ONE PIECE is on a week-long hiatus again, so I’ve opted to take another of FoxxFireArt’s helpful suggestions in the interim - - checking out one of the few semi-standalone episodes in the series dauntingly-vast catalog. And it’s definitely a “Well, now you know” moment, in more ways than one.
Since I’ve enjoyed the show in this piecemeal fashion, I figured that the now all-too-familiar preamble with Gol D. Roger challenging the world to find his treasure was always just part of an unspecified backstory. Well, as this episode reveals, everything about that preamble - - from Roger’s curmudgeonly lines to his sinister grinning to even the composition of his execution - - is all taken directly from this little flashback.
To pull this through a superhero lens, as I always do, it’s a bit like reading the first appearance of Spider-Man after years of seeing the panels of the comic recreated elsewhere, as if they were historical icons. This only goes back a few years, of course: but even that stretch of time recasts this whole saga through a new and oddly bittersweet angle.
See, I’ve always seen Luffy as being something like a modern Peter Pan, and people often forget that J.M. Barrie intended Pan’s everlasting youth to actually be a tragic condition. As such, when I see Luffy furiously flare up when Usopp starts asking about where to find the One Piece, I can’t help but read in a similar subtext. For me, the fact that we’re nearly 200 episodes ahead of this point (and it was already 400 episodes past the inception of Luffy’s quest) and the Straw Hats still haven't reached their goal... well, it recasts this quest into some sort of existential trap.
If Luffy ever found the One Piece, he wouldn’t know what to do with himself. It’d probably mean an end to his adventuring, as he says. Because that notion is so terrifying to him, he has a violent reaction to the mere suggestion of it: consciously sabotaging himself in a way that really makes me think of the times in Barrie’s book where the normally cavalier Peter Pan suddenly gets very uncomfortable whenever Wendy even wonders if they should take their childish friendship into something more romantic.
Who ever said ONE PIECE didn’t have a bit of literary depth to it, huh?
Watch this episode, "Roger and Rayleigh – the King of the Pirates and His Right Hand Man” here and decide for yourself.