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[personal profile] sara_tanaquil
So, [livejournal.com profile] mangaroo, you're not super attached to any of the Strawhats besides Luffy, right? I mean, you won't mind if we don't see them for... a while? /facepalm

On with Volume 53! From Shabondy to Amazon Lily.

Volume 53 "Quality of a King"

513

[Cover Arc: caption reads "Excessive Justice." Yep, that's our Lucci.]

The others are reacting in shock to Zoro's disappearance.

Kizaru is confused - what is a shichibukai doing on Shabondy, when all the shichibukai were summoned to Marineford? This is why you can't trust pirates.

Nami recognizes the power Kuma used as being the same one he used to make Perona disappear on Thriller Bark.

Sentoumaru (dodging monster Chopper) is exasperated. "Kuma-kou, what are you doing here?" (His form of address is not particularly respectful.)

When Luffy demands to know what Kuma did with Zoro, Sentoumaru says that those whom Kuma touches are said to fly for three days and three nights to who-knows-where. Not that he has any intention of telling Luffy anything.

When Pacifista-Kuma goes to attack Usopp, pawpad-Kuma makes him disappear. "Don't interfere."

Luffy is still screaming at everyone to run and save themselves. They'll figure out what to do later.

Usopp, who says he was only grazed, is trying to help Sanji up. Brook tries to block Kuma's attack.

"I'll protect you! Even if it costs me my life! … Already dead th—"

Brook disappears.

Sanji tries to kick Kuma, and Kuma effortlessly flicks him aside.

Usopp vanishes while trying to hit Kuma with everything in his arsenal.

Sanji charges Kuma, and is the next to disappear.

Luffy is paralyzed with horror. "What am I supposed to do?"

Rayleigh is frustrated. He wants to help, but he has his hands full with Kizaru. "Getting old sucks."

Kuma suddenly materializes next to Rayleigh and says something to him that we can't hear. Rayleigh seems shocked, and skeptical.

"You expect me to believe that?"
"Up to you. I'm putting myself in a bad position, here."

Kizaru demands to know what Kuma thinks he's doing, but Kuma says he's under no obligation to answer any questions when not acting under direct orders from the government.

Kuma attacks Franky and Nami next. Luffy tries to stop him, to no avail. Franky disappears.

Nami is terrified.

"Luffy! Help m-"

She vanishes.

[The same thing she said to Luffy at Arlong Park. T____T]

Monster Chopper disappears in mid-bellow.

Robin is the last to disappear. "Luff-"

Luffy is on his knees before Kuma, utterly broken.

"I couldn't save a single one of them!"

Kuma stretches out a hand to Luffy.

"Never to meet again. Farewell."

[もう二度と会う事はない。さらばだ。 The obvious meaning at the time would have been "You'll never see them again," but what Kuma actually means is "We'll never see each other again." I'm almost kind of sad that Viz translated it as the latter, even though that's correct, since I think the real power of the line came from not originally understanding what it meant.]

Luffy vanishes.

On that day, at Grove 12 of the Shabondy Archipelago, Straw Hat Luffy and his crew were utterly annihilated.

514

(The title of this chapter is evil. Katakana are EVIL. "KARADA KARA KINOKO GA HAERU DAKE." Not that Japanese has SPACES or anything to help with this mess.)

At Grove 41, Duval and his men are determined to stand guard over the Sunny until the coating specialist arrives. (Duval's men are now calling him Duba-sama. LOL Viz "Duv-Awesome," that's perfect.)

At Grove 1, the daughter Tenryuubito is throwing a huge temper tantrum (being the only one who is conscious, since her father and brother were knocked out). She swears to make their lives living hell when they're caught.

At Shakky's Bar, Keimi is fretting over whether the others are safe. Hachi tries to reassure her, but Shakky says that a great wave is on its way. Things are going to get rough.

"Hear that? That's the sound of a new age coming."

Luffy is flying through the air, cursing.

(Guess Sentoumaru wasn't kidding about the three days and three nights thing.)

He feels a little better when it occurs to him that maybe the others, like him, aren't gone, just on their way… somewhere.

"Hm, it'd be bad if I fell in the ocean though."

Eventually he falls asleep.

[Only Luffy...]

When he wakes up, he is lying in a giant paw-print impression, in an unknown forest.

His first thought is to get back to the others. He has no idea where he is, but he's thrilled to realize that the vivre card will help lead him back to Shabondy.

[LOL at the giant boar chasing Luffy with a knife and fork in its mind. It's like the bird that tried to eat Lil' Buggy!]

Luffy is befuddled when he crashes right into a cliff, and punching a giant hole in it doesn't help.

[Did it not occur to him that there might be OCEAN to cross if he just goes in a straight line where the card is leading?]

He feels a lot better after feasting on the hapless giant boar.

"This takes me back! Grandpa used to throw me out in the jungle like this. Ugh, better not think about that."

(Garp had disturbing ideas about child-rearing.)

He starts randomly eating mushrooms which have various effects - some make him happy, some make him mad. (The happy mushroom is "warai-dake.")

[I love that the boar skeleton is going "……". Luffy even confuses things after he eats them.]

In the forest, three rather odd-looking women discover Luffy, unconscious, with mushrooms growing all over his face and body.

They realize that he must have eaten the "Mushrooms grow from your body mushroom."

(This is the meaning of the incomprehensible all-katakana title.)

If they don't help him, the mushrooms will suck his life and he'll die.

The one with ponytails ends all her sentences with "It's the tale of…" ("no maki"). "It's the tale of 'A Race Against Time.'"

Margaret orders the giant-sized one, Aphelandra, to carry the person to the village for treatment. "It's the tale of 'Carry this child to the village.'"

(I can't wait to see how Viz handles this. Japanese doesn't use gendered pronouns. They're referring to Luffy as "kono ko." ETA: Ah, they went with female pronouns throughout... makes sense, I guess.)

Back at the village, they start plucking the mushrooms off one by one.

A woman called Belladona torches the still unconscious Luffy, saying it's the only way to burn out the roots so they won't grow back.

Margaret and Sweetpea (the one with ponytails) carry Luffy down to the river to bathe him and treat his battle wounds.

Sweetpea discovers one mushroom they overlooked, between his legs. But she can't pull it off.

An old woman shows up, asking what's going on (Grandma Nyon uses "nyo" in place of all her "na" sounds).

Seeing Luffy, she is horrified. "That is a MAN!"

All the women are aghast. They've never seen a man before.

Luffy has landed on Amazon Lily, the island kingdom of the woman warrior tribe of Kuja. It is death for a man to set foot on it.

515

The narrative introduces us to the kingdom of Amazon Lily, occupied entirely by women.

[I kind of love that Oda populates his Amazon kingdom with women of all shapes and sizes. There's a fair amount of fan service in this arc, but it could have been so much worse.]

When Luffy wakes up, he finds himself in a jail cell, being stared at by dozens of curious women.

He is terribly upset when he can't find his hat, but quickly locates it on Sweetpea's head and snatches it back.

[I love that he misses his hat, but doesn't notice that he's otherwise completely naked until about two pages later.]

One of the girls is busy taking notes on the creature "man." So far, she has concluded that their arms stretch, they're really dim, and they like to cover their heads first.

When they ask about his "equipment," he cheerfully introduces them to the concept of Kintama (golden balls). He's rather distressed when Margaret wants to take them off to examine them more closely, though.

He's grateful when Margaret offers him some new clothes they made for him - though less so when he sees the flowers and frills they embroidered on them. "Aw, look, he's so happy he's shaking!"

When he yells at them, they draw their weapons. Now that he is awake, the law of the land demands that he be executed at once, before the Snake Princess (Hebi-hime-sama) returns.

When they start shooting, Luffy kicks his way through the ceiling and escapes.

Realizing that he doesn't have his vivre card because it was in the clothing they took away, he kidnaps Margaret and runs off. "Gotta ask you something!"

In the forest, when he asks, Margaret gives him the scrap of paper (she saved it because it had writing on it).

When Luffy tells her that he's a pirate, Margaret says their Empress is a pirate, too. She is the Pirate Empress Boa Hancock, the strongest, proudest, most beautiful woman in the whole world. She and her two little sisters protect the land of Amazon Lily from outsiders.

Meanwhile, the others are dismayed to see the Snake Princess' ship approaching. They have to deal with the "man incident" before she returns.

516

Luffy is happy because Margaret kindly took all the frills off his clothes.

He is still 100% focused on reuniting with his comrades (even if he has to go the whole way standing on his head to get stronger), but dismayed to learn that Amazon Lily is in the Calm Belt, making navigation difficult. Even if he had a boat, which he doesn't.

According to Margaret, the only ship on Amazon Lily is the one belonging to the Snake Princess.

Luffy's first plan, to make the worst constructed raft in the history of man/woman, doesn't work out well. (Margaret saves him from drowning.)

Luffy is just trying to figure out what is so special about their arrows (Margaret says they are reinforced with "haki", which Luffy doesn't understand) when the other Amazons show up.

Meanwhile, in the nearby coastal waters, the Snake Princess is conducting a meeting with the Marines (who are only able to navigate the Calm Belt due to their kairouseki hulls).

Since treaty prevents the Marines from coming within 3km of Amazon Lily, they had no choice but to wait in the middle of a nest of sea kings. Momonga, a Marine Vice Admiral, is here for the meeting.

They demand an audience with the Shichibukai, Pirate Empress Boa Hancock.

All of the Shichibukai have been summoned due to the upcoming execution of Portgas D. Ace. If Boa Hancock doesn't respond to the summons, she will be stripped of her title.

"Who left a KITTEN in our royal path?" *kicks kitten*

[I seriously should not find Boa Hancock's habit of kicking small cute animals so freaking adorable.]

Boa Hancock enters, flanked by her two sisters ("Boa Marigold" and "Boa Sandersonia").

Boa Hancock seems to have a hypnotic effect over men (she demands all the goods on their ship, and the marines are only too eager to comply - Momonga knows better than to fall for it).

Momonga says the execution has been set for exactly one week from today. They fully expect Whitebeard to attack before that time comes. Boa Hancock has only one choice - accept the summons, or give up her title.

It is rumored that Hancock has the power to turn her opponents to stone.

Her sisters scornfully boast that their big sis has a terrible personality, but she gets away with everything. Know why?

"Because I'm BEAUTIFUL."

Hancock fires her "mero-mero" beam and turns all the marines into stone.

Momonga barely escapes by driving a knife through his own hand.

Hancock orders her ship to return to Amazon Lily, but Momonga says he'll wait until the time limit is up - two days. Otherwise, she should consider their agreement forfeit.

Hancock: "Do as you please."

517

The Kuja Pirates return in triumph to Amazon Lily. The crowds ecstatically welcome "Hebi-hime-sama" and the Gorgon Sisters.

The pirate crew have returned with a handsome haul from the four ships that they attacked. Grandma Nyon was hoping for books, but they only bring her a newspaper.

The Pirate Empress scornfully destroys the clumsy-but-earnest statue her subjects made for her. Lame!

When the Empress asks where the southern guards are, her courtier tells her that they're busy taking care of a troublesome "monkey". They'll be right back.

Grandma Nyon demands to know why Boa hasn't answered the summons from the people of the "center." When Boa says "But I'm scared!", even Grandma Nyon can't resist her puppy eyes… without serious willpower.

Right now, the only thing protecting their island is her position as Shichibukai. Being located in the Calm Belt is no longer protection enough, not now that the "people of the center" have learned to line their hulls with kairouseki.

Boa is defiant. She throws her head far back in contempt.

"Here it comes! Her 'I'm looking so far down on you, I'm looking UP!' pose!"

[Why does this always make me laugh so hard.]

Boa ridicules "Gloriosa", who once ruled over them as Empress, but left their island and betrayed them. She has no right to think she can step back into her old position.

The Snake Princess tosses Grandma Nyon out the window, but her courtiers forgive her when she makes puppy eyes. "I didn't mean to!"

The bell rings to signal the time for the Snake Princess' bath. All are required to evacuate the castle.

When a young girl asks why the castle is always off-limits at bath time, one of the courtiers explains. The Gorgon Sisters have a "secret." They have the power to turn all that look upon them to stone. It is a curse that the original Gorgon inflicted upon them, because they defeated it. They have eyes in their backs that are exposed when they remove their clothes.

Meanwhile, in the jungle, the women are searching in vain for Luffy.

Luffy, on the walls of the city, is pondering his options. He wants to borrow a ship, but without Nami, he'll never get anywhere. What he really needs is for them to give him a ride to Shabondy.

He figures he'd better head for the tallest building, because the most important person always lives in the tallest building.

(Surprisingly canny, for Luffy.)

Luffy crashes through the roof of the palace, and right into the royal baths.

"That mark on your back… haven't I seen that somewhere before?"

518

[Cover Arc: the CP-9 have fled back to their "home town." Wait, what? They're all from the same town?]

Boa's sisters hastily hand her a robe. They all agree that anyone who sees what is upon their backs must die.

Hancock shoots her "mero-mero" beam at Luffy, but it has zero effect on him.

Everyone stares at each other with question marks over their heads.

[I love this panel.]

Hancock doesn't understand. How can any man look upon her naked form, and fail to be moved?

Luffy tries to flee, but ends up (bound with snake-ropes) in the middle of an arena. Boa and her two sisters preside over the battlefield.

They keep demanding to know what Luffy's intention is, but Luffy just says he landed there by accident and all he wants is a boat to get OFF the island.

Margaret tries to speak up in his defense. She takes responsibility for allowing Luffy to enter the country in the first place.

Sweetpea and Aphelandra jump in to take her side.

Hancock uses her mero-mero beam to turn all three girls into stone.

Luffy is furious ("Hey, I owe them my life!"), but Hancock releases a giant black panther into the arena.

Luffy knocks the panther out easily. Everyone is shocked. ("He didn't even use haki!")

When Luffy glares angrily at Hancock ("You piss me off!"), she almost passes out. She's never encountered a man that is impervious to her charms.

Marigold and Sandersonia step into the arena to dispose of Luffy. When they transform into serpents, Luffy assumes they must be power-users.

519

[CP-9 is apparently raising up a younger generation of trainees?]

Luffy was right: the two sisters have both consumed varieties of the hebi-hebi fruit (the King Cobra and the Anaconda, respectively).

Luffy hastily relocates the stone statues of the three Amazons so they won't get broken. He figures it must be like when he and Robin got turned to ice - they'll be OK as long as they don't shatter.

When Luffy fights back against the two sisters, he can't figure out why his attacks are bouncing off them, and yet they can hurt his rubber body.

Sandersonia is scornful. Luffy is obviously a devil fruit user, but he clearly can't use haki. Most "foreigners" are like that. So weak.

She knows what Luffy's attacks will be even before he uses them.

One of the Gorgon sisters snatches up Margaret's stone body in her tail and prepares to smash it on the ground.

When Sonya keeps playing with Margaret's stone body, taunting him, Luffy snaps.

"I SAID, STOP!"

Half the audience promptly passes out.

Sonya meekly puts the statue down. Luffy thinks she just decided to listen to reason.

The still-conscious members of the audience are reeling. There's no doubt - that was "haoushoku haki" (覇王色, Conqueror's Haki). Only one in a million people in the world can use that. The haki of the "chosen ones."

Sonya is dazed. She's never seen anyone other than her sister the Pirate Empress that can use conqueror's haki.

Hancock herself is shocked speechless.

The only thing Luffy has grasped is that he's up against strong opponents.

"Fine, I get it, you guys are strong. Then I'll go all out, too."

520

Luffy invokes Gear Two.

The sisters rally. It seems Luffy doesn't know how to control his own haki, so he can't be that dangerous.

Sandersonia's hair transforms into serpents, like iron fangs. But no matter how fast she strikes, she can't seem to hit Luffy.

Finally, Luffy defeats both Sandersonia and Marigold (by punching them silly and tying their tails together).

[LOL Luffy doing the victory pose while the sisters are freaking out about being tied together.]

Sandersonia falls over the gulf between the arena and the audience, nearly falling into the spear-filled space below.

Luffy jumps on top of her back.

"You might want to kill me, but I have no intention of killing you!"

Marigold says Luffy is protecting all of them. With Sandersonia's clothes burned off, he is covering the mark on her back.

Luffy whispers to her to hold still. They don't want anyone to see this, on pain of death, right?

Boa orders the audience to evacuate at once.

Sandersonia can't understand why Luffy is protecting her, but Luffy says the mark on her back has nothing to do with their battle.

Boa is crying, her hand covering her eyes.

521

The sisters gather in the arena. Luffy is anxiously inspecting Margaret's statue for any sign of cracks.

Luffy asks Boa to break the spell on the three women who were turned to stone, but Boa offers him a choice. He wants a ship, right? He can have the women turned back to life, or he can have a ship - he can't have both.

Luffy immediately gets down on his knees and begs her to save the three women.

*hugs Luffy*

Grandma Nyon is watching from the stands. "He didn't even hesitate… With that haki, he'd bow his head to save the people who saved him?"

Outside the arena, everyone is overjoyed when Margaret, Sweetpea and Aphelandra emerge alive and well. The women themselves have no memory of being turned to stone. All they know is that Luffy seemed really happy to see that they were alive.

Luffy has been summoned to the palace for an audience with the Empress.

Inside the palace, Luffy is a bit confused. Is this the after-battle feast?

Sandersonia thanks him, but he waves that off. You can't eat thanks. (LOL)

Hancock orders Luffy to enter the curtains. She removes her clothes, and turns her back, exposing the mark on it.

The mark is a circle, with three small triangles above and one below.

"Take a good look. You recognize this, right?"

Luffy is puzzled. It does look like something he's seen before, but it's not quite right. He was remembering the sun-mark on Hachi's forehead.

Luffy apologizes - he doesn't recognize the mark, after all.

Grandma Nyon says if he doesn't know, they should explain.

She recognizes Monkey D. Luffy from the newspaper the returning pirates handed to her. He PUNCHED a Celestial Dragon on Shabondy.

It's an absolute miracle he escaped. How did he travel so far, in only two days?

Luffy is defiant. He has no idea how he got to this place. Anyhow, he doesn't regret punching that jerk. "Do you have any idea what he did to my friend?"

Boa is in tears. Is there truly a big enough fool in this world to defy a Celestial Dragon to his face?

"A person like HIM, someone who would defy heaven without regard for his own life…"

[Wow, I had totally forgotten that this story was referenced directly this early.]

Boa Hancock explains that the mark on her back is a mark of ownership by the Tenryuubito. "The hoof of the celestial dragon." It brands their slaves, for life, as something less than human.

Luffy remembers Charlos gloating. "Father! I got a fishman for fwee!"

Boa Hancock, and both of her sisters, were once slaves of the Tenryuubito. She was only twelve when they were taken. It was the first time any of them had seen a man.

Sonya is wailing. Marigold tries to comfort her. Luffy tries to stop them - they don't have to tell him if it upsets them so much.

One day, Boa continues, after four years had passed, a man came. He broke into the holy city of Mariejois and dared to raise a hand to the Tenryuubito. His name was Fisher Tiger, later captain of a gang of fishman pirates. He freed the slaves, and Boa and her sisters seized their chance to escape. Although Tiger hated humans, he didn't care what race the slaves belonged to.

Although Tiger had freed many slaves, the mark remained indelible. Tiger formed the "Sun Pirates," using the brand of a sun to overlay the mark of slavery.

The mark of the sun is what Luffy saw on his friend's forehead. But he wasn't necessarily a slave. Tiger had all of his followers take the same mark, so that no one would ever know who had been a slave and who hadn't.

After Fisher Tiger died, his crew broke up and formed a number of smaller pirate crews.

Luffy: "Huh. Hachi's been through a lot, I guess." (For Luffy? That's positively profound.)

The three of them were forced to eat their devil fruits when they were still slaves. Because of that, they've been able to deceive their own country this long. They would do anything to prevent others from learning of their shameful past.

Her own greatest fear is having anyone exercise control over her ever again.

Grandma Nyon says she's a bit relieved. She had begun to think that Boa was made of ice, incapable of feeling. It's been a long time since she saw her show this much emotion.

Hancock yells at her to shut up ("You traitor!"), but Nyon reminds her who brought the three sisters back home.

Hancock: "So, do you despise us now, knowing we were once slaves?"
Luffy: "What? I told you, I hate those Tenryuubito guys."

Hancock laughs.

"I like you! Where do you want to go? I'll lend you a ship."

522

[CP-9 protect their hometown from the Marines.]

Having agreed to escort Luffy back to Shabondy in the morning, Hancock throws a party for him the night before.

Everyone seems to be enjoying the chopsticks trick.

The only thing preventing Luffy from eating everything in sight is all the girls trying to pull on his rubber face.

Margaret helps Luffy to escape and hide for a bit.

They find Grandma Nyon, who tells them to make themselves at home and have some tea.

She's still poring over the paper. They don't get newspapers in the Calm Belt very often.

Luffy is shocked when Nyon refers to Hancock as a warlord. ("Don't you read the papers? You really should.")

He threatens to go into information overload when Nyon starts talking about how Hancock might lose her title, due to the upcoming war with Whitebeard.

Luffy is stunned to hear of Ace's upcoming execution.

Nyon explains that Ace is scheduled for public execution at Marineford in 6 days' time.

When Luffy asks, he learns it will take over a week just to get back to Shabondy. And if he wants to go to where Ace is being held… well, to Impel Down, it would probably take a pirate ship a week, but a government ship might make it in four days.

The Marines have the benefit of being able to use exclusive currents that flow between the three points of a triangle: Enies Lobby, Marineford and Impel Down. Each is controlled by the "Gates of Justice."

When Luffy pulls Ace's vivre card out of his hat, it looks even more burnt than before.

Luffy knows that Ace will probably be angry with him for trying to interfere, but he can't help it. He'll have to take a detour before meeting up with his nakama again.

Nyon tells him that if he's determined to rescue the most important prisoner in the world, his best chance is to break into Impel Down. Once Ace is taken to Marineford, Luffy would have to face both the admirals and the Shichibukai to get him back.

And his best chance of getting into Impel Down is to convince Hancock to smuggle him on board the navy ship that is waiting to take her to Marineford.

Just then one of Hancock's attendants rushes in, looking for Grandma Nyon. Hancock has fallen victim to a mysterious illness.

When she examines her, Nyon knows exactly what's wrong with her. Two previous empresses died of the illness, and she herself only escaped by leaving the country for a time.

She asks if Hancock would be willing to see Luffy and hear his request. Hancock summons her strength and agrees.

When Luffy explains what he wants, Hancock says she'll take him anywhere he wants to go. Her sisters can't believe that she would be willing to face her worst fears for his sake.

Nyon has diagnosed Hancock's illness as lovesickness.

Nyon: "They have a proverb in the eastern sea. 'Love is always a hurricane!'"

TBC
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