One Piece is one of the most beloved anime in history, but at close to 1,000 episodes, it’s tough for those who haven’t been watching from the start to jump on board. One Piece Diaries tracks one writer’s experience with this daunting rite of passage. With hype for the highs and critique for the lows, this column will help you decide whether to take your own One Piece journey – or let you relive the one you’re already on. It will update biweekly every other Thursday.
Episodes Watched: 78 – 91 – Drum Island
After watching the Drum Island arc, I decided to split my review into two different articles. It’s a long arc with two distinct subplots that I want to give equal attention to. This time around, I’ll be talking about Wapol’s villainous reign. Two weeks from now, I’ll talk about the introduction of Chopper and his backstory with Dr. Hiriluk.
Wapol is one of the weaker villains that the Straw Hats have encountered so far. I wasn’t expecting him to be so harmless, since his Devil Fruit seemed pretty formidable when I read about it. But I can see why being able to eat anything doesn’t work if that “anything” is quick on its feet and you aren’t.
But what he lacks in physical strength, he makes up for in sheer cruelty. This guy banished every doctor in his nation save for twenty who would only serve those he deemed worthy. This forced the citizens to prostrate themselves before him in order to get access to medical attention. Not only is this evil, it’s also stupid – what happens if a plague hits the kingdom? If nobody has access to healthcare it will get out of control quickly, and not even Wapol himself is necessarily safe from it.
If we’ve learned anything from the Covid-19 response, it’s that this is completely realistic. Whether it’s patenting the vaccines, playing fast and loose with mask mandates, refusing to make healthcare accessible and affordable, opening businesses and holding mass events before it’s safe to, or spreading conspiracy theories for political clout, countries all over the world have prioritized profit and power over people’s lives. Oda wasn’t predicting the coronavirus, but my guess is that he’s not surprised by, say, the fact that Japan is planning to hold the Tokyo Olympics despite having a perilously low vaccination rate.
People in power will risk everyone’s safety to maintain that power. Both the real world and Wapol’s character make that frighteningly clear.
There are so many people like that in the real world, but we can’t defeat them by punching them hard enough. One Piece offers a delightful fantasy that it really is that simple. I’ve heard the Wapol comes back later, so maybe it isn’t even that simple within the series itself – we’ll see.
Another thing I liked about this subplot was Dalton’s decision to stay on Drum Island. He thought about exiling himself because he used to work for Wapol, but he ultimately chose to stay and do the hard work to make his kingdom a better place. In some situations, leaving would have been the best thing to do, but in this case, it’d be taking the easy way out due to shame. I love that he decided to stay and that his community embraced him despite his past sins.
Well, that’s it for now. I’ll be back in two weeks to talk about the other major storyline involving Chopper.