Note Well, I noticed another topic in this section starting up a heated conversation regarding how “good” Punk Hazard is. Well, I’m gonna break it down right here so that we can actually analyze Punk Hazard Introduction Just to go over what will be covered, I’ll start off with a brief explanation on Oda’s preferred method of structuring arcs and sagas in order for us to properly classify Punk Hazard. With that, we’ll be to properly understand the purpose of Punk Hazard. With the purpose in mind, we’ll go in depth to certain fundamental story aspects like humor, action, and character development to see how Punk Hazard performs in these areas and how it compares to other similar styled arcs. The Types of Arcs One Piece is divided into separate sagas tied together by overarching plot lines. Each saga is divided into closely related arcs. Now there are three common types of arcs Oda likes to use: Seg-way Arcs, Setup Arcs, and Saga Arcs. These aren’t anything official, just names based on observations I’ve made off of Oda’s style and structure. Seg-way Arcs are arcs that aren’t completely tied with the overall saga story plot, but are still a bit relevant. Most of the time, these arcs are caused because they happen to be an island the Strawhats have to go through. Examples include the Drum Island Arc, the Thriller Bark Arc, and possibly the Fishman Island Arc (we’ll have to see where this current saga goes). Setup Arcs are more “relevant” then Seg-way Arcs and usually provide substantial setup and foundational elements to allow for the Saga to reach its pinnacle in the Saga Arcs. Examples include most of the arcs in the East Blue Saga, the Whiskey Peak arc, the Jaya Arc, the Water Seven Arc, the Sabaody Archipelago Arc, etc. As you can see, most arcs are Setup Arcs. Finally we have Saga Arcs, these are usually the most “epic” arcs and where the saga gets to the pinnacle and addresses and resolves the main conflicts developed in the Setup Arcs (and possibly the Seg-way Arcs). Examples include the Loguetown Arc, the Alabasta Arc, the Skypiea Arc, the Ennies Lobby Arc, the Marineford Arc, etc. (it is also definitely possible to have more than one Saga Arc in one saga, for example, the post-Saga arcs like the Post-Ennies Lobby Arc can be considered a Saga Arc and the Impel Down can be considered a Saga Arc over being a Setup Arc). Now that we have that down, we can easily classify Punk Hazard. Punk Hazard is clearly not a Saga Arc. Saga Arcs are easy to characterize and usually high class major villains are on the island the arc takes place on. So far, we’ve been introduced to two high class major villains in this saga: the Emperor Big Mam and the Warlord Donquixote Doflamingo. Neither of these two villains are on the island of Punk Hazard. Punk Hazard is also not a Seg-way Arc, we know this because it’s possible that Fishman Island was a Seg-way arc, so it would be absurd for Oda to have two Seg-way Arcs in a row. It’s bad storywriting (the plot line of the saga becomes obscure and the reader is left confused on the author’s intent) and Oda has never had two Seg-way arcs in a row. This leaves us with the Setup Arc. It makes the most sense anyway; this arc seems to be setting up for a huge Saga Arc with one of the two aforementioned villains. So to conclude this section: Punk Hazard is a Setup Arc. The Purpose of Punk Hazard Ok, so we figured out Punk Hazard is a Setup Arc. That means it has much the same purpose as all of the other Setup Arcs: to lay the foundational plot lines and sub-plot lines, introduce and develop characters, provide for more Worldbuilding (no, this is not architectural design or what not, it’s simply the process of creating a fictional world, and each island Oda introduces to us is part of this Worldbuilding process), etc. to allow the Saga Arc(s) to capitalize on. Due to this, it’s natural to assume that Saga Arcs will be better received over Setup Arcs, but this does not mean at all that Setup Arcs cannot be good. In fact, Setup Arcs can even be better than certain Saga Arcs. However, for the purpose of this analysis we’ll be seeing how Punk Hazard is perfectly fitting its role as a Setup Arcs and by the end, we can see how Punk Hazard will be one the best crafted Setup Arcs made by Oda, matching (or even beating if Punk Hazard gets better) arcs like the Water Seven Arc and the Sabaody Archipelago Arc (which are known to be strongly liked by fans). 1. Length of Punk Hazard (I’ll try my best to make these following sections short, sweet, and to the point). Is the Punk Hazard Arc long? Is it dragging? Well, let’s look at one of our two staple Setup Arcs: the Water Seven Arc. Water Seven was 52 chapters long (322 to 374). Punk Hazard is currently 32 chapters long (654 to 686)…and the arc is already at its climax, evidenced by there being only 20 minutes left in the arc…literally. You want to know where the Water Seven Arc was 32 chapters in? It was a flashback chapter for Franky, specifically the building of the Sea Train. There’s still some crucial stuff to be done before the Water Seven's closure, such as the whole sea train battle. The point is that arcs (specifically Setup Arcs) need varying degrees of time to setup for the Saga Arcs. For example, the two Setup Arcs of the Whitebeard War Saga amounted to 33 chapters (even more if you want to include Impel Down). The East Blue Saga contained 95 chapters of setup, and 68 if you don’t want to include the Arlong arc. The Skypeia Saga had the least amount of setup (only 18 chapters of setup in the Jaya Arc) but that resulted in the longest Saga Arc in the whole series (Skypiea had 65 chapters!). The point is that setup is necessary and as long as it’s relevant, there is no dragging nothing to complain about. Unless all we got this arc was useless information, then yes, you could argue this is dragging…but Punk Hazard has been the result of some of the most information we’ve ever received. Punk Hazard should be concluding in no more than 10 chapters, leaving it at about a 40 chapter long arc which is just fine for a Setup Arc. 2. Humor Humor in Punk Hazard? Have a look for yourself: Spoiler: oh Luffy… X Those faces…too damn funny X Are the funny moments starting to come back to you? X This whole scene… X 3. Action There have been some complaints on there being too many “skirmishes” and not any actual fights. Well, how many actual Setup Arcs did we have defined and official fights? That’s right, like none. Sabaody had several chaotic fights and no official ones, and Water Seven was a whole bunch of skirmishes and chaos. Same as Punk Hazard, a bunch of chaos and in fact, there are more organized fight despite the chaotic characteristic of Setup Arcs: Smoker vs Law, Smoker vs Vergo, etc. There’s been a fair portion of action. The only critique I would give it would be omit uneeded fights, like the second fight of Ceasar and Luffy. So far, that seems a bit unnecessary. 4. Drama The one thing Punk Hazard doesn’t have as much as Sabaody and Water Seven is in fact drama. The crew drama in those two arcs were unparalleled. However, where though Oda doesn’t emphasize on much crew interaction and drama this arc, there he partially makes up for it with the G-5 Marines interactions and drama. Now that right there has been superb. Especially when taking note of the look of vindication on Smoker’s eyes when he fights Vergo and cries for his men. However, though Punk Hazard has less drama overall then Water Seven and Sabaody, like I said earlier, Water Seven and Sabaody also lack significant comedy. 5. Worldbulding Dragons? Old science buildings? Centaurs? Hot and cold existing on the same island? If you’re going to dislike the arc, you have to at least agree that the setting and Worldbuilding is phenomenal. 6. Characters It’s already widely accepted that Vergo is an amazing character so I won’t argue for him (even his fighting style is completely unique and interesting). Smoker has also made a strong showing this arc, and even though he “lost” to Law in the beginning, it was still a great fight and I really think it was anyone’s game. Tashigi has faced a ton of criticism and rightly so, but with this recent introduction for into the Zoro v. Monet fight, Oda is giving opportunity for her to finally prove herself. Monet and Kinemon (the two debated “new nakama” potential) are also very interesting characters. Cearsar is pretty decent as a villain, not extremely likable, but he serves his purpose of being a complete nutcase. So all in all, Oda has done a great job in introducing great new characters and refreshing us with some older characters. However, I do feel there is a lack in Strawhat development. Actually, not really development, but some character inaccuracies. For example, when Zoro tells Luffy to get serious and then Luffy gets duped again, and to make it worse, Zoro doesn’t even follow his own advice and starts sleeping later on until he starts fighting Monet. However, I believe this can be accomdated for one of themes later on which will be over the new attitude of the Strawhats and how it will quickly change as they progress throughout the New World. 7. Themes First of all, I believe Oda is possibly giving us a message regarding the Strawhats. Their attitude seems a bit conceited, especially Zoro. I believe this will serve to setup crushing defeats later in the New World that will provide massive character development and help them learn that there are things beyond brute force that will get you through the New World, certain intangibles. We also have several other important themes in this arc, more themes then most other arcs, such as: The Dichotomy of Science (being able to use it for good or for bad), Anything is Susceptible to be Manipulated, A Chaotic Environment can easily destroy a child, etc. These themes are new and refreshing in One Piece, unlike typical One Piece themes revolving around the protection of one’s nakama or what not (not that that’s a bad theme, it’s just good to have diversity). This is why it’s important to have panel time for the children as they serve as vehicles for important themes here. Conclusion Punk Hazard is a great arc and fulfills its purpose exceptionally well. If I had to rate it out of 10, I can easily give it an 8/10, around the likes of Water Seven and Sabaody (p.s. there are some other topics that I wanted to cover like mystery, but this should be sufficient).