sara_tanaquil: (shanks_buggy)
[personal profile] sara_tanaquil
You would think Impel Down would be one of my least favorite arcs, what with all the immature toilet humor. And I thought maybe I would like it less the second time through. Nope - it's still one of my favorites. So hilariously epic. And the comedy is kind of a welcome relief against the deadly serious backdrop.

Vol. 55 is waiting in the wings.

Volume 54 "No One Can Stop This Now"

523

[Cover arc: Drat, Spandam is still alive. I was hoping Robin killed him. (Is that a goldfish in his head compress?)]

Poor Hancock is all confused - she doesn't understand why she can't seem to refuse Luffy anything, as much as she fears going to "central."

Grandma Nyon explains to her that the previous empresses died because they tried to suppress their feelings. Hancock's willingness to take Luffy with her will save her life.

[I don't really get how "lovesickness" works in Nyon's mind, but whatever. Hancock should be so dead by now if Nyon's theory about dying of unrequited love were correct. Poor Hancock!]

Nyon marvels at Luffy's luck. ("Just what star was that man born under?") Normally no pirate would have a chance at infiltrating Impel Down unless taken there as a prisoner.

All the Amazons turn out to bid farewell to their new favorite pirate (well, favorite after their empress).

Luffy thanks the three who saved his life again. "Next time I come, I'll bring my nakama!"

[Haha, I would love to see that.]

"Who left this puppy… AND this baby seal… in our royal path?" *kicks puppy* *kicks seal*

[LOLOL, I couldn't remember if the baby seal was only in the anime. Hancock is outrageous. I'm now picturing her going around kicking everything that gets posted on cute overload.]

All her adoring subjects think Hancock is looking more beautiful than ever.

Luffy, waving enthusiastically: "Hey, snake lady! (蛇女) Let's get this show on the road, I'm in a hurry!" (The others are horrified by his rudeness.)

Hancock is blushing so much she can't look him in the eye. "You c-can call me Hancock…"

(Luffy immediately starts calling her Hammock, LOL.)

Her subjects are all swooning. ("She SMILED!") Even Grandma Nyon is feeling sentimental about her younger days. (Courtier: "Are you feeling all right, Nyon-baa-sama? You don't look so good.")

The crowd bids their empress and their new hero a fond farewell. (LOL the ones who think doing the chopstick trick is an appropriate send off. Was it Usopp who originally came up with that one? Pretty soon people are going to be doing it all over the Grand Line.)

Meeting up with Momonga, Hancock boards their ship. Momonga tells her that her request to visit Impel Down has been granted by the higher-ups.

The first thing Momonga does is ask her to turn his stone troops back into living people (which she does, disdainfully stomping off afterward - the sfx crack me up).

Luffy is riding piggyback under Hancock's elaborate robes. (Love the illustration that attempts to show how the trick to smuggle him on board worked.)

Meanwhile, at headquarters, Sengoku receives word that the last of the warlords (Hancock) has agreed to answer the summons. That means they will now have six of the seven.

The seventh is still cooling his heels in Impel Down. They report that he shows no sign of changing his mind - he's still refusing to fight. He doesn't care if they strip him of his title.

Sengoku: "That blasted Jinbei!"

(shadow in background - is this the first time we've seen Jinbei in silhouette?)

They also report that Kizaru arrested 500 pirates "to vent his spleen" on Shabondy (they're busy processing them all into Impel Down right now). Sengoku doesn't want to hear about this, or about the "world noble incident." ("Let the admirals handle it! Where the hell is Garp?")

Garp is currently making a visit to Impel Down (Sengoku swears a blue streak at his inconvenient timing).

Meanwhile, a report has finally come in about Whitebeard's movements. Or, more precisely, all communication from the twenty-three ships that were assigned to keep an eye on the "Moby Dick" (haha, did we know that was his ship's name?) has abruptly been cut off. Whitebeard is on the move, but they have absolutely no idea where he is.

Sengoku gives orders to put every guard they have on Impel Down, as long as Ace is there.

In Impel Down, Garp is visiting Ace.

Ace greets him as "gramps" (jijii).

[T___T You guys… I don't know if I can do this. The next five volumes. Ace!]

MEANWHILE…

On a certain island, an old man in wizard robes is trying to talk to a very traumatized Nami (who has evidently been dealing with her trauma by repeatedly punching anyone who comes near her).

He tries to console her by demonstrating some of the special tricks they know how to perform. By tying knots in a rope and untying them in a certain order, they can cause winds of various strengths. That is the climate science of "Weatheria," the small sky island on which they live.

[LOL poor Nami - she punches the guy out (again) for knocking her head-over-heels with his wind blasts, and when he says he was trying to cheer her up (元気出るかと思った), she says 出るわよ、おかげさまで!とにかく私帰る! - which I can't help reading as "Fine, I'm fucking cheered up! Now get me out of here!"]

Nami is aghast to realize that she is on a sky island.

On a certain winter island in the Grand Line…

Two guys (wearing heavy winter gear) and their dog pull Franky out of a snowbank. They are dismayed to see him wearing only a bathing suit ("in this weather!"), but Franky stubbornly refuses their offer of a loincloth.

Franky starts to warm himself up by doing a dance routine instead. Pretty soon he's got the two guys (and the dog!) acting as backup singers.

"SUUUUPERRRRR!"

(LOL, how does Franky get everyone he meets to do this?)

They identify the island as Kamakuri (mechanical) island, where a genius scientist was born, the "island of the future", Baldimore. (I guess that's the right spelling? バルジモア - Barujimoa. All these katakana names are a pain in the butt.)

Elsewhere on the Grand Line, on "Momoiro Isle"…

Everything on the island is pink (and, apparently, heart-shaped), and all the creatures on the island have the hearts of young maidens. Some people call it the world's number two "Woman Island" (Amazon Lily being the first).

My dearest Nami-san, Robin-chan. I hope this letter finds you well.

Sanji is running, screaming, from a pack of okama.

"Welcome to Kamabakka kingdom!"

I am currently in HELL.

[siggggghhhhhh]

524

[Cover Arc: Lucci is on the phone with Spandam.]

On Bowin Island, an island on the Grand Line teeming with plant life…

Usopp has just been saved from the attack of a giant kabuto-mushi. His savior identifies himself as "Hercules'n" (he adds an n to the end of every single thing he says).

"Nice to meet you, Usopp'n."

He neatly takes out a carnivorous plant before it can devour Usopp. He says they are in Greenston, the forest of bandits.

[Viz has Glinston, but surely some reference to the "greenery" of the island would be appropriate here? Oda comes up with weird names. グリンストン.]

"If you value your life, you should probably take care on this island'n."

Elsewhere on the Grand Line, on Namakura Island, the impoverished kingdom of Harahettarya…

[Viz translates "namakura" as "lazybones," which would be possible. I never know when a name is just a name and when it's a pun (same with "kamakuri" above). The name is in katakana, like all these names. Also, LOL at Harahetta-rya translated as "Hungeria" - that works. "Imstarvingistan."]

A circle of practitioners of black magic have just succeeded in summoning more than they bargained for.

"Hail, Demon King Satan-sama!"

Brook: "Where IS this place? I really must be going…"

When they say they will grant anything he asks if only he won't leave them and go back to the demon world, Brook promptly asks to see the nearest pretty girl's panties.

"Quick! Show him your panties!"

[This may be the only time in the series that Brook actually gets to see any panties.]

Somewhere in the East Blue, in the kingdom of "Tequila Wolf"…

A chain gang of prison laborers has been at work building a bridge (to nowhere?) for the last seven hundred years. All are convicted criminals, or citizens of countries that resisted incorporation in the World Government. The boss doesn't know how Robin got here, but she just became their newest slave laborer.

[Jeez, did Robin have to get thrown into the most depressing environment POSSIBLE? Can't she catch a break?]

On an island in the South Blue…

Chopper barely escapes with his life from a nest of giant birds.

He falls, almost literally, from the frying pan into the fire - the natives that pick him up decide that a tanuki would be tasty in stew.

"I'm a REINDEER!"

"Reindeer stew, then. Hey, did he just talk?"

Chopper is in the Torin-oukoku (Birdy Kingdom), where birds rule over humans.

On Kuraigana, a very gloomy looking island in the Grand Line…

Perona is in a seriously bad mood.

"Fine, I know I said I wanted to come to a gloomy, damp, haunted island. But no one said anything about there not being breakfast in bed! And no cute stuffed animals! Moria-sama, I want to come home…"

She hears a crash and discovers a nearly dead Zoro lying in a paw print.

When Zoro wakes up wrapped in bandages, with a rather disgruntled Perona sitting by his bedside, he scares her half to death by screaming.

"Where are my swords?"
"You think I'm going to give you a WEAPON?"

[I am not sure who I feel sorrier for in this situation: Zoro, or Perona.]

Meanwhile, the government ship carrying Hancock is on its way to Impel Down.

Hancock is imperiously demanding more food. Was she not clear about the fact that her royal self (warawa) needs at least 100 kg for each meal?

She has already turned several men into stone for the crime of trying to peep into her quarters.

Inside the cabin, Hancock is happily feeding Luffy. "Open wide…"

[Ahaha, no, that's only in her overheated fantasies. She's actually hiding in a corner blushing while he eats. I totally missed that on the first read through. I thought it was weird that Luffy was being so cooperative in the first picture!]

When Luffy is finally finished cramming food in his mouth, he exclaims: "MAN, I'M STUFFED!" Hancock then has to pretend that that was her talking.

[Oh, poor Hancock, what has become of your royal dignity? Maybe you should kick a puppy or two to stay in practice. Also, I almost missed the joke where they all magically end up with mohawks because one of them said "No way. If that was the empress, I'll give myself a mohawk."]

She hands over the empty plates. "Now, don't forget, I'll be needing five meals a day."

When they complain that they're going to run out of food, she says she doesn't particularly care if they starve.

"What a horrible person! But… so beautiful! <3"

Ace's public execution is six days off.

[Aw, Luffy brooding over the burnt scrap of Ace's vivre card. So rare to see him quiet and contemplative like that. And Hancock fretting over him from a distance, double aw.]

The navy is on full alert after the destruction of the spy ships that were watching Whitebeard. Every strong officer they have has been summoned to Marineford.

[Hina, Jango and Fullbody! Smoker and Tashigi! Aokiji! This is like old home week. Also, that's totally T-Bone in the background.]

And in the holy city of Mariejois…

A few unfortunate marine officers (Tsuru among them, I think) are babysitting five crabby warlords: Doflamingo, Blackbeard, Moria (heavily bandaged), Kuma and Mihawk.

[WORST DINNER PARTY EVER. LOL, I love Mihawk with his feet on the table looking bored.]

In Impel Down, Garp is talking to Ace.

"'Kill me'? Don't be ridiculous. Your death won't stop Whitebeard. No one can stop this now."

"We have angered… the lord of the seas."

Ace is crying bitterly (T_____T).

525

[Cover Arc: Lucci tells Spandam "We'll be back". What the heck is going on with all the ball-shaped things? Does one of them have the power to turn marines into basketballs?]

In the prison, Garp is complaining about the fact that both Ace and Luffy grew up to be notorious pirates, when he wanted them to become marines.

"By the way, I told Luffy about his dad. He was pretty surprised to hear he had a father."

"Knowing about that sort of thing is nothing but a burden. For me, and for Luffy."

Ace says he deliberately took his mother's name. He owes his worthless father nothing.

Ace remembers Whitebeard standing over him. "Shame if you died here, kid. How 'bout you take the protection of my name? You can run as wild as you please. Be my son!"

"That's why… as far as I'm concerned, the only father (oyaji) I have is Whitebeard."

Back on Momonga's ship, the men spot a pirate ship in the distance.

One of them thinks the flag looks familiar, but Momonga tells them not to worry about it. They don't have time to bother with distractions.

He contacts headquarters to ask them to open the gates. They're about to enter the government-controlled sea current that leads to Impel Down.

The ship, of course, is Buggy's. His poor, loyal, deluded crew begged Alvida to help them get this far so that they could launch a rescue mission to save Buggy from Impel Down. But now that they've gotten this close, they don't think they can handle it.

Alvida is exasperated. Breaking into Impel Down is impossible, why can't they just give up?

"But Captain Buggy will be executed! And our new friend Ace, too!"

[Aw, they bonded with Ace when he happened to pass by their ship way back when. What was that, volume 25?]

But they all insist that they're determined to keep following their captain until he finds Captain John's legendary treasure. This can't be the end of the great Captain Buggy!

Alvida wants to take Buggy's ship, since she says it would be wasted on a suicide mission.

Tearfully, they bow to the inevitable.

"We'll never forget you, Captain Buggy! Rest in peace!" (They sail off together.)

[LOL that Ritchie the lion is crying with them the whole time, but all he's thinking of is food.]

Deep beneath the ocean's surface, sea-kings swirl around the undersea prison Impel Down.

Someone with a whip is torturing the wretched prisoners.

In a nearby cell, two prisoners are fighting, but a minotaur-like creature whacks them both over the head with a studded iron club and drags them off. He tosses them into a cage, where something is apparently waiting to eat them.

Four and a half days after leaving Amazon Lily, Momonga's ship arrives at Impel Down.

Luffy is peeking out the cabin window.

"Whoa, that's more ships than there were at the Buster Call."

Hancock urges him to get into his hiding place under her cloak, quickly.

The lovestruck marines watch while Momonga leads Hancock into the prison. He warns her that she'll be required to wear kairouseki cuffs while in the prison, and they'll be doing a thorough body search when she enters.

Inside, the Vice-Warden (whom we can't see clearly) is receiving a report that Buggy the Clown has disappeared from his cell. Just then, an office reports that Momonga has arrived.

The (equally smitten) prison guards throw open the doors for Hancock.

33 hours until Portgas D. Ace's execution.

526

The Vice-Warden Hannyabal greets Momonga and Hancock when they enter.

His shtick is that he keeps calling everything "his" ("Welcome to MY prison, Impel Down") and then apologizing for being too ambitious. He's openly aiming for the top job.

He says the Warden, Magellan, is waiting for them in his office on Level 4. He and his assistant, Domino, will lead the way.

But first, they need to conduct the body search.

With gruesome relish, Domino describes the tortures that newly inducted prisoners are put through. She remarks that among their recent prisoners, Ace, Jinbei and the ex-warlord Crocodile didn't even flinch when they went through it. Pretty impressive.

Hancock turns both Domino and the security camera (security den-den-mushi thing) into stone, and lets Luffy out. She tells him he'll have to manage on his own from now on.

She makes him promise to keep a low profile and not do anything crazy.

[Good luck with that.]

When he thanks her, Luffy actually remembers to say her name right. Hancock is so happy that he didn't call her "Hammock," she almost faints.

"It's true love!"

[Ahaha, so this is why Hancock isn't dead. The power of self-delusion is keeping her alive!]

Luffy skitters off, telling her to undo the stone spell - he'll take it from here.

Hannyabal receives a report that the broadcast from the security camera has been interrupted, but just then Domino and Hancock emerge. All seems to be well.

[Luffy is hiding over the lintel of the door.]

Hancock complains about the humiliation of wearing the cuffs to distract the guards while Luffy is escaping.

Hannyabal leads Hancock to the lift that will take them to the 4th level.

"Do enjoy the screams of the prisoners as we pass by levels 1-3."

In the distance, Hancock sees Luffy disappearing into the ceiling. He waves to her and mimes "Thank you!"

Hancock swoons. "He said, 'I love you!'"

[Delusional but adorable.]

Luffy digs out Ace's vivre card to help lead him to where Ace is being held.

Outside the prison, the guards (the "Blugori") are hunting and killing sea kings.

[Ew, those things are seriously creepy. Where are their faces?]

The monitor room reports that the escaped prisoner, Buggy the Clown, has been sighted on level 1.

The other prisoners are cackling over Buggy's fruitless escape attempt and the tortures that are sure to await him when he's caught.

Luffy follows the guards that were dispatched to catch Buggy through the open door.

He finds himself on Level 1, "the Crimson Floor."

Some prisoners spot him, and start asking him who he is. Luffy asks about Ace, and is told that he would be on Level 5 with all the most dangerous bounty-heads. "Impossible, you'll never get that far!"

Just then someone runs toward him, being chased by an axe-wielding guard.

Luffy finds himself running side-by-side with Buggy.

[Buggy: "ARGH! It's hard to run when I'm cut in half like this!"]

Buggy triumphantly joins the sides of his cut body, only to freak out when he finally notices Luffy. ("STRAW HAT? What are YOU doing here?")

Luffy: "Huh. Buggy, that you?" (Buggy is infuriated by this casual response.)

Buggy considers, but dismisses, the possibility that Luffy might have come to save him.

"As if. I promised Hancock I wouldn't cause any trouble! Don't get me mixed up in this!"

Buggy accuses Luffy of ruining his extra-special super-secret jailbreak plan, but Luffy is indifferent. "Whatever."

[The dialogue between Luffy and Buggy makes me laugh and laugh. Buggy is one of the main reasons I love the entire Impel Down arc.]

More guards cut them off from the front.

Luffy decides that it's too late not to create a scene now, anyway. But everything will be fine as long as he doesn't let himself get caught.

Buggy complains that this is JUST what he hates most about Luffy and that red-haired guy. Always so goddamned optimistic (前向き).

[Viz translates "devil-may-care," which isn't a terrible translation. "Happy-go-lucky" might be better. It literally translates as "forward-looking," but pretty much means only ever seeing the good in any situation. Buggy puts his finger on the key to both Luffy and Shanks' personality here, I think.]

"Fine, let's do this thing. SUPER-FLASHY CHANGE-OF-PLAN!"

[SBS: Explains that Buggy was arrested when he snuck into a marine base thinking it was Captain John's treasure cave. Oops. Apparently, if you are insane look really really closely, you can see his picture in the paper Grandma Nyon was reading in the last volume.]

527

[Cover Arc: Spandain and Spandam plot to wipe out the CP-9 agents. Ugh, the father's still alive? Creep.]

While Buggy is using his bara-bara powers to dodge the guards, Luffy knocks one out with a single punch.

Buggy is impressed. "You got a bit stronger since we last met."

It takes him a minute to realize that Luffy actually took out all FIVE guards.

Meanwhile, the observation room is reporting that they see TWO escaped prisoners. Wasn't there supposed to be only one?

The guards are shocked to hear that they took out all five Blugori. There isn't supposed to be anyone that strong on Level 1.

Luffy is bringing Buggy up to speed on his plan to rescue Ace.

("You know Ace?" "Yes, your big bro is a nice polite fellow. Not like YOU.")

Buggy has no intention of trying to get to Level 5. ("What are we, FRIENDS?") If Luffy isn't going to try to escape, he'll escape on his own.

Luffy warns him that there are more than ten warships standing guard outside.

Just as Buggy is trying to figure out how he can kill a bit of time before escaping for good, he notices… something… on Luffy's arm.

The guards are arriving, but Buggy keeps trying to get Luffy to give him the arm-band he's wearing.

[This is the same "costume jewelry" band that Luffy picked out of the Thriller Bark treasure. He's been wearing it ever since - you can see it in a bunch of frames, if you're watching for it.]

Buggy suddenly decides that he is HIGHLY motivated to help lead Luffy to Ace, if Luffy will give him the armband in return. Luffy is only too happy to agree.

Buggy leads the way to Level 2. (Luffy is so dim that Buggy has to explain to him that you have to pass through levels 2, 3 and 4 to get to level 5.)

Each level holds more dangerous, violent prisoners than the one above, until you get to the worst of the worst on Level 5, where the prisoners with bounties over 100 million are kept.

He's heard rumors of an even deeper level below that one, but no one knows what frightful monsters might be being held down there.

He can only get Luffy as far as Level 4.

When Luffy comments that Buggy is being awfully nice all of a sudden, Buggy blurts out that it's because he's wearing Captain John's treasure mark on his arm.

At first Buggy thinks Luffy didn't hear him, but Luffy grasps that the bracelet must be like a treasure map. Just when Buggy is about to take it by force, he takes off the bracelet and offers it to him.

"Why don't you take this now, then?"

Buggy is stunned. It doesn't seem to have remotely occurred to Luffy that he could run off and abandon Luffy right now.

While he's trying to figure out how to make his escape, Luffy punches through a wall and they both start falling toward something that looks like a forest.

As they fall (how slowly are they falling?) Buggy explains that the trees below have leaves like sword-blades, and the grass is like barbed wire. There are poison spiders underfoot.

This is "Crimson Hell," Level 1 of Impel Down.

Buggy leads them to a giant hole in the middle of the level. No one would normally use this "escape route," because it leads down into a deeper level of hell - Level 2.

Before Buggy can even explain the rest, Luffy simply dives into the hole.

"Has he no fear at all??"

Just as Buggy is gloating that now he doesn't need to follow Luffy, a guard slashes him from behind and his body falls into the well. And where Buggy's feet go, the rest of his body must follow.

Down below, the prisoners can hear the beasts roaring. They seem unusually agitated.

This is Level 2, the Demon Beast Floor.

Mr. 3 is resigned.

"What is there to fear? We'll just end up being eaten by them eventually one way or another."

528

[Cover Arc (end): The CP-9 agents vanish over the horizon.]

Buggy and Luffy are being chased all over Level 2 by a giant basilisk.

Down on Level 4, Hancock and Momonga are waiting for the Warden to see them. Apparently he spends about ten hours out of every day in the loo on account of his digestive problems.

He is a poison-poison fruit user. Domino warns them to avoid touching him.

"Sorry, it seems the poison soup I ate for breakfast didn't agree with me."
"Presumably because it's POISON, sir."
"I'm a poison-man! Poison is my favorite food."

"Please be demoted s… oh, sorry. I mean, they're here to see Ace, SIR."
"What heartless subordinates I have."

Magellan breathes poison on Hannyabal on purpose. Hancock hastily puts a gas mask on.

They retire to the Warden's office (where Hannyabal promptly takes the Warden's seat). ("What? It'll be mine someday.") The Warden sits down on the floor; Hancock is walking on him (while doing her looking-up-to-look-down thing).

Momonga: "If you DON'T mind, we're in a hurry!"

The Warden breathes poison on Hannyabal to get him out of his seat, and answers the den-den mushi.

"WHAT? An intruder in MY Impel Down?"

Hancock hastily distracts the Warden by batting her eyes at him and asking to be taken to the prisoner.

The guards in the monitoring room have successfully identified the intruder as Monkey D. Luffy from his wanted poster.

They're trying to get in touch with the guard room on Level 2, but no one is answering.

Down in the guard room, Luffy is currently in post-gear 3 chibi form while everything around him is out cold. Buggy is still trying to figure out what just happened.

All the prisoners on the floor think Luffy is practically a god. When Buggy steals the key to let them out, they are delirious with gratitude.

"Tell me again, who saved you?"
"Captain Buggy! Our savior!"

Mr. 3 escapes with the rest.

Buggy is gloating over the fact that a prison riot will give him a chance to disappear in the chaos, but then all the prisoners crawl back into their cages. They had forgotten about "the boss." ("It's safer inside the cage.")

While Buggy and Luffy are arguing about how to get to the next floor, Mr. 3 offers his assistance.

(Luffy has trouble recognizing him until he straightens the limp "3" in his hair.)

Luffy calls him "san" (three).

"That's MR. THREE to you ga ne!"

In the depths of the prison, Ace is sharing a cell with Jinbei.

We get our first good look at him. He has a sun-tattoo like Hachi's, and tends to speak in a Kansai-like dialect.

Ace calls him "oyabun" (boss, in a mob sense). Jinbei calls him Ace-san.

Oda-box: Jinbei, Knight of the Sea (ouka-shichibukai, former bounty 250 million). Whale-shark fishman.

Jinbei has been tortured, but he says his body doesn't hurt. What hurts is his heart, because he can't do his duty (jingi - a common yakuza term for honor). He desperately wants to stop this war at any cost.

(Jinbei: most perfect honorable oyabun ever. <3 <3)

529

Jinbei and Ace are still chatting in their cell.

[Chatting sounds way too cheerful when Ace is half dead and Jinbei is dripping pools of blood. T__T But what I am I supposed to say, "conversing"?]

Jinbei comments that he's been passing as a "pirate-hating pirate" in the government's eyes. "Not like you guys."

[It's not explicit, but I think he sounds envious here. He wishes he were as free to act as Ace and Whitebeard.]

Ace is surprised to hear that anyone would think Jinbei hates pirates, and Jinbei agrees that it must seem that way to Ace, when Jinbei was a frequent visitor on Whitebeard's ship. But he has a position to maintain, keeping things going on the sea-floor.

Jinbei: "I like you guys, though."
Ace: "Seem to remember you almost killing me once."
Jinbei: "That went both ways!"

Jinbei says he owes everything to Whitebeard. After Roger's death and the beginning of the Great Pirate Age, Fishman Island (as the gateway to the New World) was flooded with human pirates and with the marines that were chasing them. Many fish-people were being kidnapped and sold into slavery.

The only thing that brought them any peace and stability was when Whitebeard declared Fishman Island to be his "turf" (nawabari). And Fishman Island isn't the only island Whitebeard is protecting.

Jinbei shudders to think what would become of them all if Whitebeard were killed. Surely the government must realize what they're risking.

He would do anything to stop this war from happening. If he could, he would have liked to have saved Ace, too.

Ace begs Jinbei to stop. Listening to him is just painful.

Jinbei says he hasn't given up hope. He's still praying for a miracle.

Someone in the next cell laughs mockingly. (Note the facial scar and the hook.)

This might just be the chance of a lifetime to take Whitebeard out. And, the pirate says, he isn't the only one who'd like a shot at that.

The other prisoners in nearby cells cheer. "Let me at him! I'll end the age of Whitebeard!"

These seas are filled with "silver medalists" who have been nursing a bitter grudge because they couldn't beat Roger and Whitebeard.

[I love that Oda doesn't identify the pirate who is speaking right away, and keeps his face in shadow. Come on, like we don't know who he is by now?]

In the monitoring room, they're trying to pick up enough information from the cameras on Level 2 to figure out what is going on.

"I see them! But… I think there are three of them now…"
"WHAT?"

[This is yet another reason I love Impel Down. Luffy's unlikely jailbreak gang!]

Luffy, Buggy and "Three" (should I just call him San from now on?) are busy using their devil fruit powers to destroy the demon beasts chasing them.

Buggy says he's heard the boss of the Level 2 beasts is a lion-like creature - is it one of the lions chasing them? But Three says no. (違うがね!) The ones chasing them are man-eating lions with human faces, Manticores.

Three Manticores are charging toward them.

They have a tendency to parrot human words, though they can't understand them.

"Give… me the key… fundoshi… strawberry panties…"

[That is just DISTURBING.]

Three is only now learning that Luffy wants to go DOWN, not UP.

"You are CRAZY ga ne!"

But then Three remembers that the staircase down also leads up, and figures he can use Luffy as a decoy to distract the guard-beasts while he makes his escape.

They run full-on into the Sphinx.

The Sphinx, like the Manticores, only seems to be able to repeat random words - in his case, the names of noodle dishes. "So… ba… ra… men…"

While Luffy tries to figure out how to deal with the Sphinx, Buggy and Three are busy coming up with a plan to ditch Luffy and escape as soon as possible.

(They name it the "Great Use Strawhat as Bait" plan.)

Three is making wax copies of himself to fool the Sphinx (the coloring isn't as good without Miss Goldenweek's help, but good enough).

Luffy loves it. ("It's like Whack-a-mole!")

Luffy has jumped into the Sphinx's mane and is riding on it, while Buggy and Three are fleeing.

The Sphinx is making such a ruckus that everyone is starting to worry that the floor won't hold.

Sure enough, the beast falls through the floor. Everyone plummets with it down to Level 3.

530

The prison staff finally reach Level 2 and discover the Sphinx-sized hole.

The Level 2 prisoners now emerge from their cells and attack the guards.

"In the name of our savior, Captain Buggy!"

Meanwhile, information has come in from Sengoku at Marine HQ. He is certain that Luffy's objective is to rescue his brother Ace. (Previously, no one could figure out what Strawhat's plan was because they didn't know about the relationship.)

Garp is laughing his fool head off. (Poor Sengoku. Another bad day at the office.)

Sengoku is pulling his hair out. First Enies Lobby, then the Tenryuubito incident, and now this?

[Considering how much of a crap Luffy doesn't give about the government when they are not hurting someone he loves, he really is their worst enemy ever.]

It's been twenty years since the "Golden Lion" (Shiki) attempted to break out of Impel Down. In the whole history of Impel Down, no one else has ever broken OUT, much less IN.

[This was the subject of the quasi-canon movie Strong World. I need to watch that again.]

Garp (still laughing): "That's my grandson!"

Sengoku is almost as pissed at Kuma as he is at Garp. He KNEW Kuma was lying about having "dealt with" the Strawhats on Shabondy.

In between gasps of laughter, Garp is munching on rice crackers.

[The sfx LOL]

"Can't trust anything a pirate says. How did he break through the cordon of navy ships, anyway?"

Sengoku is this close to throwing Garp in prison with his whole family. "If you weren't the Hero of the Navy, I swear…"

Meanwhile, Luffy, Buggy and Three are gathering their wits on Level 3. The Sphinx is out cold.

The floor of Level 3 is like a frying pan. Poor Three is melting (literally).

A roasted bird falls out of the sky (to Luffy's delight) - Buggy says it made the mistake of flying down from above and was roasted in midair by the heat.

The prisoners on this floor are half-dead from the heat and starvation. All of them were originally strong enough to earn at least a 50 million beri bounty.

This is "Level 3 Starvation Hell".

[Luffy is now munching on roasted bird, LOLOL. Guess he's not starving.]

While they're still arguing about whether Buggy and Three ever promised to help Luffy save Ace, the prison guards trigger a trap and snare all three in a net.

A small guard shows up. He keeps trying to introduce himself ("I'm Sardes," sarudesu - Viz "Saldeath"), to Luffy's great confusion ("You don't look like a monkey…").

Saldeath, despite his diminutive size (the little black wings!), is the commander of the Blugori.

The Sphinx wakes up and goes on a rampage, breaking the net.

While Luffy jumps down, Three and Buggy jump up.

When they taunt him from above ("Say hi to Ace when you see him! If he lives, tell him to come have a drink with us anytime!"), Luffy waves.

"See ya later! Thanks for helping me get this far!"

Three is whimpering that his chest hurts. Buggy: "Goddamned optimistic little…"

Luffy makes a run for it, hunting for the staircase down.

Hiding out, Three and Buggy try to figure out their next move, since the way up is blocked.

They discover a prisoner pirouetting in a cell nearby.

"Un, deux, trois! O-ka-ma wa~~y!"

Bon Clay joyfully recognizes Three.

Buggy: "Who is this weirdo?"
Three: "Can we please not let him out?"

531

The Marines are advancing on Impel Down, determined to find Luffy and arrest him.

They are stopped by "Sadie-chan", the Security Chief.

("I'm Sadie-chan. I just loooooove, mmm, torture!" Marine: "She calls HERSELF chan?")

She tells the Marines to wait outside. The prison staff can handle this. Once they raise the drawbridge, the prison will be perfectly sealed.

(A giant koala is peeking out of the door behind her.)

The Marines agree to wait and stand guard around the prison.

(Marines: ?? *Koala? Koala?*)

The drawbridge swings up.

Hannyabal, Magellan and Hancock have arrived at Ace's cell.

Hannyabal introduces Hancock with great flourish (until Magellan bonks him over the head for over-doing it - I love the noisemaker).

"I REALLY want to be the next Warden! Oops, I mean, that REALLY hurt!" (These sentences both end with -itai.)

The nearby prisoners start whistling and shouting ("Come on over HERE, baby!").

[Ugh, this must be really foul for Hancock. She doesn't react. They keep screaming filth all through the interview, too.]

When Ace asks what her business with him is, she says she just wanted one good look at the cause for this war that she's going to be fighting in.

Jinbei is shocked that the legendarily stubborn Pirate Empress has chosen this, of all times, to bow to the will of the government.

Finally Hancock looks over at the nearest leering prisoner and quivers "You're scaring me…"

[If that guy knew what was good for him, he'd be RUNNING right now.]

When the prisoners redouble their abuse, the Warden (now equally smitten) douses the worst offender with poison.

Magellan turns back toward Hancock (who quickly steps away from the bars).

Ace: "Hey! Is that true?"
Hancock (walking away): "I have no reason to lie."

She adds "You know… he was worried you might be mad at him."

After she walks away, Jinbei asks Ace what she said.

"She said… My little brother is here!"

(Aw, apparently Ace has told Jinbei all about Luffy. "That straw hat kid you're always taking about?" I love the thought of Ace as the big brother who never stops telling anyone who will listen about his little bro.)

While Luffy is dodging prison guards and the Sphinx, he runs into someone who looks just like Zoro.

It turns out to be Bon Clay.

"Long time no seeeee, Mugi-chan!"
"Bon-chan!!"

Bon Clay rescues Luffy from the Sphinx. (The Sphinx, whimpering: "yakisoba bread"…)

Saldeath: "ANOTHER one? He keeps finding a new ally on every floor!"

Bon-chan agrees to accompany Luffy to Level 5. He has someone down there he wants to meet, too.

532

The prison authorities are hastily trying to gather intelligence on Mugiwara's improvised alliance with Buggy the Clown, Mr. 3 and Bentham, aka "Mr 2 Bon Clay."

[Love the mug shots…]

Currently, Luffy and Mr. 2 are believed to be headed for Level 4.

Saldeath is reporting to the Warden that they've lost track of Luffy and Bon Clay on Level 3, and the riot on Level 2 is completely out of control.

The Warden demands to know why he wasn't informed sooner. (Hannyabal: "You were too busy swooning over Hancock…")

Now that Hancock has departed, Hannyabal is organizing the attack force, led by Sadie-chan.

They plan to concentrate their forces on Level 4 and corner Luffy there.

If the invaders escape the Minotaur on Level 3, the Wardens vows to deal with them personally.

Luffy and Bon Clay are currently confronting the Minotaur.

Luffy knocks the Minotaur flying and saves Bon-chan with Gear Two.

[LOL Bon: "I thought I was gonna die… the okama fields stretched before my eyes…"]

They climb up to a large window and look down into a central pit, billowing with steam.

Below them is Level 4, "Inferno Hell." It is a boiling sea of blood with flames beneath.

Luffy asks who Bon-chan is willing to risk his life to meet. Bon says people call him the "miracle worker" - Iva-san, the Queen of Kamabakka Kingdom, on Momoiro Island.

He is the greatest okama king in history, beloved by okama throughout the world.

Buggy and Three come screaming down the stairs, chased by the Minotaur that Luffy just knocked UP them.

Buggy has a secret weapon up his sleeve (or rather, hidden on his body) - a miniature version of the "Buggy Ball," which he has renamed the "Muggy Ball."

They combine their various powers to knock the Minotaur out (again).

While they rejoice together over their victory, the call goes out over the intercom to all forces to gather on Level 4.

Ace: "Luffy… don't come!"

TBC
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