The Everlasting One Piece Readalong: Vols. 55-57

Welcome back to the Everlasting One Piece Readalong, following the exciting adventures of Monkey D. Luffy, his pirate crew, and all the wild folks they meet during his adventures. Our readalong uses the big omnibus editions. Previous columns can be found in the project tag.

Volumes 52-54 Overview

Luffy and his newfound piratical and revolutionary allies from Impel Down escape the prison and make their way to the Navy headquarters at Marineford to rescue Luffy’s brother, Ace. But they’re not the only ones on the journey to Marineford. Whitebeard, Ace’s captain and one of the most feared pirates on the Grand Line, isn’t going to let Ace be murdered without a fight. The fight for Ace begins!

The Adventure Continues

Last time, Luffy was brute-forcing his way into Impel Down, the prison holding his brother, Ace. But the Impel Down security forces have gathered and pulled out their toughest jailers. When Luffy arrives to Level 4, his nose immediately tells him there’s food nearby; Level 4 holds the kitchen. Luffy takes a detour for a snack, followed by his former enemies, Mr. 3, Bon Clay, and Buggy the Clown. But before Luffy can find the food, they all come face to face with the warden of Impel Down, Magellan!

Devil Fruit Alert
Magellan ate the Venom-Venom Fruit, making him a man literally made of poisons; his attacks are all toxic and he can use his powers in many different ways, including secreting poisonous liquid or gases. He can also use his secretions to create armor for himself, which, when paired with his natural physical skills, make him an extremely difficult opponent.

Magellan

Back to the Action
Luffy’s tenuous allies abandon him in the face of the warden’s arrival. Bon Clay runs because of Magellan’s strength and and Buggy and Mr. 3 head toward the prison exit while everyone is focused on the battle. It’s not meant to be for them, though, because they’re not as strong as the guards standing sentry at the exit to the level above; they’re beaten easily! Now Bon Clay is the only ally Luffy has still free.

Magellan prepares to take Luffy out, but Luffy is nothing if not determined. He manages to dodge Magellan’s attacks until Magellan deploys a gas that makes it hard for him to see. Plus, without being able to punch, Luffy is doomed. Luffy engages his Gear skill to help, but even though he lands a hit, touching Magellan still has a high cost. The poison is too much; he effectively melts into the floor. Magellan orders him sent to Level 5—exactly the floor Luffy wanted to reach. He probably didn’t want to have to suffer a massive poison attack to get there, though.

Hannyabal

Magellan returns to the exit where Buggy and Mr. 3 were defeated to find everyone knocked out except for his second in command, Hannyabal. It seems like Bon Clay whipped through and took everyone out…or did he? Very shortly after Magellan has left Bon Clay reveals he stole Hannyabal’s face with his Devil Fruit skill in order to rescue Mr. 3 and Buggy so they could go save Luffy!

But it won’t be so easy! The doctors in Impel Down are adamant that there’s no antidote for Luffy to take because of the exposure to Magellan’s attacks. That avenue cut off, Bon Clay finally remembers a prisoner in Impel Down who can perform miracles who resided on Level 5. Luffy sure could use one. Disguising himself as Hannyabal again, Bon Clay escorts Mr. 3 and Buggy to the level where Luffy is being held. Although Mr. 3 and Buggy continue to be cowards, Bon Clay fights off the cold and rabid, hungry wolves to retrieve Luffy, and then goes to look for his miracle-worker. The wolves are persistent until Luffy regains consciousness to use his haki—like it’s no big thing, so it’s clearly getting easier—to knock out all the wolves and then collapse again. Bon Clay isn’t too far behind him, pushed to his limit, but it’s fine because someone appears…

Inazuma

Bon Clay and Luffy were rescued by Inazuma and his leader, Emporio Ivankov. Ivankov’s storyline are a bit iffy. often devolves into transphobia, gender essentialism, and often confuses culture around gender with culture around drag. The culture this was written in is drastically different than the culture we’re reading it in, and it’s translated on top of it, but it’s good to be aware that this isn’t the best representation in an American context.

Bon Clay is grateful for the rescue, and learns that he and Luffy has arrived in New Kama, or Levele 5.5, the secret level between Level 5 and Level 6 that the guards don’t know about. This is the first time Bon Clay has heard about Level 6; it’s where people the government wants to erase live. One of the head security positions at Impel Down was held by Shiryu, who was put into Level 6 because he murdered too many prisoners. Given that the current administration of Impel Down often seems remorseless when it comes to the treatment of the prisoners, it’s hard to imagine someone worse. So if Luffy and Bon Clay made it to New Kama, that means Ace is probably all the way down in Level 6. After all, the government plans to execute him, and Level 6 would be the most secure place to ensure he didn’t escape.

Emporio Ivankov

Luffy was really injured, though, so Bon Clay begs Ivankov for help. But it turns out that Luffy beat him to it—he asked for Bon Clay to be saved even though he poisoned. Ivankov was impressed and so he treated Luffy and locked him a room. The treatment will take two days—but Ace’s execution is only hours away by now! Ivankov tells Bon Clay that Luffy’s survival is a long shot, since he’s not a god. But he is a Devil Fruit user.

Devil Fruit Alert!
Ivankov ate the Horm-Horm fruit, which allows them, among other things, to control hormones in other people’s bodies and provide healing treatments, and also gives him a wink that can level a small building. Needless to say, this Devil Fruit power can be pretty troubling in our current cultural context, but ultimately Ivankov is one of the good guys, which is a mark in the manga’s favor.

Shiryu

Back to the Action
Luffy, locked in his box to heal, screams so loudly it’s torturous to Bon Clay. Despite how hard it is to listen to, Bon Clay refuses to give up on Luffy and stands sentinel for hours. When silence falls well before the end of the healing period, everyone, included Ivankov, assumes the worst. But very quickly they’re proved wrong—Luffy’s feeling better, because he wants food!

After a hearty meal, Luffy is restored, but weak. Bon Clay, exhausted by staying with Luffy through his ordeal, has finally fallen unconscious—what a good friend Luffy managed to make. Even after almost dying, Luffy is still determined to rescue Ace, which Ivankov is resigned over. Luffy also wants to help Ivankov escape, too, but Ivankov isn’t ready. He wants to wait for the revolutionary army to be ready—led by his friend, Dragon. When Luffy reveals that Dragon is his father, everyone is shocked, because, as per usual, Luffy is pretty unassuming so people underestimate him. Ivankov assumes this means that Ace, being Luffy’s brother, is Dragon’s son, too, and is determined to help the children of his friend.

Outside New Kama, the Navy is preparing to retrieve Ace and take him to his execution. Impel Down is on high alert when Luffy, Ivankov, and many other prisoners assumed lost to the terrors of Impel Down appear and carve a path toward the secret level where Ace and other prisoners are held. Once Luffy and company reach Level 6, though, Ace has already been taken up the elevator available to prison personnel. Even worse, the Navy begins locking down the level and pumping sleeping gas into the area to take them out. Luckily, Inazuma has them covered.

Devil Fruit Alert
Inazuma ate the Snip Snip fruit, so he can cut anything, including stone, and manipulate it any way he wants to! Using his skills it’s easy to block the places where the gas is coming to prevent being captured.

Crocodile

Back to the Action
Ivankov wants to focus on getting out of their current predicament since Ace is now out of their reach aboard a Navy ship. But if Ace is going to the Navy headquarters, then Luffy is going to the Navy headquarters. But they’re going to need help to do it, and someone’s offering—Crocodile! He wants a chance to kill Whitebeard, and Luffy wants out of Impel Down, so they have a common goal. Luffy isn’t swayed; he hasn’t forgotten what Crocodile did to Vivi. But Ivankov is more realistic, realizing they could use his skills. Ivankov lets Crocodile out, and threatens to reveal some sort of secret if he tries to play them—what could that be about?

Jimbei, Ace’s cellmate, also begs Luffy to let him out so he can join them in saving Ace and stopping the oncoming war. So although Luffy has cycled through multiple enemies-turned-allies who were strong and deadly, now he adds two pirates who are, or once were, part of the Seven Warlords of the Sea!

Daz Bonez

As Luffy and his new team storm up the levels of Impel Down, they free prisoners as they go to help with their numbers and the prison security. As they climb, Crocodile meets an old alley, Mr. 1, or Daz Bones, who Zoro defeated in Alabasta. He joins their team, as well. Meanwhile, on Level Two, Mr. 3 and Buggy have survived and have spent the last day slowly sneaking their way up toward the top level. They’ve been making wax keys to free prisoners, too, putting Mr. 3’s ability to good use. Impel Down is now in full riot mode, as multiple groups head for the exits and the Navy battleships that will help them escape the seas around the prison. Luffy’s going to save Ace or else!

As Luffy works on his escape, the Navy is learning just want it to means to align with Blackbeard; he’s vanished from the Navy headquarters. He shows up at Impel Down, having taken out his Navy crew, and blows past the guards to the prison. Magellan, who finished putting down the riot on Level 2, is alerted to his presence, and makes a tough call—he releases Shiryu, the sociopathic head jailer locked away in Level 6, to deal with Blackbeard.

Side Story Alert
The newest side stories show what the other Straw Hats are up to as Luffy continues to mission to save Ace. What are the other Straw Hats doing without their fellow crewmates?

Back to the Action
Luffy and his allies are stopped by Hannyabal who picks a fight with Luffy. Their fight is aborted, though, when Blackbeard shows up. Luffy and Blackbeard met way before the Straw Hats went to Skypiea, and they got along then. But now, Blackbeard has a majorly powerful Devil Fruit power, he captured Ace and turned him into the government, perhaps in exchange for being made one of the Seven Warlords, and he’s turned on his alliance with the government—he seems unstoppable.

Blackbeard shares part of his plan with Luffy; he wanted Crocodile’s spot in the Seven Warlords, so he thought by presenting Luffy to the government, they would give him the position. But Luffy vanished to Skypiea and then Ace tracked Blackbeard down. Once Blackbeard discovered they were brothers, he substituted Ace for Luffy—he’s actually telling Luffy that he should be grateful! Luffy tries to attack, but Blackbeard’s Devil Fruit makes him stronger. Jimbei stops and reminds Luffy not to let his anger get the best of him. His mission isn’t inside Impel Down, but where they’re taking Ace.

And although Magellan freed Shiryu to help take Blackbeard down, he’s instead working against his former colleagues by cutting all communications—no one in Impel Down can reach the outside. Magellan arrives only to give Blackbeard a coat of poison, and then targets Luffy. Ivankov and Inazuma try to slow Magellan down so he can’t catch up to Luffy, but Magellan’s Devil Fruit power can’t be reckoned with. Luffy’s group eventually meets up with Mr. 3 and Buggy’s group, but Magellan is hot on their heels. He unleashes a massive attack, but Mr. 3 steps in with his wax skills and creates a wall. Magellan’s poison can’t penetrate it or damage it—the wax isn’t organic. It protects Luffy, and Mr. 3 demands that he escape. But now that Luffy sees that the wax stops the poison, he has a better idea. He sends Jimbei and the others ahead to capture a ship and has Mr. 3 make him a battle suit out of wax—now he can punch Magellan without being poisoned!

At the exit to Impel Down, Jimbei arrives with Buggy, Crocodile, and Daz Bonez to see that the Navy thought ahead. All the ships are gone, leaving them stranded in the Calm Belt, which is full of giant sea monsters! But Jimbei isn’t worried; he’s one of the Seven Warlords and a Fish-man, so he creates a stone raft for the others and then dives in the water, carrying them through the water. Jimbei in the water is a Jimbei to fear, because he not only catches up with the Navy, he launches the others onto one of the ships—they’re one step closer to escaping Impel Down.

Back inside Impel Down, Magellan unleashes an even stronger poison attack that Mr. 3’s wax no longer protects against, so the group runs. But Jimbei and the others, even though they capture a ship, won’t be able to get back in time so Jimbei tells Luffy to make sure everyone jumps into the sea no matter what. Given that there’s multiple Devil Fruit users, this seems ill-advised, but Luffy trusts him.

As they approach the entrance, Ivankov and Inazuma reappear, even though they’re injured from their fight with Magellan. With his new allies collected, Luffy and company make one last coordinated attack on Magellan to buy themselves time and launch themselves into the ocean. This is what Jimbei wanted; he called his friends the whale sharks to catch everyone and carry them to the ships so no one ends up in the ocean at all. Luffy escapes Impel Down with a lot of help from his former enemies and some brand new friends.

But their trial isn’t over; the Gates of Justice still have to be opened, and there’s no way to do that except from inside the prison. While everyone panics Jimbei calmly watches as the Gates of Justice inch open. Everyone, including the Navy ships trying to sink them, is shocked.

Jimbei explains to Luffy that Bon Clay stayed behind to impersonate Magellan and open the gates, but asked for it to be kept a secret until right before the end. He hands Luffy a transponder snail, where on the other end Bon Clay has been discovered by the real Magellan in the control room. This is another great example of how friendship is at the core of One Piece. After Luffy thanks him, the Gates of Justice close, cutting off their transponder snails and leaving Bon Clay alone with Magellan’s wrath.

Now Luffy and multiple prisoners have escaped Impel Down, but Ace’s execution is only hours away…and Blackbeard is still inside Impel Down. He’s allied himself with Shiryu, and he doesn’t seem in a hurry to leave, either. What’s Blackbeard want from Impel Down?

Luffy and his temporary crew are through the Gates of Justice and on their way to save Ace when they get a call from Navy headquarters. The Navy has decided to pin the Impel Down escape firmly on Luffy and Buggy, and reveal to the whole crew of the ship that Buggy used to be crew on Gold Roger’s ship, and he’s also the brother of Shanks, Luffy’s idol! Those aren’t the only revelations: Luffy and Buggy learn that Jimbei was one of the Seven Warlords of the Sea, although his title has likely been revoked.

All the news about Buggy sets the ship abuzz, and he rallies the people dubious about jumping into a war between the government and Whitebeard. He knows he’s not that powerful, but if he can use the strength of his allies, he can play at leadership for awhile. He manages to turn the group into a crew aimed at rescuing Ace and taking on the Navy.

Marineford, the Navy headquarters, is heavily guarded by over fifty ships, numerous government officials, and the five out of seven of the Warlords of the Sea. As the execution time approaches, Admiral Sengoku heads to Ace’s execution platform with a transponder snail and reveals to everyone watching that Ace’s father is none other than Gold Roger! His mother, Portgaz D. Rogue, managed to prevent his birth long enough to keep the Navy from knowing Ace was his, even though it was fatal for her.

Sengoku says that the Navy tried to wipe out Roger’s bloodline after his execution, but Ace managed to slip through. Ace isn’t fond of Roger—he considers Whitebeard to be his father. Sengoku tells Ace that Whitebeard has been protecting him, and setting him up to be the next pirate king instead of Whitebeard. Although Ace is part of Whitebeard’s crew, who is infamous, and a strong pirate himself, his execution also feels like the Navy is trying to repeat what it tried to do with the execution of Rogers twenty years before. Roger’s death increased piracy instead of discouraging it, so they’re trying again with Roger’s son since Ace has the power and influence to continue the pirate age for another generation.

Whitebeard

While Sengoku rants about bloodlines, the Gates of Justice on the Marineford side are opening for Luffy and his ragtag team of piratical felons, even though it’s controlled from Marineford. It’s unclear why it’s opening, but it does. Luffy’s team isn’t the only one coming: there are several other pirate ships coming to save Ace. And also—Whitebeard. He arrives from under the water—his ship was coated just like Luffy’s ship was going to be—bypassing the Navy’s blockade to enter the harbor unimpeded.

Whitebeard has 47 pirate ships with him to rescue Ace. On top of that, he does something to the air and suddenly the water around the islands begins to rise. This is the first time we’ve seen Whitebeard in action.

We get some short backstory about Ace—he was an incredibly strong pirate on his own, and turned down the government’s offer to become one of the Seven Warlords. But when he fought Whitebeard, he couldn’t win, so Whitebeard took him and his crew onboard his own ship. After trying to kill Whitebeard multiple times, he finally accepted him as his captain and slowly carved out a life for himself with his new crew. Whitebeard is a father figure for everyone on his crew, which makes it even worse when Blackbeard—at that time, also a member of Whitebeard’s crew—kills one of his crewmates and runs away. No one wants Ace to go after Blackbeard, Whitebeard included, but he can’t be dissuaded.

Back in the present, Ace tells his crew to leave because he made his choice against everyone’s advice. Unsurprisingly, Whitebeard revises history to say that he sent Ace on the mission and everyone else follows suit. As Ace and Whitebeard talk, though, the previous motion on the air that that Whitebeard made so the water reacted strangely has been revealed: he created a tsunami! Whitebeard’s tsunami approaches, but Aokiji is present and freezes the entire harbor. The battle is on between the pirates, high placed Navy officials, and the remaining Seven Warlords of the Sea.

Devil Fruit Alert
Whitebeard ate the Tremor-Tremor Fruit, which means he can control the Earth itself, and cause quakes—even earthquakes underwater! With a power like this at sea that relies on islands, it would make him severely dangerous to the World Government.

Back to the Action
Ivankov is certain Dragon wouldn’t let his son be executed, because he’s still operating on the assumption that Luffy and Ace share parents. But Luffy corrects him and tells everyone that Roger was Ace’s dad, which sends everyone reeling. Luffy doesn’t see the big deal—he just wants to get to Marineford and rescue Ace, having no clue Whitebeard’s forces have arrived.

The Devil Fruit powers on both sides at Marineford are incredibly powerful. Admiral Kizaru, who Luffy and his crew couldn’t beat on Sabaody, is evenly matched against Whitebeard’s collection of pirates until they bring in Oars Jr. the descendent of the reanimated Oars from Thriller Bark. He clears a line to the bay for the rest of the pirates and stomps through toward Ace before he’s taken down—only feet away from his goal. The pirates use the opening Oars Jr. made to press forward, but the Navy planned for this—they’re going to execute Ace early! At the execution platform, Ace waits with Admiral Sengoku and Vice Admiral Garp, who is upset that Ace chose piracy instead of becoming a Navy officer.

But, from the sky—it’s not a bird, or a plane—it’s Luffy’s crew and their ship, falling toward the island! Turns out, Whitebeard’s tsunami swooped Luffy’s team up to the crest of the wave, and then they got stuck when Aokiji froze all the water. As they brainstorm how to get down, the communication devices on the Navy ships light up and spread the news that Ace’s execution is being moved up. If that’s not motivation, nothing is.

They land in the water and the Navy is surprised to see the oddball team Luffy has organized. Crocodile, freed from his agreement to help escape Impel Down, tries to sneak attack Whitebeard, but Luffy stops him. Ace likes Whitebeard, so Luffy’s not going to let anything happen to him. Of course, this doesn’t stop him from arguing with Whitebeard over who’s going to become Pirate King. Classic Luffy.

Luffy tells Whitebeard that the Navy is planning to execute Ace early. Whitebeard is suspicious of the info, because he’s sure Sengoku wouldn’t have let them know that without meaning to, but now Whitebeard and his pirate crews have additional help. Two people are furious to see Luffy—Vice Admiral Garp and Ace. Ace tries to deter Luffy from his plan by saying there’s no room for Luffy in his life. This, predictably, fails, because to Luffy, Ace is his big brother, and no matter what, he’s going to save his life. This confuses everyone until Sengoku uses a transponder snail to reveal that Luffy’s father is Dragon.

The focus shifts from Ace to Luffy as the fight continues. Luffy goes up against Captain Smoker, whose Devil Fruit power doesn’t allow Luffy to compete against him at all, but he’s saved by Hancock. She attacks Smoker for trying to hurt Luffy. It’s putting her title as Warlord at risk, but she does it—for love. Meanwhile, Jimbei is fighting with Moria, and Ivankov has come face to face with Kuma. Kuma isn’t reacting, though, even though from the way Ivankov speaks to him, they were old friends. But another warlord sees Kuma and Ivankov and reveals that the reason Kuma is nonresponsive is because he’s dead! Before Kuma made Luffy and his crew vanish from Sabaody, he said it would be the last time they met. Turns out, he wasn’t kidding around. He agreed to let the government scientist, Dr. Vegapunk, turn him into a killing machine, effectively removing his humanity. Ivankov’s old friend is gone.

Luffy, after escaping Smoker, takes the key to Ace’s shackles that Hancock stole and makes his way to his brother why she guards his progress. But Mihawk, the swordsman that took down Zoro before they entered the Grand Line, is waiting for him. Mihawk is extremely talented, and his sword work is masterful. Luffy’s skills don’t stand up to it, but one of Whitebeard’s swordsman arrives to help him. Of course, it doesn’t matter, because the Navy prepared for this and from behind the pirate line of the fight, Sentomaru appears with an army of Kuma-shaped Pacifistas!

The Pacifistas cut a swathe through the pirates, but Whiteboard orders everyone to press forward. One of his crew returns to the battle after being missing in action, and Whitebeard fills him in on the plan. But instead of joining the fighting, and before anyone can stop him, he stabs Whitebeard through the chest!

Takeaways

We saw new alliances and a whole lot of betrayal this time around—especially at the end! The balance of power is shifting in the Grand Line, no matter what happens during the rest of the battle.

We’re used to Luffy causing trouble when he sees gross injustice. We watched him pick a fight with one of the Seven Warlords of the Sea, we watched him take on a self-proclaimed god, and then challenge the World Government and the Navy to save Robin’s life. So Luffy breaking into a prison and then turning around and breaking out to challenge yet another seat of power is not surprising at all. Luffy pulls people along with him by the force of his convictions, speaks to Whitebeard like an equal, and doesn’t care about respecting people and institutions that haven’t earned it from him. Also, Luffy bringing himself and tons of escaped prisoners from Impel Down changes everything, and maybe not always for the better.

More and more we’re seeing Luffy’s impulsiveness and quickness to anger as something that’s less of an asset and more of a liability. He’s also growing more powerful after each hardship he pushes through. Many of his fellow Straw Hats often act as his strategic thinkers, but without him he’s a little out of his element. He’s on the edge of the New World, and soon he’ll have to learn how to step back and consider his movements rather than barge in and home brute force will win the day, because the New World isn’t just about physical strength, but about political power and influence. The question is: what will he have to lose to convince himself he needs to change his go-to strategies?

Next Time

Why did Whitebeard’s ally turn on him? What will happen to Ace now that the Navy has played their secondary army card? Will Luffy make it out without being captured by the Navy?

We’ll be reading Volumes 58, 59, 60 to see the fate of Luffy and Ace!

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