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One Piece is fond of flashbacks, which can be a blessing and a curse. Sometimes, they’re meant to remind us of stuff that we learned a minute ago. I know that flashbacks can be beneficial for new readers who might be entering One Piece for the first time with that chapter, but for someone reading it from start to finish, it’s slightly annoying. And it’s a much bigger issue in the anime, which is sometimes inserts flashbacks as if, every ten minutes, we not only forget what’s going on right then, but every name, relationship, plot point, and even the title of the show.
However, it can also provide some awesome world-building. In Volume 3, we get two great examples: Buggy remembering what it was like to be on a crew with Shanks, and Luffy telling Usopp about Usopp’s father Yasopp, who Luffy knew as a boy and who is now part of Shanks’ current crew. The story of One Piece is great, but at times, it can feel like a conspiracy theory board with a bunch of red thread and pictures, with words like “SHANKS: LUFFY’S UNCLE???” written on it.
But for that last paragraph to mean anything, I probably need to explain what an “Usopp” is. Usopp is, at times, my favorite character in the series. I usually don’t like the “comically inept sidekick” character in manga, mainly because it’s so obvious that this dork has nothing going on. They will never be the hero, or even a hero, and are mainly around to show how us normal folk would fare in a world where every second person is a rippling mass of energy beams and bicep steak.
Poorly. We’d fare very poorly.
But Usopp isn’t your typical whining joke brat. And this is because, while Luffy is the heart of One Piece, Usopp is the soul. Luffy is often the living compass of the crew, the voice that says “No, we HAVE to do this, because it’s RIGHT.” But Usopp embodies adventure, despite how often he runs away from battle or shrieks at the horrors before him. He isn’t the character that the audience relates to because he’s weak, he’s the character that the audience relates to because he wants to be strong.
Usopp aspires to be a “brave warrior of the sea,” just like we all do. And, yes. You’re reading a review of a One Piece manga volume because you enjoy One Piece. And anyone that has ever enjoyed One Piece has thought about what it would be like to live the pirate life at some point. We are Usopp because we are dreamers. Sure, we can’t knock out a giant supervillain with a single punch, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t have hope, or at least some ocean-based fun.
Usopp makes his first appearance in Volume 3, and while Luffy’s relationships with Zolo and Nami are friendships that are layered with respect, Luffy and Usopp are more like brothers. They are instantly comfortable with one another, partly due to the aforementioned relationship between Yasopp and Shank’s, but also because Luffy has qualities that Usopp really admires, and Usopp kind of provides Luffy with a respite from the harsh reality that he’s heading toward the Grand Line, the most dangerous place on earth.
You gotta remember that Luffy, while a badass, is not a no-nonsense badass. He’s a young guy that likes to laugh and eat a lot of meat without chewing it, and Usopp is a ceaselessly clumsy, but clever sharpshooter that has more bravado than he knows what to do with. They were made for each other.
Volume 3 sees the conclusion of the Buggy arc, with Luffy thrashing Buggy with Nami’s help. In the first of what will become a staple scenario of One Piece, Luffy and Co. defeat Buggy through a mix of powerful beatdowns and ingenuity. I won’t spoil it for anyone that hasn’t read One Piece, but it’s pretty neat, and it’s the first of what will become a One Piece staple: defeating a villain not by hitting them in the face so hard that their brain gives up, but by being crafty about it. Then we get the manga equivalent of a video game side quest where Luffy and Nami meet Gaimon, Guardian of the Island of Rare Animals, and finally we arrive in the Syrup Village where Usopp resides, and where we’re soon caught up in a plot of intrigue and assassinations and inept hypnotists.
On a side note, I imagine someone probably read the last two reviews and thought “Well, you can’t really adequately review a manga volume, as they don’t provide the start and ending to a storyline like American graphic novels do.” And to that I say “Yo, good point.” That’s why, unless something seems to be a glaring problem, I don’t want to do straightforward reviews as much as I want to explore the ins and outs of One Piece. Sure, there’s some stuff that I don’t enjoy, and I will let you know all about those things. But if you want to read someone’s “2/5 STARS. IT WAS BAD” reaction, go to Amazon or something.
That said, Volume 3 is not bad. It’s good. Like a decent chunk of One Piece. I am for it.
Daniel and Usopp’s Fables are on Twitter.
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