While not as mindblowingly great as the last few, Oda's still going strong in this, the ninth chapter of volume 101, which is shaping up to be one of the series most memorable volumes. Interestingly, the official releases don't see the WT100 spread as part of the actual chapter, leaving this one without any cover at all. I'm going to state again my suspicion that it'll be presented all at once, across six pages, before chapter 1025, at least by the time we get to the volume release. No idea if Mangaplus and Viz will reflect that this week though. Worth noting if we do look at the WT100 page however is that the slight colour differences between the latest volume covers and the anime are reflected here too, showing they were more than a one-off error. Also cool to see Meltan using its canon colours in Kid's arm, something also seemingly reflected in the colour manga panels used on the latest Vivre Cards. I would have guessed copyright woes would have forced them to go a generic metalic grew for plausible deniability, but that's a whole-ass pokemon right there.
Usopp! Haki lies! Foreshadowing! We all know where it's going, but it's still fun to watch. And a good old fashioned skull joke from Brook!
I really enjoyed the battlefield atmosphere portrayed by the opening pages. The strawhats are all trying to get back in touch with each other over comms and share the information they've picked up, meanwhile the toppling of half a dozen officers hasn't automatically wiped out the rank and file soldiers, who remain a going concern. The fires started by Black Maria and Orochi are spreading and becoming more and more dangerous, forcing friends and foes into motion. Law's crew and Kawamatsu and the yakuza are covering key choke points to keep the remaining enemy troops from congregating and rallying. It's war!
We see some more of Yamato and Kaido's relationship this time around. Kaido's mix of disgust and confusion under that first panel Yamato declares himself Oden is palpable on his face. The stance of "fine, be Oden, but Oden was my enemy" is not a bad justification for Kaido's uncharacteristic acceptance of Yamato's identity. But I also read a challenge in the last panel of Kaido as he leaves him in the cave - Kaido wants there to be another Oden to give him a fair fight and glorious death, and if his kid manages rise to the challenge and be that, all the better.
What does surprise me is Yamato taking on Oden's identity before he read the logbook in full. So all of this came from the sheer show of will at the execution? The command to open Wano's borders was picked up without knowing its true importance? I'm not totally certain that works for me, but hey, it's Oda's story.
Yams also once again mentions his dream of going out to sea, which goes alongside all his Strawhat-adjacent merch and marketing appearances lately to fuel crewmate speculation. Seems more and more likely he'll leave Wano alongside Luffy. However the last non-crew character who got this kind of main character-level promotion was Law, who has stayed with us for a long time, but has not and will not officially join up, so I'm a long way from convinced he's the eleventh person. Still could be, but just as likely to be a Law-type longterm companion.
The appearance of (a presumed) Ushimaru was interesting, but doesn't quite hit home for me. Mostly because there's not much new really in it. Like, we saw that he was a Zoro lookalike last week. We've known about Shimotsuki village and the dojo's connection to the family for ages. Is this a way to make it clear to magazine-only readers who don't read the SBS? Just an easter egg on our way through Yamato's past? Some have suggested Ushimaru is meant to be Zoro's father, but I don't think there's enough concrete info to say that for sure yet. The theory would have to justify the infant Zoro leaving Wano and making it all the way to Shimotsuki Village. Remember that this couldn't be a planned journey, because Wano has such limited contact with the outside world, let along long distance communication. Shimotsuki Kozaburo would have been persona non grata after leaving thirty years before this scene Ushimaru would have no way of knowing where he settled or if his settlement survived. Hell, he probably wouldn't even know what the East Blue is. These kinds of issues definitely could be handwaved with a few lines of exposition and Zoro's mum (sent out of Wano for her safety after it became clear Kaido was there to stay) managing to reach the village her relative started by sheet plot coincidence, but I want to see that happen before I feel convinced Zoro's anything other than a different branch of the family tree.
The final clash was excellently drawn. Yamato's done well to hold his own so long, but I wouldn't be surprised if he staggers after that last one. The end has to be close so that Luffy and Momo can have their cavalry moment.
And that's it. Feels unreal to have so many back to back chapters. We've been on the same break schedule so long there'll be a decent number of readers who've never had this much One Piece back to back. Good for them! With the end of the volume so close, I'm hoping to see at least one of the major fights wrap up in the next couple of chapters. Or maybe just a couple of the minor ones, given King and Queen are obviously going to be saved for last. There's definitely room to tie off a bunch of the Scabbard loose ends in quick succession.