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.
The war between the Navy and Whitebeard over Ace’s pending execution heats up. Luffy deals with the biggest loss of his time at sea so far, and for the first time we get a glimpse into his childhood with both his brothers! That’s right—two! The world is irrevocably changed in ways no one can predict after a pirate battle that kills Whitebeard, one of the Four Emperors.
The Adventure Continues
Last time, we left off after one of Whitebeard’s own crew had stabbed him. Squard, who didn’t realize Ace was Roger’s son, feeels betrayed because the reason Squard is even with Whitebeard is because Roger and his crew beat Squard’s crew in a fight. Using Squard’s anger, someone from the Navy convinces him that Whitebeard has sacrificed the captains serving under him to rescue his own crew and Ace. It seems plausible—the other pirates are boxed in by Aokiji’s walls of ice, and Squard’s story looks like it could be true to the witnesses around them. Whitebeard is mad, but instead of lashing out, he’s understanding and kind. He tells Squard that no one should be judged by their parents, especially Ace, and that he still loves all his children. He then proceeds to destroy the ice walls, leaving the way clear for any pirate who wants to escape to do so. Then he sounds the charge—Whitebeard and any allies that remain are heading for Marineford.
Whitebeard’s Devil Fruit powers make him incredibly dangerous, but the Navy side has three admirals—Aokiji and Kizaru, who the Straw Hats have already been defeated by, and Akainu. With them fighting to support the Navy, the pirates are in big trouble, especially when Akainu releases his Devil Fruit power.
Devil Fruit Alert!
Akainu ate the Magma Magma Fruit, a Logia-type fruit that allows him to use explosive fire attacks and turn his own body into magma. His power is like Ace’s, but even more deadly.
Back to the Action!
The Navy has slowly blocked all paths to the execution tower and boxed the pirates into the bay with a high metal wall that even Whitebeard’s power can’t knock down. Luffy launches himself through the only open path, which is, of course, guarded by tons of Navy officers. He’s used to rushing in without a plan and winging it, but so far this fight that strategy hasn’t been working. He finally gets help when Jimbei launches Luffy over the walls in a spout of water, leaving him face to face with Aokiji, Kizaru, and Akainu. Luffy is no match against all three of them—he couldn’t handle Aokiji or Kizaru by himself when he was well-rested and had back-up. Whitebeard, seeing Luffy’s attempt to push forward, orders everyone to storm the plaza.
Although Oars, Jr. was knocked out, he finally wakes up to help. All the pirates climb onto a ship and Oars drags the them ashore, allowing them to enter the plaza. Now that Whitebeard is on land, he starts cutting a swathe through the assembled Navy troops.
Luffy is using his Gear skills, but even then he’s not fast enough to take on Kizaru. He’s easy dispatched and sent careening into Whitebeard, who orders him out of the fight. Luffy’s not easily deterred, though, and wants to get back to Ace—he’s the only brother Luffy has. Put a pin in that statement. Sengoku and Garp, standing back from the action, ready themselves for a tough fight—unlike the execution of Roger, the execution of his son is not going to be pretty.
On the execution tower, Ace is watching the fight and reliving all the times people called his father a terrible person and someone who ruined the world. Ace definitely internalized the hatred of his father thanks to all the people around him that spoke so badly about Roger and all the people who pushed the belief that blood connection made someone a bad person. Because Roger was bad, obviously it means Ace is bad, too, which anyone with flawed parents knows isn’t necessarily true. Ace, sadly, doesn’t believe he’s worth saving and that his friends and crew are dying and being hurt for nothing.
On the ground, Luffy is tapped out, but he asks Ivankov for another infusion of hormone. Ivankov tells Luffy it’ll likely kill him. But Luffy is desperate and begs, so Ivankov gives in—Luffy’s back in action and going after Ace. As he takes off, Ivankov warns him that if he collapses again, it’s over, because his hormones don’t heal injuries. Luffy heads toward Ace as the Navy begins to take out members of Whitebeard’s crew. Sengoku is pleased, and as Whitebeard watches, he orders the executioners to kill Ace. But Luffy, still too far to help, screams at them to stop—and they fall over.
Everyone but Luffy recognizes the haki that he’s used. He doesn’t even realize the power he’s wielding, but the onlookers do—he’s got the same power as Whitebeard and Shanks, even if he’s unaware.
Whitebeard orders the rest of his forces to back Luffy up, and they all gather to help him. Luffy takes out Koby—once his friend—and keeps going, since his only thought is Ace. Inazuma, who has been hiding in Ivankov’s hair (yep, this is still that kind of manga), appears, and cuts up the stone of the plaza to build Luffy a ramp to Ace while the rest of the pirates keep the Navy away from him. But Luffy has to face one last challenger: Garp, his grandfather!
Garp is caught between his duty as a grandfather and his duty to the Navy. But Luffy’s not stopping. He uses his Gear skill and sends Garp flying, although Sengoku is convinced that Garp let Luffy pass too easily. When Luffy reaches Ace with the key Hancock gave to him, it looks like they might be home free. But Sengoku isn’t going to let Ace go, and uses some kind of unidentified Devil Fruit skill to make himself larger. From a distance, Kizaru sends a beam of light to slice the key in half. But as luck would have it, one of the people on the platform that collapsed when Luffy used his haki was Mr. 3! He used a disguise sneak onto the execution platform. Mr. 3 wakes up just in the nick of time to protect Luffy, Ace, and himself with a candle wall, and make a key to release Ace from his shackles as Sengoku attacks. When the dust settles, though, Ace is free! The the handcuffs suppressing his Devil Fruit powers are gone and he’s made of flames and fighting mad over Luffy putting himself in danger again.
Together, Ace and Luffy are a powerful team, pushing through Navy troops easily. They grew up together, and trained together, and so they know each other’s skills and habits, even if Luffy is much stronger now. As they make their way out of Marineford, though, Whitebeard shoves the ship that Oars, Jr. brought on land and orders all his pirates to escape. They protest, not wanting to leave without him, but he’s adamant that his era is over. There’s no place for him in the era that’s to come. After ordering his crew and allies away again, he challenges the Navy—and Sengoku—directly.
Whitebeard plans to completely destroy Marineford with his earthquake powers, sacrificing himself in order to save the people he cares about. The other pirates try to hurry Ace and Luffy along, since the Navy is targeting them specifically. Ace takes a moment to say goodbye to Whitebeard, who we now know was more than simply a captain to him—he’s Ace’s adopted father. Ace loves him, but he’s also Ace’s weak spot. Because even as they go to escape, Akainu stops Ace simply by calling Whitebeard a coward. Ace can’t help himself—he defends Whitebeard. Akainu has no intention of letting Luffy and Ace leave Marineford alive.
Although they have similar logia powers, Akainu’s magma powers are stronger than Ace’s fire powers. Akainu baits Ace into a fight to distract him and then goes directly for Luffy. Ace barely makes it in time, but Luffy is saved! But Akainu’s magma fist goes straight through Ace’s torso.
Although Luffy calls for help and his friends rush to save him, there’s nothing to be done. Ace collapses into Luffy’s arms. Because we don’t know very much about Luffy and Ace’s pasts, their conversation is abrupt and without a lot of context, but we do get two hints—people named Sabo and Dadan. Ace passes on a message to Luffy, which he asks him to share with everyone, but we don’t get to find out what it is yet. Poor Ace spent so much of his childhood unloved and emotionally abused because of who his father was; his connection with Luffy is important to him. He thanks Luffy for loving him, and then…he’s gone.
People don’t die much in One Piece from our perspective. Luffy’s not that kind of pirate. Luffy doesn’t kill people, just knocks them around a lot until they don’t get back up. Ace is the first character important to Luffy in the story so far who has died even as Luffy fought like hell to save him. And of course, his death was filmed by the video transponder snails, and was sent all around the world—just like the Navy wanted.
Luffy can’t handle Ace’s death; he becomes unresponsive, leaving him wide open for Akainu to finish him off. But Whitebeard’s crew saves him with help from Jimbei. Whitebeard, furious, lashes out at Akainu. He uses his powers to split the island, cutting the land in half with the Navy on one side and him on the other. Akainu attacks, taking off part of Whitebeard’s head, but Whitebeard doesn’t back down.
But he’s not actually the only pirate left on the Navy side of the remains of Marineford. Blackbeard and his crew have been hiding and watching everything unfold, too, having somehow left Impel Down. Blackbeard is excited that he’ll get to watch Whitebeard die.
The Navy is shocked by Blackbeard’s appearance, but he explains why he needed to become one of the Seven Warlords of the Sea—he wanted to break out the prisoners from Level 6 of Impel Down to form a powerful crew. His plan the entire time was to trick the Navy and use their own acceptance of pirates against them. He managed it, too—his whole crew is full of sociopathic killers.
Whitebeard won’t forgive him for killing one of his brothers, Thatch, who was the reason Ace went after Blackbeard in the first place. Whitebeard, in point of fact, might be powerful, but he’s softhearted. All he wanted was a family—he was never truly interested in the One Piece, even though it existed; Roger told him so before he died. We also discover that Roger told him what the “D” in his name meant—as well as others who carried it.
Whitebeard and Blackbeard fight, but against Blackbeard’s crew, Whitebeard is no match. While dying, Whitebeard does exactly what the Navy doesn’t want him to. He tells Blackbeard he’s not the one to inherit the power that Roger wielded to become the Pirate King, regardless of the the “D” in his name. Then he ruins the Navy’s day and tells everyone there and everyone watching the transponder snail video that the One Piece is real. It’s a bloody repeat of history. Even in death, Whitebeard doesn’t fall over. He stays upright though shot, stabbed, and missing parts of his body—but he never took a wound to his back, because he never, not once, turned his back on the Battle of Marineford.
Jimbei, Ivankov, and Whitebeard’s are still trying to rescue Luffy, who is in shock. Aokiji and Akainu haven’t given up trying to kill Luffy, but between the surviving pirates trying to save him, they’re having a hard time taking him out. But on Marineford, things haven’t ended yet—Blackbeard covers Whitebeard with a black cloth and gets under it with him. When he emerges, nothing looks different, but then Blackbeard uses Whitebeard’s Tremor Tremor Devil Fruit power! It’s not clear how Blackbeard is still alive with two Devil Fruit powers. He christens his new powers by attacking the Navy and destroying parts of Marineford. He tells everyone watching the events unfold that his age has begun!
Sengoku prepares to protect Marineford from Blackbeard as Aokiji and Akainu chase after Jimbei, who is carrying Luffy. Akainu manages to punch Luffy through Jimbei, injuring them both, but they’re saved by none other than Crocodile and Buggy! Crocodile distracts the admirals and Buggy carries an unconscious Luffy and Jimbei away from the battle, even though he had nowhere to go. Luckily for him, a submarine appears—it’s Trafalgar Law, who Luffy fought with in Sabaody. Law orders Buggy to hand Jimbei and Luffy over, because he’s a doctor and can help—regardless of whether or not they’re enemies in the future.
The Navy isn’t giving up. Some of the characters we’ve met, like Smoker, Tashigi, and Koby, realize that the Navy is caught up in the exhilaration of defeating Whitebeard and killing Ace—they’re not stopping their forward attack. Koby can’t handle watching his colleagues die for nothing when the Navy’s objective—kill Ace—has been achieved. He’s having some problems; it’s like he can hear people dying inside his head and he just wants the fighting to stop—it’s not obvious from this scene, but Koby is developing a type of haki all his own. He pushes through and blocks Akainu from going after Law. It looks like he’s toast, but then someone blocks Akainu’s attack—it’s Shanks! He and his crew have come to end the war.
We know Shanks mostly as Luffy’s idol, but he’s very powerful. He’s one of the Four Emperors—three, now that Whitebeard is gone. He’s just as powerful as Whitebeard. After he stops Akainu from killing Koby, he finds Luffy’s hat on the battlefield. He gives the hat to a nearby Buggy to return to Luffy, which Buggy gives to Law right before Law and his crew dive again to escape Aokiji and Kizaru’s attacks. He wants to see Luffy again, but he and Luffy agreed they would meet when Luffy was a strong pirate. Meeting him now wouldn’t be in the spirit of their deal, given that Luffy is at the lowest point of his pirate career so far with Ace saving him and dying in the process.
Shanks offers to fight anyone who still wants to, but the assembled pirates all refuse. Mihawk only agreed to fight Whitebeard and Blackbeard knows he’s not yet strong enough to stand against Shanks and his haki. Sengoku finally agrees and Shanks takes responsibility for burying Ace and Whitebeard—and just like that, the war is over.
But the balance of power has shifted. Although some parts of the world celebrate, other parts are tempted by the One Piece Whitebeard confirmed. And the places that Whitebeard ruled, the ocean and the islands, are very quickly taken over by less sympathetic pirates ready to cash in on the power vacuum left by Whitebeard’s death. The World Government is being predictable, and refuses to let Sengoku alert the world that tons of Level 6 prisoners from Impel Down might be out in the world. They plan, once again, to cover up a failure.
Law saves Luffy and Jimbei, but it’s unclear how Luffy is mentally. Hancock offers to hide them on her island in the Calm Belt, since she was able to keep her title as one of the Seven Warlords. Moria, on the other hand, isn’t so lucky—someone very high up has ordered him killed, leaving yet another empty position that will change very tenuous power dynamics.
Two weeks go by as Luffy recovers. Ivankov leaves for his own island, but Jimbei and Law stay behind to make sure Luffy recovers. But it’s no surprise when Luffy wakes up and escapes into the jungle on his own. He’s in no shape to be running around, but he tries, anyway, attempting to escape the memories of Ace’s death.
Jimbei finds him, bloody and distraught in the jungle. Luffy wants everything to be a dream, but Jimbei confirms that it’s not. Jimbei liked Ace, and although Ace asked Jimbei to look after his little brother, Jimbei said he wouldn’t do it unless he liked Luffy as a person. It’s clear now that Jimbei judged Luffy’s character for himself, and saw exactly what Ace did. As Luffy breaks down, we get dropped into a flashback.
It’s the first time we’ve gotten a flashback into Luffy’s past since the very beginning of his adventure. A younger Garp drops Luffy off with Dadan, a mob boss that is playing foster parent to Ace, and now Luffy, in exchange for staying out of jail. Luffy and Ace’s first meeting doesn’t go well at all. Ace definitely doesn’t care for Luffy.
Dadan is sometimes the worst foster parent, but Luffy doesn’t have to work for her or interact very much, because he spends the first few months of his time with her on Mt. Corvo trying to befriend Ace. Ace goes on daily excursions into the jungle, and Luffy tries to follow, but often ends up just getting hurt. He loses Ace every time.
One day Luffy manages to make his way through the whole jungle to find himself at a massive dump full of garbage and people—Gray Terminal. Ace is friends with a boy who lives in Gray Terminal, Sabo, and they’re saving up money via petty theft to become pirates, and Ace just had a profitable morning.
Luffy finds Ace and Sabo together, but it’s bad news for him, because they don’t want anything to do with him. They tie him to a tree and plan to kill him, which Luffy is definitely not a fan of. They argue over who should do the killing since they’re both new to murder, until they’re interrupted by the pirates that Ace robbed earlier that day. Ace and Sabo hide, but Luffy is captured. Ace is convinced Luffy is going to spill everything about what he saw, but surprisingly to Ace he keeps his mouth shut, even if he is awful at lying. The pirates take Luffy with them for some torture to convince him to talk, leaving Ace and Sabo’s treasure undiscovered.
And Luffy does get tortured by one of the pirates—even though he’s only seven years old—while Ace and Sabo are busy moving their treasure. They’re still convinced that Luffy’s going to spill the details about their treasure, so they don’t want to take any risks. After Ace finishes the last of it, he checks with Sabo about whether the pirates came back looking for them, and Sabo has shocking news—Luffy never gave them up.
Ace and Sabo are just kids, and pretty callous ones at that, but they still go burst in on the pirates and rescue Luffy, who is pretty battered. Ace manages to take one of the pirates down by himself and they take Luffy back to their new hideout. Ace isn’t sure why Luffy cares so much about being his friend, until Luffy tells him that he hates bandits—the exact career of his new foster parent—and he doesn’t have anyone else, so Ace is his best option for not being alone. These three kids don’t have anyone else. But now that Ace has stolen from and beaten up a pirate, it’s not safe for Sabo to spend time alone in Gray Terminal, so he moves in with Luffy and Ace. They play, train, and work together, the three of them against the world.
But their lives are about to get very complicated. Mt. Corvo is part of the Goa Kingdom and the Gray Terminal is actually the trash and refuse of the Kingdom of Goa and Highland, the place that the aristocrats live. But there’s some important people coming to the island to inspect it, which means something will have to be done about Gray Terminal…
One day when Luffy, Sabo, and Ace are finding food, someone recognizes Sabo and tries to catch them. When they get away, Ace and Luffy force Sabo to tell them the truth about his past. He’s not really an orphan, but his rich parents were too busy trying to force him into something they wanted him to be that he couldn’t handle it. They cared about wealth and power, not Sabo’s emotional and physical health. Ace and Luffy easily forgive Sabo for keeping the truth about his family from them, and they drink a bottle of stolen ale together. They trade cups while doing so, making them, as far they they’re concerned, brothers. But their adventures aren’t meant to last. A short while later, while adventuring in Highland, Sabo is accosted by his father. To prevent him from hurting Luffy and Ace, he agrees to go home to his family.
His parents replaced Sabo by adopting another boy from a well to do family when they could no longer raise him. They boy isn’t happy Sabo came back, and reveals that the only reason they finally caught him and brought him home is because they plan, with the help of some pirates, to burn Gray Terminal and all the people in it in preparation for the arrival of members of the World Government—and the Celestial Dragons! The Kingdom of Goa doesn’t want the World Government to see them looking shabby in any way. Sabo asks around, and is shocked when he realizes everyone knows about the fire and that people will die, but they don’t care.
Outside Highland, Luffy and Ace want to go after Sabo, but they’re not sure what to do. They leave the issue alone and get extra work from the pirates, not realizing they’re setting explosives to help the fire. Even worse: the pirates take them prisoner because they want the treasure Luffy, Ace, and Sabo have been building.
When the fire starts, the pirates quickly learn that they were tricked into making it possible by the aristocrats of Highland, and are now locked outside the kingdom to die with the rest of the residents of Gray Terminal. Ace and Luffy escape and try to make their way through the burning garbage. Meanwhile, Sabo is worried about his friends, but he can’t reach him—the crowd keeps him away from the exit to Gray Terminal. But Sabo meets someone new: Dragon, Luffy’s father! Dragon and Sabo have no idea they both know Luffy, but Dragon is kind to Sabo regardless. He leaves Sabo because he has other plans, but because of Sabo, he remembers his disgust for his home. The Goa of the past where Luffy grew up, their disregard for people who they considered beneath them, and their thirst for wealth made Dragon want to change the world. Dragon and his crew of revolutionaries save the residents of Gray Terminal from the unstoppable flames—thus adding to his numbers people who are fed up with people at the top of abusive systems.
Luffy and Ace don’t get far before the pirates find them. The pirates have lost everything, including their ship, so they really want the treasure now. Although Ace agrees to give it to them, they still grab the kids up again. Luffy bites one of the pirates to get free, and we finally see how Ace manages to fight and beat opponents larger than himself—he uses haki! He weakens all the pirates and before they can attack again, Dadan shows up. Dadan’s crew rescues Luffy, but Ace refuses to back down from the fight Dadan stays with him, them against a brutal pirate. They win, but they end up trapped in the forest waiting for the flames to die down so they can escape.
After the fire, Sabo has been found by his family again, but he’s finally fed up. His father just wants him to do what he’s told and be a copy of his parents. He feels trapped and like if he stays in Highland he’ll become a person he doesn’t like. He sneaks out once more and finds a small boat because he’s going to set sail even if he has to go it alone.
But his freedom doesn’t last long. The Celestial Dragon arrives and gets annoyed at Sabo for sailing in his path and shoots his boat. On the shore, one of Dadan’s bandit crew members watches his boat explode. When he tells Ace and Luffy, they’re both gutted by news of Sabo’s death.
When a letter arrives from Sabo, written before he took his ill-fated trip to sea, Ace reads it and cries, because Sabo only wanted Ace and Luffy to be happy and for Ace to take care of Luffy until he was stronger, because that’s what big brothers do. So Ace and Luffy agree: they’re going to get stronger, leave their island when they each turn seventeen, and become pirates—just like Sabo planned to do himself.
But we come back to the present to Luffy doubting himself. He was too weak to save both his brothers. So it’s worse than we knew. Luffy lost Sabo first to the Celestial Dragons and then he lost Ace to the corrupt and terrible World Government and Navy. Jimbei tries to talk him down. He reminds Luffy that losing Ace is terrible, but he still has things to live for. And Luffy remembers that he has his crew—the crew that he hasn’t seen in ages.
On the island of women, Rayleigh—who can swim through the Calm Belt and take out monsters—arrives from the sea to find Luffy. Luffy is doing better, supported by Jimbei and Hancock, although he still hasn’t realized she has a massive crush on him. Trafalgar Law and his crew leave before they can see Luffy again, but Rayleigh shares that Law saved his life and advises him to take it easy a few more weeks
Luffy wants to see his friends, though. But Rayleigh isn’t certain that’s a good idea given what happened last time they were together. Rayleigh offers him a suggestion.
As the world churns over the end of the war and the shifting balance of power, instead of returning to Sabaody, Luffy instead goes with Jimbei and Rayleigh to Marineford, which is being rebuilt. He lays flowers and rings a bell in the plaza sixteen times, and observes a moment of silence. The press takes photos and they’re printed in newspapers around the world. Of course, all the Straw Hats see the paper at their far flung locations, and the message Luffy sends to them is clear, even if the reader is left with an opaque answer to the suggestion Rayleigh offered Luffy.
The world is changing; a new era is being born. And Monkey D. Luffy is at the center of it.
One Piece always inspires a lot of emotions, and this collection might be one of the most emotional. Since his first appearance, Ace has always been a figure in Luffy’s past that was important, but distant. The war brings his past and self-worth and importance to Luffy into the spotlight. It reveals a lot of things about how both Ace and Luffy approach family, too. Their focus on family doesn’t care at all about bloodlines, and relies on trust, love, and faith. Meanwhile, the World Government and Navy have many people within their ranks who see bloodlines as something almost tangible, linking people together whether they know one another or not. By killing Ace they were cutting Gol D. Roger out of the world as if his influence could be excised so easily. They failed to do so when they executed him and they failed to do it when Akainu murdered Ace, because they can’t seem to imagine a world where blood doesn’t out. Gol D. Roger and his biological son may be dead, but Ace’s father died with him at the Battle of Marineford. Some members of the Navy can’t see or understand that, which isn’t a surprise given how bad the Navy and the World Government are at seeing humanity, period. But it places them in a weaker position to be unable to see the personal connections that trump bloodlines between people. It’s similar to the type of underestimating people do when they see Luffy and write him off. Personal connections, whether family or otherwise, are the core of One Piece and the reason the Straw Hats are so often heroes, even if they are pirates.
Will Luffy get back together with the rest of his crew? What will happen with the World Government and the Navy now that Whitebeard is gone and Blackbeard is on the loose with his Devil Fruit skills? To find out, we’ll be reading Volumes 61, 62, 63.