With the desert kingdom story done and over with, it's back to the sea. The sea of the sky, that is!
What They Say
When his crew is nearly crushed by the wreckage of a ship falling from the sky, Luffy sets his sights on sailing straight into the clouds! First order of business: finding a stalwart soul who knows how to get from the deep blue sea to the wild blue yonder.
The Straw Hats dock at Mock Town in search of directions, but instead they're brutally bullied by pirates who've forgotten how to dream. Fortunately for adventure's sake, Nico catches wind of a legendary liar whose monkey minions can equip any ship for a deadly ascent on the Knockup Stream. Hold on to your hats because Luffy and his mates will soon find out if the Going Merry flies as well as she floats!
One Piece is a series that took me quite awhile to warm up to. The opening season, the First Voyage, didn't win me over for the most part but I wanted to keep plugging away at it. While I liked certain elements of it, the show felt like it dragged on a bit in the usual Shonen Jump way that I had experienced previously with other series. As I got into the Second Voyage though with the large Alabasta story arc, I slowly warmed up to it and the way the cast grew. So while I kept up with that season, I leaped ahead and started watching the simulcasts last year that took me about three hundred episodes past where this batch of episodes are at. Having enjoyed actually writing about the One Piece crew, I thought I'd give it a whirl by just looking at some of the earlier episodes in large chunk format.
After the previous twelve or so episodes which were all small standalone stories, One Piece gets back to the big story ideas here as the crew moves along in the Grand Line. Their journey takes an odd turn when the Log Pose that Nami has suddenly starts pointing upward to the sky where there's obviously no islands for it to lock into. Though they they some fanciful ideas about islands in the sky, there is a sense of reality among them that no such thing could exist. At least until ship wreckage begins to fall from the sky and Luffy ends up in possession of a map for a place called Skypiea, a land far above where islands really do exist. Over several episodes, Luffy and the Straw Hats work towards finding information about the sky islands from a nearby island placed called Mock Town. Of course, sky islands are so fanciful that nobody would take them seriously and it leads to a couple of fights with a local tough guy pirate named Bellamy.
The gang does strike a bit of luck with a trio of guys that they encounter over time who has some knowledge of the sky islands through legend and offers up a way for them to get there. It's a pretty risky venture called the Knock-Up Stream where heated water essentially throws ships upward into the sky where they eventually can reach Heaven's Gate, the entry way to the sky island world in the clouds. There's a lot of fun to be had in the workup towards getting there, as it covers about half of this batch of episodes, as you see the Straw Hat's ship reworked to sustain such a journey as well as time spent getting to know some of the locals while finding the things they need to really make the trip. In particular, it was fun seeing how Robin is slowly becoming a part of the crew as she and Nami bond a bit, though mostly it's just Nami feeling better about her since Robin tends to praise her in various ways.
As much fun as the journey there is, once we get to the sky islands we get to see some real creativity. One Piece has had a free run with that pretty well so far by doing a wide range of things related to the sea, various creature and devil fruit abilities. With the sky islands though, they get to take it somewhere different and really have fun with it. While we get a few obvious cheap changes by putting the word sky in front of things, we also get some nice touches such as Luffy still unable to swim in them, some intriguing craft to get around in and some fun when it comes to the whole heaven aspect that's built into it with the naming of the gate they first cross through and some of the mild religious angles brought into it. Luffy and the crew get a fairly pleasant welcome overall, at least until they learn that they're being hunted down by the White Berets for a toll not paid, and we get a decent introduction to the world of the sky islands overall. There are a lot of hints of big things to come, starting off with a mysterious island that's forbidden, something that instantly attracts Luffy, but it's still early yet to discern what the real storyline here will be.
While the majority of these episodes deals with Luffy and the Straw Hats, we do get some of the larger background storyline playing into the series as well. Luffy's reputation is growing and there's a brief meeting we see with the world governments setting up some time with a couple of the Warlords in order to make sure that their plans and governance isn't threatened. These background bits, which I believe figure more importantly later in the series, are the kind of hints that I love in a show like this since it speaks to the epic storyline that's running in parallel to Luffy's storyline. The Skypiea arc gets off in a good way here after the drag we had post-Alabasta arc as the energy returns and there's a lot to like with the core cast, the new characters and the new locale. Hopefully it can build upon what they've started here.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles