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
Two weeks ago, I talked about the Wapol subplot from Drum Island. This time around, I’m going to talk about the introduction of Chopper.
Let me start by saying that this arc pretty much ripped my heart out. You can’t watch a reindeer with the voice of Pikachu sobbing his heart out because he accidentally poisoned his father without at least tearing up a little bit.
The crew meets Chopper after an arduous journey to find Nami a doctor after she develops a scorching hot fever. This requires Luffy and Sanji to scale a mountain with Nami in tow, and fight giant snow rabbits to get there.
Chopper, it turns out, is a reindeer who swallowed the Human-Human Fruit. Rejected by both his fellow reindeer and by humanity, he ends up living with Dr. Hiriluk, a “quack” who has been rejected by society both because he’s a doctor in a country where doctors are banned, and because he’s a terrible doctor. The two form a father-son bond, but sadly, it doesn’t last long. A combination of drinking his own failed concoctions, eating a poisonous mushroom that Chopper gave him thinking it would be a cure, and getting on Wapol’s bad side led to his demise. After that, Chopper started training under Dr. Kureha, and by the time the Straw Hats show up, he’s a full-fledged doctor.
The backstory was the kind of deeply touching tale that makes me cry and makes me want to know more. The connection between the two reminded me a little bit of the mentor-mentee friendship between Mob and Reigen from Mob Psycho 100 – a relationship that I love because, despite the mentor’s massive, gaping flaws, he can still give his mentee what he needs.
One thing I found a little annoying was Dr. Kureha’s goodbye. When Chopper told her that he was joining the Straw Hats, she started yelling about how he was just a pathetic reindeer who would never amount to anything. Then she attacked him with literal weapons, forcing him to flee for his life.
I think she did that to help cement his decision to leave, but it felt needlessly cruel. Chopper had already decided to leave – he didn’t need convincing. What he needed was a stable base with loved ones that he could rely on. While
Dr. Kureha’s reaction was consistent with her character, it didn’t work from a storytelling perspective.
This also isn’t the first time a character has expressed their affection through violence – it happened with Zeff and Sanji, it happened with the Giants at Little Garden…I guess I should be grateful that it’s finally a female character acting this way, but I’m already so tired of the trope that it’s hard to appreciate that. Character flaws are fine, but when they’re expressed as cruelty towards someone the character is supposed to care about, it’s harder to get invested in the relationship.
Another thing that bugged me was Dr. Kureha’s insistence on charging huge sums of money for her services. I get that she’s the only doctor around and has to set boundaries somehow, but taking everything her patients own when they have no alternative is just ghastly. Maybe I’m oversensitive because I’m an American and our health insurance system literally does that to people all the time, but it wasn’t a fun little detail, and it didn’t make me feel eager to see more of her.
What Dr. Kureha did at the end was stunning, though. Since she’d been such a jerk a few minutes ago, I wasn’t sure what she was doing when she ordered everyone to assemble a bunch of cannons. Since the arc was nearly over, I figured it probably wasn’t an attempted coup, but I wasn’t sure. I was delightfully surprised by her releasing the results of 30 years of Dr. Kureha’s research. Sure, it had no functional purpose, but the emotional buildup up until that point made for an incredible payoff. It was absolutely beautiful. I teared up, hardcore.
That’s all for now. I’ll be back in two weeks to talk about the Alabasta arc. Since it’s 38 episodes long, I’ll definitely be divvying up the reviews. Right now, I’m thinking I’ll check in every ten episodes, but that might change if there are clear arcs within the arc.