The topic of shipping (i.e. matching couples from fiction) can often inspire heated debating among a readership when you have characters of opposite genders interacting. However, manga/anime can also inspire passionate same sex shipping. Go through pretty much any series, and you can find character relationship arcs that are supported by the creators. NARUTO is kind of heavy handed with it, BLEACH is a bit more subtle than that, and the list could go on. Yet I've often been shocked at how Oda has skillfully navigated outside of those waters. Fans can speculate, but he's never really done much of anything to support a relationship among the Straw Hats. You have to appreciate the irony in a series filled with actual ships.
I knew that Sanji's whirlwind romance with Violet was going to end poorly, but I'm actually surprised at how it all went south. I really didn't see her being a mind reading agent of the Don Quixote Family. Sanji isn't my favorite character in the series, but I always feel a sense of pride in his dedication to chivalry. Normally, that nearly gets him kills, but this time he actually got through to Violet. The art work sells her hesitation perfectly. Women working for Doflamingo out of fear seems to be a theme. Monet said something similar to Luffy, but we've yet to really understand the meaning behind that.
I'm a touch concerned about Luffy's direction in this arc. Oda sells a solid emotional justification for Luffy. That is his brother's Devil Fruiton the line. It just comes across as odd to see him smiling and having a good scrap while everyone else is in some form of danger. It's not that I don't care for the tournament. I've actually been surprised by how much I've enjoyed it. This B Story just distracts from everything else that's happening on the island.
I'm a tiny disappointed that the official translation cuts out Law's "-ya" honorific. It makes it awkward in the dialog as he just calls Usopp "The Nose".
This chapter has opened a rather interesting door when it comes to Don Quixote Doflamingo. It seems to heavily imply that he is actually a member of the Celestial Dragons, but I wonder how that works. For one, he sure doesn't appear horribly inbred, he's taken orders from someone high up, and he wouldn't need the Warlord title. This may be the arc where we finally get some questions answered on his past. Anyone want to put their money down on their wildly baseless theories now? I'm going with him being the love-child of a Celestial Dragon and "commoner".
This still feels like a transitional chapter that opens into the second act. Not much of anything actually happened. I almost wanted to go with a 3 out of 5, but Sanji's scene and the questions about Doflamingo certainly raised the bar a bit. The art is great, and there really isn't much of anything to complain about.