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In this part we (almost) finish the fight with Arlong, watch the fighting dynamics of Zoro and Sanji shift according to the situation, explore the duality of Arlong, the courage of Usopp, the stubbornness of Luffy and briefly touch on Nami's daring to hope a little more each time.

Before we begin I want to briefly touch on Hachi, more specifically his swordsmanship. I want to retract what I said about him not being the best (or second best) as I got to thinking…

1) We really don’t see much swordsmen on Fishman Island. In fact, we really only encounter one other (whose name I can’t remember) But I wonder if this is somehow tied in with Fishman Karate. This is a style that goes way back and all the Fishmen we’ve seen that fight with a certain ‘martial art’ prowess fight using Fishman Karate. Ex Kuroobi, Jinbe, Hack. (which, I wonder, too if it has anything to do with how karate was adapted/developed in the Ryukyu Islands, now Okinawa)

2) Hachi may not be that great a swordsman comparatively speaking. It’s an easy trap to fall into something I’m going to call the ‘shonen fallacy’. This is the argument that if character A is strong, character B is weak. In other words, if Zoro is strong, Hachi is weak. That’s not the case, of course. Since Zoro was already known as the Demon of the East Blue and already strong enough to take on Mihawk and impress him. It’s a really important argument to understand in OP and I’ll try to be on the look out for it in the future.

That done, we move on.

When we last left off, Zoro and Sanji were getting the crap beaten out of them by Arlong. Arlong tried to convince Nami to become his cartographer but she declined, asking the Cocoyashi villagers to fight for her, and Luffy finally spit up the water.

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What I like about this? Other than Arlong’s look? (which later panels seem to suggest he doesn’t know what this is but even if that’s so I think he has a pretty good idea) is that Zoro puts it together with not a whole lot of information to go on. The most Sanji managed to tell him was that he was half okay and not dead yet. So even if Zoro can’t picture it exactly, he’s at least able to understand the situation, coupled with Sanji’s words. He’s a pretty smart guy.

Now onto an interesting cultural note.

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First of all I want to address the ‘tighten’. What is tightening? In the Viz they use ‘fwup’ and in the other translation ‘poik’ so it might be just onomatopoeia for his hand/arm turning.

Now for the thumbs down. According to this site and several others that I visited, thumbs down in Japanese culture is a pretty rough/rude one which seems to translate to ‘go to hell’. If we decide to go by that translation, what is Zoro saying here? It’s obvious that he’s not telling Nami to go to hell. And it’s doubtful he’s speaking to Arlong because the focus is entirely on Nami. So what I think he could be saying is that her idea of: “fight and die with me, everyone” can go to hell because Zoro can take care of it.

However it could also be a more literal interpretation like you’d use at a coliseum to say what he’s going to do with Arlong—that is, get rid of him. This is an idea I can take or leave.

It could also be he’s giving a signal to Sanji to go down and Nami is reacting to him getting up and fighting on.

I don’t really have a definite answer for this but it’s interesting to think about. I personally will interpret it as mostly one (from Nami’s perspective) but also three (from Zoro’s) and Nami’s worried smile. From Nami’s end –of course she’s worried and doubtful even though she’s trying to overcome it—but she’s also surprised and perhaps happy in a sense. She may have seen Zoro walk to Arlong Park, but here she is seeing Zoro get up to keep fighting for her sake or at least for the sake of the group. And if you can interpret it as he’s telling her idea of dying to go to hell, he’s actively defending her against that and the other villagers, too.

Zoro, whom she had saved then punched then saved then manipulated into an almost attack is still on her side. (or at least back on her side) and that’s sort of wonderful.

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Also this. Coordination. Teamwork. Zoro tells Sanji: “I can do this thing in this amount of time” but he’s also telling and trusting Sanji to do his own thing without direction. Of course he probably has a really good idea of what Sanji’s going to do, but the fact that he does speaks of the growing teamwork. For Zoro it also shows that he does recognize his own limits, as much as he might push himself to the end—In this case, I wonder if it’s not so much 30 seconds and I’ll die, but after 30 seconds I won’t be able to hold him off anymore.
Sanji understands that and reassures him he can get it done in time and even quicker than that.

Arlong finally catches on that there’s no fountain there and asks himself if it’s the rubber brat.

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I love this. There’s a major difference between Zoro fighting ‘a swordsman’ aka someone for himself, and fighting someone else. There is no sense of honorable fighting here, nor should there be. He distracts Arlong by calling the thing that will piss him off the most and luring him into a fight and to focus on Zoro—Once more, pulling the fight to himself as he often does so that others can either escape being hurt or do what they need to do. And Arlong? Is all pride. I don’t even think he’s put it all together. Why Sanji is diving. What he’s going after etc. But he doesn’t have time to think about it as near immediately, in order to maintain his pride, especially with everyone watching, he has to make Zoro pay. Also that slur is probably one Arlong heard a lot in his time among humans and isn’t about t let anyone continue saying it, not if he can kick their ass.

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This is kind of really cool to me? I mean I glossed over it a lot in my readthroughs until it suddenly occurred to me what Usopp did.

He basically stopped Arlong from getting Zoro with a water bullet. I mean, it’s hard to say for 100% sure, but think about it. First we’ve seen Arlong’s arm in this position before when he was smacking them around with his water throwing technique—besides which, it’s very unlikely that Usopp would draw attention to himself even in this situation without good reason. Even if not a water bullet (because he may not know that’s what they are) it seems clear that Arlong was at least about to bitch smack Zoro in the face so either way Usopp distracted Arlong from seriously hurting Zoro more.

Either way it’s kind of freaking awesome.

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Ugh, this is all so cute.

First of course the expectation not meeting reality for Johnny/Yosaku/the Cocoyashi villagers. I mean on one hand, a sniper’s place is to stay at the back, on the other he’s also behind a wall. There’s the sense that while he says he’ll back up Zoro 100% of course largely he means at whatever capacity he feels able to do it and not get horribly killed so behind a wall is good. Arlong can’t fit through there |D

I also love how Nami is somewhat pleased to see him fighting for her—as well as freaking out a bit if the sweat is anything to go by. She told herself she had to trust them and she’s forcing herself to trust them but it’s really freaking hard.

And Usopp! So freaking proud! He doesn’t even have to lie about it or make an elaborate story! He did it all by himself and he can openly laugh about doing so! (which he does for those who can’t read hiragana) I love that he’s just gotta tell people about it because it actually really is a big deal.

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This is really interesting to me. There’s first the repetition that Luffy is their last hope. Why? It’s not because he’s the strongest. (and you can easily argue that he is, but in terms of the monster trio it’s only by a slim margin) it isn’t because he has some advantage—in fact, it’s almost to his disadvantage to be fighting someone so pointy. It’s because he’s the last one left. He’s the last hope. The last person who can possibly stand against this. Luffy may not always be the person who started the war (and he may not always be the person to end it) but he’s the one that turns the tide.

Also again the idea of teamwork and doing what you can do. Sanji knows that he doesn’t really have a chance against Arlong. Not as beaten up as he is. Especially not if Arlong is going to use Zoro for Arlong’s benefit. (Because you know that Sanji wouldn’t allow Zoro to be trashed and used against him in terms of “cooperate or he dies”) What he can do is break the rock. So that’s what he’s going to do.

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Ugh, clunky translation is clunky. That aside, it’s pretty much a battle for dominance and control. Arlong isn’t the kind who can just assume control in his presence alone, he has to have it in words, too—and what’s more—make sure Zoro understands just who has the power here. It’s his game, it’s his rules –also he is going to see whose interfering and there’s nothing Zoro can do about it. Zoro, of course, doesn’t care what he says, only to call him out on his bullshit which Zoro is wont to do.

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Firstly I just love how hard Nojiko is still trying even though it’s a somewhat hopeless situation. (A situation which, by the way, Luffy largely got himself into by being careless)
But mostly I just love Luffy’s priorities here. Genzo may be worried as hell, but for Luffy, well, there’s nothing he can do but wait around so there’s no point in worrying until it’s time to worry. Plus the pinwheel was cool—which again emphasizes his childlike nature and appreciation of the simple, flashy things.

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A few things awesome about this.

First, let’s appreciate how confident Usopp can be, especially when behind a tried and true attack. It’s not going to work, no, but it has worked before. So there’s no reason to expect that it won’t again. Additionally, being in a safe, secure position only helps that confidence. Arlong may be terrifying, yes, but Zoro is there and also a wall so he feels secure enough to try.

Second, Usopp is fantastic as a team player, though it mostly comes from a place of not wanting to get his ass kicked, it’s still very much present. Unlike Sanji and Zoro who have individual fights, Usopp is the support team, and here he’s using himself as a support team. Because there’s obviously no way that rubber band is going to hurt Arlong, but if Arlong flinches, (Usopp imagines) Zoro can step in and take the advantage of the situation. (of course there’s different ways you can read that but I’ll get to that in a bit) Tied into this, Usopp is active in the situation. He’s not just doing it for the glory or the attention. He sees the problem and is like okay I can help and do it this way.

Third, Nami’s afraid/shocked expression. She wants to trust them not to die, but trusting them not to die is hard, especially when that someone is as squishy as Usopp and especially as Usopp outright calls Arlong’s attention to himself. That is not the action of someone who wants a long life expectancy.

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Of course good intention is only 1/10ths of the battle. Arlong is on an entirely different level. Either he doesn’t see Usopp and his rubber band or doesn’t care, but either way isn’t fazed by it at all. (or a third option which we’ll get to) Usopp still has a long way to go. Also note the ‘Now, Zoro, Attack’. Which lead me to the conclusion above that Usopp had planned all along to be a support for Zoro and not necessarily a frontline attacker. (Though you could argue he just shifted the fight to Zoro) Either way, we see again Usopp’s driving need to look good. He can’t just leave the attack at that. He has to finish it and sound like he knew what he was doing.

Also, Nami snapping at him. I think she’s mostly pissed because she was worried about him stepping up and only having that to offer.

As for Arlong, interestingly enough? The first time Usopp egged him, he raged at Usopp’s audacity that a human should do such a thing. Here, Usopp has egged him and threatened him with a rubber band as if that would work, but Arlong’s focus is entirely on Zoro. Zoro is the most immediate threat. This is where the third option comes in. Arlong is so focused on the threat of Zoro that he can’t be distracted by paltry things like that. And it’s easy to say of course he wouldn’t be—except Arlong is hugely reactive to the smallest infractions of disrespect against his person. He does not let that shit fly under his radar. Even from non-threats like Johnny and Yosaku. The fact that he’s so dismissive tells me that he views Zoro as a huge problem.

Zoro himself is fading fast and I love how you can see how much stress he’s under and how much pain he’s in. Mostly, though I’m interested in as to why he goes for Arlong’s nose in the first place instead of somewhere more vital. There’s really no clear answer, but I think partly because Zoro can’t afford to be engaged in a fight to the death, but mostly perhaps to draw the fight into an arena he’s comfortable with. What I mean to say is that Arlong is more of a brawler, and that water throwing is hard core. But his nose at least is sword like, an area that Zoro knows. And if Arlong is concerned in defending the honor and strength of his nose, then he won’t be inclined to use other parts. Of course this is ymmv and easily debatable whether or not this is a conscious or subconscious impulse—but as for me I think at least it was something semi-conscious.

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This to be noted for future dramatic irony mostly, but also because Zoro is putting so much effort into it. Arlong goes on to say if Zoro had been in better health, he may have put a scratch on it. Which maybe, but I can see Zoro doing a whole lot more damage. But he’s injured and sick and bleeding and using swords that belong to others that are not katana, which likely means that the balance and weight is off.

Also again I just love the struggle here. Like you can see how much effort Zoro is putting into it and how solid Arlong’s nose is. Ugh it’s just fantastic.

Meanwhile Hachi has gotten up and the villagers notice him and wonder what he’s doing…and I just love this whole exchange

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For one thing it sort of continues the theme of Usopp being accidentally effective—but not entirely because as we’ll soon see, Hachi intends to go under to stop Sanji rather than to interfere in the fight. (Another proof that he wouldn’t is that Fishmen have tended to fight alone) Still even if Usopp was ignored, he was not completely ignored. And more importantly not completely uneffective. What did Usopp do? Well he gave Sanji seconds to swim unaccosted by Hachi—I mean yes the cuts open, but otoh if Sanji had noticed Hachi coming he might have tried to get him out of the way. And Hachi does have enough in him to start punching.
Of course Usopp says he meant to do that because of his pride (and also who wants to look like the weak one?)

But interestingly, Nami calls him out on it. I don’t believe she has before and iirc, she doesn’t again (though if she does it’s probably rarely) So I wonder if she’s still partly in a ‘you can’t beat Arlong’ mode, so it’s not the place for lies or taking credit with what you didn’t intend to do because that doesn’t exactly win the battle. That’s just a thought however. I also like, too, that no matter that Usopp is sweating, his arm is rock steady.

At any rate, Hachi dives into the water and…

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Zoro is distracted by it enough that Arlong can break his guard. This of course serves to highlight one of Zoro’s weaknesses—which is concern for others, especially his nakama, in a situation which he knows is liable to kill them. But interestingly here, as in many situations to come, Zoro is unable to do anything about it. His strength is only enough to hold Arlong’s attention. And of course Arlong’s strength which is not so much his physical ability, but his ability to engineer situations in which he uses people’s fear for their close connections against them.

We cut to Nojiko continuing to try and free Luffy from the granite. Try as she might, she just doesn’t have the physical strength to free him. Not like Sanji does. But does that mean that Nojiko is helpless?

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Not a damn bit. I mean it’s not the ideal solution but what she can do is get in the way to buy Sanji some time. Even if it’s seconds worth. Unfortunately one thing Sanji can’t do is see a woman (and possibly a much weaker person) get trammled in front of him and not do anything about it. Luffy is a definite second to his innate need to protect. And he doesn’t have the time to kick the rock and save her. (and fortunately he doesn’t have to) Nojiko, of course, is badass, even when inevitable pain is bearing down on her, she doesn’t move, the most she does is flinch.

As for Hachi, it’s interesting. He either doesn’t know who he’s about to punch or doesn’t care. Though honestly it doesn’t matter except that it’s an inefficient use of power. Either he means to punch Sanji (and is probably deft enough to go around Nojiko to get to him) who is the biggest threat right now or doesn’t care who he punches which seems to suggest he’s not the best strategist. This is basically the last we’ll see of Hachi for a while but I think it bares keeping in mind that Hachi knows the problem but not always the best solution.

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Also this right here is fantastic. Though Usopp can use Zoro without being aware how bad off he is (though previously leaving Zoro behind was more not taking the situation seriously enough) he recognizes that Zoro is at his limit and in huge trouble and is climbing over that wall. What hes’ going to don the other side, maybe he doesn’t know. But his core. His impulse. Is to climb the hell over the wall and help his nakama in trouble.

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Damn, Zoro, you are wrecked.

I love Arlong’s reaction primarily because he didn’t suspect that. But think how much of a surprise it was. Zoro was discovered bandaged and came in bandage and to be walking around with such a substantial wound that someone else made despite him being so strong… It certainly speaks of Zoro’s own strength.

But more importantly just look at how strong Nami’s gut reaction to all this is. There is nothing premeditated about her response. She is shocked and horrified at how beat up he is. This is Nami at her core. This is how she really feels about Zoro in a nutshell. Seeing him like this upsets the hell out of her.

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And this, of course, is my ultimate proof for Arlong not fully believing what he says he does. If he had been so convinced that Fishmen were superior in all things, he would not be afraid of Zoro. But he is. He can’t let Zoro live. He can’t let Zoro come after his head again. Especially after Zoro was so strong and fought them so well while being wounded this badly. Arlong well knows how tenuous his position in the East Blue is and he knows Zoro well may be the one to upset it. This isn’t the core of Arlong I wouldn’t say. Not like we’ve seen in Usopp or even Nami. He’s far far more calculating than he lets on because he has a lot more to hide (and allow others to believe)

As for Zoro’s smirk? Well… He says, speaking of Hachi, if you lied down quietly your wounds wouldn’t’ve reopened.

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Right here? Zoro’s taking control of the situation. It’s almost a mirror of Arlong’s mind games except in this case it is less about games and more about confidence. Zoro is the type to say something and believe that it will come about despite all evidence to the contrary. But he’s telling Arlong so that Arlong knows and Zoro knows Arlong knows that they are the winners and Zoro is still on top. If it does happen that Arlong does wound him severely enough to knock him out (but not kill him obvs because Zoro is determined that never happen) at least he’ll go out knowing the enemy’s defeat.

As to why he looked concerned before, well you could argue that :

A) He’s only just recalling this fact now that he has a “breather” (in Zoro’s definition)

B) He was worried because while he knew that Hachi would be injured he didn’t know how much it would slow him down or how much danger Sanji would be in/ would be slowed down.
Whichever definition you take, it’s evident that here he is saying essentially that Arlong is screwed. That Hachi is down for the count (or will be) thereby saying how confident he is in Sanji’s strength and their eventual win.

Also a sort of introduction of gallows humor which is what Arlong thinks Zoro is displaying. He’s not, but we’ll see an example of it in a bit.

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This panel not so much what Zoro said (though it shows how much he knows his own abilities) but Sanji’s inability to act in what he needs to do (free Luffy) when there is a woman who needs his protection. He also doesn’t seem to be making any move to pull her out of the way. Now this could be because it’s a split second. But I still think it’s interesting. I also love Nojiko’s surprised expression in the bottom panel. It’s just pretty idk.

As for Sanji there’s a rough edge to his relief. He’s pissed off at having been so worried, so much so that it seems to make him red faced. Mostly I think this is a holdover from his Baratie days where he didn’t like to be worried and didn’t like to show it because of how it looked (even if there’s no one really to see) and I think we’ll see it smooth out as the series progresses. But also because of Nojiko. For me, it’s not even certain in my mind whether he would have saved her or not had he the opportunity. They don’t have a lot of time and it is her decision to do this, yet Sanji’s own sense of chivalry won’t stand for a lady getting hurt in front of him and that is his own push and pull.

Either way the danger has passed and he can kick the hell out of the granite.

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Mostly this because I love the top right panel with Sanji’s belt and the expressions at the bottom. XD and just Sanji who is pissed mostly because his heart is probably still going forty miles an hour at Nojiko almost getting creamed. So he’s tsuning about Luffy. But of course he’s right. Luffy did make it more complicated than it needed to be but that is something Sanji is just going to have to get used to.

And as Luffy shoots up in the air for everyone to see, we have even more awesome expressions.

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What I love most of this is that Luffy hasn’t really done too much yet save for punch Arlong once and cold clock a mess of Fishmen with a sea cow. Yet still these guys believe in him and are relieved that he’s okay. I love Yosaku wiping his eyes. Nami who is just happy and relieved to see that he’s alive and back in action. Usopp who is actively cheering. And Genzo’s relief. They like Luffy intensely and believe in him. But even so it’s not a belief that is rock solid. In other words, they don’t believe the fight is 100% sure won. But they have hope now and that’s somehow even stronger.

Also speaking of expressions:

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Arlong just looks kind of annoyed here and a little pissed. I don’t think he really sees Luffy as that much of a threat, rubber brat or no. At least not compared to Zoro. What we’re really here for is Zoro. Because the important thing here is that Zoro was doing what he could do, too. Holding off Arlong. Distracting him. He was not really fighting with the idea in mind that he could beat Arlong. Not in his current state. But what he could do was hold him long enough for Luffy to get there. And also that Luffy’s ‘late’ suggests that Zoro had pretty much run out of options.

Looking at this in terms of crew dynamic, though, you get hints of how they will learn to work together in the future. Zoro is not just fighting to protect one individual. Sanji is not fighting to protect a promise he made. Rather we see Sanji break the rock and Zoro distract Arlong in order to ‘clear the way’ for Luffy. It’s not exact, of course, because they are less clearing a way and more just giving him a chance to get in there—but even so they already believe in his ultimate strength to win this.

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Also this is hilarious and has always cracked me up. Poor Zoro, your life is suffering. XD
But look at what it says. Arlong had Zoro in his grip. Arlong wanted to kill Zoro.
But Luffy has the strength to pull his nakama out of Arlong’s grasp. A strong grasp but not strong enough. Already it foreshadows Arlong’s defeat as he could not hold on to what he wanted to hold on to and could not accomplish what he wanted to accomplish.

Also, to Luffy’s credit here XD he had had literally no idea that Zoro was as banged up as he was. And despite the ridiculous air time that happens in OP from time to time (I’m looking at you ending of Alabasta) He had mere seconds to spot Zoro and yank him out of there. Plus of course his main focus was on Arlong. But it just goes to show that Luffy doesn’t always think things through except when focused on the goal at hand.

In any case, Luffy lands and knocks Arlong around a bit.

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I love that everyone is just flatlined by this. Even Nami looks like she doesn’t believe what she just saw. I mean, yes, they had faith in Luffy and hope. But they didn’t expect him to pummel the crap out of Arlong at first go. But this reaction of theirs is important mostly because of what follows.
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This is like the set up of a horror movie. The monster rises, barely even damaged. And it once again reflects Arlong’s tactics. He’s not just blowing hot hair or doing standard villain speak. He is trying to show Luffy how hopeless it is. To show how strong Arlong is and how unphased by the blows. And to psych him out. He certainly psyched out Johnny and Yosaku (and probably the villagers… and perhaps even Nami, too. No matter how many times she’s tried to kill him, he’s gotten back up again)
But there’s a change in the wind.

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Because Luffy is not one iota psyched out. When he says it was his warm up, you gotta believe it was because he can’t lie and isn’t really prone to posturing. He had to get his limbs moving, get his body into fighting mode, get his mind in the right place and now he’s ready to go for real. And his refusal to get tied down by whatever Arlong has to say is one of the keys to him winning this battle.

Also poor poor Zoro XD You suffer so much.

As we go into chapter 90, Arlong tells Luffy that he’s not bad for a human but that it might have been better had he died under the sea.

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Here we see Arlong doing a mix of things, but mostly trying to pull the situation back into his hands and to try to force Luffy to recognize just what sort of position he’s in. Arlong himself is forced to acknowledge Luffy’s competence because he has to be not bad “for a human” to pummel Arlong. But Arlong still has to be on top here. He wants to psyche Luffy out by saying that he’s really angry and that there will be no mercy etc. but he also absolutely needs to keep in top form because he is being watched by the villagers from Cocoyashi and Nami. If he shows one moment of weakness it will be over for him.

Luffy, of course takes Arlong’s words at face value and is happy to be saved. And he really is happy and grateful just automatically. In other words, he doesn’t take his saving for granted. He’s like, wow, they did a thing for me.

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For the top panel, I love the difference between Johnny and Yosaku (our announcers for the evening) and the rest of the Cocoyashi Villagers. In contrast to the more active duo, they are all tense and staring straight ahead, their mouths in a flat line. The chief difference is, of course, that Johnny and Yosaku really don’t have a horse in this race. Win or lose they are largely unaffected (depending on how fast they can run) but Luffy carries the weight of all of Cocoyashi on his shoulders.

Also the bottom panel, Usopp wants in on this action. He’s gone back to wanting to be acknowledged without actually doing anything. Or doing things from a safe distance. (since he doesn’t attack Arlong again) It’s sort of like, in his mind, it’s slipped back into almost a game and he doesn’t consider the consequences or feel the seriousness. Which is likely why Nami calls him on his bullshit. And for Usopp it definitely indicates a pull back –but on the other hand it suggests that Usopp has complete faith in Luffy’s ability to trounce Arlong. Usopp who is more cautious than the Cocoyashi villagers and even to some extent Johnny and Yosaku. But there is nothing in him that doesn’t believe in Luffy three hundred and ten percent.

Then we go to Sanji (and Zoro)

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What’s interesting to me is that Sanji is smoking often but he generally seems to light up A) when he wants to look cool or B) when he’s stressed. Here he has no cause for the first and honestly doesn’t seem stressed at all. When the matches won’t light he just casually chucks to the side. His posture is also relaxed, leaning back against the wall, little tension in him and he’s even smiling, so I think in this case he was lighting up more out of habit and addiction than anything but tosses it to the side. That in itself is interesting in just how casual it is—but I think it’s also partly about looks perhaps? As if he isn’t one to sit there and try to light a smoke that won’t light? Especially when he doesn’t particularly need one right now. Though it’s sort of framed as just something he’s doing with no conscious thought of appearances or whatever. You can easily put your own (or no) interpretation on it. But I think he’s mostly like ‘eh, whatever’ *toss* but there are subconscious reasons alongside it.

But speaking of that smile, man that is some gallows humor there. It’s either Luffy wins or they all die. (and so does the East Blue as Nojiko says, which I’ve already discussed is probably not the case but she has no reason to know that and, in fact, every reason to think the opposite) Though what sort of gets me is Sanji’s line—since it seems out of character for him. Two translations have you’ll all die but it’s not like he’s just gonna go welp and nope off to leave them to their fate. I can very well see Sanji going down with them. Though the viz translation has we’ll all die which makes a lot more sense—but without the original Japanese I can’t really tell. Anyway I just wanted to comment on it because it made me tilt my head but it’s not too significant.

The point, however, is gallows humor. And emphasizing again that they are relying completely on Luffy. Sort of like you gotta laugh and be casual about it or you’ll cry. Except here I think it’s a way of reassuring themselves how much they do trust Luffy.

Moving along, Zoro has turned over onto his back. I don’t think there’s any specific reason for it other than to not be lying on his massive wound. But stylistically to me it makes it seem like he’s listening to this fight and also makes him more active in the situation rather than passively lying with his face to the ground.

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So there’s something really interesting about this scene, aside from the excessive amounts of dons.

Arlong asks what the difference is.

Luffy points out the ones he can see and are most obvious. Nose, chin, toes. But not anything about his personality, strength or intelligence. Not anything about species. If a human asked him the same question he would have listed obvious differences too.

This is so interesting because it’s obviously not about species for Luffy. We know that. It’s a nonissue. But for Arlong, every major fight he’s had in his own mind has had something or other to do with the fact that he’s a Fishman in a human dominated world. Everything is about being a Fishman and dominating as a Fishman. But for Luffy, the sole reason he is going after Arlong is because Arlong has been an asshole to someone that he cares about. Nothing else factors into it. Mostly of course, here, it’s Arlong wanting Luffy to acknowledge his strength. Recognize him as a legitimate threat. Arlong needs his words to work.

Conversely, at least for Johnny and Yosaku and perhaps the Cocoyashi Villagers, while their words can refer to anything—they see a clear difference between who Luffy is and who Arlong is and it’s not at all tied into personality but perhaps purely on looks. I can’t say that for a hundred percent sure but that’s what seems to be implied.

Arlong chomps after Luffy, slams him into the concrete pillar by the neck, tries to bite Luffy’s face off but Luffy pulls his head to the side. The pillar crumbles and Usopp is convinced his teeth are broke, till oops they aren’t. Sanji thinks that if Luffy got caught between the jaws it’d just go clean through him. (though it should be noted Sanji is thinking of his midsection, chest and belly where there’s not much force to stop it.
And then after Arlong shatters the pillar:

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First Usopp. Yes he’s taken in by this story, which is undoubtedly true, because he’s often taken in by stories. But it’s also the story that everyone else has taken in. Because it’s not just that Fishmen have these abilities and not just that they may be superior to a human’s, but that it’s that these abilities are what make Fishmen unstoppable. Usopp stands in for the normal crowd. If human teeth can’t crush stone then….

But Luffy immediately proves it doesn’t matter because he can do the exact same thing in the end. More importantly he’s calling Arlong on his bullshit and giving the Cocoyashi Villagers, Nami and the others a new way to think about this. Different abilities or not, the end is the same, so Arlong is going to need to do a lot more if he hopes to beat Luffy.

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I don’t like the translation of the top panel. Clearer ones are: “there’s no point in arguing” or “you’re just splitting hairs”. Either way, Arlong cannot let that rest. Once again he has to prove it and we’ll see him desperately trying to prove his superiority throughout. For those watching yes to be sure but also I think in a lot of ways for himself. He really wants to believe this, too. If every victory is proving it to himself even more, this one will prove it more than others. Also of course he’s directing this right at Luffy, trying to use his strength of cutting out other’s self esteem.

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Again the translation is lacking for the top panel. One I like? I don’t need to be able to! That’s what my friends are for! But it’s kind of amazing because Luffy knows exactly what he can’t do. He knows he needs people and, moreover, he knows how to rely on people and he is not ashamed of it. He has no shame in him really. Which is another strike against Arlong. He has no ammunition to take out Luffy’s self esteem because Luffy knows himself. We’ll of course see the iconic moment in just a little bit. Though I think that this is largely something that impacts Nami. It’s something she desperately needs to work into her own life and has started to do so. That is, not taking everything on her own shoulders. Allowing others to share the burden. Perhaps Luffy speaking these words lets her even a little more admit this to herself and makes it more okay.

Also Sanji not knowing shit about Luffy really. XD but honestly who besides Zoro would know Luffy couldn’t use swords? I mean it’s possible he’d be able to or he wouldn’t pick them up, right?

Though I do want to go into a little why I think Lu is picking up swords from an inworld basis. So remember, Arlong is coming at him at a full charge (which you can see in the pic before this)

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Right away Arlong’s forward charge is stopped and he is forced in the retreat if only to get away from the swinging swords. Luffy can meet his charge, but he knows the strength of Arlong’s teeth and knows that he will use them (as Arlong charged him with his teeth before). Rather than being in that vulnerable position, Luffy forces him to go back, which gives him time to think as well. Arlong knocking the blade away with his nose gives Luffy an opening.

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I think you could assume this time he goes straight for Arlong’s teeth, hoping he’ll bite it, which Arlong does because he has to show off. But once the sword is bit down on Luffy goes for his goal which is of course the teeth.

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Arlong knows the hit is coming and probably knows what Luffy intends to do but it’s too late and there is shit he can do about it. Luffy uses his height as an advantage to clobber the underside of Arlong’s jaw, shattering his teeth. And it’s a hell of a punch, too. In the end, of course, Arlong can grow new ones. But the important thing is Luffy found the most direct route to his goal and had the power and precision to accomplish just what he set out to do.
Also that hit HURTS. You can see that Arlong is seriously in pain just from it. Regardless of whether he can pull out his own teeth with little to no pain, he is not faking grabbing at his mouth after having his teeth freaking shattered.

And now for another iconic moment of Arlong Park, and even the series.

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This sequence speaks of things on multiple levels. It speaks for Luffy individually and to a major theme of the arc and series itself. But for the moment we will just focus on Luffy.
For Luffy this is makes him seem incredibly vulnerable and weak, which is something Arlong points out. But while he is vulnerable, he knows himself. He knows his limits of what he can and can’t do. But he doesn’t let what he can’t do stop him. Can’t swim? Doesn’t matter. Get nakama who can. Can’t cook, find nakama who can. And his vulnerability is also a secret strength because he knows his vulnerability. It doesn’t matter if someone discovers it or he points it out. I honestly think it’s what makes Luffy unique as a shonen protagonist because he doesn’t try to cover for it. Because he has all these weaknesses and that we know he can’t do it alone. XD when he set off he was forced to take a nap in a barrel after he got sucked into a whirlpool and if he hadn’t run into Coby who helped him along it would have been harder.

As a brief aside, I am amused how Luffy sees Usopp’s skill as lying rather than aiming. I suppose it’s because Luffy can aim as well though not with Usopp’s precision. But what’s really important to Luffy is Usopp’s lies, which are his stories. His creativity. His ability to make stuff up. Of course this is not what manly warrior god Usopp wants to hear at this point but it’s nevertheless true that Luffy needs Usopp primarily for Usopp being Usopp—and that’s fantastic. As for the others, it’s hard to tell what they are thinking, if anything. Zoro doesn’t even get ellipses. But I think for at least Nami and Sanji (with Sanji moreso) they get an idea of just how much Luffy needs them. They are more important than just he needs a cook and navigator. He really needs them because otherwise he can’t reach his own dream.

In the bottom panel Arlong is mostly being a dick, but it’s also very much his philosophy in what a captain/leader is. Showing any kind of vulnerability or losing control of the situation is a bad thing. Especially here when he has something to prove. And as go the captain as go the crew. The other Fishmen, especially the officers, are almost entirely self reliant. They each have their assigned roles and we’ve never exactly seen them employ subordinates. (though no doubt they have) This puts Arlong in the position of having to be right all the time and have to put up this front all the time that he is in perfect control.

We’ve never seen him betray weakness or vulnerability before his men, (other then the threat of flying into a rage and destroying shit.) just like they’ve never portrayed their own weakness or vulnerability. Hachi is somewhat an exception in this case but only because I wonder if he doesn’t see himself as weak or vulnerable. Also in Arlong’s view, I think it can be more or less reasonably concluded that strong=self reliant. You may need others from time to time but you can and are expected to do for yourself. I think this view he believes to be 100% true for himself and the strongest of his Fishmen. They can fight on their own and stand up to humans on their own and sink Navy ships mostly on their own. But even so he has to be reliant on Nami to make his maps. So what does he do? He frames it so that he’s using her, manipulating her, making it a big game. He needs her but he is not really serious about it nor can he be seen to be serious because he cannot afford to lose an inch of control.

In many ways Nami reflects this. She was crew herself in certain ways and had to develop a shell. Any vulnerability she might display would give the others—specifically Arlong, an immediate opening. Additionally, she also tries to be self reliant to the best of her ability. Part of this self reliance revolves, like Arlong, around manipulating others and tricking others. In her case it’s more of a survival than a pride tactic. She is just not physically capable to take on full pirate crews and steal their treasure so she has to make her way in the world through manipulation. Though unlike Arlong she could be vulnerable with and trust Nojiko. Also she didn’t have anything to prove to anyone. She just had to keep surviving the best way she knew how which is much easier than trying to make everyone see you in a certain light 24/7.

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But the thing with Luffy is? Bad as he may be in other areas, he’s a specialist. He may only know how to do one thing really well but he does it really well. And really him beating Arlong isn’t terribly difficult for him. I won’t cover the fight exactly but in terms of fights Arlong is not that much harder to beat than Krieg, and certainly not the hardest fight Luffy will get into, even in these early days. In fact if Luffy hadn’t been chucked into the water and Zoro hadn’t been cut up due to Mihawk, they would have kicked ass on this fight with little to question it. Especially with Sanji to help. So, y e a h, he says what he can do and he’s going to do it.

But another thing he can do? Based solely on his personality and who he is?

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Inspire the hell out of others. Even if only Johnny and Yosaku are the ones cheering, you can see hope light in the faces of the Cocoyashi Villagers. His defiance, inspite of everything Arlong has said to him, no matter how much Arlong has tried to goad him, raises their spirits. Someone is finally able to stand up to him. Someone may be finally able to beat him. Even Nami gives a little ‘ha’ in spite of herself. And Sanji? Damn shitty proud already. Even if he’s only known Luffy for maybe a handful of days, that doesn’t matter. He believes in his ability to kick Arlong’s ass to hell and back. XD and Zoro. Poor Zoro. Zoro is in way too foul a mood to be inspired by this. Considering Luffy flung his ass all the way out here he better do as he says or Zoro is going to be pissed at him. And Usopp XD well it’s difficult to say exactly, I still think he’s trying to horn in on the fame a bit so he won’t get forgotten in the scuffle, but I also think he wants Luffy to notice him that he’s there doing his part. And I think too that he does mean to back him up should a situation which needs Usopp backing come up.

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Arlong grows exceedingly pissed as the situation gets out of his control. But what I really like here is just Luffy’s fascination with it. He’s someone super intrigued by the natural world anyway and to see this in action has got to be pretty cool…which is of course not what Arlong had intended to have happen.

Arlong attacks Luffy with tooth castanets, Luffy manages to avoid one but the other well—we have a delicious bit of irony here.

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How Arlong is always using people against Nami? His own person was used against him. He was too much in a rage to even stop himself. It’s fantastic really and shows just how bad Arlong is at this sort of thing. Whereas Krieg had a lot of control but not a whole lot of power outside of weapons, Arlong has a lot of power but his control gets slipshod, especially when his pride is pricked or his ideology is threatened to be overturned.

But also, and this’ll be the last time I bring it up only because it has a direct connection with Fishman Island. Look at this. He is shocked that he hit one of his own guys and pissed that Luffy had the audacity to use the man as a shield against him. Moreover the Fishman is crying but what snapped Arlong out of it was him saying that it hurt. This really implies that he knows Arlong didn’t mean to do it. And it’s not even the case that he’s a named Fishman who could be important to Arlong.

And I will touch on it when (in fifty years) I reach FI, but as much as Hody admired Arlong, he certainly didn’t understand him and I firmly believe that Arlong would have kicked Hody’s ass hard.

Leaving that to the side for now, Luffy says upon seeing Arlong’s toothsome (haha) ability that he has a good idea (also translated as “fun” idea) which everyone thinks must be some awesome idea but of course after some fighting and avoiding, Luffy swipes Arlong’s teeth and sticks them into his own mouth because he’s a gigantic dork. Johnny and Yosaku accuse him of playing around and he says he’s not playing around.

And then after Arlong gets him in the side with one of his tooth castanets (which doesn’t do as much damage as it could since Arlong is using his hand rather than his jaw) this happens.

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A weapon outside of your control will come back to bite you in the ass. In Arlong’s case, almost literally. Also Luffy wasn’t just playing around. Though the bite didn’t stop Arlong, it certainly hurt him and I think it was Luffy’s intention to bite him with it. Important here, too, is that once again Arlong feels the pain he’s given to others over the years. Even in a small way it was also right on the gills and you know that’s gotta be a sensitive spot.

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But here, while Luffy has the precision, he pretty much lacks the power to make a huge dent and Arlong finally gets a good bite on him. Which seems an advantage and is certainly, but Luffy is not unprepared. He blocks the bite as best he can with his arm, which, unlike his side is full of muscle which he’s flexing. So already Luffy has more leverage than what appears to be. And he pretty much grabs Arlong’s neck and elbows him into the concrete hard enough to knock him out, open his jaw and roll away. It’s a spectacular move though there’s not much for me to say on it more than I’ve said so I will refrain from showing it. Still it’s definitely a great part worth looking at…and it definitely shows what impressive power Luffy is already packing.

After Lu rolls away we have some subsequent commentary from the peanut gallery.

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D’aww Usopp being concerned over his arm is really touching. Especially since it comes from a place where Usopp is genuinely concerned about Luffy’s well being (rather than thinking of how he might be in trouble if it isn’t okay)

Also, I am not entirely sure if I agree with Sanji on that one. I mean he’s hunted enough as a kid to understand quite a bit about animals probably. (though perhaps not sharks) Still, whether Sanji is completely right about that assumption or not—what he’s basically saying is that Luffy didn’t act for fear of losing his arm, he acted on instinct to fight and to keep fighting.

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I don’t know whether the blood is coming from his gills or the back of his head or what, but the important thing is Arlong’s expression. He’s annoyed at bleeding but also I think he’s thinking about how to win this fight. He can’t just go at Luffy full brutal force anymore, at least not how he has been doing. He’s not stupid, exceedingly arrogant and desperate to maintain an image, but when something isn’t working he switches strategies. But the fact that Luffy is forcing Arlong to switch strategies is huge in and of itself.

Luffy pulls the set of teeth from his arm and has completely lost track of Arlong. It’s sort of difficult to tell but he seems to be facing toward the building. However…

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Usopp is looking out for him. Usopp has the presence of mind to keep track of where the danger is and to point Luffy to said danger. He also explains said danger XD that it’s Arlong rather than just a shark you rubber idiot what the heck did you think it was pay a little attention once in a while!

I mean granted Luffy is still cut by Arlong’s nose, (and pretty viciously, too, I might add) but it’s more because he can’t figure out what the heck Arlong is doing down there (and doesn’t have the luxury of going to see for himself). And I just want to take a moment to pull it out.

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I just want to admire how much it hurts and how much you can tell it hurts. There’s a difference between getting struck during a fight when you’re fired up with adrenaline and getting winged unexpectedly when there’s a lull in the battle. Mostly though it’s to admire the expression once more , Arlong’s nose embedded in concrete and then Luffy is winged again by him before Arlong goes back into the water. because you can practically feel it.
Arlong flings himself from the roof and Luffy just manages to dodge it, and then this:

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Once again I love Luffy’s expression here. He looks pained and a little angry and it’s just showing just how hard a fight it really is. For the moment, I think, he’s not sure how he’s going to proceed, so he’s keeping a steady eye on Arlong.

For his part, Arlong seems to be pretty assured he’s finally found Luffy’s weak spot and a way to get at him for good. It’s as if every new hit he gets he’s confident that this is how he’s going to win this one. It says to me that though Arlong may be somewhat intimidated by the strength of the people that he’s up against (however secretly) he’s sure that he’s not going to be the one to lose this battle. He’s going to find some trick or find something to use to his advantage and ultimately win. He has been winning for eight years after all, so he’s become hugely over confident.

In any case, Luffy gets winged twice more by Arlong and then:

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Once again, it’s Usopp that points it out and I really like that. Even if others may spot it at the same time, Usopp is the one that points it out so Luffy knows. And speaking of Usopp? He parallels neatly with Sanji here because they are both survivalists, and more to the point, they’re concerned with Luffy’s survival. For them it’s more important that he run away and find some other way to fight Arlong because it’s obvious he can’t win like this. Though I expect that, while both of them are driven to speak from fear, Usopp’s is more like just hide and Sanji’s is more find another method of attack that’s not right in the shitty line of fire.

Also note that while Johnny and Yosaku are telling Luffy to hide, Nami and the villagers of Cocoyashi are just watching. It’s almost as if this is a test for them to see if he can really do it. To see if they can dare to hope again. Like maybe if they breathe they’ll wake up and it will be just the same as it always was.

Luffy isn’t one to hide anyway, and this is where you start to get the sense that he’ll face anything head on. He doesn’t take a step back, he doesn’t back down, because Nami is watching him. He is not just fighting here, he is making a statement. He is showing that he’s not only strong enough to beat Arlong but that he is not afraid of him either. He has a plan in mind.

Also cool is that this is the first time Luffy has said No, he’s going to do what he wants, and the first time he has had to say it to people that care about him. It’s a really powerful, albeit small, moment and it’s showcasing how stubborn he is. But it’s not just being stubborn and not because he’s stupid either. After all, he’s seen this attack in about four variations; he knows how to combat it now.

As we enter chapter 92, Luffy tells Arlong to come at him and Arlong wonders if he’s gutsy or just understands the futility of it.

And then we have Usopp.

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Another highlight of the difference between Sanji and Usopp. Though they’re both essentially saying the same thing: “Don’t be an idiot, if he hits you, you’ll die” From Sanji, you can infer that he’s warning Luffy against stupid bravado (as Sanji himself is inclined to do). Usopp, however, speaks from a more frightened place. It's almost as if he thinks that Luffy isn't aware of just how much danger he is from this guy. I mean granted he did see Luffy get himself stuck in concrete but I think he's underestimating Luffy's intelligence (or at least awareness of the situation)

It’s really kind of a reflection on their differing fighting mentalities. Sanji’s don’t be cocky, be smart if you have the opportunity ( though he can be plenty cocky himself) and Usopp’s be aware of the danger and preserve yourself first.

But also, just looking at Usopp, this comes from a place of worrying about Luffy’s life. Usopp is not worrying about his own or Cocoyashi’s, rather he doesn’t want Luffy to die because Usopp really likes him. And of course they all really like him, but from Usopp who is still self-focused at this stage and still has the inclination to hide first for a while rather than risk getting hurt, it’s kind of powerful. I mean yes, he did want to protect Kaya and the Usopp Pirates, but they were weaker than him and Luffy is stronger. So it really shows what kind of friendship is forming.

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I really like this for a bunch of reasons. First, Luffy’s abilities to think outside the box. Because again it’s not just any old brawl, Luffy is proving he is not going to be defeated by Arlong and so finds a way to defend against his strongest attacks.

Secondly, it’s just kind of cool as this technique is one of the first we see him try to develop as a kid and he’s made it work for him very well in this instance, not letting it be used against him. And, on the topic of his childhood, he later turns this same sort of thing into a ‘fishing net’ and ‘spear’, which is what he did often in his childhood as well and probably not too long ago since he left home relatively recently. But it’s just really neat to see his attacks rooted in his daily life growing up and what he knows how to do well.

Thirdly, I just like his smirk (especially compared to Arlong’s scowl). Luffy’s grins are the best.

In any case, Luffy bounces off of him and smashes into Arlong Park itself.

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This kind of battlefield commentary was rather typical of the shonen I watched back in the day—it’s useful for making an action clear. But I really super love how this is set up. It’s not just a case of two bystanders, even concerned bystanders, commenting on how the fight is going. Instead you have Usopp who is freaking out about Luffy, just calling out and asking for information because he’s not in a good angle to see what is going on. And Sanji, who is at a good angle, answering his concerns. In other words, it’s two nakama calling to each other across the battlefield and making sure the other knows what’s going on. I just think that’s pretty neat.

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This just shows that not even the strongest fighters can take anything for granted. It’s easy to believe that trick won’t work on him again… and it probably wouldn’t. However anyone can get lucky so it’s always best to keep on your toes. For the most part, though, I’m just bringing this in because it’s definitely we’ll see something again in terms of what the characters say they will do or what will happen or won’t happen, in line with Zoro saying he’s never going to lose again. He does lose again. This does work on Luffy (because of luck or he just wasn’t prepared) but the important part is that they don’t let it trip them up.
Luffy keeps right on fighting, getting him with a finger net and spear and sending him hard into the concrete so it cracks.

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Two things here.

First, the top panels. XD Usopp is startled as hell. Despite all that he's seen Luffy do up til now he's always surprised by his increased level of strength. Also I love Johnny and Yosaku cheering and Striped Shirt guy having that satisfied grin while the guy beside him goggles like a pop-eyed fish. There’s so much variety in everyone. It’s really fantastic.

Second, the lower one. Most specifically the one in the middle. Luffy does not set out to kill anyone, but he doesn’t hold back either. It’s something pretty important to understand, I think, since even if he had killed Arlong, I don’t think he’d be too concerned about it. That’s what happens when you fight. But he doesn’t kill with intent to do so.

Arlong’s eyes change and people comment on it, Nami saying she’s never seen those eyes before.

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I just think it’s a neat characterization note that Sanji has fought sea monsters before. When you think about it it makes sense. The Baratie is a floating restaurant after all so there’s bound to be sea monster attacks. Also I can imagine them hunting the beasties down for some kind of meal or the other.

(And as a translation aside… Viz has this line as “fishman” which is really freaking inaccurate as there’s no indication Sanji has ever seen Fishmen before this, and even if he had it’s highly unlikely he saw one go berserk. I don’t really agree with ‘sea king’ either, though it’s possible that Sanji knows of them and the calm belts and thinks they’re the same size and scale as sea monsters. But again if he saw a berserk sea king, he’d probably be even less alive. Stephan’s translation goes with sea monster and I think that is the most accurate as what is pictured, iirc, is the one from Dawn Island.)

At any rate, Arlong grabs Luffy by the hair and throws him hard into the building asking him how dare he do that to a Fishman! He’s so mad that even Luffy comments on how mad he is. Though at this point I think it's less about posturing and more just furious and believing his own rhetoric about Fishmen being untouchable. As if for a second he's dealing with an unruly villager who doesn't respect him.

Arlong tries to hit Luffy who swings out of the way ending up in Arlong punching the wall conveniently behind his Shark Saw and rips it out before chasing Luffy up the side of Arlong Park with it.

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And see this is what the other Fishmen were trying to prevent, both taking Arlong away from Cocoyashi after he overturned the house, and telling him not to fight. When Arlong is in a rage, and even when he isn’t! He tends to destroy his own shit without care because he’s focused on the singular goal of beating this or that person into a pulp. Which of course goes to show the power of precision because Arlong has a lot of strength but he’s not able to apply it very well, and the destructive power of losing control.

But I love the Cocoyashi Villagers finally reacting to this, caught up in the fight and what very well seems to be a lose.

(Both this and the Stephan’s say that Arlong is “Chasing him all the way up” but Viz has it as “Luffy’s losing!” So take your pick which line you prefer. While I sort of like the line of Luffy is losing it feels a little too intimate for them to call him by his name and it just kind of strikes me as off)

Luffy sees the Shark Saw coming for him and if he stays against the wall he’ll be in trouble so he dives into a window.

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But let’s look at this right here. First of all I love how Nami has a mental map of Arlong Park in her mind. It also says that perhaps she hasn’t been in the cartography room consistently for a while or has rarely looked at it from below before. But why would she? Looking up and knowing what she was going back to would make her vulnerable, and you know that Arlong would call her on it and try to get her to react.

Second, let’s think about what this room means to her. It’s pretty easy to imagine that no one has seen it outside of the Fishmen. It is the place she agonized in growing up, her prison that she had a hand in making herself, definitely full of trauma and definitely secret. But Luffy crashed right into this secret room and she can’t hide it from him. I don’t think it’s anything she would have shown him either, obviously not, but now that he’s there, Nami’s greatest secret has been exposed and she can no longer hide it from him.

And let’s leave this here for now. Arlong gets really interesting in the next part and I don't want to push this one over too much.


Doing What You Can Do: We really start to see this idea form more here as everyone is contributing to the fight in their own significant way, even if the contribution seems small. But all of what they do is instrumental in bringing Arlong down. None of them have to carry the weight of being the strongest and the smartest and the fastest. Zoro can take Arlong's hits, Sanji can break the rock, Usopp can distract and has a keen eye, Nojiko can shield the way, Genzo can keep Luffy safe and Luffy can bring Arlong down.
And tying very much into that?

Nakama are life: Because while everyone has something they can do, they also have a lot they can't do. Luffy is not good about not being reckless, nor can he swim or do the other things his nakama do so well. But that's why he has them. They make up for his shortcomings and each other's shortcomings. In contrast, the Fishmen work almost completely alone. The most they go to help eachother is Kuroobi trying to get revenge and Hachi diving into the water to stop Sanji. If things go sour for them, that’s it. In Arlong’s case, it’s a little harder tosee because he Is so strong, but his shortcomings lie in that he loses control of his own anger and destroys the very thing he built up. Without his brothers conscious, there is no one to stop him—no one even to remind him because he doesn’t even seem aware of what he is doing to his own place In his single minded resolve to win and garner respect.


Arlong: Because it is nearing the end of the arc we’re starting to get the full measure of Arlong. We haven’t gotten it completely, but by now we’ve come to see his dualistic nature. How his arrogance and ruthlessness comes from both racial pride and fear, depending on who he is up against. With a strong opponent that he’s intimidated by, like Zoro, he has to keep up appearances of being even tougher, and you can tell he seems to have a rougher edge when facing him, trying to crack Zoro’s cool exterior and psyche him out. When this fails he tries to resort to violence. But there is no doubt he sees Zoro as a huge threat.

With Luffy, however, he’s thrown off balance. Luffy is a strong opponent, yes, but Arlong knows nothing about him. Moreover, Luffy isn’t strong enough. They are pretty much evenly matched and that’s what gives Arlong the idea that just one more hit or bite or shark on darts will finish the match for good and he will reign supreme. He also thinks, I believe, that Luffy is weaker than him, so that he should win and win easy. In line with this, the majority of his anger is born out of frustration of continually getting foiled, and not in big ways exactly, but near misses and then getting hit or bitten or disrespected.

Interestingly to me, Arlong is still trying to be the person he ultimately wants to be. His ultimate goal is to be the strongest, the smartest, the one who can manipulate any human he chooses to and is respected and feared. But also it is about control. Because what better way of saying you’re strong than being unflappable and stoic in the face of opposition? But he can’t keep control. His anger overtakes him and he ends up destroying his own shit like his crewmates were constantly worried about.

Also tied into this is where this anger comes from. I mean yeah he wants to be the strongest and things like that and have an empire but some of it at least stems from being a member of a looked down upon people, those who have been shunned and exploited. At some point during the fight with Luffy, probably when Arlong was driven to the water, I think it switches from trying to prove himself to the Cocoyashi Villages to trying to prove his strength as a Fishman.

Usopp: Exhibits his own duality with the push and pull of his fear/courage cycle. But interesting to note, too, that in this part, Usopp’s fear was largely in reaction to the plight of other people, most notably Luffy as he told Luffy to get out of the way as he was concerned about him. Likewise his courage is tied into the plight of others, first when he shot a tomago boshi at Arlong, and when he tried to climb over the wall to do god knows what to help Zoro. Though we still see him swing back to look what I did, and not taking the situation seriously enough—it’s not as marked as it’s been before.


Zoro<->Sanji: Once again they have to work together, but this time they are learning to communicate with one another to get the most desirable outcome. This is forming the core of their future relationship, no matter how much they may bitch and snipe at each other. They learn to anticipate the other’s moves, Zoro gets the subtext of what Sanji is really saying and vice versa. Unlike when they first arrived at Arlong Park, they are not out to posture. They can’t afford to posture. They just have to get things done. But that is the thing to look out for in their relationship to truly understand what is going on. Sometimes, yes, they are simply getting on one another’s nerves, but other times there is a lot of silent communication and understanding. How they communicate with words can’t always be taken at face value.

Sanji<->Usopp: As Sanji and Zoro are foils of each other as fighters, Sanji and Usopp are foils of each other in… I suppose…normality. Human-ness perhaps. They are both worried throughout the fight and both worried about Luffy and his ability to freaking survive it. I think Sanji has far more confidence in Luffy’s ability than Usopp does as, well, Sanji has seen Luffy survive a harder fight than Usopp has seen him survive. Sanji also has a fighter’s mentality and understands the situation a little more. He’s not the one to tell Luffy to back down or hide again because he knows that Luffy has already said no and isn’t going to change his mind. Usopp is viewing Luffy primarily as a friend in that moment and a friend who is being stupid. Yet they’re so similar in the way they both worry about/believe in him and very openly at that.

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