One Piece, Chapter 1044 MANGA REVIEW: why a major revelation is breaking the internet!



How do you talk about a single chapter from a manga series that has been running for twenty-five years, has over 1000 chapters, 100 volumes in print, 1000 episodes of anime, multiple video games, fourteen movies, an amusement park, has set a Guinness World Record, outsold Harry Potter and Batman, is going to surpass Superman’s comic book record in coming years. It is also about to make its live in action debut on Netflix.The deeper a reader’s connection to a story, the harder it is to review. My journey with this story began when I was 11 and left alone with television, and since then it has been a long 17-year journey as a fangirl. I am not even going to try being a rational reviewer, I am going to be a biased person and solely focus on Luffy here, so you are welcome to read my reaction review of chapter 1044 of One Piece with absolute skepticism.

[ regular One Piece readers can skip next few paragraphs ]

Why am I hyping this newest chapter so much? First, we need a little background: Monkey D Luffy set sail from his tiny village named Windmill on a tiny boat, with the dream of becoming the pirate king. He can’t cook, he can’t navigate, he can’t sing, he can’t heal wounds, nor can he swim. He can’t swim because he has eaten mysterious Devil Fruit, and these fruits give powers to individuals in exchange for their swimming abilities. Luffy’s powers are rubber, to be precise his dessert was Gomu-Gomu No Mi, which translates as Gum-Gum fruit. He can stretch like Mr. Fantastic, but he can do much, much, much more.


For twenty-five years, readers have followed Luffy’s adventure that began on a dilapidated dinghy. He collected a loyal crew of: Zoro the swordsman and first mate; Nami the navigator, cartographer, and quartermaster; Usopp the sniper, mechanic, storyteller, and liar; Sanji the cook, expert martial artist, and wannabe Casanova; Tony-Tony Chopper the doctor, a reindeer who ate Hito-Hinto No Mi devil fruit and is the baby of the crew; Robin the former assassin, historiographer, and user of Hana-Hana No Mi; Franky the cyborg, former gang leader, and a shipwright who refuses to wear pants; Brook, the geriatric skeleton, former decorated army veteran-turned pirate captain, now musician and user of Yomi-Yomi No Mi; and Jinbe, the Fishman, a former warlord turned helmsman. With this crazy crew, Luffy travels around the world as the Strawhat Pirates, and every place they land they create chaos. Overthrowing tyrannical monarchies, beating up warlords, exposing drug crimes, revealing government secrets, battling the Navy, and freeing people from oppression are the types of missions for this crew.


In the last two decades, Strawhats have done this time and again, with each new island comes a new culture and new face of tyranny and corruption. The ride until chapter 1044 has been a front seat show on a rollercoaster. Odachii, as readers love to call the creator of One Piece, is notorious for his foreshadowing on chapter covers, obsessed with numbers, leaving obvious clues hidden in plain sight, and dropping red herrings in his fandom’s path, deliberately leaving us on cliffhangers, which are followed by a two week break.

The chapter I am writing about is currently happening on the island of Wano. Odachii’s rendition of medieval Japan. An arc he has been talking about for more than a decade, is a visual delight for readers and viewers. One Piece’s art style is far from realism, it is a mixture of late ‘90s art techniques of exaggerated body shapes and a sort of cartoonish approach to geography and background. In Wano, the creator blends this style with U-kiyo features and narrative structure of Noh theatre. Wano is currently ruled one of the emperors, no, actually the strongest Emperor of the Sea, a pirate named Kaido, a man-shaped creature who can turn into a dragon, who can’t die, as yet. After many trials and tribulations, our rubber boy Luffy battled Kaido and lost in Chapter 1043. But the chapter had ended on a cliffhanger, announcing the arrival of Joyboy, a figure from the distant past who has become a myth. The said Joyboy is Luffy.


The Big Revelation: the Sun God

This revelation and change of physical features of Luffy in the last panel made fandom go feral with fan theories and speculation. The circumstances of the last panels of chapter 1043 echoed the verses of Bink Sake, a song that Shanks taught Luffy and that Brook plays on every occasion, sad or happy! The cliffhanger had totally altered how we were observing our protagonist for all these years, the last few years had given rise to the idea that Luffy’s Devil Fruit was not actually rubber, but something entirely different. If we closely examined Luffy in the last few arcs, his powers have not reflected traits of rubber; half of the time Luffy’s power ups and forms (which he names as Elephant Gun, Thor, Rocket, Pistol, Bazooka, and Gears) are hilarious to look at, and seemed rubber enough to me. But fellow fans had begun constructing theories that his true power was of resin, something everyone was assured of… until last Wednesday. While other fans were convinced that Luffy was possessed by Joyboy just when he was about to die, others were convinced Luffy was Joyboy’s incarnation, which seemed plausible as there is an underworld and a well-developed concept of the soul in this universe.

But today we ask: did we get trolled, or were we too dumb as readers? I don’t have enough words to express how I feel about chapter 1044. It is the One Piece-iest chapter ever. The way the chapter opened was with the grand revelation, that indeed the Monkey D. Luffy who is not dead or possessed, and laughing like the idiot he is. . . is the Joyboy! And the Devil Fruit we were told he ate, was a lie fabricated by the world government to hide its true potential, and in the last 800 years of the World Government’s existence they haven’t been able to capture it, as it has the will of the Sun God called Nika. Soon we learn it is called Hito-Hito No Mi Model: Nika aka Human-Human Fruit Model Nika. Not only this devil fruit gives user rubber power, but when it is awakened (aka fully activated), it gives the user more freedom and with creative imagination it can surpass in combat, and it puts a smile on a person’s face. But most important, we also learned Gear 5, after waiting for 7 years, is the awakening of Hito-Hito No Mi, and the manifestation of this Gear 5 is just tummy aching funny.

Each panel showing Gear 5 is goofy, and the art style went full Looney Tunes! Luffy’s hair is blazing like Goku’s, his eyebrows are curled up like Sanji’s, and he is laughing and grabbing Kaido like an eel from a dirty pond. Luffy’s arms ballooning and stretching, him turning everything around him rubber, and his eyes popping out when Kadio blasts him, is the epitome of ridiculous. Luffy laughed, and so did I. I am actually still laughing as I write this equally stretchy review. When there is a power-up in a long-running manga series, we have been Pavlov-ed into thinking a badass protagonist is going batshit crazy with an equally serious expression on their face — yeah Ichigo I am talking about you, depressed teenager. Finding a goofy Luffy wondering why he is having the time of his life, despite having lost few minutes, is refreshing and beautiful, especially in an arc that has witnessed such intense storytelling full of brutal deaths, betrayals, and layered politics. But Luffy laughing reminded me of what both Aristotle and Twain had said: Laughter is an effective tool in the face of ugliness.

The Looney Tunes treatment


It takes immense confidence in one’s writing skills as well as courage to pull a twist this late into the story. Gomu-Gomu No Mi has been with us readers since chapter 1, established to be a weaker fruit among other devil fruits, and no one in the story took this power seriously for a long time. Luffy gobbled the fruit at the age of 7, and he has spent twelve years mastering this fruit’s powers. Readers are affectionate to this fruit, as it played well into the weak hero who worked hard to become strong despite his obvious struggle. So I can see why some fans will be disappointed, assuming it is again following the Chosen One narrative, while others may feel betrayed for this insane twist being presented now when Odachii has announced we are sailing towards the finale. Finding the real name of the fruit doesn’t take away the credit from Luffy’s hard work and journey. He ate a fruit that is limited by the user’s imagination, every move and power-up that Luffy has built around it has been born out of his child-like wicked brain. Sure enough, the Hito-Hito No Mi most probably is the cause of fast healing, his jolly mood, and finally explains why he never falls sick or how his lost tooth grows back after every battle. Yet as a protagonist, he is neither the omnipotent Chosen One, nor is he is the suffering cinnamon roll. He has a destiny to fulfill, and an inherited will which we were told in the first chapter he carries. But the path of his adventure is based on Luffy’s decision and his devil’s luck that worked like eternal pose synced to chaos and danger. Sometimes, we readers forget that Ace was the Chosen One, and Whitebeard was protecting him for that very reason. If my (and fellow fans’) theory about Shanks staying one year in Windmill village was because he was searching for Ace comes true, then I am confident, Luffy’s entire story is about the wrong boy at the right time. This is a very common trope in Asian myths, where matters of destiny or fate depend on timing.


I am definitely surprised by this twist, yet I don’t find this reveal to be out of the blue; to my horror, it makes sense too well. I just feel stupid to not have realized the obvious thing! We have seen countless instances of names being hidden, altered, or changed in the story. We began the manga with the story of the first Pirate King Gold Roger, and a couple of hundred chapters later we learn, he was named Gol D. Roger. Later, Trafalgar Law tells us he kept his middle name D Water hidden, Sanji never uttered his Vinsmoke surname, Franky’s birth name is Cutty Flam, and Drum Kingdom renamed itself as Sakura Island or the best example Raftel being Laugh Tale! It is the oldest trick pulled in this manga universe. Why the lie of Gomu-Gomu No Mi worked perfectly is because our protagonist is an unsuspecting idiot. He was a child, and he believed what his role model Shanks told him. As we know, Luffy doesn’t read much (not at all), he never bothered checking the Devil Fruit Encyclopaedia, or questioned or thought where Shanks got the fruit from in the first place, and what was he doing in his village twelve years back! More than Odachii, it is Luffy who is to be blamed for making us believe he is rubber-man, as he always introduced himself as rubber-man. His natural personality was always in sync with the traits of Hito-Hito No Mi! He made people laugh, he was always craving freedom, and was an imaginative child. And we readers never thought who did Shanks steal the Gomu-Gomu No Mi from, when Lucky Roo said it was stolen from an enemy. Many of us, including me, assumed it was another pirate group, like when the most obvious enemy is the Marines!

There are hints hidden in plain sight. I can pinpoint a few right now on excited brain energy, but we just were too occupied with the immediate picture to see the hints. This also answers some of the most basic questions, like why Shanks was eagerly waiting for Luffy’s debut ten years later, or why he went to Marineford to end the war, or why Garp never actually enrolled Luffy in Marine academy since he desperately wanted Luffy to become an Admiral. Instead, he hid him in the mountains.They were aware what he would grow up to be. Chopper’s Hito-Hito No Mi and Luffy’s Hito-Hito No Mi Model: Nika works almost on similar principal! Chopper has Points, Luffy has Gear, Chopper has not awakened, but he can tap into Monster point with rumble ball, so maybe in future, the much speculated Giant Luffy is a possibility, since he already has Elephant and Thor. Similarly, we have seen people exhibiting rubberized properties in mythical devil fruit like Sengoku’s, as well as Katakuri’s battles. On some battles, Luffy’s enemies have questioned if he truly is rubber, first explicitly put by Doflamingo. But now that I look back at the earliest Doflamingo panels and dialogues, I have a feeling he sensed something unusual, as he was very interested in Luffy’s powers since Marineford.

The myth of Sun God Nika, is that of a liberator, he is worshipped by slaves, he brings smiles to people, and he truly is the embodiment of Freedom. Though fandom has always called Luffy the Sunshine Boy because of his smile, none of us expected him to become the literal sun! Who knew the Sun God of Skypiea was a foreshadowing? This unaware, dumbass god has punched and defeated many false gods in the last two decades, so it makes me very excited to see that unintentionally he was becoming what was hidden in his devil fruit. If the devil fruits have a will, Hito-Hito No Mi clearly chose Luffy, but Luffy wouldn’t have actually cared either way. As someone who has read this story too many times, I feel instead that Luffy is becoming worthy of his powers, and it is the fruit that became worthy of Luffy. The chapter title of 1044 is “Warrior of Liberation”, where Wano is a country that has closed its door to outsiders, has been ecologically abused, made to serve a deranged king, starved of resources, forced to smile, while stripped of the right to express grief. This is the perfect timing when myths become real, and a god fights for powerless people.

Right now Luffy, in his own words, is in his peak form, and he is going to battle the most powerful creature in the world. I refuse to use the word “cruellest” to describe Kaido, as Doflamingo fits that criteria more. Kaido is a brutal Dragon tyrant: he is petty, extremely cunning, sitting on top of the hoard of his artificial devil fruits, refusing to let a country breathe, and Luffy is a Sun God who wants to free the people. These are two mythical beings with a tremendous gap in age and experience, with world views are polar opposites, and who are ready to collide. I can’t wait for chapter 1045!


 

Aritra Paul is a book editor and digital marketer from India. She enjoys reading manga and webcomics and aspires to be a comic book writer. But mostly spends her time writing fanfictions and uploading pictures of her cat Gucciko, food, and books on her Instagram.

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