One Piece: Chapter 2 is a Mixed Bag
They Call Him "Straw Hat Luffy"
It’s been about a month since I released my first review of every individual chapter of the legendary manga One Piece. Since then, I have published a grand total of zero reviews. Whoops. Sorry. It seems as though your old boy really let things slip. But I’m back now and, just like Luffy when he sees an enormous plate of meat, it’s time to really dig in. Chapter 1 was really a one-off. I couldn’t adequately rank it because, as a part of the story, it’s entirely unique. It’s a full narrative in one chapter, and to be perfectly honest, that’s kind of how the first few chapters of One Piece start out. The pacing feels weird because we’re cramming a full arc into one sitting. Nonetheless, I will do my best to critique Chapter 2.
Hoo boy, last chapter’s breakdown went on a bit too long, I think. If I’m going to work through every chapter of One Piece, the least I could do is be at least a little less thorough. (“But Steven,” I say to myself, “Oda-sensei wouldn’t cut corners, so why should you?” Touché, internal monologue. Touché.) Anyway, here are the key narrative takeaways for One Piece Chapter 2, titled “They Call Him Straw Hat Luffy.”
In what I would only refer to as the “pre-opening credits” scene, Luffy is on his dinghy and is in, as you guessed it, in mortal peril immediately after setting sail. His boat is being sucked into a giant whirlpool and, after bemoaning the fact that, because of his Devil Fruit, he can’t swim to safety, Luffy drops possibly the most Gen Z line I’ve ever read: “Ha! What was I thinking? In a giant whirlpool, it doesn’t really make a difference if you can swim or not!” And then Luffy is sucked into the giant whirlpool, his journey comes to an end, and One Piece is over in less than two chapters. Good show.
Okay, so maybe I’ve gotten ahead of myself. Luffy isn’t dead. He stows away in a beer barrel and is discovered by a passing crew of pirates captained by the feared Lady Alvida. More on her later. Anyway, the cabin boy Coby, who was abducted by this pirate crew two years ago and forced to work as a cabin boy in exchange for his life. More on him later, too. Luffy and Coby escape the ship and find themselves on Alvida’s base island, where Coby tells Luffy his dream of becoming a marine, the pirate’s natural enemy. Alvida discovers Luffy and Coby and attacks Luffy with an enormous mace. However, Luffy is immune to blunt-force attacks, punches Alvida in the face, and tells her crew to give him and Coby a dinghy to leave the island. On their way out, Luffy tells Coby that he’s looking for a certain character to join his crew: Roronoa Zoro, and the two young adventurers sail on towards the naval base and… destiny.
Let’s structure this a little bit differently than last time. One Piece is a character-driven story. I want to experiment in framing it through the lens of the characters and how I, as a storyteller myself, react.
Alvida: “Iron Mace” Alvida is the very first villain-of-the-week that Luffy has to take down. So who is she? Well, Alvida is defined by her strict demeanor (forcing her crew to ensure the ship remains spotless), her self-confidence (often referring to herself as the most beautiful woman in the world), and… the fact that she is fat. Yep, Oda did a great job of developing this character. She is a woman who takes great offense to being called fat and becomes violent when Coby, in an act of defiance, calls her “the ugliest old hag of all.” Stay tuned for more strongly-written female characters in this manga. God, Oda did Alvida dirty. As a storytelling element, and not appearance-wise, I rank Alvida a 3/10 just because she was soured so much by how she was made the butt of fat-jokes.
Coby: Pay attention to Coby. Coby here is introduced as a human disaster, a coward, and a crybaby. He was kidnapped by pirates literally because he boarded the wrong ship to go fishing, and has paid the price ever since. But his relationship with Luffy is one of the strongest by far. You can tell Oda planned big things with Coby, both with this chapter, and in the series as a whole. He’s the very first person, I think, who undergoes serious change just by meeting Luffy, and even though his act of defiance and courage boils down to “I called the angry fat lady fat,” it’s still a strong symbolic moment in that Luffy did not save Coby. Coby saved himself. 8/10 character introduction.
Luffy: I want you to begin to think of Luffy as liberator from this chapter onwards. Pay attention to the people Luffy helps, and what they do after they’re helped. Luffy and Coby have a great conversation in the chapter about following dreams, even if it will probably end in disaster. Luffy has made his peace with the danger that lies before him. It’s evident in that very first scene, and it’s evident in the scene where Luffy steps in to protect Coby from Alvida. A huge running theme in One Piece is the ability to face trials and tribulations and even certain death with a smile on your face. 10/10.
Plotwise, because it feels rushed, and because they did my homegirl Alvida dirty, I rank this chapter a solid 5/10. There are moments where the chapter feels rushed, and while there are some incredible and profound moments, they happen too quickly in succession for them to really have the impact they were meant to. And this is a problem that Early One Piece has a lot. I won’t hang too much on it. But yeah.
Averaging that 5 with Alvida’s 3, Coby’s 8, and Luffy’s 10, this chapter is overall a 6.5/10. There are things this chapter could do so much better, but it has those moments of profound impact that really save it from mediocrity.
Do you agree with this score? Comment down below or email me at [email protected] to voice your opinions. Maybe I’ll address them in a future post.
About the Creator
Steven Christopher McKnight
Disillusioned twenty-something trying to meander his way through this abject mess of a world. Aspiring garden hermit. Future ghost of a drowned hobo.
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