Sunday, May 6, 2012

One Piece volume 62

In the 62nd installment of Eiichiro Oda's epic pirate manga, the Straw Hat crew goes on their first real adventure together since reuniting last volume. Their journey takes them under the sea past monstrous sea beasts, treacherous ocean currents and erupting undersea volcanoes, en route to the home of mermaids and the last stop before the New World, Fishman Island.

The first half or so of this book covers the Straw Hat's voyage into the depths of the ocean. Beautiful underwater scenery and frighteningly designed sea monsters abound, the first several chapters constitute explanation of the science of the deep and the ways of underwater travel, with a healthy dose of gags to keep us entertained. This seamlessly mixed in with crew interactions that show of each characters individual quirks that we know and love and missed so much. All the while, running into two new enemies before even arriving at their destination. While I enjoyed seeing the crew together again, a few of the chapters dragged a bit and suffered from I like to call "Post-Marineford Syndrome". The war arc was too exciting and action packed for the manga's own good. For a few arcs after, even normally exciting events could seem duller in comparison.

Arriving at Fishman Island, our favorite crew gets separated, which gives us the opportunity to explore different parts of the island and get to know the setting for this story arc. We meet yet another villain, and while welcome at first, the Straw Hats soon fall victim to a mysterious prophecy, and make enemies with the entire nation. Expanded on in this volume is the racial tension between humans and fishmen, first brought to our attention all the way back in the Arlong arc and seen again in the Sabaondy Archipelago arc. Tackling segregation, discrimination and racism seems like an awfully ambitious issue for a children's comic, but that just gets me more excited for the following volumes.

The art of One Piece has always been among my favorite in manga, and this volume doesn't disappoint. The underwater setting allows for lots of beautiful scenery and fantastical sea creature designs. Many double page spread show off these images in great detail. Since Arlong arc, I've enjoyed the kooky character designs of the fishmen and in this arc, we get a whole new set of creatively drawn cast members. Not to mention a cove full of cute mermaids as a bonus.

In regard to the production quality, there was one instance where the translation was confusing. Nami was explaining how the salinity of the ocean affects currents, and Luffy and Zoro being who they are, had no idea what she was talking about. They responded with "I used to play with salinity all the time as a kid", and "I sure would like to get one of those salinity swords one day". This didn't make sense to me. I suspect this is a case of a Japanese pun not having a direct translation, which happens a lot and is okay, but I would have liked a translator note or something. Also, there were a few cases where the ink was very light in speech bubbles. A shade or two lighter and it would have been unreadable. Furthermore, there were two cases of ink blotches. Thankfully, the ink blotches didn't ruin any of the art or block any text, but this is something I don't like to see and I hope Viz amps up their quality control a bit. You might say that I just got unlucky with the book I bought, but I saw several cases on the internet with the same problem. Again, not a deal breaker, but I don't care to see these issues again.

Alone, this is an average book by One Piece standards. Understandably, it is just a small part of the massive One Piece puzzle. For some, getting back into the good old swing of thing with the crew reunited and back to adventuring will be a relief. For others, as I said earlier, this book may be a little slow in comparison to the excitement overload that was the war arc. I don't suspect that will stop dedicated One Piece fans from buying the next volume to see what happens next.

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