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, fight injustice, and eat a lot of delicious food. Previous columns can be found in the project tag.
The Straw Hats take a two year hiatus in different places across the world to improve their skills and get stronger. They reunite for the adventure they’ve all been waiting for: a trip to Fish-Man Island, where Hachi and Camie live. But although it’s exciting, the island is under massive turmoil from civil unrest and simmering racial tensions. The Straw Hats face their most emotionally fraught island adventure yet.
The Adventure Continues
Last time, we left Luffy still healing from his role in the Paramount War, where he was seriously injured due to pushing his body too far and emotionally devastated by the death of his brother, Ace. Luffy worked with Rayleigh, Gol D. Rogers’ first mate,to go pay tribute to Ace and Ace’s captain, Whitebeard, who was murdered as well by Blackbeard’s rogue pirate crew. By returning to the scene of the war at Marineford, the Navy Headquarters, he ensured that his image would be carried in every newspaper across the Grand Line. His picture contained a secret message, meant only for the Straw Hats.
Before they were separated on Sabaody, they agreed to meet at their ship in three days. But Luffy’s picture in the paper, which they all read, had the three written on his arm, but marked out and replaced with a two and the letter Y! So the plan is the same, except the time has changed: they’ll all meet again two years from his message.
The Straw Hats all assess their situations. Remember, Kuma’s power to transport people takes them to the place they would most want to visit if they think about it before he touches them, and potentially his power could send people places of his own choosing, too. As a member of the government, he would have copious information about the Straw Hats to make these choices.
Chopper decides to stay on the island where he helped a tribe of people make peace with a breed of giant bird. The islanders have huge libraries and technological prowess, and Chopper’s certain he could learn a lot. He wants to be the best doctor in the world for Luffy, so he decides to stay away and get stronger.
Sanji is on the island of Kama Bakka Kingdom, where Ivankov has finally returned to after years in Impel Down. Ivankov and his friends know special cooking techniques, but he’ll only allow Sanji to fight for them. 99 fights for all of them. Sanji of course, wants to help Luffy become the King of the Pirates, so he accepts Ivankov’s challenge!
Nami landed on Weatheria, a small sky island. Weatheria has tons of knowledge of the environments in the New World—the very dangerous place Luffy wants them to go! So Nami has the chance to prepare herself with as much knowledge of sailing in the New World as possible, so she can keep her crew safe at sea.
Brook, unfortunately, has ended his adventures trapped in a cage for the amusement of others, since he’s a talking skeleton. When he sees Luffy’s message, he’s overcome with joy over the memories of how Luffy welcomed him to his crew. He decides that it’s time to become an even greater musician: it’s time for Brook to rock, caged or not. After all, at least it’s an audience.
Robin accepts an offer from the revolutionary army, run by Luffy’s father, Dragon, to meet him and work with them. This Robin is much different than the Robin we’ve known. Before she sought strength for survival. Now she decides to seek strength and knowledge to help someone else—her captain.
Franky ended up on a winter island, Baldimore, and discovers a lab full of technology that inspires him. He makes a pact with some villagers to keep him stocked up on cola, and then settles in the learn the secrets the lab has to offer him
Poor Usopp ended up on an island that is actually a giant creature. Although getting to the island is possible, leaving the same way is impossible due to the way the creature feeds. This leaves Usopp dejected which he reacts to by overeating. But when he gets Luffy’s message, he’s inspired. For so long in Usopp’s mind, Luffy was untouchable. He single-handedly got them through the Grand Line by sheer force of will and physical strength. But those tactics don’t serve Luffy as well anymore and Usopp realizes now that Luffy will need his whole crew to be strong, because Luffy isn’t infallible. Usopp engages another stranded islander as his trainer: he’s going to practice and become the best sniper in the world!
Zoro ended up in the ruins of the Muggy Kingdom, along with Perona, one of Moria’s minions that Kuma made vanish when the Straw Hats were trapped on Thriller Bark. But it’s also home to Mihawk, one of the Seven Warlords! Zoro met Mihawk before the Straw Hats ever arrived in the Grand Line, and was resoundingly defeated. But now, he wants Mihawk to train him—and Mihawk agrees! Later, Zoro tells Perona about Luffy’s message to them. Zoro recognizes easily what Luffy has been convinced of by Rayleigh—there’s no shortcut to being well-trained and powerful. You have to put in the time. Now all the Straw Hats will work on increasing their knowledge and skill.
Luffy, too! He and Rayleigh go to an abandoned island full of powerful beasts, and finally Rayleigh explains haki—a power we’ve seen Luffy use accidentally several times—to Luffy and us. There are three types of haki. The color of observation allows haki users to sense their opponent’s movements and location. The color of arms allows haki users to form armor around themselves, but can also be used as a weapon, meaning the lightest blows can feel like violent attacks. With the color of arms Luffy will finally overcome his greatest obstacle, which is not being able to attack Devil Fruit users with logia-type Fruits, because they can’t phase out and avoid his attacks. The third kind, the color of the supreme king, is the haki we’ve seen Luffy use a few times: it causes people to collapse. The only way to make this color of haki stronger is to become stronger in general. The stronger the person in body and spirit, the stronger their haki. To survive in the New World, Luffy will have to learn how to use his haki and survive the deadly island with Rayleigh as his trainer.
And so Luffy, and his crew, begin their two years of training, far away from each other…
Things in the New World are uncertain due to the vacuum of power left by Whitebeard’s demise, too. Blackbeard, having escaped Marineford with Whitebeard’s Devil Fruit power, has built a crew of felons. He captures one the Eleven Supernovas, in order to exchange her for a proper ship, but the Navy is finished playing around with pirates. They send Admiral Akainu, who Blackbeard knows he’s not strong enough to face yet. Akainu sends Blackbeard and his crew running—but Jewelry Bonny gets captured, the first of the Supernovas to be taken off the board. The Supernovas were the pirates who started out at the same time as Luffy did and and managed to make it all the way across the Grand Line to Sabaody. They’re new to the realities of the New World, but they’re definitely not weak. Whitebeard’s loss is going to change a lot in the New World. It’s hard to say what the Straw Hats will find when they finally arrive.
Two years is a long time for the Straw Hats, but not for us: we’ve finally reached One Piece’s time skip. In the two years they were apart, the Straw Hats have changed, grown, and become much stronger. Brook became a famous musician, and is hosting his farewell concert on the Sabaody archipelago. Sanji takes his leave from the Kama Bakka island residents with great glee, excited to see Nami and Robin again.
But not everything is going well. Nami, waiting in the bar, gets the news from the bartender that the Navy moved their headquarters from Marineford into the New World, leaving Sabaody less protected. Worse yet, a group is pretending to be the Straw Hats in order to recruit strong pirates, and it’s working because the real Straw Hats have been busy training. Nami and Usopp meet up in the bar and get out after only a small altercation with some lightning and carnivorous plants.
At Shakky’s bar, she and Rayleigh welcome Sanji back to Sabaody and fill him in—they’ve seen everyone but Robin and Luffy. It seems like their reunion will work out fine, but they didn’t count on having imposters and those imposters drumming up interest in them. Especially Robin, who the Navy wants to capture!
Poor Chopper gets taken in by the imposters of Sanji, Zoro, and Robin, but he’s not the only one. The kidnappers also mistake the imposter Robin for the real one, and kidnap her. Chopper witnesses it and thinks Robin’s been taken for real. Meanwhile, Luffy himself is making his way through Sabaody, and has a run in with the imposter Luffy! Even a reunion isn’t simple with this crew.
The fake Luffy doesn’t stand a chance against Luffy, though: he’s been working on his haki and uses it to move past the harassment, leaving the imposter captain humiliated. While the fake Luffy is recovering from being knocked unconscious, Chopper, still under the assumption the fake crew is real, rushes up to tell them Robin was kidnapped. But the imposters don’t care; Chopper is heartbroken. He decides to go save Robin himself. Luckily, after he runs away, he smacks straight into Usopp and Nami, and everything becomes clear.
Because Chopper, extremely recognizable, was with the imposters the Navy mistakes the pretend crew for the real Straw Hats and prepares to attack Sabaody to subdue the Straw Hats. This includes a familiar face: Sentomaru and his Pacifistas, who defeated the Straw Hats so badly last time. He’s not underestimating them even so, because it’s been two years.
As the Navy prepares to push into Sabaody, the imposter Straw Hats meet with their new recruits and more of the real Straw Hats start to arrive at Thousand Sunny. The Straw Hats are supposed to meet at Grove 42, but Luffy has done what Chopper did, and mistaken the imposter Zoro and Sanji for the real deal, and wanders right into the heart of the action with the collection of recruits at Grove 46. Sentomaru and his Pacifistas confront the imposter Luffy, but he knows immediately he’s fake and takes him out with one hit! Then he reveals to the crowd that one of the Pacifistas identified the real Monkey D. Luffy and proves it by having a Pacifista shoot at him.
This isn’t like the last time, though. Luffy is strong and confident, and he easily manages to beat the giant robot. After, he spots Zoro and Sanji, who came to check on the drama since Luffy is generally at the center of it. The remaining Pacifista tries to take them on, too, but it’s doomed in the face of their improved skills. This won’t be a repeat of last time the Straw Hats were on Sabaody.
Before they can head to Grove 42 to meet the others, Rayleigh appears to check on Luffy and is happy to see that he’s fine. They say goodbye, and Luffy says that he’s going to become the king of the pirates.
The Straw Hats have their reunion, finally, gathering together on the Thousand Sunny after two long years apart. They don’t have much time to say hello, though, because the Navy is after them. Luckily for them, all the friends they made over the last few years step in to provide distractions and cover. With their ship freshly coated by Rayleigh and their navigator trained to sail a coated ship, they dive! The Straw Hats are finally on their way to Fish-Man Island!
Under the water, they all marvel at the ocean while Franky fills them in on some news about the Thousand Sunny he got from Rayleigh. Although Hachi was meant to guide them to Fish-Man Island, he got injured and had to go ahead for treatment. Duval guarded the ship after that, but he was defeated, too, and then the Navy tried to move in on it. But when Franky returned to the ship, Kuma was there guarding it! It turns out that Kuma was at one point an important member of the Revolutionary Army. Somehow, the Navy was controlling him to turn him into a series of destructive robots, but he asked Dr. Vegapunk—one of the World Government’s leading scientists—to give him one last mission to protect the Thousand Sunny. So not only did he send the Straw Hats away from Sabaody before they could be captured or killed by the Navy, he also guarded their ship until one of them returned. They owe him dearly.
As the Straw Hats head closer to Fish-Man Island, though, they’re unaware that one of the pirates that the imposter Straw Hats recruited was a sleeper agent, a bloodthirsty pirate that planned to take down the Straw Hats from the inside out. The more bloody, the better! Wet-Haired Caribou and his brother, Blood Splatter Caribou, have managed to evade the Navy and are on Luffy’s trail.
Wet-Haired Caribou has his ship attack Thousand Sunny, but it turns out his ship, although coated, is being pulled a very familiar sea cow: Momoo, of the Arlong pirates! When Momoo recognizes the Straw Hats, he remembers how badly they beat him before and hightails it out of there. Unfortunately for Wet-Haired Caribou, this means that he’s the only one who manages to land on Thousand Sunny. The Straw Hats immediately tie him up and forget about him.
As they sail, they go deeper and deeper into the water, and they finally find a downward current. But in that current there’s a giant kraken! It’s crushing ships and the Thousand Sunny could be next, except Luffy wants to tame it (of course he does).
The Thousand Sunny manages to not be the first ship crushed by the giant kraken. Instead, it’s Caribou’s ship, trying to chase him down, that’s splintered in a giant angry tentacle tentacle. Caribou, seeing that the Thousand Sunny is his best bet to survive when Luffy wants to keep the kraken as a pet, encourages him to go outside in bubbles to fight it. Luffy, Sanji, and Zoro head out on the coated ship in their bubbles, but they don’t wear ropes. So when Luffy manages to knock the kraken out, it, a shark freed from the kraken’s clutches, the Thousand Sunny, and them in their bubbles get sucked into the current and into the dark ocean below, making it hard to search for them.
The dark ocean is terrifying. Plus, in the confusion, Caribou manages to get out of his ropes. But he’s not very clever, and reveals his hiding place and his Devil Fruit power—a logia-type—to Franky, who captures him again in a barrel. The Straw Hats dodge giant jellyfish and huge sea monsters on their hunt for their three missing crewmates, only to run into a ghost ship, The Flying Dutchman, which tries to attack them. But Luffy did exactly what he planned—he tamed the kraken! The kraken appears with Luffy, Zoro, and Sanji in tow inside a single bubble, and rescues the other Straw Hats.
That’s not the last of their problems: this close to the ocean floor there are underwater volcanoes, and one of them is about to erupt! They escape the eruptions by having the—now friendly—kraken pull them into a giant trench full of darkness. But at the bottom, down deep, they finally find the island they’ve been searching for—Fish-Man Island, lit from a special tree that pulls light all the way down to the depth of the island.
Before the can make their way to the island proper, a group of Fish-Men approach them, members of the New Fish-Man Pirates. Although they know of Luffy and compare him to one of the great heroes of the island, Fisher Tiger, Luffy also defeated the Arlong pirates; they knew Arlong, so it’s understandable they’d be irked about Luffy beating him. They demand Luffy declare allegiance to them or be killed, but Nami sees that they have Arlong’s symbol and she knows Luffy will never do that. The rest of the crew readies for a quick escape as Luffy refuses.
They manage a final burst of air and head toward the bubble that encloses Fish-Man Island, but in the process their coating is torn off and they all run out of air and fall off the ship… but Luffy has friends here already, so when he wakes up he’s with Usopp, Chopper, and Sanji in Camie’s house, on the mermaid inlet. Their entry was dangerous and illegal, but it’s Luffy, so this is pretty par for the course. Camie offers to show them around if they stay with her, even though she’s in a poor neighborhood. And finally, Sanji gets to see the mermaids he’s waited so long to meet (he was and remains a completely transphobic creeper about women; his characterization on this score has not improved).
As they visit and catch up, Luffy tells Camie he wants to meet with Jimbei. But according to Camie, after the war all the pirates were forced to leave the island, so Jimbei isn’t there. In the time Luffy and his crew were training a lot changed on the island, too, and maybe not for the better. Just when they’re getting comfortable, a ship from the palace that belongs to the three princes, the Neptune Brothers, approaches the inlet. They’re looking for pirates so Camie has the Straw Hats hide. Not only are they on the trail of the Straw Hats arrival, but the New Fish-Man Pirates arrive looking for them, too.
It’s Sanji’s inability to control himself that gets them discovered, since they entered the island illegally. He can’t control his explosive joy toward seeing the mermaid and he gets a terrible nosebleed (think: geyser of blood). It reveals their location and it’s dangerous for Sanji’s health. He needs blood donated immediately, but that’s when the Fish-Man Pirates reveal themselves to the Straw Hats. No Fish-Man will donate blood to a human because their hero, Fisher Tiger, would have survived if humans hadn’t put a ban on humans and Fish-Man exchanging blood so many years before. They’re just repaying the favor after so long oppressed and devalued.
Chopper doesn’t care about antiquated laws, and so Camie borrows the royal ship so she can take Sanji somewhere where there might be humans to help him. As they escape, one of the princes, Fukaboshi, tells the remaining mermaids he wasn’t looking for the Straw Hats to capture them, but instead to deliver a message from Jimbei…
They manage to save Sanji with help from Camie’s boss, Madam Sharley. She’s a fortune-teller and her fortunes are often correct—she saw the battle of Marineford and all the subsequent death. She’s very kind, though, and lets Sanji stay in the backroom of her cafe to heal with Chopper to watch him. As Camie takes Luffy and Usopp into the cafe for food, they run into Brook and Papagu, and Pappagu convinces them to come see his mansion instead.
On their way, they fill Luffy in on some of the changes to Fish-Man Island. Since the island used to be under Whitebeard’s protection, one of the other Four Emperors, Big Mom, moved in and put the island under her protection in exchange of supplies of candy. They also share the story of how the captain of the Flying Dutchman, Vander Decken, whp attacked the Straw Hats on their way into the ocean, is harassing the princess of the royal family to marry him, but the army can’t find him to make him stop.
Back at the cafe, Madam Sharley comes rushing out, alarming everyone. She looked into the future and saw that Luffy was going to destroy Fish-Man Island and he needed to be found and kicked out at once. Uh oh.
Pappagu shows Luffy his mansion and gives Nami a sort-of voluntary discount on his merchandise, but their adventures are interrupted when strong>King Neptune comes down and invites them to his castle. He’s with the shark that was saved when Luffy subdued the kraken!
While the Straw Hats are getting personal invitations to meet with the king of Fish-Man Island, the New Fish-Man Pirates are putting their plans into motion. The captain Hody Jones, takes a handful of energy drugs and attacks a pirate ship that had tried to visit Fish-Man island. He beats them up, encases them in a bubble and the remainder of their ship in a bubble, and sends them to the surface as a message. He and his crew plan to take over Fish-Man Island for good by knocking Neptune off the throne. They want to prove Fish-Man are more powerful and carry out Arlong’s ultimate goal.
Sadly, with all the excitement and drowning upon getting to Fish-Man island, the Straw Hats forgot about their prisoner, Caribou. When the mermaids free him from his barrel prison, he gets excited, because he can auction them off for millions.
Devil Fruit Alert!
Wet-Haired Caribou ate the Swamp-Swamp Fruit, which allows his body to turn to mud and slime and suck people into himself for, apparently, safekeeping. This power is creepy enough as it is; who knows how he uses it in battle.
Back to the Action!
When the mermaids disappear, the immediate suspects are the Straw Hats, especially with the vision that Madam Sharley shared with everyone. So although the princes wanted to welcome the Straw Hats, now they’re going to be on guard: they plan to track them all down.
Meanwhile, King Neptune welcomes Luffy and the others into his castle. It turns out that the shark they saved from the kraken was the princess’s pet, and the whole family were on the lookout for Luffy to thank him from the beginning. Upon arrival, the king immediately gets shamed for wandering off sans guards and Luffy immediately wanders off without his companions…right into the princess’s room!
Princess Shirahoshi, thought, suspects Luffy’s come to try to kill her and calls for help. Before the guards can arrive, though, a huge axe flies through the window at her, but Luffy knocks it out of the way and saves her life. To prevent him being captured, she hides him while she talks to the guards and tells them she was just having a nightmare. But the guards warn her that all the Straw Hats are being rounded up and put into the castle dungeon because of the vision from Madam Sharley. They warn Shirahoshi to watch out and then leave.
Once they’re gone, Shirahoshi and Luffy become friends. Luffy’s not worried about his crew and sticks around. She shares her food with him and explains that because the pirate Vander Decken wants to marry her, he’s decided it’s marriage or death, so she can’t go outside for any reason. It’s too dangerous; she’s been in her steel tower for ten years, heavily guarded.
Devil Fruit Alert
Vander Decken ate the Mark Mark Fruit, so anything he throws hits the target he intends if he’s touched it before. The thrown axe came from him, wherever he resides out in the ocean. Shirahoshi isn’t safe anywhere! Creep factor: Vander Decken touched Shirahoshi when she was a little kid and he hasn’t washed that hand since, so he can always know where to find her.
Back to the Action!
Luffy convinces her that it’s high time for her to get out and experience the world. He offers to go with her and knock any flying axes out of the way. While Luffy urges her back into the world, though, Hody Jones and Vander Decken are forming an alliance to overthrow Neptune and tear down the Kingdom of Ryugu!
While the Fish-Men plot to overthrow the king, the Straw Hats, in their attempt to not be captured, have actually taken the king and all his guards hostage. When the princes try to return, Zoro smartly demands that their ship be coated and returned to them and their other crew members found and brought to them unharmed. Fukaboshi agrees, and then to fulfill his agreement with Jimbei, leaves the message for Luffy with Zoro. One: do not fight Hody (has Jimbei met Luffy?). Two: meet him at the Forest of the Sea.
It just so happens that the place that Shirahoshi wants to visit the most in the whole world is the Forest of the Sea. So unaware that’s where Jimbei is, Luffy hatches a plan with the help of her pet shark, and they leave the castle together on an adventure. As they leave, though, the combined human forces of Vander Decken and Hody have been flung at the castle and found a way in. Brook and one of King Neptune’s guards sent to check on her discover that Shirahoshi is missing. They assume she’s been kidnapped, not realizing she left with Luffy freely. Back on the island proper, Sanji is better and he and Chopper effectively resisted arrest by beating everyone up. But it’s good they did, because they find Hachi full of arrows down the street, a victim of Vander Decken’s Mark Mark Fruit. Hody’s alliance with him is built on proving that Fish-Man are superior to humans—Arlong’s goal—and Vander Decken just wants to Shirahoshi to marry him.
But Shirahoshi is well on her way to the Forest of the Sea with Luffy, where it turns out her mother, Queen Otohime, is buried. Because of her house arrest, she’s never been able to visit the grave.
Robin and Franky managed to miss all the drama. Franky because he’s with Thousand Sunny in the Forest of the Sea. He’s met Tom’s younger brother, who agrees to coat their ship again. Robin is on a journey to find the Ponegliff, too, in the Forest of the Sea, hoping it will shed more light on the mystery of her life’s research.
Back at the castle, Vander Decken and Hody storm in to find Neptune and the guards already tied up, leaving the Straw Hats in the middle of a very awkward situation. Vander Decken isn’t worried, though; if Shirahoshi is gone, he can still track her anywhere with his Devil Fruit skill. He leaves to find her, while Zoro orders the guards released and faces off against Hody himself. Back with Chopper and Sanji, they’re being accused of kidnapping more mermaids, meaning that Caribou is basically on an unchecked kidnapping spree. His next target: Shirahoshi! As they’re arguing with the crowd, Luffy and Shirahoshi show up and Luffy hops down to see what’s happening. Shirahoshi’s poor pet shark can’t keep her inside his mouth anymore, though, and he spits her onto the beach, the first time she’s been truly outside in ten years.
The villagers immediately assume Luffy is a kidnapper and tie Luffy up, but that doesn’t last long because Vander Decken shows up and demands Shirahoshi marry him. She refuses again, and Vander Decken is prepared to kill her, except Luffy promised to keep her safe. He does so, even if he has to take out a few villagers with his haki while tied up. He gives Vander Decken a solid whacking, but then he and Shirahoshi are off again to the Forest of the Sea with Vander Decken hot on their trail. They’re not the only ones headed to the forest. Nami and Camie are headed there, too, because Nami wants to meet Jimbei.
Back at the castle, Zoro fights Hody, but he’s incredibly strong. Although they almost escape, Hody manages to subdue Neptune, who asks that his sons be brought to him. Zoro, Usopp, and Brook are struggling in the water, and they’re surrounded by pirate forces intent on bringing Neptune’s reign to an end.
At the Forest of the Sea, Jimbei is shocked to see Shirahoshi out of her tower with Vander Decken still on the loose, but Luffy keeps knocking his projectiles away from her. When Nami arrives with Camie, Jimbei thanks them all for how they defeated Arlong, but then has to apologize. All those years ago, it was Jimbei who sent Arlong to the East Blue!
Jimbei shares the story of Fish-Man island: the World Government tried to join forces with the Fish-Men, but the racism between human and fish-men was too great and simmered under the surface. Two people tried to resolve the issue: Queen Otohime, Shirahoshi’s mother, who encouraged humans and Fish-Men to live in harmony, and Fisher Tiger, who challenged the Sacred City of Marijoa to free the slaves there. After freeing the slaves, he took those freed who were Fish-Men and formed a crew, the Sun Pirates, where Jimbei, Arlong, and Hachi served together. But this made it hard for Queen Otohime to push her agenda when Fish-Men were openly attacking protected cities.
Jimbei takes Luffy and Nami back to the past when Fisher Tiger sailed in the New World. Queen Otohime worked hard to bridge the cultural divide between Fish-Men and humans, urging everyone to agree to move Fish-Man Island to the surface so the cultures could communicate better. But once Fisher Tiger freed the slaves in Marijoa, it created a rift that was hard to heal. To hide the freed slaves who were Fish-Men, most Fish-Men became members of the Sun Pirates and received a brand—one that covered up any slave markers they might have had, creating a hiding place in plain sight for escaped slaves.
The Navy was incredibly persistent in hunting Fisher Tiger, so much so that the Sun Pirates had no qualms in cutting a swathe through their ranks. Slavery was legal, but freeing slaves illegal and worthy of being labeled a criminal—these were things Jimbei couldn’t reconcile. His desire for revenge and restitution grew, along with Arlong’s, until Fisher Tiger ordered him to rein it in.
Then, one day, the Sun Pirates are asked to return a small girl and former slave to her family. They complete the journey, but the girl’s family sells them out to the Navy. The Navy catches Fisher Tiger, shoots him, and destroys his ship. His crew manages to rescue him, although he’s extremely wounded, and steals a navy ship—but all the blood he needs to not die from blood loss is human blood and Fisher Tiger refuses it. He reveals that he didn’t only attack Marijoa. He was also a slave there for years and his distaste for humans runs deeper than even he can overcome. He would rather die than accept human blood into his body.
Fisher Tiger’s death affects Jimbei and Arlong in drastically different ways. Jimbei sees the value in not festering in hatred and revenge and prioritizing empathy, forgiveness, and understanding. Arlong’s hatred for humans grows even deeper. While trying to take revenge on the town that sold Fisher Tiger out, Arlong is captured by the Navy, but Jimbei goes on as a pirate until the crews slowly splinter without Fisher Tiger’s guidance. And not only does Arlong get captured, his misrepresents why Fisher Tiger died—Arlong blames it on humans not wanting to share their blood with Fish-Men, rather than Fisher Tiger’s own internal bigotry he couldn’t overcome, even at the end of his life.
The increasing tension between Fish-Men and humans after Fisher Tiger’s death makes Otohime’s dream of emigrating to the surface for better cultural understanding with the humans even harder. No one wants to do it anymore. Then, one day, a Celestial Dragon comes to their island, begging for help after a hard voyage under the water. The Fish-Men aren’t impressed by his demands that they’re his property and try to kill him, but Otohime throws herself over him and protects him.
After she rescues him, she goes to the surface with him to work on a treaty that will allow Fish-Men to live and work together equally on the surface. She comes back with Celestial Dragon approval and pardons for the former slaves. This time her movement to get people to agree to move to the surface is a success…until someone sets the signed petitions on fire and shoots Otohime! Worse yet, her children have to watch her assassinated and her dreams go up in flames.
For the first time One Piece goes in hard on the racial angle in very explicit ways when discussing the complicated relationships between humans and the Fish-Men. Even when some of the story conceits are ridiculous (constant reminder this is a manga marketed to children), like Sanji’s nosebleeds when looking at beautiful women, or ships being coated to be able to sail thousands of feet below the ocean, it does not shy away from the hard terms. It names what the Fish-Men and mermaids experience boldly and without equivocation: racism.
The World Government allowed humans to create multiple systems of chattel slavery and operate them openly. It’s no wonder Arlong is so angry, and as Nami can finally admit, bigoted in an extremely violent way. Arlong has internalized a view of his race as inferior due to the culture around him telling him that’s his reality. He, and plenty of other Fish-Men, like Hody’s gang, are the same way. They responded by going the opposite way. Instead of seeking equality, they reached even farther in favor of their own race, using their own physical skills to prove that their oppressors should have never been in that role. This doesn’t excuse anything that the Fish-Men who’ve internalized this particular narrative do, but it does offer a more robust explanation for some of the unshakeable belief that Arlong and his cronies we met this time have. Sometimes, it’s hard to let the hate go, but if you don’t, you will be forever chasing a premise that can only be proven by becoming the thing you hated in the first place.
Editor’s Note: Sadly, there will be no next time. This is the final installment of our Everlasting One Piece Readalong, but Luffy and the crew of the Merry Go live on in our hearts.