Oh shit we're back!
This chapter didn't advance the story that much from 993, but I really like where the story's at right now so I still enjoyed it a lot anyway.
Now 993 on the other hand… I loved that chapter. Second favorite chapter of the year next to Roger's Adventure. Every single scene there worked for me. Since the thread for that chapter is kind of dead, I'm going to gush about it here (with some of the current chapter mixed in).
-I loved the opening with the Fire Festival. To me that was the perfect time to get some perspective on what everyone is fighting for, and makes me even more anxious about the Onigashima Raid ending it failure (If it was going to succeed wouldn't Oda show Tama with them?)
-Unlike most people here I really like the Ice Oni plot so far. It's definitely a One Piece cliche at this point, but it's a very natural one compared to most others since this lines up with how Queen acted back in Udon. Also Apoo is hilarious. I don't know what it is about him, but I can watch him doing completely mundane shit like knocking on a door with his long arms and laugh my ass off.
-Speaking of comedy though, I think Briscola the Gorilla Smile might legitimately be my favorite visual gag in the entire series. The Chicken and Giraffe were great too. I know a lot of people are disappointed that the SMILES aren't as threatening as they were arguably hyped up to be, but Oda's sense of humor is really clicking with me here.
-Jinbe already fits in with the crew so naturally.
– Sanji: "I'm the one dragging Luffy along!!"
-- Jinbe: "Oh you are? Sorry..."
-The Yamato/Momonosuke plotline is probably the one I'm the least interested in right now, but it's still nice, and I'm glad that whole misunderstanding between them was sorted out. And the next scene with them fighting Sasaki should be pretty good.
-My interest in Kaidou both as a character and as a threat shot up tenfold in these last few chapters. A villain searching for a proper way to die is such a great concept, and by the time Wano is over, I think he's going to be a very fun character to reread.
Yeah, it's taken a while, but I'm officially sold on this arc.