I also recorded this discussion in video form:
There were some interesting developments this chapter, but ultimately I felt like they were a bit rushed. Notably, Who’s Who’s turn against Drake. It feels like there was a page missing where the two come face to face with Queen. We cut away from Drake, Hawkins and Who’s Who together and Queen together with King to Drake having already been betrayed. Then we cut one page later to Drake escaping and teaming up with Luffy. It’s all a little bit jarring and makes me feel like Oda is rushing to the conclusion of the third act.
I feel like this is perhaps a sign that Oda is hurrying things due to the impending 1000th chapter of the series. This would not be without precedent. In the past, Oda skipped a story he planned for Usopp during the Logue Town arc so that Dragon’s introduction and the departure for the Grand Line could happen in chapter 100. We also have Rayleigh introduced in chapter 500. With big events happening around the One Piece world during the intermission chapters between acts, I feel like Oda is gearing up for some major event, revelation, or introduction in chapter 1000.
Which could explain the rushed pacing in this chapter. Although the Onigashima raid has become fairly chaotic with lots of moving pieces, the arc has had a very prolonged rising action phase. So the sudden acceleration could signal Oda’s intention to move pieces into place for whatever he wants to happen when he reaches the 1000 chapter milestone.
I assume we are meant to believe that during his absence over the past 10 chapters or so Drake was working behind the scenes to recruit Hawkins. I was a little disappointed that he didn’t have a more intricate backup plan worked out with Law given the absence of the latter in recent chapters. I mentioned before that the betrayal of Drake was rushed, but I did like the subtle foreshadowing and buildup we got in the conversation between Drake and Hawkins. Hawkins says the chances of a certain man living to tomorrow are just one percent and Drake remains oblivious to this fortune reading referring to himself. I posted a theory about the secret of Kaido’s dragon devil fruit previously in which I discussed the idea that Kaido’s invulnerability is in part the work of good fortune and we see that trend here continue with Hawkins tarot reading being used to predict the chances of Drake’s survival and success of the alliance. Now that Momo is removed from the scene, the odds are turning against them.
We get a continuation this week of the battle between Kaido, the Minks and the Scabbards on the roof of Onigashima. We see that the Guardians and Musketeers have bloodied but not beaten Jack, necessitating Inu and Neko’s intervention. We see they have turned Sulong, but Oda has chosen to silhouette their appearance, saving them for a big reveal in a coming chapter.
As I mentioned last week discussing 989, the third act is very likely to end in a moment of tragedy or defeat and we’re seeing that setup here. I had imagined we would see the Nine Scabbards fight Kaido together, but seeing here Inu and Neko split off from the group, I feel like a more likely scenario involves other members of their group also being diverted before they can reach Kaido. Perhaps Raizo will join Inu and Neko in fighting Jack. Others like Ashura, Kawamatsu, and Kiku may instead be drawn into a battle against the Numbers. I could see the scene unfolding in a way that leaves only Kinemon and Denjiro left to face Kaido and thus suffering defeat. I do hope that we at least get to see Inu and Neko avenge the attempted genocide of the Minks on Zou by defeating Jack before he Sulong transformation expires.
I did like the continued references to the battle against Oars on Thriller Bark. We see how far the crew have come when Luffy takes down one of the numbers with ease, though considering thy were failed experiments, I expect they don’t perfectly match Oars in terms of raw strength. I mentioned last week that perhaps the Numbers being Caesar’s failed experiments might illicit some sympathy from the Straw Hats, but that turned out not to be the case here. That said, it is a battle, so there’s not really much opportunity at this point in time so perhaps closer to the arc’s conclusion we’ll see the Numbers turn on Kaido.
We also seemingly have setup this chapter for the Straw Hats to fight the Tobi Roppo. It seems Ulti has broken off pursuit of Yamato. Sasaki is now free as a result of Big Mom’s Ikoku Sovereignty attack. He feels personally slighted by Denjiro, so it will be interesting to see if that factors into his trajectory in coming chapters. Who’s Who is, at least for now, seemingly on the side of the Beast Pirates, though I still believe he’s gunning for Queen. Page One is up and ready to fight and Black Maria reappeared. There are presently more Straw Hats than Beast Pirates in play, so I’m hoping we will get to see them fight together in team up battles.
I imagine Luffy and Zoro will be working their way toward the roof of Onigashima t fight Kaido, so I’m not sure what to expect from either of them. I think we may see the Straw Hats at first together as a group working their way toward the roof with members of the crew slowly picked off by the Tobi Roppo, drawn into battles in a manner similar to the Scabbards.
Matchups in One Piece, particularly post-time skip have been pretty unpredictable, so it’s hard to say which members of the Straw Hats will face off against members of the Beast Pirates. Maybe something like Sanji and Marco fighting King, Jimbei and Who’s Who fighting Queen. I could see Franky. My personal hopes are Franky vs. Queen and Brook vs. Apoo, but my confidence in either of them coming to pass is pretty low. I really don’t put much stock into these predictions and they don’t take into account characters like Perospero, Law, Kid, Apoo, and most importantly Big Mom.
I mentioned last week that I believe it is a matter of when not if the Straw Hats as a group defeat Big Mom and I think it’s increasingly likely that when will come after Wano. As Capone’s cover story arc moves closer to a conclusion we see Lola, Chiffon, and Pound now reunited. Most of Big Mom’s children aren’t yet present. And the Straw Hat crew is yet to be fully assembled. I feel like we won’t see this battle come to pass until a future arc when more of the Charlotte family are involved and Luffy’s crew is complete. So, probably Elbaf.
In discussion the chapter with a friend, he mentioned the idea that Orochi, if alive, could perhaps sway Big Mom in some way if his Devil Fruit ability somehow related to the manipulation and control of other souls. We saw that a young Kanjuro was rendered an amorphous blob before Orochi. Oda doesn’t usually employ stylized techniques like that to mask a character’s appearance, so it would seem to be some sort of hint about Orochi’s devil fruit power. I said last week that Orochi might pursue Momo back to the mainland of Wano if he is taken from Onigashima. I believe he’ll fill a role in the story similar to Saruman or Wormtongue in the Lord of the Rings trilogy where, even after the primary antagonist, Kaido, is defeated, Wano’s history as it pertains to the cursed Kurozumi Clan will need to be settled. Robin and Jimbei already removed Big Mom from the field of battle in 989. I believe she’ll continue to be diverted until the crew is ready to fight her, which, now that they’re poised to battle members of the Tobi Roppo, it would seem less likely to happen right now. Hiyori, presently not on Onigashima, entrusted Zoro with Oden’s sword Enma, but she is still in possession of Ame no Habakiri, a sword in Japanese mythology famous for slaying the mythical Yamata no Orochi upon which Kurozumi Orochi seems to be based. I could see Big Mom being potentially drawn into that story, particularly if the battles extend back to the Mainland of Wano in Act 4.
Just a few closing thoughts:
First panel on page 6 provides a wide view looking up at Kaido’s castle and then the following page shows the reverse shot of King and Queen observing the battle. I really appreciate that they finally give a real sense of where everything is taking place which I felt was hard to sense up to this point.
I also really liked the panel progression at the bottom of page 11 where a lone samurai raises his sword to fight one of the Numbers only to have the giant respond with a similar pose. The perspective looking down along his club conveys the sense of scale better than the double page spread in the previous chapter where they made their debut.
We see Luffy, Zoro, and Jimbei together deflect the attack while Sanji is only given a reaction panel in what would typically have been a ‘monster trio’ moment. I’m still holding out hope that Sanji can reclaim his spot in the Straw Hats top group, maybe with a strong showing against someone like King.