May Contain Spoilers
I have to admit that I was feeling a little ho-hum about this story arc – at first. I did read this years ago, and I even saw these episodes of the anime, but for some reason, they didn’t leave much of an impression. I am not a big Nami fan (or I wasn’t), and the thought of sloughing through her backstory just wasn’t overly appealing. Oops. I was wrong. It was pretty angsty, and this volume has one of the most touching panel sequences to date.
Coco village is being terrorized by Arlong and his weird fishy pirates. This is Nami’s hometown, where she and her foster sister grew up. They were raised by Belle-Mere, a former pirate. She rescued the girls from dire circumstances and vowed to raise them as her own children.
Money was tight, and Nami quickly earned a reputation of being difficult, just like her foster mother was before her. When Arlong decides to take over the village, charging each citizen an exorbitant sum to stay alive, there isn’t enough money for Nami, Nojiko, and Belle-Mere to all pay the fee to live. Bad things happen, the girls are traumatized, and Nami, with her gift for cartography, is recruited into Arlong’s gang of violent pirates. Arlong agrees to allow her to buy the village’s freedom for the sum of 100 million berries, and Nami dutifully begins amassing every penny she can.
After stealing from Luffy and the gang, she almost has enough to seal the deal. Then Usopp shows up and totally disrupts her carefully thought out plans. Way to go, Usopp! Not wanting Arlong to kill him, Nami does the deed instead. With Usopp out of the way, she’s ready to get back down to business – until Arlong betrays her. Ouch.
There is a scene that almost made me cry, just after the village marches to their certain doom to save her from having to work for Arlong again. Nami breaks down and asks Luffy for help, afraid of losing everyone she cares for. Nami is proud and used to taking care of herself and shielding her village from the wrath of the pirates, so trusting Luffy to give her a hand is a big step for her. And when Luffy places his straw hat, his greatest treasure, on her head – I literally got chills. Luffy trusting Nami with his treasure, while preparing himself to go and defend Nami’s treasure – this entire sequence was so well done. I love reading shonen battle manga for little gems like this one.
Grade: 4.25 stars
Review copy borrowed from my local library
About the book:
Luffy and crew must contend with “Saw-Tooth” Arlong and his nasty Fish Man pirates, who specialize in using mafia tactics to squeeze the lifeblood from innocent villagers. Needless to say, it comes as a big surprise to everyone that pirate-hating Nami is actually a member of Arlong’s crew!