My One Piece viewing is ramping up as I’m following Luffy to Marineford. With the conclusion of my viewing of the Impel Down Arc, I’ll give it a robust review – albiet years late.
Impel Down started off with Luffy being snuck into Impel Down by Boa Hancock. It introduced us to the main antagonists – Warden Magellan and Vice Warden Hannyabal. Things definitely started off slow as Hancock and Luffy made their way into the prison.
The overall arc can be broken down into two parts – going down, and going up.
The first person and unlikely ally Luffy encounters is Buggy, our favorite clown pirate. This set the tone for the rest of the arc – a rambunctious, choatic arc with many intertwining characters, throwbacks, and storylines. It was great seeing Buggy pop up again, this time as an ally with Luffy, and their antics during his trip down were some of the highlights of the arc. Towards the end of the arc, we also forget that Buggy now has an item related to finding Captain John’s treasure. I’m not sure if this will be important in the future, but it would be interesting to see what Buggy makes of this arm band.
Luffy collects more unlikely allies on his way down, including Mr. 3 from Baroque Works, and a likely ally from Mr. 2 aka Bon Clay, who rushes to Luffy’s help. Bon Clay popping up was an even better callback than Buggy, while Mr. 3 popping up was kinda left in the background. Bon Clay and Luffy continue making their way down to Level 5, while Mr. 3 and Buggy are unwittingly dragged along.
There are minimal 1v1 fights in this arc, in lieu of mass mobs and random chaos fighting. However, Magellan’s attemp to stop Luffy in Floor 4 was a great fight, and showed Luffy’s weaknesses. I thought this was perfect to show that Luffy wasn’t just a generic, unbeatable main character, but someone with true weaknesses. He only survived due to Bon Clay’s enormous loyalty and sacrifices, and eventually, Ivankov’s miracle work.
Luffy’s journey down was a great first half of the arc, peppered with funny moments from Buggy and Mr. 3, and a great fight sequence in which Luffy was defeated.
Going up, things get even crazier. Luffy meets with Jinbei and Crocodile, yes, Crocodile, and recruits them onto his team. This was incredibly awesome to see, though the partnership seemed 100% certain when they previewed Crocodile in his cell early in the arc. Multiple breakouts and riots happen at once, with Buggy and Mr. 3 leading things on Floors 1 and 2, Luffy and Ivankov coming up from Floor 6, and Blackbeard breaking in for his own purposes. I thought that the craziness all added up perfectly, to create the perfect storm that allowed everyone to escape.
I thought that this arc was amazingly written and constructed, and clearly one of the best arcs in the series so far. The idea of Impel Down itself was incredibly creative, with each level having their own microclimates, styled after Diablo’s levels of hell. This is our first arc without the rest of the Straw Hats, which was a little strange at first, but the cast that Luffy puts together was nothing short of amazing. He managed to turn many old enemies into allies, and created new ones as well. The hodgepodge of different characters from different arcs also made for great storytelling and showed that people from past arcs are here to stay.
One criticism I have, and one that I have in general, is the beginning of an overuse of “small fries”. In Impel Down, “small fries” are sprinkled out throughout the floors, when that doesn’t make sense. We see “small fries” in Levels 1 and 2, which make sense, and perhaps small fries might even make it to Level 3. But down in levels 5 and 6, we still see “small fries” that are imprisoned along with actually strong people, that are released and easily defeated by other bad guy “small fries”. It doesn’t make sense to me to add random “small fries” to these lower levels. The population level is also incredibly high on levels 5 and 6, which should be reserved to the worst of the worst.
Overall, Impel Down is one of the best arcs I’ve seen, with an incredibly creative idea of a prison. The antagonists were definitely interesting, especially with Magellan’s apparently indestructible devil fruit power, only countered by Mr. 3, of all people. The hodgepodge of characters really makes this the beginning of an Infinity War arc in One Piece, and it was great to see a lot of favorites called back for starring roles. Things will only get more interesting in Marineford.