One Piece, Volume 4: The Black Cat Pirates
Author: Eiichiro Oda
Publisher: Viz Media
American release date: July 14, 2004
Format/Genre/Length: Manga/Shonen/208 pages
Publisher/Industry Age Rating: Teen
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★
Having overheard the dastardly plans of the pirates to attack the village at dawn the next day, Usopp attempts to save their lives by warning them. But he’s cried wolf once too often, and they attempt to clobber him. He escapes and does the only thing he can think of—he runs to the mansion, intent on rescuing Kaya and taking her out of harm’s way. But she refuses to believe what he tells her of Klahadore, and he is once more set upon and is forced to flee. When he runs into his small pirate band, he tells them he was just lying, as usual, and sends them home, but he reveals to Luffy, Zolo, and Nami the truth of the matter, that they really are coming.
Luffy and his crew decide to help the brave Usopp fend off the evil pirates. Usopp has a plan. Figuring how they’ll land, he determines they’ll have to use a particular pass, so if they pour a whole lot of oil down that pass, the pirates will not be able to make it up the slippery slope. Meanwhile, Klahadore has returned to the mansion from his “business” and an amused Merry tells him the story of how Usopp accused the butler of being a pirate. It isn’t funny for very long.
The pirates, under the command of the hypnotist/pirate Captain Django, arrive at the island, and spot two apparently worthless ships. Nami hears them, and only then do they realize they’re waiting in the wrong spot, that the pirates are on the north beach. Instantly, Luffy rushes off, although he really has no clue which way north is. Leaving Nami, Usopp and Zolo to navigate the slipperiness themselves, and it’s every man for himself!
By the time Usopp reaches the pirates, they’ve discovered the treasure on the decrepit ships. Usopp offers them a deal—take it and go, which pisses Nami off as she arrives and overhears him making free and easy with her treasure. They toss some caltrops at the pirates, momentarily staving them off, while Zolo works hard at getting up that greasy ground.
As the pirates have been held up in dealing with Usopp and Nami, they aren’t able to get to their pre-arranged meeting place in time, and the butler is angry. Meanwhile, Luffy and Zolo have rejoined the group, and the pirates are pretty well done for—until Django hypnotizes them back to strength! Unfortunately for him, Luffy’s been hypnotized too, and is in rare form, letting go with his gum gum Gatling gun attack! And it’s very effective. Django has to put everyone to sleep, including Luffy, but he has two more men who’ve been on the ship, and thus aren’t affected, and he calls them out—the Meowban Brothers, Butchie and Siam.
Back at the mansion, Kaya awakes and discovers Merry, but he isn’t dead and he tells her the truth about her darling butler. She realizes the great injustice she has done to Usopp, who was telling her the truth, and she’s determined to right it by giving the pirates what they want—namely, her mansion and all her money, because she doesn’t care about any of that.
On her way to find where everyone is, she encounters Onion, Pepper, and Carrot, and they decide to go with her, realizing their captain was telling the truth about the pirates, and he’s in danger.
A lot of fun and action in this volume of One Piece, from beginning to end, and then some. I like the way everything comes together, and we get glimpses of the characters both individually and together. The character with the greatest growth here is Usopp, as we see there’s more to him than the simpleton he’s been playing all this time, the boy who cries wolf for no good reason. He’s actually very brave and strong, and possesses a good heart. There are comic moments, dramatic moments, laugh out loud moments and what’s going to happen moments. And a cliffhanger to guide us into the next volume. Another winner for the series!