One Piece – High gears, high drama and why Sogeking is the coolest

Prior to this evening, it had been nearly two months since I last sat down with an episode of One Piece. I’d finally reached the promised land of the Enies Lobby arc but some what worryingly, it wasn’t clicking with me. I found the plot was becoming fairly predictable and excruciatingly slow, while even the soundtrack was still rehashing the old favorites we first heard way back in Alabasta. I felt like I’d seen all of this before; I was bored and needed a break from the Straw-hat gang. Well, now it feels like I just got back from vacation!
It’s ironic that I stopped watching at episode 271, right before Luffy unveils his sensational evolution and goes bad-ass on Blueno from CP9. I loved the moment of his victory; the sudden realisation that he has knocked his opponent out cold. Luffy’s new technique was cool and bad-ass, but then, the rubber-man has always been cool and bad-ass anyway.
The real reason why I’m writing this is that I wanted to comment on the end of episode 274. Having fought their way through literally thousands of marines, the Straw-Hats (including Sogeking) find themselves at the top of a tower directly facing Nico Robin. They walk to the edge and stand in-line with Luffy, looking across the island right into the eyes of their broken comrade. Combined with the swirling and theatrical background music (a new song too!), this is a life affirming and symbolic moment for Robin; perhaps once and for all putting to bed her superficial attempts to escape her friends in order to save them. When Robin shouts across "Leave me alone, I want to die", Luffy simply retorts "if you want to say those words, come over here and say them with us". Us; your friends.
What I love about this scene, aside from what I’ve mentioned above, is that we have characters like Usopp and Nami there too. Luffy, Zoro, Chopper and Sanji are all on another level, they can stand there without feeling consumed by fear and doubt. Usopp and Nami are different though, they must know they have no chance in a fight, but they’re still there anyway, standing tall on the edge of the building, risking it all to win back their lost friend. In this scene, that’s why Sogeking is the coolest and bravest of all. And that’s also why I love One Piece.