Everyone is still in panic and everything is falling apart as God Eneru has his way with Skypiea. But volume 31 decides to delve into the past and tell the story of the great liar Noland and the tale of disease, friendship and death. Sit back with that hot cup of coco and snuggle into that duvet, tis story time.
Volumes 31 doesn’t really feature the straw hats, they do a few things at the start and end of the volume but those events feel very small compared to the huge back story of Noland. A story set 400 years ago may not be what people want when everything is reaching a climax and having a story featuring none of the characters kicking about in the present day it is hard to care. Yet after the first chapter of this story a sudden feeling of unease and mystique is felt. The storybook presented at the start of the arc and all the talk of what happened to the treasure is all going to be answered in-depth and Oda’s excellent characterisation and plot planning delivers a well told story. By the end I wished it wasn’t the end and didn’t want to go back to the noisy chaos the straw hats are facing. I became attached to Noland and warrior Kalgara, two characters who came alive within their seven chapters and delivered more charm, feeling and emotion than anything I’ve felt in series such as Bleach.
The past story had me crying too, when I remembered what happened to Noland and as the comfort zones of the story starting growing I was flipping each page quickly for that moment when everything goes wrong, wishing everything would be alright. And the way the story of Noland and the bell links with the current events is a masterful stroke from Oda, the sense of adventure and mystery of the arc answered at the end leads to that huge pay off, especially how carefully you realise everything has been planned. It’s just a shame the present day chapters are just pages of chaos rather than solid progress, it feels like the arc finale was being saved for the next volume so they could have one more cliffhanger ending.
Volume 31 doesn’t have the big fights of One Piece and barely uses the cast we know. Instead it focusses on a past story which makes a standard explorer meets tribe conflict into something special. Now the story has had a come together perfectly let’s hope the finale between Luffy and Eneru is worth the wait.