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[personal profile] sara_tanaquil
I have so many things I feel I ought to be catching up on! Maybe another life post soon. In the meantime, I want to get the One Piece train re-started before I lose momentum completely.

I have a lot of favorite scenes in this volume. At last, Thriller Bark wraps up, and we're getting ready to move on to the Shabondy arc.

One Piece 50 "Arriving at last, for the second time"

482

The Strawhats prepare to face Moria in battle as everyone else (except Lola) flees into the shadows.

Love Zoro saying to the Rolling Pirates "If you came here to learn something (見学なら), keep your mouths shut and watch (黙ってみてろ)." Show 'em how it's done! (Also, love that Zoro is smart enough to figure out that Moria has over-reached himself even before they see the evidence proving that he's right.)

When Luffy attacks Moria with Gear 2, shadows start escaping from Moria's mouth. He can't hold them all.

Moria uses his "brick bats" to seal Luffy inside a box, intending to stomp on and crush him.

Just when Moria is gloating about how Luffy was never fit to challenge the Grand Line and face down a shichibukai, Luffy bursts out of the box unharmed. (Moria could't crush him. Because he's rubber.)

Luffy switches into Gear Third. His crew are worried that he's pushing his body far past what it can handle, but he keeps going.

Luffy's Jet Pistol punch has Moria on the brink of vomiting up the shadows (pretty much literally), but he's hanging on by a thread.

Lola calls out to her shadow. "Come back to me!"

Her crew drag her back into the shade to prevent her body going up in flames. The Rolling Pirates all start calling out to their shadows.

Luffy joins in. "I got something to say to MY shadow. Hey, you! If you wanna be pirate king, come with ME!"

Before Moria loses consciousness, he has one last taunt for Luffy. "Go and see for yourself! The REAL nightmare is waiting for you in the New World!"

As the sun clears the horizon and Zoro, Robin and Sanji explode in flames, the shadows begin to return.

483

Zoro, Robin, Sanji and chibi-Luffy (post-Gear 3) are all burning to ashes. Lola is burning up, too.

At various spots around the Grand Line and the West Blue…

A pirate and his crew find that miraculously, their shadows have come back to them. They find it hard to believe that anyone could have defeated Moria ("a man who crossed swords with the Emperor Kaidou!"), but they're grateful.

A young girl, a housemaid, drops the plates she is carrying and stares into the mirror. Her master rejoices with her, having heard about how her shadow was taken from her ten years before. She bursts into tears of joy when he tells her to never mind the plates she dropped and broke. He's so happy for her!

(Aw, the plate ghost got a happy ending. Was this the girl who deliberately smashed a plate to test her previous fiancé's love for her? She seems too sweet for that. I guess she learned her lesson.)

Back on Thriller Bark, Zoro, Robin, Sanji are thankfully scorch-free. Just in time.

Poor Usopp, Nami and Chopper seem more freaked out about their near-death than they are.

All the Rolling Pirates are fine, too.

With Moria's defeat and the return of the shadows, all the strange creatures on the island have been eliminated. It's like waking from a bad dream.

Hogback wakes an unconscious Absalom, and they plot their escape from the island.

Luffy is still unconscious, but has at least reverted from chibi to full size form. Usopp is seriously worried about the strain his new techniques are putting on his body, and all the more so if they're going to continue to encounter even stronger enemies in the future.

[Usopp is always a worrywart, but he's right on target here. Oda is dropping more and more hints that Luffy might not be ready for what lies ahead… yet.]

Lola and the Rolling Pirates come to give their heartfelt thanks.

She offers to marry someone out of gratitude, but no one's interested.

Zoro is gruff (embarrassed?) and inclined to brush their thanks off, but Nami is working her way up to thinking of a really good reward to ask for when she remembers that she forgot to mention something.

Before she can get the news about Kuma out, he's standing over them.

He seems to be making a report over the den-den mushi. Just as the government feared, another shichibukai has been defeated, just when they finally found a replacement for the last one.

[Seriously, pity the world government. They can't replace the warlords as fast as Luffy keeps taking them out; it only gets worse from here.]

Nami explains that she forgot to mention that there was another shichibukai on the island.

Lola recognizes "Tyrant" Bartholomew Kuma, too.

Whoever is on the other end of the den-den mushi gives orders that every living witness to Moria's defeat be wiped out. They can't afford to let news of his defeat leak out.

The Rolling Pirates are terrified ("but we just got free of Moria!"). Usopp is terrified ("we just got done fighting one shichibukai, and now we have to face another??"). Zoro tells everyone else to get back, he'll handle this. Luffy is still out cold.

Nami warns them to be careful - Kuma has a strange power that makes people disappear, and he can move at the blink of an eye.

"Pirate Hunter Zoro. I suppose I'll start with you."

[SBS: LOL Oda's commentary on the crazy submission art he got for the SBS. Sadly, I bet this won't be in the English. ETA: Guessed right. :-(]

484

Aw, the Rolling Pirates want to step up and help since the Strawhats already had to fight so hard (not that they could DO anything, but they wanted to). Zoro tells them again to stand back.

Kuma remarks on the fact that all of Luffy's crew have made a reputation for themselves (much to the embarrassment/delight of said crew - LOL Robin stone-faced in the background).

Usopp pleads with Zoro not to fight him; he's already horribly injured. But Zoro insists that if he can't win this fight, it's proof that he wasn't fit to make it any further.

(Zoro says something like this so often that it is nearly a catchphrase with him.)

Zoro fights Kuma for a while, barely holding his own.

The others notice that Kuma has paw-pads (肉球, nikukyuu) on his hands.

When Zoro identifies that as the key to his fighting abilities, Kuma admits that he ate the nikyu-nikyu fruit. He's a paw-pad-man.

[LOL Robin's mental image. I had forgotten where that was from. Robin, ILU.]

[Alas, the English translation of this scene kind of flubs this scene, probably because they judged it too difficult to translate the joke literally. I'm not sure who is speaking, but reacting to the concept of a "paw-pad human", one of the crew says なんだその和やかさ ("What the hell is with that soothingness?"; Viz= "How can he say that with a straight face?") and another says 悪魔の実に「癒し系」ってあんのか ("Is there such a thing as an iyashi-kei devil fruit?"; Viz= "What kind of devil fruit is that?"]

[ETA: I just now got that iyashi-kei is a pun on the fact that all three classes of devil fruit end in "kei", LOLOL. Logia-kei, zoan-kei, paramecia-kei, iyashi-kei! For anyone who's never heard of iyashi-kei, trust TV Tropes to come to the rescue.]

Franky, thinking that Kuma must not be that scary, tries to attack and gets taken out. Robin analyzes his attack mode, guessing that he has the ability to manipulate the atmosphere itself, thus flicking things aside or delivering tremendously powerful blows.

[Kuma seems to know the names and the powers of each of the crew, in detail. He addresses each one when they attack.]

Zoro is still fighting, but losing badly. When Kuma reaches out to touch him, Sanji jumps into the fight.

Everyone cheers - until Sanji falls on the ground, screaming in pain with a shattered leg. Kuma doesn't even flinch. Sanji can't figure him out - is the man made of iron?

Usopp tries to attack, too (Kuma easily identifies him as "Sniper King").

Kuma begins inflating (and then compressing) a great ball of air, intending to destroy the entire island with a single explosion.

He offers to let everyone on the island live… IF they turn Luffy over to him.

Every last one of them refuses. ("KOTOWARU!")

Kuma releases his bomb. "Ursus Shock."

485

After the bomb explodes, everyone appears unconscious.

When Kuma approaches Luffy, Zoro attacks.

Zoro gets in a pretty good hit, but is shocked when the slash exposes a robot body. Kuma is a cyborg.

Also, he can apparently shoot laser beams from his mouth.

[Franky only WISHES he were that cool.]

He says he's a cyborg, yes, but not like Franky. He is a "Pacifista." A human weapon, constructed by the world government - as yet incomplete.

The developer of the Pacifistas is the government's genius scientist, Vegapunk.

[Ooh, body shot of Vegapunk. Not that it tells us much. Reading this made me wonder when we first heard about Vegapunk, so I looked it up - it looks like the first time was when Coby mentioned him in Volume 45 as the inventor responsible for seastone hulls on navy ships.]

Vegapunk's genius as a research scientist sets him apart as a man 500 years ahead of his time.

Knowing that his strength has reached its limit, Zoro offers Kuma his "head" in place of Luffy's own.

"I can't say my name is worth that much yet, but one day… it would have been the name of the world's greatest swordsman! Not a bad deal, don't you think?"

[Oh, Zoro.]

"With such ambition, you could die in his place?"
"If that's the only way to save the crew. If I can't protect my captain, what good is my ambition!"

[てめえの野心もねえだろう。I can't help but like the fansub translation: "My ambition ain't worth shit."]

Sanji tries to interfere, offering himself in Zoro's place.

[The hearts of ZoSan fangirls everywhere swell with pride.]

"The navy don't think too much of me right now, but one of these days, I would have been the biggest troublemaker (厄介な存在) on this crew. Black-Leg Sanji is the name."

[I love these guys, yo.]

"Give my regards to the others, would ya? Tell them, sorry, but you'll have to find yourselves another cook."

Zoro knocks Sanji unconscious.

[ZoSan fangirls are now fainting right and left. The ZoLu fangirls passed out foaming at the mouth a long time ago.]

Kuma agrees to Zoro's terms. It would be a disgrace for him to touch Luffy after accepting Zoro's sacrifice.

As a final gesture, he "presses" all of Luffy's pain and exhaustion out of his body into a giant bubble. If Zoro is going to be a substitute (literally: body replacement) for Luffy, then he should be prepared to literally accept Luffy's pain.

He warns Zoro - and Zoro accepts - that this much pain will kill him, as close to death as he already is. He offers to let Zoro have a taste.

A taste is enough to leave Zoro screaming in agony.

Asking only that he be allowed to choose the place, Zoro plunges his hands into the full weight of Luffy's pain.

Kuma prepares to leave Thriller Bark.

"You have fine comrades. I would have expected no less from your son… Dragon."

Back on Thriller Bark, the others are beginning to wake up.

Everyone is baffled by the fact that Luffy is full of vim and vigor. "I feel GREAT!"

(LOL Robin: "Maybe he's so far gone, he's high.")

Sanji goes searching for Zoro, and discovers him standing in a blood-soaked circle.

"What the HELL happened here?"
"Nothing at all!"

[I find it interesting that Oda didn't allow Zoro's fate to remain a matter of suspense into the next chapter. It is possible he might actually have been lynched by fans before the next chapter could come out.]

[SBS: the fan art of CP9 at the top of the page is SO adorable. Jabra! Are those water pistols?]

486

[Cover arc: "Where are they now?" Yokozuna doesn't challenge the sea train anymore.]

A small ship escapes Thriller Bark with the help of Absalom's invisibility cloak. Hogback and Absalom are transporting Moria's unconscious body (Perona was nowhere to be found).

Hogback is filling Absalom in on what he learned before he was knocked out. He shows him a newspaper that explains why Blackbeard was made a shichibukai.

Blackbeard turned Whitebeard's Second Company Commander, Fire Fist Ace, over to the government. Ace is currently being held in the undersea prison Impel Down, awaiting execution.

They both know this is big - big enough to turn the Great Age of Pirates on its ear.

Meanwhile, on Thriller Bark, the Strawhats are slowly recovering after having slept a whole day and night. Everyone is planning to gather back in the garden for a great feast.

Lola apologizes - after so many years spent in the shadows, none of them can bear to go indoors. They all want to soak up as much sun as possible.

Sanji isn't quite sure where all the extra food on the Sunny came from, but he's glad to have it. (Lola: "Must have been some nice person.")

Nami is blissfully passed out on top of the pile of treasure (no one knows where that came from, either).

Luffy has discovered an armband with glass beads that he thinks is kinda cool, so he puts it on. Nami is so happy, she doesn't even protest. (It's just costume jewelry anyway.)

But, she tells Lola, she's not giving anything to anyone else!

When Lola calls Nami "Namizou" without thinking, Nami recognizes her warthog-zombie-shadow friend and hugs her enthusiastically.

Lola the pirate captain is a little confused (not remembering her time as a warthog), but pleased.

When Nami starts piling treasure into Lola's arms, Luffy and Usopp become convinced that the apocalypse is near.

"There's a storm coming!!"

Luffy and the others bring food for the feast, and the medical supplies Chopper requested.

Chopper is fretting over Zoro, who is still unconscious. He's never seen him this badly injured. For a while he really wasn't sure if he was going to live.

When Chopper says something must have happened while they were all unconscious, Brook looks pensive.

Robin is puzzled, too. She can't understand why Kuma just left. And Usopp seriously can't figure out why Luffy is so full of energy.

Luffy: "I don't get it, myself! Hahaha!"

[I kind of want to smack Luffy for being so blithe when Zoro is so badly hurt, but he doesn't know. :-( He STILL doesn't know.]

The Risky Brothers pop up, declaring that they overhead EVERYTHING, but Sanji drags them away before they can spill the beans. He convinces them to keep quiet (after making them tell him everything that happened after he was knocked out).

The Risky Brothers are practically swooning over how cool everyone on the crew is. ("What a lucky captain!")

Robin used her power to eavesdrop, so she now knows the whole story as well.

LOL the Risky Brothers quoting all Sanji's lines when they refuse to tell Luffy the whole story. (Fanboys!)

Feasting ensues.

Brook is thrilled to be eating "Cook-san"'s food again. ("So delicious, my cheeks could just fall! Oh, but I don't have any cheeks!" Do we have an equivalent idiom for yummy food?)

"I might get FAT!"

(LOL at Franky being exasperated while all the Rolling Pirates think Brook is hilarious.)

Zoro is still sleeping through the uproar under Chopper's watchful eye. Luffy shows up with a cask of Zoro's favorite grog, and gets smacked for being an idiot.

Luffy: "How 'bout meat?"
Chopper: "Your feelings are appreciated. Now scram!"

Brook is idly playing the piano. He tells Sanji he overheard what happened, too. He thought it was very moving.

[For the record, that makes four people on the crew who know what happened: Zoro, Sanji, Brook and Robin. As far as we know, to this day, no one else is aware of the truth.]

Brooks starts playing "Binks' Sake." Robin says she recognizes it, and Luffy does, too. Shanks and his crew used to sing it.

Luffy once again invites Brook to join his crew, but Brook says he has another promise he needs to keep to a nakama, first.

Luffy knows right away that he's talking about Laboon, and tells Brook how they met Laboon at the Twin Capes (the reader already knows this, but Brook didn't).

Brook is overwhelmed to learn that they met Laboon, and that Laboon is well and has been waiting fifty years for their return.

"When I close my eyes, I can still see him… oh, but I don't have any eyes…"

(The idiom in Japanese is "eyelids.")

Brook sheds tears of joy.

*cue flashback*

The Rumbar Pirates first noticed baby Laboon following them when they were still in the West Blue.

When Brook suggests playing him a tune, Captain Yorki heartily approves, and all the crew join in on their instruments. Baby Laboon is enchanted.

(Brook boasts that the music-loving Rumbar Pirates can "make even crying children laugh" - a sweet variant on the usual "so scary they make crying children go silent" epithet for pirates in the One Piece world.)

487

[Cover Arc: Iceberg's secretary interviews have begun. Spoiler: we find out later which one gets the job - who's your guess?]

Brook gets a new Oda-box for his pre-skeleton self.

(50 years ago, he was 38. That makes him the oldest crew member even BEFORE he died.)

We see that it was his habit on his old ship to wake everyone up at the crack of dawn with his singing. (Is that a loudspeaker mike he's holding? Poor sleeping pirates.)

Captain Yorki never fails to keep asking for "that tune." It's his favorite.

In the morning, the whale that started following them the day before is still there. It's trying to sing along.

They keep trying to convince it to return to its pod, but it refuses to listen. Someone names it Laboon. ("Hey, hey, when did you decide to name it??")

When enemies attack, there are men overboard (and Brook laments that he can't jump in to save them), but Laboon helps out by rescuing the stragglers.

Laboon accompanies them throughout their adventures in the West Blue. Someone comments that he seems to like Brook the best. Brook says it's because he loves music, but the others say it's because the shape of Brook's head makes Laboon think Brook is another whale. (The literal translation is sweet but kind of hard to put into English: 頭の形が他人とは思えねー, "The shape of the head is one that he can't think that it's a stranger/outsider).

When it's time to cross over into the Grand Line, no one knows what to do. They can't let Laboon follow them to such a dangerous place, but he refuses to listen to anything anyone says. He won't even listen to Brook.

They try to drive him away by refusing to sing or talk to him (oh, Laboon T_T).

Finally they cross over Reverse Mountain, thinking they've lost him. Crocus greets them on their arrival.

Yorki (we get our first really good look at his face - love the katakana "yo"s he has tattooed under his eye and on his chin) requests permission to stay a while and repair their battered ship.

When Crocus asks about the little whale that came with them, they are aghast to discover that Laboon secretly followed them.

(Aw, Brook's slogan seems to be "Pirates sing!" Just like Luffy would always say when the others didn't understand why he wanted a musician.)

It takes three months to repair the ship, but finally they have to set sail. They persuade Laboon to stay with Crocus, promising to return within two or three years, tops. By that time Laboon will be big and strong, and they can go on adventures together wherever they want.

Three years later…

Brook, in skeleton form, is wandering around his deserted, wrecked ship in the Florian Triangle. He gently gathers up the skulls of his crewmates and puts them in a coffin, remembering the conversations they used to have.

He remembers the crises they survived, the long nights of feasting and drinking.

His own skeletal reflection in a mirror terrifies him.

He remembers the captain punishing two of the crew for fighting.

"Pain is proof that you're alive!"

The captain earns his own wanted poster.

"Look, the captain's bounty went up again!"

One day, the captain and ten others were infected with a contagious plague which has no cure.

(The doctor remarks that they must have picked it up in "that forest on the last island" - could it be the same illness Nami caught? Probably not...)

The captain makes the decision to separate himself and the other sick crew members from the healthy ones. They'll do their best to escape the Grand Line by cutting through the Calm Belt.

(What is the entire crew doing crowded into the sickroom? Let us not ask these questions.)

[I didn't realize until I re-read it a few times that this means that at least part of the rumor Crocus heard was true. A portion of the Rumbar Pirates did try to make a break through the Calm Belt. (Did they make it? Who knows?) Crocus just didn't know the whole story.]

It's only when Yorki is alone with Brook that he breaks down in tears. He bitterly hates having to take this course.

[Interesting - the Japanese has 無念だ, literally "I have regrets/a lingering attachment to the world," which I mentally translated as "I hate having to leave you," but Viz translated it as "Don't disappoint them!" If you think part of his 無念 being regret at having to entrust his crew to another, that translation makes sense. I have never seen a single translation of 無念 that seemed entirely adequate.]

Yorki asks Brook to send them off with a rendition of his favorite song.

Back on the ruined ship, Brook sings: "Binks no sake wo, todoke ni yuku yo…"

488

[Cover Arc: Paulie, vice-president of Galley La, is still trying to outrun his debtors - and, now, his fans. Poor Paulie.]

Ten years after they left the Twin Capes behind, Brook is vainly trying to amuse himself on board the deserted ship.

"45 degrees!" (Math was never so hilarious, or pitiful.)

When he sleeps, he dreams his comrades are alive again, and calling for him. But when he wakes, the ship is as deserted as ever.

[This is the part that always, always makes me cry. How many times did he wake from that dream?]

His memory flashes back again, to the days after they separated from Yorki and continued their voyage on a new ship (Yorki took the old ship).

Brook finally got a wanted poster, too.

Back in the present-present, the Strawhats are calling for Brook to keep playing. To their shock, he pulls a shell out of his skull (where he had been storing it for safekeeping).

It's a "tone dial", which they picked up from a merchant ship long ago. Luffy recognizes it as merchandise from Sky Island (Brook is impressed that he would know about that).

He keeps it on his person at all times (next to his "skin", yohohoho), so that he can play it for Laboon when they meet again. It has a certain tune recorded on it. He asks permission to play them for it now.

The Strawhats and the Roller Pirates prepare to sing together.

Back in the past, Brook and his comrades are on the verge of extinction. They fought a great enemy, and lost. The enemy used poison arrows, so even those of them that are still alive won't last much longer.

Pirates are always prepared to face death, but they are all haunted by the thought of Laboon, waiting for them back on the Twin Capes.

They know that Brook has eaten the yomi-yomi fruit, but no one is quite certain what form its effect will take.

[I guess it must have been one of those fruits whose image was known from the encyclopedias? By Brook's own account, the yomi-yomi fruit has no effect until you die. But clearly they know that it's supposed to bring Brook back to life after he dies.]

It is Brook's idea to use their dying moments to record one last song for Laboon. If, indeed, he is resurrected, he'll take the recording back to their comrade.

The Rumbar Pirates launch into a final rendition of "Binks' Sake."

[The overlapping of the images here is lovely. The anime, as so often, does a beautiful job with it.]

At last, we get the full text of the song, which previously appeared only in snippets.

As the song progresses, one after another, they fall, until Brook is the only one left.

"Quartet. Trio. Duet. Solo."

In the present, as the Strawhats and the Rolling Pirates sing along, Brook silently asks Laboon if he can't wait just another couple of years. He wants to come back over that wall and meet Laboon again from the other side, just as they promised.

489

Shedding tears of joy, Brook declares that after all the years of despair and loneliness, he's thankful to be alive.

He asks Luffy if it's still OK for him to join the crew, and Luffy says "Sure."

(LOL at everyone freaking out, even though they've long since accepted the idea that Brook is one of them.)

Brook silently tells Laboon that he doesn't want to retrace his steps. He's always wanted to move forward, because the reunion with Laboon lay at the end of the journey.

Back at the Twin Capes, Laboon is bellowing joyfully.

(Crocus: "What's with you today? You're in an awfully good mood.")

Rather belatedly, Brook introduces himself properly to the crew (including his own wanted poster - does Sanji seem a bit jealous?).

He mentions, again, that he was once a knight in royal service, but later joined the Rumbar Pirates as a musician and swordsman. From this day forward, his life is sworn to his captain, Strawhat Luffy.

In the days that follow, Usopp and Franky (engineers unite, aw) help Brook build a memorial to his fallen crewmates. (Aw, Chopper. "I picked the flowers!")

He didn't want to burden "Lion-chan" with so many skulls. (That would be unlucky, I assume? Franky: "Call her "Thousand Sunny" from now on, will ya?")

Thriller Bark seems like an appropriate place for the burial, since after all, it came from the West Blue just like they did. Now they can sleep in the soil of their homeland.

Brook stays to play a farewell tune.

Zoro (finally awake) joins him. He wants to say a quiet goodbye to his own lost loved one (Yubashiri).

Looking at Zoro, Brook remembers witnessing his confrontation with Kuma.

Rather than admit to his thoughts, he brings Zoro up to date on his decision to join the crew (Zoro was still unconscious for that part).

"Is that so? Bad luck, mate. This crew ain't nothing but trouble."

(へえ、そうか。運が悪かった。この一味は手ェやくぞ?)

Brook: "Yohoho, so it is! I'll give it my all, if it costs me my life! … Already dead though."

[I love this conversation. So in character for both of them.]

Now that Zoro is awake, Luffy is impatient to move on to the next adventure.

(Chopper is mad at Zoro because he keeps taking the bandages off, LOL. Fear the wrath of Chopper, Zoro!)

Franky gives Brook's old ship to the Rolling Pirates, since he fixed the helm and the sail for them.

(LOL Franky's refusal of her inevitable marriage proposal: "You're one fine lady, but I'm just TOOOOO super. We wouldn't suit.")

Luffy is eager to get on to Fishman Island. Sanji can't wait to meet some mermaids. Brook wonders if the mermaids would show him their panties.

Everyone is overcome by nosebleeds at the thought of mermaids not wearing panties.

[sighhhhhh]

One of the Risky Brothers is in raptures at the thought of a creature rumored to be more beautiful than the Pirate Empress Hancock herself.

[First mention, I believe.]

Robin: "Aren't they fish on the bottom?" (LOL)

The other Risky Brother explains they've already been to Fishman Island (it's awesome!). When Nami asks, Lola explains that they haven't *journeyed* to the New World - they were *born* there.

Her mama is a pirate, too. Lola gives them a scrap of paper that she says will lead them to her mother if they ever happen to be in need of aid. She calls it a "vivre card."

(Aw, she says she's giving it to her because she and "Namizou" are like sisters.)

When they have no idea what she's talking about, Lola's crew reminds her that they wouldn't know, since it is a New World thing. A vivre card is a piece of paper that is linked to the life of the person who created it. If a piece is torn off, the smaller pieces of the card will always be drawn back toward the original. With this card, Lola always knows what direction to go to reach her mother, and now Nami will too.

Lola signs the scrap she gives Nami, so that if they ever meet her mother, they'll have a letter of introduction. ("Tell her I'm doing well, if you ever run into her!")

Luffy remembers that Ace gave him a weird scrap of paper, back on Alabasta.

[Oda's ability to pick up the thread of the narrative THREE HUNDRED AND THIRTY-TWO CHAPTERS LATER will never, ever stop impressing me. Yes, I counted. Ace gave Luffy his mysterious scrap of paper in chapter 157.]

He pulls it out of his hat, where Nami had sewn it for safekeeping.

Lola is horrified to see that the edges of the paper are burning. That means the life of its owner is in jeopardy (is in the process of disappearing, 消えかけてる).

490

[Cover Arc: Oimo and Kashi set out to return to Elbaf.]

The Strawhats and the Rolling Pirates say their good-byes. It's time for the Strawhats to set sail.

Lola wonders if there isn't something out there in the fog, but dismisses it as a fancy.

[I am not sure what this is about? Possibly a hint that remains unfulfilled.]

The Risky Brothers can't WAIT to tell everyone about what they witnessed while the others were unconscious. (LOL, just how far can rumors travel, I wonder?)

The Sunny emerges from the Florian Triangle and continues on its way.

Luffy insists he's not worried - Ace can take care of himself. He'd only be angry if Luffy tried to help him.

[This is kind of heartrending. It's open to the reader's interpretation, but I think that's Luffy's "I'm really worried but I'm pretending I'm not" face - he had it when they were waiting for Usopp to return on Water 7. At this point, he really believes that letting Ace work out his own troubles is the right thing to do.]

Rather than fret about Ace, he calls for a toast to their new nakama. They couldn't do it before because Zoro was still sleeping.

In Mariejois, Sengoku is furious with Kuma for letting the Strawhats slip through his fingers.

"Bwahaha, that's my grandson!"
"Oh, shut up, Garp!"

Garp tells Sengoku not to worry, Luffy won't spread around the word of how he defeated Moria. Sengoku is more worried about the fact that the Strawhats' course is going to bring them right past Marine HQ. Another confrontation is inevitable.

Kuma is indifferent. Garp just wants to break out the rice crackers - he brought tea!

[Sengoku has a hard life.]

The Strawhats continue on their progress over the sea (which, for some reason, includes candy rain, sea-tanuki, a circular rainbow, and sea-currents like snakes - an SBS later informs us that only the circular rainbow exists in nature).

At last, they find themselves facing the Red Line - or rather, the other side of it (the Grand Line crosses the Red Line twice, since they intersect at right angles). Their journey has reached the half-way point.

Everyone feels a bit nostalgic and inclined to reflect on the past.

Franky remarks that it's been more than 30 years since he was brought over Reverse Mountain from the South Blue - not that he remembers it.

[At this point, Franky is 34.]

Robin says that she crossed into the Grand Line five years earlier.

(So I guess she was in the West Blue until just before she started working with Crocodile?)

Luffy reflects that by the time they complete the other half of the journey, he'll be the pirate king.

Scene change (it took me a moment to realize this - one minute they're all on deck, the next, Usopp and Chopper are swimming, Zoro is in the crow's nest, and the others are on deck talking to the group in the shark sub).

Someone (Sanji? Nami?) warns them to be on their guard - they are close to the "holy land" of the World Government, Mariejois.

Zoro ups his training to even more insane levels.

The next step will be to submerge the ship, but no one knows exactly how to go about it. Robin, Brook and Luffy attempt an expedition in the ship's diving bell, but it becomes clear that the pressure of the sea would crush the ship if they attempt to dive unaided.

LOL dialogue:

Explorers: "WE'RE BEING EATEN!"
Franky: "Well shit, that's not good." (ダメそうだな、コリャ)
Usopp & Chopper: "I don't want to ride in that thing."
Sanji: "Nami-sa~an, I made pie!"
*everyone eats pie*

Sanji comments that they have the same problem as when they went to Sky Island - they know WHERE they want to go, but not HOW to get there.

The diving bell crew returns safely, but the giant sea-rabbit-monster that was trying to eat them follows. Luffy punches it out easily.

Before it falls back into the sea, something pops out of its mouth.

The "something" turns out to be a mermaid and a starfish.

[If you recall the Hachi's Sea-Floor Walk cover arc from vols 20-25, you might remember that Keimi spends entirely too much time inside various sea-creatures' stomachs.]

Keimi has a tendency to overreact to everything. At the moment, she's freaking out about having crushed a human. Sanji is too blissed out to care.

She freaks out again when she realizes she's surrounded by humans. But then she recovers enough to thank them all for saving her from getting eaten… again. ("This is the 20th time!")

Oda-box:
Keimi, Fashion designer-in-training. Currently working at a takoyaki shop.

She first offers to make them takoyaki to reward them for saving her, then forgets and tries to charge them. The starfish smacks her for being an idiot (inadvertently revealing the fact that it can talk).

… at which point EVERYONE freaks out.

491

[New cover arc: a ruined island where nothing survives.]

Sanji is beside himself with the ecstasy of meeting a real live mermaid.

(He prefers not to be reminded that he did meet one other mermaid. Scarier than Thriller Bark!)

Luffy didn't realize that Kokoro was a mermaid (he was still fighting Lucci when Kokoro revealed her true nature). He is displeased by the revelation, at which Nami punches him and says they're ALL being rude.

Keimi freaks out briefly at the sight of a talking skeleton, but gets over it amazingly fast.

Meanwhile, Luffy addresses the most pressing question in inter-species diplomatic relations: do mermaids poop? (Keimi: "Sure!")

The starfish is deeply depressed over the fact that everyone appears to have forgotten about him.

Keimi introduces them to Pappagu the starfish (hitode - the Japanese word for starfish, which leads to many a bad pun), a famous fashion designer, her pet and her shishou ("master").

(Nami is puzzled by the idea of him being both a pet and a shishou, but Pappagu explains that she feeds him excellent clams. "Oh, you're in it for the food then.")

Pappagu tries to make them all laugh with a truly horrendous series of puns set to music, but they're back to ignoring him again - although Keimi is busy telling everyone how popular his designs are. (His brand is the "Criminal" line, which often uses the trademark CRIMIN - if you watch for it, you'll see it a lot in the background.)

[I pity Viz, having to translate Pappagu's puns. For the record, his song is:

人ですか〜?
ヒトデっすけど
人ではないよ〜

人でなし〜?
人でないけど
ヒトデだよ〜

いそがしいっすか〜?
いやいや〜

ヒトデは
足〜り〜て〜るよ

The last pun depends on the expression 人手が足りない, hitode ga tarinai, short on staff.]

When Luffy wants to know why Pappagu can talk, he says when he was little, he mistakenly thought he was a person (hito), but it turned out he was a starfish (hitode). By the time he figured out his mistake, he had already learned human speech. Ba-dump-bump!

Pappagu finally gets his Oda-box. (Why does the Viz translation leave out his name? That's starfish discrimination!)

Nami want to ask about the route to Fishman Island, but Luffy reminds her that takoyaki comes first. Keimi gets out her den-den mushi to contact "Hacchin."

The voice on the other end of the den-den mushi identifies himself as Macro.

[That name should ring a bell, too… OK, it's been a long time since the cover arc, I admit.]

Macro announces that he is holding Hachi captive. Keimi can't believe they were strong enough to defeat Hachi, but they say they enlisted the help of the Flying Fish Riders.

Hachi comes on the line long enough to warn her to stay away (nyuu).

Macro boasts that they're going to sell him off. An octopus fishman should fetch good money on the slave market.

If she wants to get him back, she should meet them at sea, 5 km to the east of grove 44 on Shabondy. That's the hideout of the Flying Fish Riders.

[For the record, Sabaody is technically correct and is the official spelling, but I cannot make myself use that spelling when the Japanese obviously says シャボンディ. Supposedly, the spelling goes back to the original importation of the word from Portugese: shabon (Jap) = soap bubble; sabao (Port), soap. The Shabondy/Sabaody Archipelago is presumably named from the fact that it continuously produces soap-like bubbles, as we will soon see.]

The kidnappers hang up.

Luffy gets punched out because he's still hoping for takoyaki.

Nami is trying to convince herself that she can't possibly have recognized the voice of "Hacchin" over the den-den mushi.

Keimi apologizes to "Luffy-chin" for having to wait on the takoyaki, but she needs to go rescue her friend at once.

Nami offers to help with the rescue (or rather, she offers "their" help - pointing to the others), in exchange for information on how to reach Fishman Island. (Keimi is overjoyed. "Thank you, Nami-chin!")

As soon as Keimi explains that Hachi runs the takoyaki shop where she works ("he makes the best takoyaki in the whole world!"), Luffy is 100% on board with rescuing the takoyaki.

Keimi calls on the fish to help guide them toward the rendezvous (as a mermaid, she can speak fish sonar). The fish lead the way by forming a giant arrow in the water.

They have to pause to explain everything to Zoro (who was up in the crow's nest training this whole time, apparently - he didn't even come out when the sea-rabbit appeared?).

Zoro cheerfully and promptly erases Kokoro from his memory. "Never seen one before." (LOL Chopper's reaction)

Pappagu explains that they're dealing with an underground gang of human slavers. Such gangs are plentiful in the area, since the human slave trade on Shabondy is a thriving business. Mermaids, on account of their rarity, sell for even higher prices. Macro and his gang are forever trying to kidnap Keimi and sell her.

Pappagu suspects that this time, when they went missing (on account of being swallowed by the sea rabbit), Hachi must have gone after Macro thinking that Keimi had been kidnapped, and was captured himself.

Keimi agrees. Hacchin is such a kind, straightforward person.

Zoro comments that an octopus called Hachi sounds like that idiot (aho) fishman he fought once. Sanji says if it's him, they won't bother rescuing him, but surely it can't be the same person.

Normally Hachi could handle himself, Pappagu continues, but the Flying Fish Rider gang has a nasty reputation among the slaver gangs. It is rumored that no one they catch escapes.

The boss of the Flying Fish Riders is a man in an iron mask named Duval. No one has ever seen his true face.

Word has it he's searching for someone - every ship that passes through the area gets searched.

When the fish suddenly turn and flee, they realize it's because the Flying Fish Riders are approaching (riding on, you guessed it, flying fish, like motorcycles).

The flying fish start dive-bombing the ship. One of the thugs notes that they've confirmed that the ship is that of the Strawhat crew. They call in a report to the boss.

They came to seize a single mermaid, but they've found something much more valuable.

Back at the hideout, the man in the iron mask crushes a glass in his hand. At long last, the ship he's been searching for has appeared.

He WILL kill the man who ruined his life!

TBC
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