opreview

May the heavens bless Luffy for coming up with the perfect words to relieve Sanji of his terrible burden.

If you think about it, up to this point this arc was everything about Sanji not being allowed to be his true self - he was ridiculed and abused by his own family for being kind, for being vulnerable, for being human. Part of the reason why he was still in so much agony even when he was free to leave was because his kind and vulnerable inner self was demanding him to save even his cruelest abusers. 

But Luffy gives him the affirmation to be who he is, as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. He’s basically telling Sanji that he didn’t expect any less of him, that such kindness is why he wants him back and why he chose him as his cook in the first place. To Luffy, no more explanation or apology is needed in Sanji being Sanji, regardless of what kind of danger that may bring forth. If that is not the greatest salvation for Sanji’s poor soul in this arc, I don’t know what is. 

2

I love how these two moments contrast nicely to each other, even though they do seem similar.

In both cases, the recipients of the messed-up bento are smiling gratefully at Sanji, telling him that his food is great. Although Sora was clearly lying to protect her son’s feelings, little Sanji is oblivious to his mother’s kind intent, ever so happy that he made her smile with his cooking. 

In Luffy’s case however, I’m pretty sure he was telling the truth; he really enjoyed Sanji’s bento because he was that much hungry and missed his cook’s food sorely. But Sanji tells him that he’s lying - maybe because he can’t bear the thought that Luffy even enjoys something like a ruined bento as long as it’s from him. 

I think it’s also possible that Sanji might’ve been irresistibly reminded of his mother, and told Luffy the words he should’ve told her had he not been so young and naive. 

More than anything, the title of this chapter “you liar” clearly refers to Sanji, but it’s ironic how he’s the one telling it to Luffy, who is anything but lies.

I love how beautifully simple all of this is.

In the end, what pushed Sanji to make up his mind wasn’t any logical reasoning or secret strategy; he didn’t even need an additional shove from Nami and the others. What made him come back to his senses was none other than a chunk of meat, which reminded him that his shitty meat-loving rubber captain was starving because of him, and it’s his duty as the cook to feed him.

Nothing else matters. Simple as that.

I take Yonji’s words here as an evidence that despite their superhuman physique, the Vinsmokes are heavily reliant on their weapons and suits, maybe even more than we suspected. His words really put Sanji’s formidable power to beat the shit out of his enemies without using a single weapon into perspective, doesn’t it? All he needs to raise hell is none other than his unprotected, ordinary human body.

We should all hold our breath and take a moment to appreciate how despite having suffered the worst starvation of his life, despite having received a barely recognizable bento, Luffy still takes note of Sanji’s affection and care for his nakama, never shoving up the food all at once without a care about what he’s actually eating like he usually does. 

When it comes to his attention and devotion for his nakama, this boy never ceases to amaze me. 

Little Sanji’s trying to shield his little mouse friend from his scum of a father :’( He has more than enough on his plate already just trying to protect himself, but he never forgets to care for what’s dear to him… because this is Sanji we’re talking about :’(

I’ve always wondered if Sanji’s tendency to protect others with his body was something that he’d learned from Zeff, but it turned out that even before meeting him, Sanji was already a kind-hearted soul who could put others in front of him, even if it was a tiny mouse. 

Gosh, just what in the world Pudding do to deserve such a loving gaze from Sanji? Here he’s not in his ero kappa mode for once, but is deeply admiring the beauty of the woman standing in front of him in all earnestness. What’s more amazing is that Sanji knows who Pudding is, what she’s hiding and what she’s plotting against him, and yet there’s not even an ounce of pretense in his gentle eyes. You could say that he’s a helpless lovey-dovey idiot and that his praisal of Pudding’s third eye doesn’t deserve compliment, but the fact that he could praise the beauty of her hidden eye without any prejudice is yet another evidence of his kind heart. In essence, Sanji’s overwhelming kindness that stretches out to everyone is what made Pudding collapse to her knees in tears, not his preferential treatment preserved just for ladies. Ironically, the strongest weapon Sanji has against his enemies is non other than his soft big heart.

I think it’s really significant how Oda chose to place Sanji in the very last panel of this chapter.

Not only is Oda teasing us readers with the little details of the tuxedo, but he’s also subtly implying that this is the real man of the day, not all those stellar big shots he introduced earlier.

Without Sanji’s existence the Vinsmokes couldn’t have arranged the wedding with Big Mom in the first place, and Luffy wouldn’t be plotting with Bege to throw an entrance that would last in history. Who knows in which direction the events that shall come forth would turn the wheels of fate?

As a Sanji fan, I’m still having trouble believing that all of this terrific insanity is revolving around his very existence, what decision he makes and how he deals with it. Because you know what? Luffy, our faithful gamechanger, will choose how to flip the party table depending entirely on Sanji’s wishes, what Sanji wants. Isn’t that a lovely idea?

Back to the panel - Sanji’s hooded eyes and unreadable expression give the impression of resolution and poise, but they’re also a careful facade carved to hide his tremendous level of anxiety and guilt. He has faith in Luffy and the others of course, but how can he possibly deny that they’re taking one hell of a ridiculous bet, all because of his stubborn but soft heart?

Sanji may be a man of guts, but in this moment he’s probably praying to the gods that all goes well, not for his own sake, but for those who chose without hesitation to rest their fates with his decision.

2

There are many layers to this scene that make it not only beautiful, but also powerful in a subtle way.

More than anything, for the first time ever Sanji’s being directly told that he’s not just kind, but kinder than anyone. I don’t think Sanji was ever ashamed of his kind nature despite all that he’d gone through in his childhood because of it, but he probably didn’t consciously recognize “kindness” as his biggest asset. But here, Reiju is telling Sanji exactly why he is so special, why he is so powerful in his own right and deserves to be loved.

Also, Sanji’s kindness is his mother’s legacy - a legacy so dear that she passed down to him at the cost of her life. I believe this knowledge about his mother won’t become yet another burden of “indebtedness” on his shoulders; rather, he would accept her sacrifice with “gratitude” and grow deeper as a person, always thanking her for gracing him with humanity unlike his brothers, who are the truly unfortunate “failures”.

Lastly, let’s not forget that this scene is about Reiju as much as it is about Sanji. By telling Sanji how precious and worthy a person he is, that he deserves to live on, Reiju is repenting her sin and is ready to embrace death with no regrets. This is the moment where she redeems herself, finally pulling down her thirteen years of facade and revealing the kind sister she could’ve been and always wanted to be. Her tears speak volumes about the love she still has for her little brother after all those years, how she mourns all those missing moments they could’ve cherished together as loving siblings but never got to.

I’d loooove to know exactly what happened behind the scene and led to this sweet moment.

I doubt Sanji told Zeff that he hurt his hand and asked for treatment. So if Sanji was hiding his injury, was Zeff keen enough to notice it first? He must’ve been keeping a close eye on his little eggplant amid all the chaos in the kitchen. After all he did notice something’s wrong with the boy pretty fast, since Sanji obviously didn’t have enough time to patch himself up. Did he bring the bandages to where Sanji is, or did he take him to the infirmary? In which part of the day did this occur? Did he treat him while being terribly busy during the day, or during the night when all is quiet and he is left alone with the child?

Whatever the scenario is, what doesn’t change is that in this moment Zeff showed immense attention and affection for his little eggplant. It’s no wonder Sanji would give up everything for him.

So this shows that it wasn’t only Sanji who thought Luffy is the kind of guy who would stick to his promise no matter what - Nami also knows how stubborn Luffy can be when it comes to promises. Despite everything that had happened between Luffy and Sanji’s fight and this moment, she never gets distracted from what is really important, and knows exactly what Luffy has in mind. I really love this because it reminds us that she’s the one and only important witness to their crucial moment, not a mere bystander but an active participant to what’s going on between them. I’m looking forward to her reunion with Sanji and her role in “wrecking” the wedding for him. 

4

Whenever Luffy falls into the sea, it’s almost always Sanji who dives in first after him and fishes him out. What is interesting is that Zoro is also always there when Luffy drowns, but he lets Sanji be the rescuer (Zoro’s always the first to act when anyone of the crew is in danger, so you can see how much trust he puts in the cook). It’s almost like a silent agreement between Zoro and Sanji since Arlong Park.

Why Arlong Park? In case you don’t remember, Zoro and Sanji’s very first teamwork was when Sanji dived into the water to save Luffy instead of Zoro who was gravely injured. Zoro panicked because he had just met Sanji and didn’t know how strong he was. However,

after Sanji breaks the surface alive and kicking, Zoro starts to trust Sanji enough that he even leaves his captain’s life in his hands (well, to be precise, legs). I believe it became an unspoken rule between those two that it is Sanji’s role to save Luffy from drowning since then. Even though Zoro never openly admits it, he knows better than anyone how much Sanji is capable underwater. He can always count on the cook to bring back their hammer of a captain alive and breathing.

Luffy’s dazzling smile and words here show just how much faith he has in not just Sanji, but ALL of his nakama and friends.

Clearly, the foremost thing on Luffy’s mind was that Sanji might get tricked by Pudding and in the worst scenario, get killed. But now that Luffy knows that Sanji knows, there’s no need to seek him anymore - he has faith in his cook that he’s wise and powerful enough to work it out himself with a bit of help from his nakama, and eventually come to meet him at the place of promise.

Also, note that Luffy says “everything else has been taken care of”, when in reality nothing has actually been resolved. Luffy doesn’t know where his nakama are or what they’re doing, but he still trusts that Brook and Pedro will secure the poneglyph, that Nami and the others will help Sanji keep his promise.

So all Luffy has to do for now as captain… is to believe that Sanji will come back of his own accord, and calmly wait for his return.

The title of the book Sanji is reading is <Norland, the King of Liars>. The thick book beside him is <the Encyclopedia of the Devil’s Fruit>.

Goda’s foreshadowing ability strikes again…!

That aside, it makes my heart ache to think that one probable reason why Sanji was so into reading books when he was a child was because he had no one to ‘play’ with… and he made food for mice also because he had no one else to cook for… *crying my eyes out*

Going back to chapter 227 where Sanji first revealed that he was from North Blue and that he had heard of Norland before… I understand Sanji’s smile here as he talks about Norland from a new light now that we know more about his past. That fairy tale must’ve been a true source of comfort in his terribly painful and lonely childhood, judging by the way he smiles reminiscently at the mention of it and doesn’t even shy away from telling everyone that he’s from North Blue. 

And what about Sanji’s wish to eat the Suke Suke No Mi? I’ve written about this theory here, and now I’m quite certain that the original reason why he wanted that fruit was because he wanted to hide from his abusive family. His reason for wanting it might’ve changed… uh, to a more perverted thing as he grew up, but I don’t think peeping on naked women was his most earnest desire when he was a kid at least.  

What Sanji’s experiencing here is devastatingly cruel and overwhelmingly moving at the same time… the feels this sequence of panels delivers is so myriad and intense that I can’t find the right words for it :’( 

Why is Sanji remembering the painful moment when he got beaten to a pulp by his brothers just for cooking as he listens to Luffy’s words? I’d say it’s because being reshackled to his nightmarish past made him realize how tremendously happy he was for feeding a captain and crew who valued and loved him just the way he was, unlike his blood family who didn’t acknowledge but derided his kind heart. Luffy in particular always enjoyed Sanji’s food with passion, thanked his chef and took pride in him no matter what he cooked for him - and even when he got beaten mercilessly by Sanji he still doesn’t want anyone else for his cook. Sanji’s grateful, honored beyond words… and more than anything, guilty, that he inflicted such harsh words and physical pain upon the captain he’s ready to die for. His brothers from his nightmares have reappeared in his reality and are sitting right beside him, laughing their heads off at his distress, but Sanji hears Luffy’s words only as he weeps uncontrollably in a whirlwind of emotions… His tears speak of the terrible grief and regret that have swallowed him whole, but I daresay he’s also happy to hear such honorable praise from Luffy and maybe that’s what pains him the most.  

I really hate the translation of Zoro’s words here. In the original Japanese version, Zoro said “おれは…2千人力だがな (I’m… worth a two thousand men)”. So Zoro never stuttered while trying to get reassurance (which is SO OOC btw) but bluntly made the point that no matter how much Luffy compliments Sanji, HE’S STILL STRONGER THAN THE SHITTY COOK! D:

As hilarious as the good old Zoro vs. Sanji rivalry is, an interesting fact to take note is that Zoro is the one who started all this.In the right panel, there is nothing whatsoever about Sanji’s request that suggests he’s seeking a fight with Zoro - and yet Zoro responds with a clear intent to proke him. At this point of the story they hadn’t known each other for too long, but even this early on Zoro had figured Sanji out enough to know that he’s a warrior just like himself who would never back away from a challenge. 

And you know what’s so amazing about all this? Zoro has a LOT of pride. Hell, he’s a guy who’s aiming for the top - world’s no.1 swordsman or bust. For the sake of his pride he doesn’t challenge anyone out of his own will; I doubt he’d deign to accept challenge from anyone who doesn’t meet his expectations. And yet Zoro challenges Sanji first, when he’s not even a swordsman like himself or aiming to be the best fighter. In my view that is the highest respect someone like Zoro can show a person as a fighter.

Even here, Zoro just has to one up Sanji XD “I’m just stronger than you in everything” - meaning their rivalry extends beyond combat skills to petty competitions like rock paper scissors. I really really love how Zoro reserves his cute childish competitiveness only for Sanji. The shitty cook is the only person Zoro can acknowledge as a qualified rival and also can have fun with. The same can be said for Sanji of course, but my headcanon is that their rivalry holds a bit more special meaning to Zoro because he’s the one who started it, and because unlike Sanji he’s aspiring to be the best. 

Two things I love here: 1. For once, Zoro and Sanji are actually having a ‘civil’ conversation and 2. Zoro’s looking at Sanji as he speaks because only the two of them remember the fight with Hachi. 

In fact, Zoro and Sanji cooperated for the first time against the fishman pirates back in Arlong Park. Here, Nami hadn’t arrived on the scene yet, Luffy was trapped underwater, and Usopp was chased off by Chuu - so it was entirely upon their shoulders to defeat the fishmen and save their captain. This fight is a special memory only the two of them share, and I’m glad that Zoro shamelessly chose to converse with Sanji when he was reminded about it.