Wano. One Piece fans have been awaiting the Straw Hat crew’s arrival in this land of samurai for over a decade, and as of this volume, it’s here. This also means that the full Straw Hat crew will be reunited for the first time since Sanji’s abduction in the Zou arc. Aside from Luffy’s likely eventual showdown with Red-Haired Shanks, Wano might be the most-anticipated arc in One Piece’s long history, so let’s talk about how well the first chapters live up to that hype.
For starters, the Sanji Rescue Team gets separated by a shipwreck as soon as they land, so we’re going to have to wait for that reunion. This might be a function of the crew having gotten pretty large with ten official members along with Carrot, who I’m about 80% sure is going to join the crew eventually. And of course there are temporary allies Kin’emon and Momonosuke, who the Straw Hats have accompanied to Wano and who are looking to restore the old rule which had been overthrown in a coup. This volume mostly follows Luffy who’s on his own but quickly makes new friends after he rescues a young girl named Tama.
When his new friend Tama is poisoned Luffy reunites with Zolo, who I feel like we haven’t seen in forever, while searching for a cure. They also meet a tall samurai woman named Kiku and we finally get to see some real action. It’s only a one chapter fight, but Luffy’s sumo battle with Yokozuna Urashima is classic Eiichiro Oda. Oda’s art is cartoony and loose, maybe not as visually striking as the art in My Hero Academia or One-Punch Man, but there’s a kinetic feeling to it that no one has ever matched aside from maybe Akira Toriyama.
Luffy’s short fight here shows how effortlessly action scenes come to Oda. The action is fluid and easy to follow and you can almost feel the energy and weight of the blows coming off the page. Of all the things that make One Piece the most popular comic book in the world, the beautiful way the action is presented is easily the biggest draw.
While Luffy’s side trip may sound like a diversion, Oda does a great job of using it to introduce the villains of the arc as well as laying down the background and history of the central conflict. While we knew Luffy and his ally Trafalgar D. Water Law were looking to face down Kaido, one of the four emperors, upon arrival in Wano, Luffy’s side trip introduces Kaido’s men and the entrenched power structures in Wano that the Straw Hats pledged to help overthrow.
The Wano arc is probably going to be a long journey, but this volume is a great first step. Wano is very tonally different from the previous Whole Cake Island arc and Oda eases us into this new story by focusing on Luffy and Zolo for most of the first volume before bringing back the rest of the Straw Hats and their allies.