Exploring One Piece’s East Blue Saga: The Syrup Village Arc

With more sense of direction than ever, thanks to the addition of Nami’s navigation skills, the Straw Hat pirate trio arrive at their next destination: Syrup Village. For many, the Syrup Village Arc is a low point in the series and acts as a threshold for new viewers. The arc deserves quite a bit of criticism, but it’s not without its standout moments and additions to the A play cannon.

Usopp’s introduction is both brilliant and gritty. Usopp’s design is infamous for being off-putting due to his large nose. His penchant for being whiny and cowardly adds to that off-putting element of his character. When Oda overplays these traits, it adds to Usopp’s grating nature. Luckily, Usopp’s character progression makes him more endearing. Unfortunately, after Zoro and Nami’s brilliant introductions, Usopp feels a little lackluster.

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As Usopp’s charms and importance are further revealed, the character’s significance becomes clearer. When Luffy realizes that Usopp’s father is Yasopp, a member of Shank’s pirate crew, they begin to bond over Yasopp’s talent and their shared wonder for the Red Hair Pirate crew members. This shared connection with Shank’s team makes for beautiful bonding scenes between Luffy and Usopp and establishes a common goal of reunion.

The introduction of Usopp and the clash of his Pinocchio-inspired nose aren’t the only issues with the arc. The main antagonist, Captain Kuro, is shown to be an intelligent and fearsome figure through his stories. Still, his appearances in the Syrup Village arc make him a lackluster butler with a team of weak cat cosplayers in shoddy costumes.

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The hilarity of Jango, the second, saves Kuro’s crew. Moonwalking the paths of our protagonists, Jango acts more like an annoyance than an antagonist as he proceeds to hypnotize them and himself. Kuro and Jango’s humor and shock when Luffy is successfully hypnotized and dives off a cliff onto the solid beach only to bounce back a moment later is priceless. Unlike the Nyaban Brothers, the worst offenders of Kuro’s crew far outstrip their welcome.

The biggest problem that hurts the Syrup Village arc is that it overstays its welcome. This one looks clumsy and pulled over the heels of more concise and well-balanced A play bows. There’s a definite payoff on a few levels, but the overall balance of the story at the conclusion is somewhat skewed. And tragically, this problem is only magnified A play progresses, especially as Oda nails the next arcs.

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Kuro’s character is beneficial in providing another perspective on pirates. Kuro’s arc as a pirate goes against Luffy’s desire to immerse himself in the role and become the Pirate King, one of the few pirates hoping to retire from the trade. Even though Kuro’s escape route is a bit messy and unnecessary, it creates a refreshing change in the conflicts from the fights and heated arguments of previous arcs.

The Syrup Village arc plays with deception and retreat from hacking but doesn’t execute on the potential depth of those story elements. The rest of the arc’s reliance on the “Chicken Little” concept leaves a lot to be desired. Villains are also a rare example of Monster Types of the Week for A playexcept for Jango, who eventually joins the Marines and appears in later arcs.

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While the villains and supporting characters in the Syrup Village arc may be lacking, it features one of the brightest characters at the end of the sequence. The individuals Usopp and the other Straw Hats rescued during the arc gave the crew their first real boat, the adorable Caravel: Going Merry.

Going Merry’s design is immediately charming. Obtaining this boat and designing their Jolly Roger symbolizes the dawn of the Straw Hat Pirates. Equipped with a ship and a sniper, the Straw Hat Pirates now seek to enter the Grand Line.