t just wiggle his way out of it because they are real people who are hurt and overwhelmed and yet keep fighting.

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And I love that he comes to this realization and the emotion is just awesome. He is terrified but he’s realizing that all his excuses are just excuses. That now is the time he has to stop trying to get away with things with words only (like he used to do on Syrup) and put his money where his mouth is.
I mean, yes, he’s already done it as he defended Syrup, but as I’ve said—it’s one thing to defend your own home and the people you love—it’s quite another to take that step forward and defend the home and lives of others not related to you.

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I love this because it’s a great evidence of the push and pull of Usopp. He bellows with his courage and then immediately freaking regrets it because oh his god is this dude terrifying.

Let’s take a full page of Usopp’s glory.

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He is terrified, of course he is, and you can see it, but he fights anyway. It’s not, after all, that someone has flaws, but in how they rise above them and he does so spectacularly. Even if he doesn’t have massive amounts of strength or confidence. Even if he doesn’t even really know what he’s going to do, he’s going to take a stand for what he believes in. Because he wants to be able to laugh with them. Which, let’s think about what that means here. Could he laugh with them if he didn’t do this? It wouldn’t be real laughter. He would always feel guilty about it. About not standing up with Nami. Especially if he also lied about his massive fight with Chu. Especially if they didn’t believe him. Usopp can be a jerk on occasion, but he’s a really caring person and someone really sensitive to others and even if they forgave him I think he would be hard pressed to ever forgive himself if he let the moment slip away.

Also this? Usopp taking another trembling step on the road to to adulthood. He has a much longer way to go than the others which is both a blessing and a curse, but no matter how often he runs he is always moving forward.

The flame star misses and Usopp gets punched in the face by Chu who says he should have stayed dead but maybe he’s too stupid for that. Usopp says it’s over and even though Chu is holding him down with a foot, Usopp bonks him in the shin with a mallet and then this, which is great:

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Fishman or not, no one wants to be hit in the face with a rubber band. Usopp knows about these small hurts and distractions and he’s damn good at them. XD He’s kind of a DIY, home spun, home remedy warrior. Maybe he can’t swing a mace or fire a pistol, but that doesn’t mean his distractions aren’t ineffective. Much like Sanji, actually, he uses what’s around him. Though where in Sanji’s case that is more applied knowledge, Usopp is good with stuff.

He’s also a fast little bugger as he uses the distraction of Chu’s flinching to tear away into the forest.

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This is such a great set up, because Usopp’s attack comes in different stages but one after the other don’t really look like much. Still he knows just what he’s doing and planned this out really freaking quickly. I can imagine that he looked in his bag, saw what he had, then put together an idea, relying not only on stuff, but on his knowledge of people. He counted on Chu to catch the bottle and so Chu did. Almost immediately? Usopp breaks the shit out of it.

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I love this because it sort of ties back into Bellemere was saying, paraphrasing here, but people are going to laugh at you. The world is hard like that.

Usopp knows how it looks, stupid or cowardly to hide and attack from the trees. He’s not happy with it. He doesn’t exactly smile and do his own thing. But he doesn’t let it stop him from fighting even if it’s not cool or flashy or heroic or anything like that. What it is, is the only thing he can do. And I mean, it’s great from a reader’s perspective? But it’s not something that he can see, as we’ll discover. He won’t run away. He’ll win or he’ll die as he tells himself XD trying to psyche himself up, telling himself the odds. There’s no one else to tell him these things and Usopp is used to telling himself.

Chu shoots a water canon at the trees, leveling them. Usopp is amazed and accidentally exposes his hiding place. Chu thinks he’s an idiot and starts firing a whole bunch of waterballs at the trees to get him.

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Usopp is understandably afraid and it’s sort of like a warz one, but he’s yelling at himself what he’s going to be, what he’s going to accomplish, what he was and acknowledging his mistakes that he was treating it as a game but now he’s going to treat it a lot more seriously to become a brave warrior of the sea! But this is so important and paints Usopp as a strong figure. Why? Because no one has ever told him this. No one has ever told him this is the way to be a pirate. This is what to do, this is what not to do. No one has even ever told him: “this is the way to be a man”. We’ve seen even if the Syrup villagers care about him, he’s not close to any one of them…and Yasopp probably left too long ago to be a great model of either a pirate or a man—so Usopp had to and has to learn all this from scratch, seeing what his friends do, seeing how the world works, comparing his own actions to theirs and deciding what he wants. How he wants to be a man.
Kuroobi finds Usopp and says what do you think is over?

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If you think Usopp forgot his set up you are wrong. Chu might have but of course Usopp keeps it in mind because it’s a serious advantage for him. And the fact that he knows alcohol is flammable shows (especially since he doesn’t seem to be the type to drink) that he is someone who experiments. He tinkers. He sees what things do and then figures out how to use them. All of his weapons are like this. He is extremely stuff smart, as I’ve said, and we’ll only see his stuff smarts get better as time goes on.

Chu is on fire, freaks out, runs toward water, Usopp cracks him with a hammer several times interspersed with a rubber band which is a really great scene to watch and read and eventually beats the tar out of him. He’s like a death by 1,000 cuts, yet a death by 1 cut or 1 million still results in death. Well unconsciousness anyway. Regardless of how he did it, a win is a win. So this?

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Feels good. Especially for Usopp who actually did something really stupidly hard. He got tons of hurt in the process but it’s something that he can take a whole hell of a lot of pride in because he took the gamble and won. I love that he says: ‘don’t underestimate me!’ because he underestimates himself at every turn. But it’s fine if he does it because he knows the truth, but no one else better underestimate him because he’ll show them…even if right not at that exact second and from a fair distance and hey what’s that over there ZOOM

/coff/ but yes

It’s been a long slog already, I know, but we’ve got a little bit more to go. Hang in there. It’s not a super New Years Special for nothing, after all.

We cut to the mikan grove and to Nami.

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I love this, because Nami took some time out of this whole mess. She took time to calm herself down. To cry it all out. To come back at it with a clear head as she does. She knows how to take the time when she needs to. But she is not one that gives up. She is not one that waits to be rescued. She goes out to meet and fight with the others. That takes some massive strength right there especially given that she has no idea if they’ll even win but she’s going right back into the fray despite that.

Meanwhile back at Arlong Park, Arlong has basically suckerpunched Sanji and Zoro with his waterthrowing technique. Meanwhile Nojiko is working on Luffy to get him to spit out more water and we see his finger twitch which is awesome thematically. Johnny and Yosaku beg Sanji not to get up again—which of course he does.

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Just this because I love the image of Sanji standing up and almost blocking Zoro as if guarding him. (Also Nojiko still doing her best on Luffy despite how desperate for breath she might be) Standing up is hard for Sanji and I love just how hard it is but that he does it anyway. Zoro must be completely wiped because it seems to suggest that he knows Sanji is standing up despite his injuries but Zoro can’t even move right now.
Arlong calls them pathetic and that he can kill them with a little water and that’s the difference of power between their races.

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And Arlong is a pretty tough customer. Though he’s essentially using a ranged weapon, he avoids Sanji’s kick pretty easily and then, naturally, gets him as Sanji’s stance gives him an opening. Inasmuch as Arlong isn’t as strong as he says he is or thinks he is, he’s not to be trifled with.

He knocks Sanji down again and Sanji thinks of how powerful he is and how Arlong is on a completely different level. Arlong tells them to die already and that their lives are completely useless- another psyching out trick that is going to be wasted on them anyway because it won’t even make them feel bad (though I kind of wonder if Arlong had heard the same thing said to himself or his brothers or other Fishmen at some point or another)

Then Nami shows up.

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First, oh, Sanji. There’s little short of unconsciousness that will stop him from heart farting at the arrival of a beautiful woman.

Arlong is back in full confidence now that she showed up. He may have to show these pirates a thing or two, but he knows how to manipulate the fuck out of Nami. Plus if these pirates are her friends, or connected to her at all, she’ll get to watch them die which is even better for him.

Nami doesn’t look strained at all. I love it. She’s not even sweating. She doesn’t even look particularly angry. Just calm and determined to take care of the problem she considers her responsibility.

Arlong laughs at that though, asking how many times she’s tried to kill him in the 8 years she’s worked for him. She’s pretty enterprising, too, is our Nacchan! She’s tried assassination, poisoning, surprise attacks… Nami is really damn hard core and it’s awesome that even then she didn’t take it lying down. She wasn’t a passive victim but a girl who fought as hard as she could as long as she could.

Tough as nails though she is, every power has a flaw.

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Hers is, in this case, that Arlong knows her really freaking well. He can get under her skin really easily and knows just how to do it. He first basically says that their resistance is futile and then tells her what is going to go down. That he’s in no way going to let her get away from him. And Nami takes this hard. I think she’s fighting against this rising panic but she can’t really help it because Arlong is a shitheel and is just too good where she’s concerned.

Arlong continues to say that he’s an understanding guy and he doesn’t want to force her against her own free will. (Because it’d be harder to keep her down if she was forced. Better to make her make herself her own prisoner)

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And it’s the second verse same as the first. He is getting Nami back just where he wants her, but this time she can’t have everything. He won’t let these guys live, because of course he can’t. They are way too damned strong for one thing. And yeah he says they pissed him off but we all know what’s really going on. And ugh this moment is so full of tension and Nami has come to a cross-roads of her life. She can go one way or the other. It all hangs on her decision. (also Sanji your hair should not look good when you are kicked)

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He’s so cocky, but of course he is. He figures he’s got this in the bag. And he figures he’s got this in the bag either way it goes. Either Nami will side with him and he’ll have his way. That is the ideal outcome, of course.

If she sides against him, it’s a little more problematic. But I bet he thinks there’s only so much killing she’ll be able to stand before she agrees to side with him and he can hold the Cocoyashi villagers over her head once more…even more tightly this time because now it’s not even about a matter of money. Either she can work for him or he can kill them, simple as that. No pretense needed.

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Once again the burden of choice is fully on Nami’s shoulders. She has to decide who lives or who dies and it’s a horrible burden to have to carry and an even worse fate. But she still has a choice. It was one more choice than she had.

I love her image of Luffy. This is Luffy in her memory and it’s awesome. He’s scrawny and his hair is a mess, but is back is to her. It’s small but it’s still protective. She has someone standing in front of her who she knows can fight and who is fierce and strong and so she has to believe in him. She has to believe and rely on his strength rather than keeping it all to herself and it’s SO HARD. Because of course it is. It’s one thing to die yourself, but sending others you love to die? That is so so so much harder. But I love how she grips the hat for courage, to remind herself of Luffy’s promise of his presence.

Also super important? The choice is between accepting and denying who she is. She can either be her fullest self, say she is with Luffy, acknowledge her friends and nakama, trust them, be free with them and risk everyone dying—or she can trap herself once more in Arlong’s grip and this time she might never get out but at least people would be alive—if not happy…and certainly her nakama won’t be.

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And just like that? Arlong’s lost. Now it’s only a matter of beating him. Nami has made the decision to share responsibility with others. To let them help her, let them ALL help her, to throw in their lots all together to make a united front, even if it means death and it probably does but really? Enduring can be so much more painful sometimes. She also in a way acknowledges her love for them and they acknowledge right back. I mean she’s not 100% happy with this decision and faith is an easy thing to say and wish for but a harder thing to do. She is still pretty sure they are all going to die, but she asks anyway.

And really? I mean, holy fuck she has no idea. She didn’t see any of the fight. She didn’t see Luffy send Arlong flying or Zoro vs Hachi or Sanji vs Kuroobi. All she sees is rubble, Luffy missing, Usopp gone, Sanji and Zoro trashed. That is a hell of a lot of faith.

Also, Arlong isn’t smiling anymore.

It is all set up to be a massacre but…fortunately for Nami?

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Help is on the way.

I love how Luffy grips Nojiko’s arm, telling her to stop. I love the sense of movement there.
Also I love that the fountain gets Zoro and Sanji’s specific attention because they see it and while Zoro can hope what it means, Sanji knows what it means. (I also love how Sanji is still up, on his knees and ready to move)


Everyone’s A Hero: The connotations of being a hero aside, as this is roughly a mnemonic—everyone has got something they can do to contribute to the overall success of any one goal, especially if they work together. Even before the Straw Hats’ arrival on the scene, the Cocoyashi Villagers were working together. Nojiko defended Genzo from Arlong. They all did in their own way. And by enduring, they made it possible for Nami to keep doing as she was doing—which was painful but I think also kept up her capacity to hope and her own self esteem. She was helpless in many respects but she was still working toward a goal that she had no reason to believe was unattainable.

That aside, even right now, it’s not as if they have paltry contributions to make. No, every contribution is critical to the ultimate fight.

Johnny and Yosaku guard the doors, keeping the villagers out. Yes, it keeps them safe, but it also keeps the battlefield clear. Arlong would use anyone he could to manipulate the outcome so the more non-fighters he can grab, the better off for him. We know that Luffy would have problems with that outcome, but Sanji as well, especially if a woman got caught. But that didn’t happen because Johnny and Yosaku kept the way clear.
Genzo and Nojiko of course perform a vital role. They are the ones that save Luffy who is the deciding factor in the entire fight (and not just physically but emotionally as we’ll see) Yes, watching Zoro and Sanji kick ass gives them hope, but they contribute to their own success. Sometimes a miracle has to be helped along a little.

Every Power has A Weakness: Something seen throughout this battle and in fact, most of them before and most of them to come. Every Power has a weakness. I use Power instead of strength because strength can be divvied up into different categories like emotional etc. Power I’m defining as the ability to fight in whatever capacity you are able, feet or swords or slingshots. The main gist of it is in this case, no one is undefeatable. That works for and against our protagonists. Zoro is an undeniable powerhouse, and yet he has trouble thinking outside the box and also has the tendency to take wounds rather than avoid them which can only slow him down (even a little). Sanji is also an undeniable powerhouse but is nailed by compassion and concern for the wellbeing of others quite frequently. Luffy is a hammer. Nami’s weakness is the villagers of Cocoyashi.

Of course it also works in reverse. Kuroobi is a master underwater but will get hurt when air gets blown into his gills.

Hachi introduces another aspect—because if you believe in his skill-set or not (and I still think it can be read that the only superiority he has is in the number of swords) the fact is that Zoro is stronger than him. Hachi has power, Zoro is greater power and so the difference in level is a weakness.
Chu is yet another aspect. Sometimes even if you don’t have a particular weakness that someone can use against you or manipulate you with, and even if you’re absurdly stronger than they are, you can still lose.

Pride Before the Fall: Posturing before the fall, too, really, or it can. But I think the difference is posturing may not nail you in the end, but pride always will. And by pride I mean in this case the idea that you are far superior to everyone and cannot lose under any possible circumstance. This is what gets Kuroobi more than anything. He did not feel Sanji capable of beating him, despite stopping him from punching Zoro, despite breathing in his gills (which indicates a certain intelligence, at the very least a willingness to survive which is dangerous in and of itself) And so when they got on land? He got his ass kicked. Chu somewhat as well—I mean I think Chu was plenty proud and underestimating of Usopp’s abilities—but otoh Usopp’s abilities aren’t really that showy. If a guy’s slingshotting rotten eggs at you, it’s hard to take him as a lethal threat. Though this actually works to Usopp’s advantage in fights considering his own current power level.

Ironically, Arlong… is both in and out of this category. Yes he has pride as a Fishman but it’s tempered with the common sense of knowing what humans are capable of. He puts up a front of pride because it’s something he wants for himself, but he very craftily takes out the advantages one by one. I think his pride is tied in with his physical strength/capabilities yes, but only that they are there and can beat humans but do not necessarily make him unstoppable. His main source of pride lies in his mind. His ability to control and manipulate others. That’s why he pushed as far as he did with Nami because he thought he could. He thought he knew her well enough and had her under her thumb well enough that she would be twisted. And she was for a while, but ultimately?

Weakness is Not A Death Sentence :
First, as I’m referring to Power as the ability to fight in whatever capacity you’re able, weakness is the thing that prevents you from fighting at said capacity. In other words, weakness is not necessarily something I’m tagging as a bad trait, but rather the opposite.

Characters can overcome their weaknesses. Characters can get stronger, certainly— Emotional weaknesses are harder but not necessarily going to screw them over. How? Courage for one thing. Just as a note, courage is not about standing stoic in the face of sparks and explosions—but of about doing what you need to do even when the odds are completely stacked against you (both physically and emotionally.) Courage can come in the stoic face, but it can also come in the crying snot nosed knee shaking shouting to the world face. It’s not how you stand up, it’s that you stand up.

Characters can change their minds. Again, Usopp’s bravery comes to mind, but Nami’s bravery too in asking the people to die with her. This does not mean the weakness leaves her. She would still rather they didn’t die. She would still protect the weak from the strong. But her back is to the wall and it is either that or allow herself to be manipulated again at the detriment of everyone. (and they would suffer mostly because they care about her)

Some weaknesses can’t be overcome. For instance, not being able to swim is a weakness but Luffy is never not going to be a hammer. But it’s of course still not a death sentence and why?

All In this Together: Teammates, comrades, nakama, can help fill in the gaps your weakness leaves. Luffy can’t swim, Genzo and Nojiko can keep his head above water, Johnny and Yosaku can keep the arena clear, Usopp can distract Chu, Zoro and Sanji can work to save him and keep the Fishmen at bay, Nami can believe in him to do what he says so much that she’s willing to ask the others to die for her.

I will talk about this more in the next part, but I wanted to drop it here because it’s already in play. It has been in a sense before as well, but now it is all coming together as the Straw Hats do.

For Arlong and the Arlong Pirates, for whatever reason, if it is through pride or whatever (and I think it is, as a matter of fact. If they have to work together it means they’re weak. It should not take more than one Fishman to take on one human), they do not work together. If they had it would have been much harder with Arlong’s strength and capacity for deviousness alone. Rather Arlong watches his brothers get pummeled. Granted, yes, they told him not to fight…and that may be some measure of it beause Arlong is a devious person and is willing to cheat to his own advantage. But that did not stop Kuroobi from having the opportunity to help Hachi.

Though I will say this only seems to apply to the officers as the Pirate Rabble has no problems with attacking en masse.

Bringing Hope: I might change the title of this one if I get a better sense of it, but of course Bringing Hope is the main theme of the Straw Hats themselves. All of them. Luffy is the figurehead, yes, but he rarely figures in until all hope seems lost. It’s the others that clear the way for him, that fight for him and take care of the things that he doesn’t have the capacity to do. Still, they all bring hope together. Here in Arlong Park, their fighting, even Usopp’s who seems just as normal (strengthwise) as they are, and maybe even a little less, is inspiring. We’ll examine these instances more as they come and as they come greater, but this is really what they do more than anything.


Arlong: While I’ve not come yet to my ultimate proof of Arlong being more wary of humans then he lets on, he’s certainly damn wary of them already—he makes sure to put them at every disadvantage he can, while at the same time pretending that he’s just being an asshole. Arlong has to appear in total control for his plan to work, not just because of saving face, but because I think he knows that any weakness perceived will be exploited--also I think so that his brothers will continue to believe in him (and themselves) and their ideal.

It’s always so interesting to me how much Arlong loves his brothers and at the same capacity he loves himself. I mean think about it, yes it’s going to be the Arlong Empire. Yes hes’ going to be the figurehead. It’s plenty freaking arrogant… but there is never the sense that the Fishmen are stepping stones. Even when they fail Arlong betrays more of a concern about their well being than berating them for their failure or lack of strength. (and the fact that there is never any time where he says ‘this is impossible’ or even seems too started by their unconsciousness also says to me that he doesn’t believe Fishmen to be as powerful against humans as he says) Even Momoo. Arlong threatened him but had nothing to say about him being sent flying.

Also to play a little sympathy for the devil here (since I’m not in any way saying Arlong isn’t a total shitheel or excusing his actions.) Fom a Fishman’s perspective, I can really imagine that he has this sense of growing dread, ameliorated a little by Nami’s arrival. They got away from the Fishman District, they are up in the sunlight. Arlong has just gotten out of prison, going to the East Blue because it’s the weakest of the seas and the best place to start. He had eight years of everything going his way and now the humans are back and are kicking his ass again… If he lets this go on he will lose everything just like he lost before. This serves to create the counterpoint that as the humans begin to gain hope by degrees, Arlong loses it by degrees.

Kuroobi: For Kuroobi, while he is incredibly strong, his weakness lies in his pride, as I’ve said. But it’s not enough that he has pride, but that he has to make sure that everyone knows and, more importantly, acknowledges, how good he is. It most assuredly lead to his downfall. He could have left Sanji in the crushing depths, but he brought him up again, gave him time to think. It wasn’t enough for Kuroobi to beat Sanji but he has to turn him into a greasy smear. It’s this pride that distracts him from doing what needs to be done. He could have shaken Sanji off and gotten rid of Genzo, thus making it harder to free Luffy, but he chose instead to prove himself to Sanji.

I really feel that Kuroobi fills the roll of first mate here. He is the one who asks Arlong to please sit down and stay there. He’s also one of the few who as argued with Arlong, or at the very least disagreed with him. Whether or not it means he’s the first mate, it at the very least indicates he is not afraid of saying what he must and believes. He is also tightly controlled, likely do to his martial arts training, and his movements are precise which makes him a hell of an opponent. Still though he comes across as more stoic than his Brothers, he nevertheless cares for them and will take vengeance on their behalf.

Diverging into headcanon, Chivalry seems to be a big deal for Kuroobi, at least how it represents what a pirate isn’t. At the same time I can’t help but feel that this is something Kuroobi wants for himself. Yes the concept of chivalry (and honor and such) is slightly clichéd when it comes to a someone who fights with karate (or the like), but there’s a jot of truth behind every cliché. And Kuroobi is not just using martial arts, but takes pride in that is what he does. And the brand he is also proud of. Fishman Karate. He wears a gi and pretty much identifies as a martial artist. I think an ideal Kuroobi world would be that he can be chivalrous in a certain way.

But also you can want a thing and not want a thing enough. For instance, he can want chivalry but not want to give up aspects of yourself that you like to get it. Because Kuroobi very firmly likes who he is right now and what he can do and his position. I think perhaps its more accurate to say that some small part of him likes the idea perhaps of the thought, but it is not for pirates to have any pirate that practices this idea is a fool.

Hacchan: Early days Hacchan is kind of a puzzle in a lot of respects. We know that he had some good contact with humans as a child, even if it was just Shakki (and possibly Ray?). We also know ( I am fairly sure) that he was a slave for the Tenryuubito for some time. Yet he chooses to go along with Arlong and fight humans with the rest of them, despite the fact that he seems to have a good heart, as evidenced later. I think this suggests that at this stage of his life, Hacchan is very much about following the crowds. Not because he wants to fit in necessarily, but because he hasn’t formed his own opinions about things. Also you can see patches of something more softer in his overall motivations.

He wants to fight Zoro, not even really because he was made a fool of, though that’s part of it. Mostly he wants revenge for his brothers. He is more outwardly caring than the others and the least, it seems, concerned with the Fishmen are the Strongest rhetoric. Though that well may be it’s because he’s kind of bubble brained (i.e airheaded.) He’s also silly and not the grandest example of Fishman Coolness or Stoicism. He’s not even the best example of Fishman strength! (and it’s sort of a testament to the Fishmen that Hacchan is allowed and unafraid to be who he is. Silly bastard or not)

Headcanon time again, but I am still sticking by the idea that he’s not as good as he thinks he is (though I’m not adverse to hearing arguments!) Especially given the fact that cutting up Genzo fell not to Hacchan, but to Kuroobi. Why? Well I think that Kuroobi has the most control. Hachi would have probably diced him up into bite sized chunks without even really meaning to. Also when it came time to fight the Marines who came to rescue Gosa, Hacchan’s job wasn’t to fight but to push the reef. I think this says that Hacchan, while he might not say so or even recognize it in himself, doesn’t have much of a capacity for killing. He did go after Zoro and didn’t seem to hold back at all, but on the same token while he cut him up, he didn’t get to the point where he had to make a decision to kill him or not. I don’t know, what do you guys think?

Chu: Chu is in a sense the least developed of the officer Fishmen. He fits in somewhere between Kuroobi and Hachi, really up there with the Fishmen are strong rhetoric, has no hesitation in fighting humans or mocking them for their inferior strength, and no hesitation in fighting them either even if it’s the equivalent of stepping on a bug. Yet he also says Arlong can be cruel (or devious or whatever) which is just an interesting thing to bring up, since it’s really hard to tell in what capacity he says it.

Chu also has pride like Kuroobi, but his seems more on the revenge side or at least making people pay for it rather than proving himself. For instance, when Kuroobi was distracted from Genzo, it was to prove himself. When Chu was distracted from the villagers, it was because he was pissed and wanted to make Usopp suffer. He also seems to see the bigger picture, as he tells Arlong (after Kuroobi speaks) that if Arlong goes nuts he’ll bring down the whole place. He’s also the one who seems to be the emissary of Arlong in a sense. What I mean to say is, he’s the one who goes and talks to the Marines before they sink ‘em. It could have easily been Kuroobi (Maybe not Hacchan because they need to look at least badass if not dignified)

That’s about all I can say for his character, though. But I think if we compared the three officers in a rough equivalent of the three men of Luffy’s crew in emotional temperament– Kuroobi is most like Zoro, Chu is most like Sanji and Hachi is most like Usopp. (though I think out of all of these three, Hachi is the furthest from Usopp since with Hacchan what you see is what you get and his silliness comes from his wiggly personality where Usopp’s mostly comes from him trying so damn hard)

Johnny and Yosaku: They are great characters for what they are and while not terribly developed, they nonetheless reached the peak of their character arc here. In the beginning, they attacked Fullbody out of a sense of pride, were trashed, and regretted it. They escaped from Krieg’s superior strength (though there is foreshadowing of their capacity to care for their friends as Yosaku swam back to warn Luffy about Nami). Johnny pretty much abandoned Zoro. (though it’s debatable to how much he thought Zoro was actually going to die) then subsequently abandoned Usopp. Then upon hearing that Luffy intended to stick around Cocoyashi, they decided to take their leave, largely due to being afraid of and intimidated by the Fishmen.

Yet when they heard Nami’s story at whatever capacity they did, they went to fight for her sake and possibly for her freedom, despite being intimidated by the Fishmen. They were trashed, but yet they still stayed to protect what was important to her. They did all this not for the sake of their own pride or even to get anything out of it but because they wanted to help her and did their best to do so—and that’s just really freaking awesome.

Luffy: We are still in the learning phase with Luffy, seeing what drives him. But he’s a fairly complex character for all that he’s also straightforward. Before we’ve seen him get angry over a concept (what do you think nakama are), anger/worry over Zoro and need for immediate punching Mihawk in the face. Here it’s pretty much fury because Nami was suffering. Crying is his way of saying it, because she was, but she was crying not just because she was hurt or afraid but because she had no hope left.
But also what makes him angry isn’t necessarily what he fights for.

What I mean is this, there seems to be two levels for which Luffy fights.

Overall he fights to accomplish a goal. To frame this in something more emotionally distant, let’s look at the Syrup Island Arc.

He fought for Usopp’s sake, yes, because Usopp was going to fight and didn’t really have the capacity to win. He helps out and finishes the harder bits that require more physical power.

But his fury comes in the way Kuro treats his nakama. That is where the hardest single hits come. Within the fighting to accomplishing a goal is this idea of a pure jolt of, in Kuro’s case, anger, but in Nami’s case, vengeance. He punched the shit out of Arlong not as a start of a fight, but for making Nami cry. It’s the same reason he threw himself at Mihawk. He cannot stop this rage at seeing the people he cares about get hurt.

The main reason this is interesting to me is…not because of duality, but a sense of a nested personality. Luffy with the hat, Luffy under the hat. (as a note, this is a developing theory so I may well dismiss it if it doesn’t flesh out)

Luffy with the hat, is Captain. In this capacity he fights for what he wants to, which often ties into the dreams and the treasures of others. Best example of this is with Buggy. (and somewhat with Kuro I suppose but there’s a difference in him consciously taking off the hat and it being knocked off) It’s personal, because everything about Luffy is personal, but there’s also a comparative sense of distance. Also tied into this is these are the steps he has to take to become stronger and be ready to fight off others for Pirate King.

Luffy under the hat is those moment when, without wearing the hat, he hits filled with rage—or tries to. These hits are super personal and come from his core and his inability to stand for his friends being hurt (usually psychologically. Wounds that are so much harder to heal) or even being mocked. This rage comes from the same place as that angry kid who was pissed off at Shanks for allowing himself to be mocked. Essentially it’s the molten core of Luffy, and he would react this way if he was Pirate, Marine, or anything else.

Interestingly, though, after the initial burst of rage, Luffy doesn’t hold onto it. Yes he’s angry, but at the same time it’s not a sustained anger. What I mean to say is he doesn’t spend the whole time glowering. He is picking his nose as Usopp tries to haul him out of the concrete. This is an example I think of how Luffy lives in the moment. When it’s time for him to be angry, he’s angry, when he doesn’t have to be, he’s not.

Also interesting and somewhat difficult to track and parse out, Luffy’s own learning experience as he goes through this. What is he picking up? What has been part of him for a while now? One thing that I did sort of notice is that he has less of a patience for crowds or small fry. After having had to deal with them with Kuro and Krieg, he’s got no time for them and would rather send them all flying so he can deal with the one he wants to deal with. (His philosophy perhaps? If something’s in the way, get it out of the way)

Finally, funnily enough? Despite the growing teamwork of the SH crew, Luffy doesn’t exhibit any of it. He runs ahead. He acts without thinking. He’s not terribly great with communication. He kind of puts others in danger. (hello flying sea cow) And he’s just not altogether a team player. …And this is something that really never leaves him. (unless, if I’m not mistaken, in defense of the ship but we’ll look at that when we come to it)

Zoro: While other characters may grow and change markedly throughout, I feel as if Zoro’s characterization, growth and change is the most subtle save for Luffy’s (who hardly seems to change at all). Yes, he does have grandiose moments where he learns things and changes, but for the most part it’s so gradual it’s somewhat difficult to notice. But it’s these little character beats that form the parts of his personality that can be somewhat easy to miss.

Firstly, we see Zoro start to move from being a solo fighter from having to be in a group dynamic. That’s a pretty big freaking change when you think about it. He spent x number of years all alone as a bounty hunter…maybe with tag alongs like Johnny and Yosaku but no one to compare to him in skill level. And even if they had compared to him as Luffy does? He still takes fights one on one. He insisted on fighting Cadaj (because it was swordsman to swordsman and out of pride) , he wouldn’t allow Usopp to interfere with the fight with the Nyaban brothers (to protect Usopp) and of course there was the one on one fight with Mihawk because of his ambition. Here he doesn’t really get to fight alone, and though we haven’t seen it quite yet, he’s slowly beginning to realize that. Sanji saves his ass once, which is one thing, but another?

He has to rely on Sanji to get the job done (ie to kick the rock) rather than doing it himself. It’s sort of similar to how he had to rely on Luffy to set him free at the beginning, only that wasn’t something he wanted but something Luffy wanted and that he eventually agreed to. Before this, he didn’t have to rely on anyone and Luffy relied on him. Luffy relied on him to steal the cage despite being injured, Usopp and Nami relied on him to take the brunt of the Nyaban brothers attack, Usopp again had to rely on him to carry him to where Jango held Kaya and the boys… but now?

Sanji is pretty much forcing Zoro to trust someone to do the heavy work and rely on someone else’s strength. Note, he didn’t want Sanji to go into the water the second time because it was too damn dangerous and that’s what they wanted… and yet? He’d been about to go do it himself. He was trying to protect Sanji but Sanji did not allow himself to be protected. Also another note? Zoro doesn’t try to force his protection either. Why? Especially when he protected Usopp by taking the hit in Syrup? Because he knows Sanji knows what he’s getting into and he’ll let him do it. But I don’t think he’s happy about it.

Tangentially to the idea of working as a team, Zoro has his first display of leadership. He’s the one that makes the decision for them both that they couldn’t go into the water and should fight them on land. Sanji agrees to it. What that says is that Zoro believes in Sanji’s strength to fight beside him—but there’s still the sense that Zoro considers himself the stronger of the two.

Secondly, we see Zoro struggle. It’s probably the first time we’ve actually seen him struggle really because without a straightforward fight (sword or otherwise but mostly sword) he doesn’t really know what to do with any of it but get flustered and yell. Also, it’s not something that he learns to overcome either. Much like Luffy never really learns teamwork, Zoro doesn’t really get how to fight in something that isn’t just a head-on collision. Because in retrospect I think the most of what bothered him is Hacchan’s flailing about, failing to be serious in any way and essentially running away up the pillar (however briefly) A jolt of ridiculousness tends to knock Zoro off his game.

Finally, we do have a little character defining moment for him. Something that ties up loose ends with Mihawk and starts his new character arc. During the fight with Mihawk he was determined either to beat him or die trying, but that choice was taken away from him. Now? A new choice. To live no matter what. To keep on going until he can take on Mihawk again. He is reminded of the weight of Wado and the weight of the promise it represented. A promise which wouldn’t be fulfilled if he died.

Of course, he comes to this conclusion in a very Zoro way. That is to say, it’s not that he’s going to be more careful in his fighting. He’ll still get as cut up as he always does. He’s still going to do crazy things. But he’s just not going to die from it. He’s bullying himself to living despite any odds. (Philosphy: If something is in the way, bust through it…. Even if it’s the equivalent of ramming your head into a brick wall)

Sanji: Being a team player is nothing new for Sanji, he’s done it all his life. But in this situation? He’s finding himself in a new team. Moreover a team of people his own age and more or less equal strength. The dynamic is completely changed. In the Orbit, his situation was that he was definitely the kid in the outfit, physically weaker but intellectually superior to the adults (at least as far as he saw it). In the Baratie, his situation was mixed. Zeff was definitely in charge and moderately stronger than Sanji (though Sanji tried to buck both trends) while the other men were weaker than Sanji and he was in charge of them. At the same time, though, they had the superiority of age. Besides which, all the fighting he did there was to protect the Baratie and Zeff’s dream (and to hone his skills too)

Here, though, everyone is his age or a little younger, he’s treating Luffy somewhat like he’d treat Zeff in a sense because he is used to having someone in charge and this is what he does for in charge people that he cares about. But for the rest of them… Sanji doesn’t really have a clear idea of what to do at the start of it or how he fits into the dynamic. Because adding into all this is the fact that Sanji is the only nakama (so far) that’s slotted in sideways. That is to say, he’s only ever fought side by side with Luffy. No one else has seen him fight, nor has he seen them…except for Zoro and that adds an entirely different layer to the situation. I believe that at this moment he believes Zoro is stronger than he is. But at the same time he’s the same age and not exactly a leader…but should he be?

Sanji isn’t really sure so he tries to put himself in the best he can. Also Zoro’s idea does make sense and has merit. (Usopp and Nami don’t really factor into his sense of dynamic yet, I don’t think. Possibly why he doesn’t pay much attention to Usopp)

Also this fight is entirely different. Sanji doesn’t exactly have a clear goal. It’s not something as concrete as Protect the Baratie. It’s, send the Fishmen flying so that Nami won’t cry. But that’s a dozen pieces and which is more important? On top of that is that he can’t get out of the headspace of fights on the Baratie—and he’s probably never seen someone get so wrecked as Zoro and still be alive (except for the first time he saw Zoro wrecked and managing to live through it)

But Sanji does manage to find his feet. And finding his feet starts with fighting for himself, I think. Yes he has a clear goal when he goes to rescue Luffy, but he really comes on strong when he’s proving himself, and more importantly, his ideal, to Kuroobi. Should it be something that is so high a priority? Maybe, maybe not, but it sure as hell gives him confidence. While Sanji may have been uncertain for a while, he is highly adaptable. So you see him going from agreeing with Zoro’s orders to not go in, then after he kicks Kuroobi’s ass, he pretty much says… I’m going back in, you’re not. This is what I am going to do because I am a better swimmer and not bleeding out all over the shitty concrete.

Only, you know, not in so many words.

Speaking of Sanji’s adaptability, we see how adaptable he is during this fight. Whereas Luffy and Zoro tend to favor the straightforward approach, Sanji provides the happy medium in a sense. He can kick a mid-bosses ass, but he also clears out the small fries. He can fight on the land, but he can also go into the sea and do the little thing of breaking the concrete block that makes all the difference. Sanji is very good with the little things as well as multi tasking. Though is pride can be pricked, he never loses complete sight of what’s important (that is, the safety of others) He has a need to prove himself as strong, but he’s not quite as suicidal as Zoro tends to be with it. For instance, he while he says ‘one more time’ to Kuroobi, he’s giving himself a chance to think. Not quite sure if I see Zoro doing that. (Philosophy: If something’s in the way, get it out of the way, go through it or find a way around it. Whatever works for the end goal.)

Finally, I just want to touch on chivalry, since that is a huge theme introduced in Sanji’s character (or at least given a name). So what is the definition? Well Dictionary.com says “The code of chivalry emphasized bravery, military skill, generosity in victory, piety, and courtesy to women. “ I mostly think it’s interesting because as we know, Zeff is the one that he says told him never to kick a woman. Now all this I think fairly encapsulates what Sanji is…barring piety in those exact terms and if you also include being courteous and noodle dancing at women. As for generosity in victory, that largely depends on your definition. (Also it’s a French concept which amuses me) I bring this up because, of course, it shows us what Sanji is aiming for…

…but for a little headcanon question time, I wonder if this is a concept Zeff taught him. By which I mean, Sanji wasn’t as chivalrous before. I’m mostly interested in the women part. I mean I don’t think that Sanji ever violently went after a woman, but I wonder if not for Zeff, would he have an entirely different attitude about them? Hmm.

Usopp: Usopp, much like Luffy, really struggles in being a team player. He is more of a guerilla type fighter. Hit and run and run and run very freaking fast. This is largely due to the fact that Usopp is not as far along as Sanji and Zoro are in the stage of his development as a fighter or even an adult. He also lacks the self confidence to see it through and, like most people, wants to avoid pain and big ass scary Fishmen who will inflict it. Still at the same time he tries to live the story of the hero in his head. So we see him go willingly with Luffy and the others, and even stand in the park behind them, trying to posture and failing.

Of course this was a pretty big moment for Usopp and a growing one, too, but before we look at the push and pull of his nature, let’s look at his core. Someone’s core in this sense is how they will react on instinct when faced with a problem. When there is no time to think, this is what they do. For Usopp, when others weaker than him are faced with danger, his first instinct is to help them. He did it with Arlong and Genzo, he did it with Chu. He even does it with Luffy at some capacity. He does it even if it pulls the danger onto himself. Even after he’ll try to posture before he freaks out and runs—so in terms of the hero that he wants to be, he’s got a great inner foundation for it.

It’s the actual push and pull that’s the hard part. And it’s not even that Usopp thinks too much or overplays the danger because he really can get creamed or killed by a rampaging Fishman. He is in very real danger here (despite his own capacity to endure inhuman punishment. He just requires a lot more bandages—and really just because you can endure it doesn’t mean you want to. He’s not Zoro after all. /waves hand/) But of course, here, when the stakes are so high? He does break under pressure. He does act selfishly to some extent. Because while he’s good at caring for weaker people right under his nose, put those weak people at a distance or make them stronger? He thinks too much and is more apt of a mind to let them handle it. Yet, Usopp is also self-aware, probably moreso than the others. Granted he has to talk himself into it, but he recognizes his own weaknesses and vulnerabilities, oh boy does he.

Tied in with that… Here he has to decide just what kind of person he wants to be. And for all that he does lie, Usopp is never not who he is to the hilt. So whatever he decides, it’s almost the final answer. Because when he does make a decision of who he wants to be and what he wants to happen? He sticks by it. Yeah he might run and hide but he’ll come back out again after he reminds himself. And with this decision, the last vestiges of his childhood in Syrup are left behind. Usopp tends to grow gradually and then all at once and though this is a few steps on a very long staircase, it’s still a few steps. (Philosophy: If something is in the way, brag about ability to get it out of the way but leave it to the stronger people to get it out of the way, if necessary hit it and then run like blue blazes until you can cope with it and then peck at it til it’s out of the way and feel awesome)

Nami: Nami didn’t feature too heavily in these chapters, but she nevertheless made a life altering decision and had a startling amount of character growth. First we see her tendency to hang back when she’s upset. She cried all she could, but she cried alone—much like she raged in the house when Nojiko wasn’t there. She doesn’t want anyone else to see her pain. Perhaps because it’s a vulnerability, perhaps because she doesn’t want them to worry about her, likely a mix of both depending on the person.

I’ve talked at length about her character growth and her decision to trust others, so I won’t go into it here except to say that it also ties into teamwork. There’s a big difference between trusting others and using others and the fact that she’s putting everything in their hands is freaking huge. Also I’m not going to give her a philosophy yet, even a tentative one, because she’s not had the time and capacity to develop this sort of thing without it being tied back to Arlong. She hasn’t been free in eight years. Hasn’t been herself in eight years. But after this point? After Nami makes her own decisions about her life that don’t entrap her further? She’ll really come into her full self and I’m looking forward to it. (Not that her full self doesn’t have a great deal of who she is already)


Zoro> Sanji:
First I want to very heavily emphasize that this is not about shipping. I’m not saying you can ship them and I’m not saying you can’t. I just know it’s a very touchy area but I want to present what I see without supporting one side or another. In fact, jokes aside, I’m not going to support any nontextual shipping in terms of this analysis. Not even FroBin (which is practically text)

So with that out of the way? Onward.

They are still very new to one another and how the other operates. The monster trio is just starting to form after all. But you can see the basis of how it will be, too. While Luffy looks after the central antagonist, Zoro tends to look after the crew, and especially in the beginning, Sanji tends to look after Zoro (and not just Zoro it needs to be said. Sanji tends to look after everyone, but Zoro definitely needs someone to look after him) Essentially it seems to be that Sanji’s job is two fold. First he makes sure that Zoro doesn’t actively kill himself. That is he takes responsibility off Zoro’s shoulders whether Zoro wants him to take it or not. I’m not saying he does it all the time and in fact it’s still a working theory so it’s subject to change, but from all that I’ve read and remember, this seems to be the case. As part in parcel to keeping Zoro alive, Sanji also keeps Zoro down to earth. He does what he wants rather than taking Zoro’s orders or letting him do it himself.

For Zoro, Sanji I believe has become full nakama, but it took this fight to do it because Zoro doesn’t accept people quickly or easily. He’s learned that he’s not alone in this fight, whether he wants to be alone or not. That being said Zoro still doesn’t know Sanji all that well and so learning about him will take some time—but he knows what matters and that’s in protecting and defending the people they care about.

And here we end this part! Have a great New Year, look forward to more We Are Analysis throughout and
A very very VERY Happy (and somewhat belated) Birthday to Odacchi, the founder of the feast! Good health and good luck, Oda-sensei!

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We Are One Piece

February 2017

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