Welcome back to the Everlasting One Piece Readalong, following the exciting adventures of Monkey D. Luffy and his pirate crew as they explore the world, find treasure, and work on achieving their dreams. Our readalong uses the big omnibus editions. Previous columns can be found in the project tag.
Volumes 52-54 Overview
The Straw Hats find Rayleigh, the man who will prepare their ship for further adventures, but they also find a heap of trouble. Their new friend Camie gets kidnapped and put up for sale, and Luffy picks a fight with some very important people to get her back. Then the Straw Hats are separated by one of the Seven Warlords of the Sea! They’re flung in all different directions around the Grand Line by a Devil Fruit power, and what’s worse: Luffy finds out his brother Ace is scheduled to be executed!
The Adventure Continues
Last time, Luffy punched one of the most important people on Sabaody Archipelago: Carlos, a Celestial Dragon, a descendant of one of the creators of the World Government. We return to the auction house where Carlos is done, and his Celestial Dragon family members are not happy. Unfortunately for them, they’re no match for any of the Straw Hats, especially when Brook, Robin, and Usopp arrive, ferried over by Duval’s crew. Most of the onlookers flee the scene, knowing the Navy will be arriving soon to deal with Luffy.
Hachi is bloodied from being shot, but somehow more stressed about Luffy getting himself in trouble. But Luffy wasn’t going to let Camie be sold like a thing. One of the onlookers, Trafalgar Law—one of the Eleven Supernovas, the other pirate captains to make it through the first half of the Grand Line—stuck around to watch the show with another Supernova, Eustass Kidd. Law informs the Straw Hats that the Navy surrounded the auction house before the event started in order to capture someone else, so they were already prepared for trouble.
Then from the holding area, a giant and none other than Rayleigh, the man Hachi and Luffy were looking for, emerge. Rayleigh looks at the destruction and at Hachi and realizes that Camie’s presence at the auction has led to the untimely disruption of said auction.
Rayleigh already knows Luffy and has been wanting to meet him. Very strangely, he does…something…and all the remaining guards of the auction house foam at the mouth and fall to the ground, leaving the Straw Hats agog. We’ve seen this before a few times—it’s called haki—and remember, we’ve also see Luffy manage it on a very small scale against Duval’s huge cow.
In Marijoa, news of Luffy’s attack on the Celestial Dragons has reached the head of the Navy, Sengoku, who sends one of his admirals to deal with the situation. Poor Sengoku seems really put out by Luffy’s bloodline—here’s yet another delicious hint about Luffy’s past. The Navy seems more worried about the Celestial Dragons themselves than the auction house, whose owner—one of the Seven Warlords of the Sea—is offloading it amidst all the drama, leaving his manager high and dry since there are more exciting events approaching. Specifically, a fight between Whitebeard and the Seven Warlords!
The Straw Hats lucked into Rayleigh’s presence, because of his mysterious, special abilities and skill in taking the explosive collars off slaves. One he frees Camie, he starts plotting an escape since the Navy is treating everyone still in the building as part of the attack on the Celestial Dragons. Kidd, though, is prepared to save Luffy and Law—how selfless! But they’re not having any of that and all three of them end up facing the Navy together. The Navy is completely out of luck: all three of them have Devil Fruit powers!
Luffy, Law, and Kidd take on the Navy and they’re untouchable, even though it’s not clear what type of Devil Fruit powers the other captains are using. The others come out to a massive scene of the destruction left in the wake of the fight. Kidd and Law both take their leave before more Navy forces get there, and the Rosy Life Riders arrive to ferry Luffy and the other Straw Hats, including their new allies and friends, away. Kidd and Law are making their way from the fight when they’re attacked! It’s Kuma! But neither Kid nor Law understands why one of the Seven Warlords is on Sabaody—this is the start of an epic battle between some of the Supernovas and the Navy.
The Straw Hats make it back to Shakky’s bar with their new friends in tow. There, Rayleigh shares massive news with them that they weren’t aware of: he was Gol D. Roger’s first mate, and Roger wasn’t captured for execution by the Navy—he turned himself in! It turns out Roger was ill and his sickness could only be managed, not cured, so for the four years after his diagnosis he explored the Grand Line with his crew, and managed to conquer the whole of it. Then he disbanded everyone. Rayleigh tells the Straw Hats that Shanks and Buggy were on that crew, too, and were probably in the audience when the Navy executed Roger. Although they lied to the world and told everyone they had captured him, Rayleigh lays out the truth: they were hoping to quash pirates for good by executing one of the most famous. Roger foiled them by telling people about the One Piece. Although Roger couldn’t have known the consequences of challenging people to find the One Piece, it still ignited a resurgence in piracy.
Because Rayleigh knows so much, Robin asks him if he knows about the lost history of the world. When Rayleigh says yes, she’s tempted to ask, but he tells her she may learn something different if she goes on the journey for herself. People who have tried to rush have met bad ends—like Ohara. So Robin decides she does want to learn the history for herself, after all.
Rayleigh agrees to coat Thousand Sunny for free since the Straw Hats are Hachi’s friends, and needs three days to do so. That means the Straw Hats have to figure out a way to lay low for three whole days—with this bunch, that’s a tall order. Rayleigh shares his vivre card with them so they can find him, since he plans to move their ship to stay under the radar. Meanwhile, Admiral Kizaru has arrived on Sabaody looking for someone named Sentomaru, throwing several ports at various groves into chaos as fighting breaks out and he gets into a battle with four pirate captains. Kuma is also there, amid the fray…but didn’t we just see him in the forest?
The Straw Hats also come into contact with Kuma, who attacks without comment…how is he in so many places at once? They have no choice to fight back, but Zoro feels like something is odd about Kuma this time, versus Zoro’s run in with him on Thriller Bark. His attacks and fighting style are different and the paw prints on his hands are missing.
This is another excellent example of how the Straw Hats combine their skills to take down a tough opponent. But it’s also a sign of how much stronger enemies are getting; they used to have one on one fights, but in Thriller Bark and now here against the robotic Kuma, they’re pushed to the limit.
Back at Kizaru’s location, the Kuma there also has different powers—not only is he a World Government weapon, there are at least three copies of him, and probably more. It’s a fight between Kuma, multiple pirate captains with Devil Fruit powers, including a Devil Fruit user who can transform into a dinosaur! But none of them are as powerful as Kizaru. Although during the fighting his body was blown in half, his Devil Fruit power allows him to morph his body back together and take out his attacker. Just in time, too, as the black transponder snail that he’s carrying flares to life with word from the mysterious Sentomaru, who alerts him to the fact that Luffy was one of the pirates responsible for attacking the Celestial Dragons.
The Straw Hats are exhausted, especially Zoro, who isn’t healed from taking on Luffy’s pain from Thriller Bark. Now that Sentomaru has figured out who it was who caused all the problems, he’s on top of them almost immediately to complain about the defeated Kuma—with another copy directly behind him! The Straw Hats decide to run, because Sentomaru is incredibly strong. He blocks their escape with the help of his copy of Kuma, which he calls PX-1, and Zoro, pushed to his limit, collapses. It’s bad timing, because then Kizaru arrives!
Devil Fruit Alert
Kizaru ate the Glint Glint Fruit and he’s now a man made of light. This explains why he can restore himself, create explosions, cut through people easily, and why no one can escape—his attacks are super fast!
Back to the Action
Kizaru finds Zoro, unable to move, and is pleased that he’s been cut down. Kizaru goes in for the killing blow, but finds himself blocked by Rayleigh. Zoro is rescued! It doesn’t last long. Rayleigh and Kizaru duel so the Straw Hats can get away and Luffy orders them all to scatter, but Sentomaru and the PX-1 Kuma slowly cut them down, one by one. Chopper, desperate to save his friends, overdoses on Rumble Balls and turns into the giant, rampaging monster he can’t control. Then, out of nowhere, another Kuma appears and Zoro finally recognizes the one he knows. Kuma asks him where he wants to visit and then, before he can reply, Zoro vanishes completely! Because remember: this Kuma has the ability to make people vanish with his Devil Fruit skill.
Zoro’s only the first: one by one Kuma uses his power on all the Straw Hats, until Luffy is the only one left. He was unable to save his friends—their inexperience and moderate strength as a crew isn’t enough to save them on the cusp of the New World. Rayleigh has his hands full with Kizaru, and can’t help, either. Before Luffy can do anything, Kuma touches him, too, and he vanishes. He doesn’t die, though—instead, Luffy flies through the air for a long time and then lands on an island. He’s determined to get back to Sabaody and tries to use Rayleigh’s vivre card, but is distracted by being hungry. In his desperation for food, he consumes a parasite mushroom and passes out.
He’s discovered by several women, who mistake him for a woman, too. They carry him back to their home and heal him, but are confused by his anatomy until an elder reveals he’s a man! Luffy has landed on the island of women, Amazon Lily, where men are forbidden and are killed if found!
The island is completely self-sufficient and dubious of men. Some of the women heal him and repair his clothes, but others want to kill him before the leader returns to maintain the law. Luffy’s not having any of that, so he grabs the woman who fixed his clothes, Marguerite, and uses his Devil Fruit powers to escape. Once they’re safe, he asks about the paper he was carrying, and she hands it over. He explains that he and his pirate crew were split up and he needs to get back to them. Marguerite is surprised that he’s a pirate. It turns out, their leader is also a pirate, and only the best warriors on the island get to serve on the pirate ships.
Back in the city, the scouts discover their leader is returning, and a group of women head into the jungle to take Luffy out and rescue Marguerite. Luffy os way more interested in getting back to his crew than bothering Marguerite. While he brainstorms how to escape the island, she shares that Amazon Lily is in the middle of the Calm Belt, which is why they’re allowed to live unbothered, and they have ways to manage the threat of the giant monsters that live in the oceans surrounding them. Marguerite finds herself starting to like Luffy, so she tries to attack him around the same time her allies find them and inform her that their leader is returning!
A little ways from the island, their leader is indeed on her way home, but has stopped to talk with a Navy admiral who has come to give her orders. Boa Hancock is one of the Seven Warlords of the Sea and the captain of the Kuja pirates! The Navy demands she come fight on their side in order to stop Whitebeard’s attack on the World Government; they’ve set a date and time for Ace’s execution and need extra forces. Her presence is required or else they’ll revoke her status as a warlord. She’s not very interested, though, and instead of acquiescing, she uses a strange power to turn all of the Navy servicemen to stone! Except for the admiral in charge, the rest of them are now statues. She refuses to attend to the World Government’s business—whatever the consequences may be. The remaining admiral says he’ll wait for her the change her mind until her time has expired.
Hancock returns to the island and some of the women try to keep Luffy’s presence a secret. In her castle, an elder tells her she shouldn’t ignore the orders from the World Government because it’s her title of warlord that provides Amazon Lily protection, since so many more people have the ability to sail into the Calm Belt. But Hancock isn’t moved and dismisses everyone.
Meanwhile, Luffy has escaped from the other warriors, and he’s decided he needs to ask someone high up for help, so he launches himself into the highest building in the city. This turns out to be Hancock’s rooms, and she’s in the bath—bad news for Luffy, since the lore on the island is that Hancock and her sisters have marks on their backs that can turn people to stone!
For seeing the marks on her back, Luffy’s sentence is death. Plus, Luffy says the marks look familiar, but can’t figure it out because he’s on the run again. But for some reason, Boa Hancock’s power doesn’t work on him, so they capture him and bring him in front of the whole city. Marguerite and the other women who brought Luffy into the city try to defend him, but Hancock ignores them and turns them to stone, too. Luffy is, predictably, furious that people would cheer watching their allies treated in such a way and tells Hancock so. Given the way her powers work, it’s probably the first time she’s been challenged in any appreciable way.
Her snake-sisters, Marigold and Sandersonia, step up to defend Hancock’s honor using their own powers (Devil Fruit, surely, but it’s unclear what kind). They’re powerful, too, because they’re using haki—the same thing Rayleigh used on Sabaody to help Luffy and his crew with the Navy. They toy with Luffy as they prepare to kill him, and then threaten to crush the statues of the women who tried to defend him. Luffy, royally ticked off, yells at them to stop—and they and several other women either collapse or freeze. Hancock and her sisters realize that Luffy’s spirit is incredibly strong, but he doesn’t know how to use it yet, so he’s not a challenge.
Luffy proves them wrong by engaging Gear Two, and manages to tie the two snake sisters together. While she’s trying to get away, Sandersonia’s mark on her back is revealed, and Luffy, despite being in the middle of a fight with her, hops up to cover it. After all, he remembers that they were protective of the marks, and the mark Sandersonia wears on her back has nothing at all to do with their fight. Because he helps Sandersonia, Hancock offers his one favor: to turn his defenders back to human from stone or to give him a ship so he can escape. This is Luffy, so it’s no surprise that he chooses the former without hesitation. Because of this, Hancock restores the women and then invites him back into her home.
She reveals that the symbols on their backs don’t have any special powers, but are instead slave marks from when they were slaves to the Celestial Dragons. They were given Devil Fruits when they were slaves (it definitely feels like something the Celestial Dragons would do for fun), so they’ve been able to trick everyone else and keep their past a secret.
Devil Fruit Alert!
Hancock ate the Love-Love Fruit, which allows her to charm and seduce people, as well as turn people to stone—this is a deliberate reference to Medusa. Her sisters, Marigold and Sandersonia, were given two different kinds of Snake-Snake fruit, which allows them to transform into two different types of snakes. Their skills, combined with their knowledge of haki, makes them formidable opponents.
Back to the Action
An elder, Nyon, enters the room and shares that she was how the three sisters returned to the island. She knows Luffy, too—his antics and attack on the Celestial Dragons is now in the paper! It reminds Hancock of someone else—someone who saved her life. Hancock and her sisters were freed from slavery by a Fish-Man who wanted to strike a blow at the Celestial Dragons after four years. A lot of Hancock’s attitude toward men can be traced back to the things she must have suffered as a slave, as well. Because Luffy so opposes the Celestial Dragons and is fair and just, Hancock offers him the use of her ship.
Luffy’s excitement is short-lived, though, because he discovers from Elder Nyon that war is about to break out because of Ace’s execution. Luffy didn’t realize things were that bad. Nyon explains that Ace is being held in Impel Down. We’ve heard of this prison before—CP9 wanted to take Robin there. Impel Down is part of the Navy headquarters, connected to Enies Lobby and the city the Navy controls, Marinetown, by a special current. The only way to access the prison is via a Navy ship. Luckily for Luffy, the Navy wants Hancock to come participate in the war effort. So since she’s his way to helping his brother, he asks her to take him to Impel Down via the Navy ship, instead of to Sabaody to start looking for his crew.
Hancock agrees quickly, because she’s been so charmed by Luffy she has a large—and growing—crush on him. That’s unfortunate for her, because Luffy is more distracted than ever.
Hancock sneaks Luffy aboard the Navy ship sent to take her to the World Government and asks them to take a short detour to Impel Down. Back at the Navy headquarters, the Sengoku is informed that Hancock is on her way to help with the approaching war. Whitebeard has already taken out all their spy ships so they can’t know where he is. The Navy puts Impel Down on high alert.
At Impel Down, Admiral Garp has taken a quick trip to see Ace, who is chained up and jailed deep in the prison—it’s going to be fascinating to see how Luffy reaches him in this place. He asks Garp to kill him to prevent the oncoming war, but Garp refuses. Even if Ace died now, there’d be no stopping Whitebeard from taking his vengeance.
Luffy’s not the only one having adventures. The other Straw Hats are finding themselves in drastically different circumstances, too. Nami landed on a Sky Island where they study weather, Franky’s on a winter island for engineers, and Sanji is on the Island of Second Women. Unfortunately for One Piece, it’s not always great with storylines dealing with characters on the gender spectrum, so, Sanji’s story looks like it’s going to be majorly transphobic. Be careful, readers!
Usopp ends up on an island with giant bugs and a lot of thieves, Chopper lands on an island ruled by birds, and Robin ends up in a slave labor camp that is building a bridge that will connect all the islands, chained and forced to work. Brook ends up in a tribe that’s in the middle of summoning a demon, and mistake him for something powerful that can attack their enemies. Zoro appears, surprisingly, in the same place as Perona, from Thriller Bark. Instead of leaving him, she tries to take care of his injuries. Despite the Straw Hats being apart, by themselves they are still clever and self-sufficient, and it looks like there may be some new friendships in their future, too.
When the Navy ship carrying Hancock and Luffy arrives at Impel Down, Luffy is shocked at the number of ships—more than even a Buster Call. Hancock sneaks him in, but informs him that they’re going to search and then restrain her since she’s a pirate. Because of the prison rules, can’t get him to Ace, but she gets him in the door. It’s enough for Luffy, who thanks her and heads off in search of his brother using Ace’s vivre card.
But who else should he meet on his sneak escape trek but Buggy, who’s been in Impel Down and is trying to escape. They fight for a minute, but then team up to fight the guards chasing Buggy, since there’s no chance of Luffy being secret anymore since he got caught up in Buggy’s drama. Together they carve a path through Level 1 of Impel Down to the giant hole that leads to Level 2. Buggy plans to ditch Luffy once Luffy dives in, but accidentally gets knocked in avoiding an attack by a guard.
Now that they’ve teamed up and caused a commotion, the guards of Impel Down know that it’s Luffy on the run with Buggy. They try to alert the warden below, but Hancock manages to distract him on her own journey to see Ace. Level 2 is full of monsters and more guards, and Luffy has to use Gear Three to beat them. Once they’re all taken care of, Buggy uses the keys to free to prisoners, hoping in the confusion he’ll be able to escape. Luffy also meets another old enemy: Mr. 3!
On Level 5, Ace watches a guard beat on his cellmate: it’s Jimbei, one of the Seven Warlords of the Sea, who is bitter and sad about the oncoming war. He admires Whitebeard, who ended the rampant slave trade on Fish-Man island and put the whole thing under his protection. Jimbei has a soft spot for him and doesn’t want the Navy to kill him; he knows it will destabilize the whole region.
Luffy, Buggy, and Mr. 3 continue making their way down, although Buggy and Mr. 3 want to go up and make a pact to escape together. They encounter a giant manticore, though, and after fighting it the floor is so damaged it crumbles, sending them falling toward Level 3! Capture waits for them them there, though, along with super hot temperatures. In short order, they get scooped by a giant net with sea stone woven into it. Luckily for them, the giant manticore that fell with them wakes up and goes on a rampage, destroying the net and setting them free. Luffy continues on alone after Buggy and Mr. 3 abandon him, but after he’s gone they also come across Luffy’s old frenemy, Bon Clay, and free him as well. Freedom for everyone!
Hancock finally makes her way to Level 5, and Ace’s cell. She distracts the warden and then guards long enough to tell Ace that Luffy has come to rescue him. Ace is shocked, to say the least. Up at sea level, the Navy sends in one of the security guards to deal with the escaped prisoners, and seals the entrance to Impel Down so no one can get in or out. Luffy, meanwhile, is trying to find his way down when Bon Clay appears in front of him! Luffy is super happy, because he thought Bon Clay died trying to save them after Alabasta. Together, they prepare to fight their way down to Level 5, because there’s a prisoner there Bon Clay wants to see, as well.
They meet up with Mr. 3 and Buggy again, who were trying to escape but managed to get lost; Impel Down is a huge maze. They fight against a powerful minotaur as a team, and head for Level 4, where all the Impel Down forces are gathering to stop them. It’s a ragtag team of pirates and saboteurs against the huge force of Impel Down!
Well, things got super dark in a hot minute. War between the pirates and the government is brewing over Ace’s capture and pending execution and Luffy and his crew are separated from each other with no clear way to reconnect. Although Luffy has found and rediscovered allies after he was ejected from Sabaody by Kuma, now he’s again at the heart of the World Government: Impel Down isn’t far from Enies Lobby. He’s facing a showdown with massive forces that plan to execute Ace as a show of force to the world and of dominance over the pirates they have a tenuous alliance with. The World Government and the Navy are corrupt all the way up and down the chain of command.
Many parts of this volume are gutting: Robin ends up in a slave camp clearly subsidized and supported by the government, Impel Down is a horror show, a prison devoid of any sort of human rights for the criminals inside it, and the World Government clearly doesn’t care about justice, only their own power and influence. Once again, Luffy is taking on the whole world to protect people he cares about.
How will Luffy rescue Ace and get away? How will he find his lost crew? Will the war between Whitebeard and the government come to fruition?
We’ll be reading Volumes 55, 56, and 57 to discover how Luffy’s going to get out of his current mess. Don’t miss it!