I don’t like the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels.
There are many reasons why, but one of those comes from the third movie that considered pirates as some oppressed minority fighting for ‘freedom’ instead of… you know, the bunch of thieves and outlaws that they were. It comes off as trying to make the conflict incredibly basic in terms of morality. However, trying to do so just makes the conflict come off as juvenile.
I say this because, while the Straw Hats in One Piece are not evil, and that the government of this world (discussed in further volumes) is pretty damn ruthless, it never shies away from the fact that, yes, the Straw Hats are thieves and outlaws. Case in point: Volume two.
The central plot of the volume is that Luffy wants to steal a map of the Grand Line, a strip of ocean with countless islands that the legendary One Piece treasure awaits at the end of. He, Zoro and the recently introduced Nami, are working together so Luffy can get the map, but Nami has other goals in mind.
I suppose I should take the time to discuss Nami and something else I find very interesting about the series as it will go along. Nami is a thief and a self-declared hater of pirates. In fact, when she finds out that Luffy is a pirate, it nearly destroys this budding partnership. I find it interesting that she loves money so much and hates piracy. We will eventually discover where both of these traits stem from when we learn more about her past, but I found the juxtaposition fascinating.
Something else that I am grateful to Oda is this: Nami is not Luffy’s love interest. At all. In fact, among the (as of writing) ten members of the Straw Hat Pirates to come, there is no romance subplots or love triangles at all. As someone who is sick unto death of ‘coy’ ship teases, love triangles and love squares and love tetradecagons, this is a wonderful change of pace.
So, Luffy wants the map to the Grand Line, held by the pirate known as Buggy the Clown. In case the name didn’t make it apparent, he is the captain of a circus-themed pirate crew. That includes a lion tamer First Mate and a unicycle-riding swordsman Second Mate.
Remember how I said that this book was insane? This is it starting to peak out of its shell.
Buggy himself has a few tricks up his sleeve. Like Luffy, Buggy has consumed a devil fruit, in this case, the Chop Chop Fruit. Basically, it allows Buggy to detach his body limbs and maintain a limited control of them. As such, even when his is decapitated or sliced up into dozens of pieces, he doesn’t die and can put his body back together again. It has been used to great dramatic and comedic effect in future volumes.
Buggy is, believe it or not, one of my favorite characters in the series. Yeah, this character would be just a starter boss for the protagonist in any other series, but Buggy ends up being a major antagonist as the series goes and has a lot of high and low moments. I think what I love about the character the most is, well, he’s a jerk. Like a real jerk. But he is also a bit of a coward and any semblance of respect the guy gets in universe are because of things he does accidentally or he just happens to be in the right place at the right time. It goes without saying, but Buggy will be discussed as we continue these retrospectives.
Buggy and his crew have taken over a town and it is here that we have a bit of sadness to the story. The entire town is abandoned except for the Mayor who is trying to take back the town by killing Buggy and a dog that is guarding his long dead master’s pet shop. Oda manages to give both these small stories a great deal of emotionally weight in a minimal amount of pages.
At the end, this volume is still One Piece getting into the swing of things, introducing characters and concepts that are going to be important in the long and the short run. It introduced one of my favorite characters in the series and what he, Luffy, Zoro and Nami do in the future are going to be awesome.