Oda wastes no time this week as the chaos of the Bird Cage takes front stage. The opening scenes, though brief, are surprisingly dark for One Piece. When combined with Doflamingo’s threatening, ominous dialogue, the weight of the events of this arc cannot be denied. The short appearance of Admiral Fujitora all but confirms that his involvement in Doflamingo’s death game will be highly influential, as well as showing off another snippet of his gravity-based powers.
Bartolomeo continues to entertain, as he proves himself to be not just a huge fan of Luffy, but also of Robin and Usopp. Even more noteworthy is his keen knowledge of their roles played at Enies Lobby. It adds a subtle layer to his character, since he knows the Straw Hats’ accomplishments as well as just their reputation. His role thus far is interesting as he acts as somewhat of a stand in for fans of the series itself. Whether his schtick wears thin over time remains to be seen, but for now, he brightens up nearly every scene he’s in, and this reaction is his most amusing yet.
The title of this chapter reflects its most entertaining feature. At first glance, Doflamingo’s surrogate power/bounty system reflects preexisting expectations of the pieces in play, with Sabo, Luffy, and Law sharing top billing. King Riku’s inclusion among them is a little surprising at first, but is likely more a reflection of his political status and connection to the people rather than his combat abilities. That connection to his people seems as though it will be tested as some of then are shown to suddenly understand his predicament during Doflamingo’s takeover of Dressrosa ten years prior.
While all of those elements of the “stars” are perfectly enjoyable, five-star “God” Ussop’s 500,000,000 Beli bounty absolutely steals the show. Not only is this turn of events hilarious, but it makes perfect sense from Doflamingo’s point of view. It’s unlikely that he actually believes Usopp to be as much of a personal threat as Luffy or the other three-stars, but at this point, Usopp has certainly cost him more than anyone else. Making Usopp the most valuable target all but guarantees, to Doflamingo, that he’ll at least get some kind of revenge for the undoing of Sugar’s work.
“Stars” covers a lot of emotional ground, especially with the addition of Rebecca discovering the depths of her father’s loyalty to her, but the end of this week’s offering sets the whole ship right. Luffy’s impassioned and brash promise to help Dressrosa and her people is exactly the sort of thing Luffy has been doing in similar situations since the beginning of the series. That Luffy is literally dragging Law and Zoro along with him is all the better. With past arcs similar to Dressrosa, Luffy’s declarations of intent have been a sort of signal which marks a turning point, neatly dividing the arc and building anticipation. With all these elements combined, Bird Cage is rapidly solidifying itself as one of the more memorable moments of One Piece.
Final Flash: Oda delivers a delightfully eventful, humorous chapter and Luffy finally has Doflamingo in his sights with little to hold him back.