It’s not immediately obvious, but if you think about it, every major villain in One Piece is essentially a feudal lord exploiting the local population of whichever island the story arc is taking place on. Arlong, Crocodile, Donquixote Doflamingo and others could all be broadly described in this way. Kaido, the main antagonist of this arc, very much fits into this category.
The last volume of One Piece established the misery that Kaido’s iron-fisted oligarchy has brought on Wano, the land of the samurai. This volume serves to set the story in motion as Luffy finds himself imprisoned after his first showdown with Kaido. It’s another short but impressive fight scene from Eiichiro Oda that brings of Act One of the Wano arc to an exciting conclusion.
As Luffy finds himself in Kaido’s prison, there’s an interesting intermission chapter that takes us off of Wano and checks in on the Blackbeard Pirates. It’s mostly expository, but it’s nice to get a glimpse of the world outside the Straw Hat crew’s activities and Blackbeard is giving off a real “final boss” vibe.
While Luffy finds himself in prison alongside fellow Worst-Generation Captain Eustice Kidd, the other Straw Hats meet Komurasaki the Oiran, the most beautiful woman in Wano. She’s a woman with a secret, but before we learn what it is, Big Mom makes landfall in pursuit of the Straw Hats after the events of Whole Cake Island.
One Piece is the greatest action comic of all time, and it’s at its best when that action is front and center. That is unfortunately not the case here, as this volume mostly deals with the fallout from Luffy’s brief fight with Kaido and continues to set up story strands for the future.
That doesn’t make this volume bad, however; Oda’s world building is evocative and despite large swaths of this installment being exposition, it never feels like it drags. One Piece has always been able to fill the slower parts of the story with plenty of humor and character development, and that is on full display here. There is a lot going on in Wano and all the stories being built up here feel compelling, making this a worthwhile read even though the story is a little slow to unfold.
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