After the first arc did so much to set up the world you are experiencing with One Piece, I feel this arc is setting you up for what kind of show you are going to be watching going forward. I will be assuming you've either watched One Piece already or at least read my previous reviews, so know that anything that happens in previous episodes I may be spoiled. I'll keep specifics I can avoid out of the review in case you are going to go back and watch One Piece for the first time, but be warned.
The first thing the show establishes is, at its core, it's a really goofy show. We see an interesting parallel between Luffy and the arcs antagonist Buggy, and that is how they both ended up eating a Devil Fruit to obtain their power, and in both cases, it was them just being stupid and doing it by mistake. Buggy tried hiding a fruit he didn't want to eat in his mouth, and Luffy eats one that was just left out in the open out of frustration, not knowing what it was. All the while, however, the actual conflicts between the two are given actual weight and stakes. One Piece is playing the game where it just embraces the goofiness wholeheartedly, while still playing the results of the comedy straight and using it as part of the narrative rather than just a side gag. It's a hard line to walk, as you lean too much into the comedy it can be hard to take seriously, but so far One Piece is managing to keep me invested.
More so the show is setting up what to expect from the fights, as this is the first time we are seeing our heroes struggle in combat, as well as starting to establish how difficult it is to deal with anyone who has eaten a Devil Fruit if you haven't done so already. As we've seen, Luffy is not invincible and even mundane means can stop or limit his abilities, such as being bound in rope. I'm liking that despite being stronger than anyone else on his side, Luffy still feels grounded enough in the world that he needs the crew he is assembling, and they aren't just there for the sake of having more than one character to follow (I'm looking at you Bleach).
That said, some problems come with this arc. The big one is some scenes stop making sense unless you just accept everyone is an idiot. The example here being 'The Buggy Bomb', an extremely powerful bomb buggy shoots from a cannon. Zoro, at one point, takes the time to pick up one side of the cannon to flip it around towards Buggy and his crew, the fuse is lit, and then it is fired. And the entire time this is happening Buggy and his crew just.... kind of stand there reacting to this verbally and visually, but at no point does Buggy opt to shoot off one of his hands (He can do that) with a knife and just end Zoro right there. Or, at the very least, move to the side and not get blasted. And the scene goes on for a bit, so it's not just a small moment you may miss, it's hard not to come to this conclusion. This was the worst offender, but small things like this do happen throughout.
There are also a few spots of animation that just look awkward. I know the show started airing in the mid 2000s, so you shouldn't expect modern-day quality throughout, but some bits like when a character is kicked and sent flying just don't feel like there was any real impact. That isn't to say the show is badly animated on a whole, but there are quite a few times it looks like they had to cut corners to meet the budget. This is a fairly small complaint since, as I said, on a whole, the show is still looking good.
The big thing I like about this arc was we are now starting to see more of Luffy's backstory and see how it is he became the guy he currently is, as well as seeing more sides of his personality. While the first arc established a base for his character, we see a lot of it being fleshed out here. We do see a bit more of Zoro and Nami, the latest addition to the crew, which is great. But this is mostly looking into Luffy, and it does that great. The thing I love most about it is the story of that silly hat of his and the vow he made to the one who gave it to isn't that grand of an event. It's a very small and simple thing in this world where all the action and designs are so over the top. I think that more than anything does a lot to showcase what kind of person Luffy is, he's not focused on the grand plan of the world or what's going on, his heart and mind are focused and the small things and his world that are important to him, and that's what he fights for. And the things in his own life he cares about is reflected in what he views as important in other people, like seeing the dog in Orange Town protecting a pet food store.
While there are some flaws in the presentation this time around, it's still a really good arc and is keeping me interested in what's to come. I want to see who else joins with this crew, the other crazy powers they will come across, and more of how the world they live in actually works. I dare say, I may just be becoming a fan.