To open with my usual One Piece Disclaimer, I am assuming anyone reading this has either read my previous One Piece Reviews as I've been watching the show for the first time or has already seen One Piece. As such, I won't be going into too much detail about the world, and just focusing on this arc. Previous arcs may be spoiled if necessary. That out of the way, on with the review.
Being one of the first three to join the Straw Hat Pirates, we actually haven't seen much at all of Nami prior to this point. She was mostly kind of there in the background playing bit parts, though that started to change when she ran off during the previous arc, just after seeing a wanted poster that seemed to trigger some kind of anger in her. This arc follows as they chase after Nami to get her (And their boat) back.
The build to this arc was pretty well done from little spinets into Nami and her personality and story, and it's nice that this whole thing felt planned out from the beginning of the show. It doesn't feel forced, it's a very natural progression for the character, and like the other arcs, every character is given a chance to shine even if the story isn't centered around them. It even manages to make use of some rather forced moments from the previous arc.
From my last review, I briefly talked about Hawkeye showing up out of nowhere to wreck everyone's shit, and how it felt like a forced way to get Zoro out of the fight. While the moment was still pretty badly done, this arc sees Zoro still hasn't recovered from that injury, but rather than keep him out of the fight as it did originally, instead he finds resolve in his promise to never lose another fight until he can face Hawkeye again. This leads to even Sanji getting distracted and slammed pretty hard by a sucker-punch from a guy he otherwise probably wouldn't have struggled much against. Sanji's fight even gets a bit more shit thrown on top as Sanji is forced into a disadvantageous position even after the sucker punch, putting his fight underwater. Both these two are clearly capable of more, but the show does a great job of forcing horrible circumstances upon them to give even characters beneath them a level of threat they otherwise wouldn't have. It's a pretty great way to start off the series (Okay, any other show saying this by episode 31 would be ridiculous, but I still have over 850 episodes to catch up on, so I feel it's valid to say here).
That said, the crutch of the show is finding out Nami has been stealing money in order to buy her hometown away from Arlong, a vicious Merman who is the Pirate Captain of his crew. He has a deep hatred of humans, believing merman to be superior. However, none of his crew can draw such useful and detailed maps as Nami, hence why they want her around. Maps can be very handy to have as a Pirate, especially when you see some of the things Mermen are capable of when they understand the layouts and currents.
We are getting into some mild spoiler territory here, but Nami herself does almost nothing in this arc. She doesn't fight off any of the mermen, that is handled by the rest of the crew (Even Ussop gets a great fight), and this is kind of the best thing about this Arc. The whole premise of her character is she is trying to save this town on her own by gathering the money for Arlong. The whole idea is she doesn't realize she has people around her who can help her do the things she can't because she has been going solo for so long. When she finally does turn to Luffy and the gang to help her out, it doesn't feel like she isn't a capable member of the team, it feels like she's finally realized what the Straw Hat's are to her. Thematically it makes a lot of sense to leave her out of the climactic resolution the way they do, and her character doesn't suffer at all for it.
It's also probably the best action of the series as well, managing to trump the last arc. The fights have been steadily improving throughout the show, and I'm kind of excited to see what else the show has to offer just from a visual standpoint. The spectacle is just growing in size, and I”m kind of wondering just how grand everything is going to be down the line if this is the starting point.
Overall the arc is great. More great character moments for the whole cast, great fights, and some really good storytelling. I'm kind of wondering why I was sleeping on this show for so long. Sees another 850+ episodes to just catch up