Best Overall Moment
Aokiji politely asking Doflamingo to get off of Smoker. I’ve always been a big fan of Kuzan’s, and he’s a badass for being so nonchalant when confronting someone with as much clout as Doflamingo. It’s clear that Kuzan has some sort of motive in the New World, as cemented by Doflamingo’s comments as well as what little was said during Blackbeard and Burgess’s conversation. I’m definitely anxious for his return in the story.
Honorable Mention(s): Koala's reveal as a Fishman Karate instructor. When I first read that, I was grinning hard. Having recently reread the Fishman Island Arc (during my reread of the whole series ) and knowing Oda’s style, I was certain Koala’s older self was going to appear as a key player during a future arc. Hopefully Sabo’s presence doesn’t undermine Koala’s during this entire arc. Also, Sanji asking permission to fire back at Big Mom was undeniably an awesome moment. Sanji is a character who is often difficult to root for. His behavior towards women is one of the more controversial aspects of his character; it’s such an intense quirk that it often becomes his identity. However, there is another side of his character that shows through on rare occasions: his badassery, which is always welcome.
Character of the Year
Franky, undeniably. Beating up Baby 5 and Buffalo were badass enough, but the entirety of Dressrosa has been sprinkled with Franky being a straight boss: his mention of being “real super” this week and his eagerness to destroy the Smile factory; him beating on Doflamingo’s mook for information on the whereabouts of the factory; him encouraging Luffy to compete at the colosseum for Ace’s fruit; dining & dashing; and finally, his intense interest in helping out Thunder Soldier and the dwarves, which leads to his assault on the east wing of the Toy House. Also, his hairstyles have been great for this arc.
Honorable Mention(s): Luffy has been pretty entertaining to watch this whole year. He’s literally been an unstoppable powerhouse when confronted by anyone, regardless of power or prestige. First he shocks the entire room for one-shotting Spartan; then he successfully counters one of the great pirates of the previous era, Don Chinjao; he then defeats said pirate in the ring, along with other well-known combatants from various New World locations, including a giant; he also manages to clasp and hold still a legendary sword wielded by a fellow Supernova. On top of those feats, his interactions with Franky, Rebecca, Cavendish, Bellamy, and Bartolomeo have all been satisfying as well. Kuzan, for reasons mentioned above.
Best New Character
Bartolomeo; I pretty much like everything about this guy. He’s got a great design as well as a unique personality in-universe. Ever since his introduction, I’ve always believed there was more to his character than just being the “’crazed rookie’ of unparalleled brutality”. Once he saved the audience from the King’s Punch, I knew he was to be a future ally. What I never guessed was that he would go full-on fanboy in Luffy’s presence, which was a welcome surprise. I like that he seems to be tagging along with Sabo now; if he learned of his relation to Luffy, he probably holds him in high regard as well.
Honorable Mention(s): Cavendish; Oda’s parody of the bishōnen. I enjoyed when he was constantly pining for Luffy’s attention while he was still unaware of his identity. I look forward to the chapter when he finally succumbs to Luffy’s friend-making abilities. It’s clear from his Block D entrance and speech defending Rebecca that this guy is pretty alright, though he needs to set aside his grudge for the “worst Generation”, or at least make an exception for Luffy. Gatz; his over-enthusiasm as well as his inability to remain unbiased while commentating make him a pretty entertaining guy to watch. While I don’t believe he will prove to be important outside the colosseum, he’s still a fun character.
Luffy vs. Cavendish vs. Don Chinjao. While Luffy vs. Chinjao in Block C was entertaining, I preferred their quarrel before the match. Not only did Chinjao seem to pull out all the stops during this encounter (including a headbutt gatling), but Cavendish was added in the mix. Stopping Chinjao in midair with Durandal was pretty impressive on his part. Luffy may have run away, but that was probably for the best. We couldn’t have him defeating both of those characters outside of their respective blocks.
Honorable Mention(s): B-Block; this block seemed to receive the most attention and, regardless of the fact that it was comprised of mostly new characters, still felt engaging. While we knew that Luffy was going to win C-Block, B-Block’s winner was up-in-the-air. It was cool seeing everyone’s unique fighting styles for the first (possibly only?) time. And while it was mostly off-screen, Law vs. Doflamingo vs. Fujitora is worth a mention if only for that panel where all three are standing on pillars created by each of them respectively blocking a meteorite summoned by Fuji’s devil fruit powers.
While this arc was full of “surprises”, there was none more surprising than the revelation that the Revolutionary Army is on Dressrosa, with Sabo seemingly at the command, with the intention of obtaining Ace's Mera Mera fruit to carry on his will. Sabo’s reappearance at this time was just so unexpected to me, but the fact that he brought Koala along with him was just almost too much to take in for one chapter. Now I cannot wait until this arc is over and Oda is forced to give some exposition on the subject, along with interactions between the brothers. The potential for Robin to become somewhat important again also intrigues me.
Honorable Mention(s): Big Mom’s ship appearing to the “Curly-Straw” Pirates on their way to Zou had me saying “Oh snap!” I would have rather they appeared with the intention of attacking the Strawhats in response to Luffy’s comments on Fishman Island instead of some random unfinished business with Caesar, but oh well. Kuzan’s appearance at Punk Hazard was I’m sure a surprise to some; however, a lot of us deduced that the mysterious silhouette was probably Kuzan anyway, so his appearance was more of a confirmation of what we had already guessed. Still an undeniably badass moment, though.
Quote of the Year
“As long as we’ve got this chance, let’s take it!! Living life with regrets is no fun” – clearly words that Franky lives by. Franky understands Luffy’s inner turmoil about letting someone else obtain Ace’s fruit and gives proper encouragement to not pass up this chance and win it himself. While Franky’s words of encouragement aren’t exactly original, they’re certainly genuine. That was what he believed at the time and what he thought needed to be said.
Honorable Mention(s): “…That this world’s filth may go unseen… is one pleasure known to the blind…” Fujitora’s letting you know he’s not just blind, he’s also a badass. Cavendish scolding the audience about their hatred of Rebecca; he made some good points and clearly meant everything he said, but his surprised reaction to the audience’s cheers in his favor was golden.
In Chapter 703, when Franky warns Luffy not to give away his identity, and he immediately begins to answer “Luffy” when he’s asked for his name was funny enough, but when I went to the next page and saw Fighter Number 556: “Lucy”, I actually laughed out loud. While I find a lot of the manga funny, very rarely do I do more than chuckle, but this had me laughing for a good few seconds.
Honorable Mention(s): Franky putting his meal on nonexistent tab while just Frankytanking away, all-the-while ignoring the chef’s words of anger. Dining and dashing is always funny. ‘Usoland’s face when he realizes he’s been recruited by the dwarves to help take on Doflamingo. It almost looks like he got hit in the balls.
Gonna go with a few others and say Bellamy. Even though Luffy cheered for him, something to which he even called attention to and took note of, he still seems to have been willing to revert back to his old douchebag ways and attempt to take Luffy out for a shot of being a part of Doflamingo’s inner circle. Maybe once we get some exposition of Bellamy’s past with Doflamingo(perhaps overlapping with Law’s flashback?), it’ll be easier to understand his actions, but as of now, he’s been really disappointing. I mean, Dofla kind of ordered Dellinger to murder him for being useless. Though I guess, despite the fact that he wishes to remain loyal to Doflamingo, he still (potentially) willingly allowed Luffy to follow his lead in escaping the colosseum. But I suppose that doesn’t have to be what happened, since Luffy’s escape occurred off-panel…
Honorable Mention(s): I guess the fact that King Riku’s actions in the flashback kind of led to his own demise. I mean, he really should have seen that coming and known that Doflamingo’s offer wasn’t legit, but I guess he just has too much faith in people. Also, this is pretty broad, but nearly everything that Nami, Chopper, and Usopp have done this year has been lame. Aside from Nami and Usopp’s shameful attack on Baby 5 and Buffalo at the end of the Punk Hazard Arc, all throughout Dressrosa, all three of the Weakling Trio have done almost nothing but cry in fear over potential encounters with strong opponents. What happened to the growth they seemed to have at the reunion at Shabondy?
Worst Character of the Year
Usopp, for reasons mentioned above, but more so than the other two because he keeps digging himself deeper in this situation with his lying to the dwarves, and yet (until he realized in the most recent chapter just how strong the dwarves are on their own) keeps looking for a way to bail out and ditch them and their cause. Good thing “Character of the Year” Franky was there as a counter to Usopp’s cowardice, and good thing the enemy is just a little girl, or else Usopp would still be looking for a way out.
Honorable Mention(s): Nami and Chopper. They’ve been entirely useless this entire arc. At least Brook kept a level head and figured out a plan to defeat Jora, all while Chopper’s crying over the thought of Brook’s betrayal. Ugh. Also Bellamy for reasons mentioned above.
Worst New Character
King Riku seems like a cool dude, but what a nincompoop for allowing his kingdom to get taken over in such a devastating fashion. I mean, I know Doflamingo first had Monet infiltrate the palace while Riku was none-the-wiser. But really? He thought going around the country asking for everyone’s money was a good idea? What was gonna happen when the entire country was now broke after paying off Doflamingo? I suppose he had to think in the here-and-now, but still he just seems like kind of a dingus
Honorable Mention(s): Abdullah and Jeet. Those guys were completely useless. They got fodderized by someone who’s been fodderized himself by at least 3 people. And if they don’t come back later, most of the D-Block “top fighters” were useless as well. Mummy, Damask, and Fighting Lion especially.
D-Block. With the way the chapters have been structured, we’ve only received snippets of what’s happened in the ring. There was way too much jumping around to become emotionally invested in the outcome; a stark contrast to the glory of B-Block. What happened to Rolling Logan? Did Acilia step in and take care of him for Rebecca? If that’s the case, what happened to Acilia? What a mess it was, and we never even got to see Cavendish fight!
Honorable Mention(s): Smoker vs. Doflamingo. Smoker got utterly curbstomped. There was no holding his own against him. It really made Smoker look bad. Yeah he lost a few fights during the Punk Hazard Arc, but he at least showed some sort of fighting ability during those. He was basically ragdolled by Dofla. Brook, Nami, Chopper, and Momonosuke vs. Jola. It was so frustrating to see everyone just completely helpless against the Art Art Fruit. Luckily Brook stepped up and took her out. After however many chapters it was, someone had to finally go on the counter attack.
This arc has been plentiful when it comes to “surprises”, though none of which have had much of an impact due to being somewhat obvious from the beginning. So I guess Least Surprising Surprise is a threeway tie: Viola is Violet, Toy Soldier is Rebecca’s biological father, King Riku was good all along. All of which I could see 4000 km away, as if I had Violet’s (or Viola’s ) fruit.
Honorable Mention(s): N/A
Wow. Why did I write all of that? That's way too much. No one is going to read that. I'm stupid. That's over 2000 words. Why can't my research papers be about One Piece?