There is literally no category for this. It's supposed to be a reflective commentary on a story arc. It's not a journal, it's not a fanfiction, it's just commentary. But I guess it has to be a journal, when I'd rather it be a gallery deviation. Thanks dA.
With One Piece's two year long arc finally coming to a closure, most readers, old and new, have had quite a lot to say about it. Having followed the series for nine years now, even being a panel member in a prominent One Piece community, I feel like I ought to put my two cents in. That...and I need a little something to distract me in the background as I write grad school papers. (I could be writing fanfiction ugh...)
Usually this sort of thing should go on a tumblr. I don't have one. Perhaps some very kind One Piece fan would see this and consider putting this on tumblr, so that it could be read by all the really cool One Piece tumblrers.
There was a lot Oda did magnificently, jaw-dropping revelations, incredible characters, what we expect out of One Piece. But there were also a lot of things Oda could have done quite differently, that held the arc back from being perhaps the best One Piece has ever seen. My biggest problems involved the utter wasting the ladies of Dressrosa (I'm looking at you Rebecca), and an overabundance of characters that took page-time away from the strawhats. But there has already been lots to say about Oda's failing the ladies, over-doing his character count, neglecting the strawhats, and much more, I don't want be redundant in points that the community has already vocalized very clearly. (Seriously Rebecca...just stop crying.) My topic is a very different one.
For those who don't follow my art, my favorite One Piece character is Alvida. I love to gripe and groan good-naturedly about how tragic it is to love a minor character, how it's been five years since we've seen her, and how nobody appreciates her. But Alvida is also a villain, and I've spent the past nine years of fandom steeling myself for the fact that Alvida is probably going to end up in prison at the hands of Coby. I love her, but it's the natural order of things. Something along those lines needs to happen for Coby, and her story will be complete. Yes I'll be bummed and probably whine it, but it's the sort of thing that I recognize is supposed to happen. I didn't expect J.K. Rowling to give Bellatrix Lestrange a happy ending, it just isn't done when you love women like that.
It wasn't until Dressrosa's finale (or kinda sorta finale we're still coming down from it) that I realized Alvida had the incredible luxury of being a reoccurring character. She will come back. It might take her six years, but she will come back. What a luxury. What if your favorite character is Kuro? Pell? Paulie? Yeah, they probably aren't coming back. But...by and large, their stories are complete in the main canon. Sure, Pell and Paulie have graced our cover stories, but I doubt Pell is going to come swooping in for a reappearance any time soon. Alvida has that amazing luxury.
But hey, I also really love Sadi-chan and Domino. They sure aren't reoccurring villains. But their story was finished. They had done what they needed to, there were no unanswered questions, I knew that despite Impel Down's destruction, they were safe. They were gonna keep going about doing their jobs. They even got a cover page where they got promoted (Sadi's thing for Magellan is a different argument). I know they are well.
And then Oda pulled a fast one on me. I was not prepared for this. He gave a character I fell for, hard. A character with far, far too many unanswered questions. Oda, the one who loves his minor characters, ignored the many questions, and then...ended it all. I now face the upcoming arcs, the rest of the story, with a character I love who's story is not finished, but who it would seem Oda is largely finished with. Villains go to prison, or they get pummeled by Luffy. We all know the formula. But this is a largely innocent character, who Oda seems to be lumping in with the bad guys. Alvida will end up in prison probably. She's not an innocent victim. Sadi and Domino's stories are over. They are safe, and there's also really no need for them to do any more. They left us with no unanswered questions.
But here is a character, who is largely a victim, ending up in prison with the "bad guys." Their story is not over. They are a giant pile of questions that no one, least of all Oda, is addressing, and their story should be far from over.
I am talking about, the most splendid dancing fish child that is Dellinger.
Dellinger was an infant when the Doflamingo family took him in. There were no choices for him. This family was his normal. It was not a good normal. But it was a normal where his needs were met and he was clearly cared for. He was clearly quite happy. How did this child grow up? He participated in a revolution at age six. I doubt he fully contemplated what was going on, or what his family was making him participate in. Hell I don't remember what I was doing when I was six, but I think it involved sidewalk chalk and not helping take over a country. Everyone whines about poor Doffy being exposed to how awful the world was...but Doffy made choices. Really shitty choices, but he had the luxury of choices. Trebol didn't make him take that gun or that fruit. Trebol didn't force him to join them. Dellinger on the other hand, has clearly never had choices, never had the chance to know anything different.
And just where the hell did this baby come from in the first place. How very, very convenient that Dellinger was a fighting fish. Doffy was clearly already planning to take Dressrosa when Dell was a baby...so how very convenient that the abandoned child the family just, happened to find, was native to the country Doffy wouldn't be touching for the next 6 years. I think it less likely they just found Dell randomly, and more like Doffy happened upon him through his black market connections. How perfect to bring up a child to his ideals, blindly loyal to the family, and what a novelty, of all the fishmen on the market, this one was native to Dressrosa.
(Cora...you didn't do your job. You were supposed to get rid of the kids. Fine...Law kept coming back, but a baby isn't hard. You pick up the baby, and you leave it someplace else. Like an orphanage. Or a cabbage patch. It's One Piece, get creative Cora. But seriously Cora, get rid of the baby. Then maybe the family will realize they're not equipped to raise children.)
So where are Dell's parents? The fact that he is half-fishman already boggles the mind, and yet Oda can't seem to be bothered to touch on that either. Could his mother even survive giving birth to him? Which parent was human and which was fishman? What was their relationship, that a fishman and human came together to produce what he know as Dellinger? Were they slaves? Are they dead? Are they alive? How did Dellinger come to be abandoned? No answers, not the tiniest mini-flashback, like Baby 5 got. A silhouette of Doffy picking up a den den mushi to hear "Hey Joker, we got something for you, you're gonna want to see this. I'll meet you at the auction house." would have explained oodles and taken up all of a panel...but instead he gave Senior Pink a 5 page flashback. Not that it wasn't a great flashback...but why is Pink more worthwhile of having his story told than the rest of the family members?
Oh, but let's not forget Baby 5! She got a three-panel flashback!! Yes, Baby 5 who had to be SAVED because she was so apparently unhappy with these people who raised her her whole life. She can just magically turn on her family who raised her and met her needs as soon as a man showed up to point out she must really actually be unhappy. (God it's Lightspeed all over again...)
Where was Dell's savior? Why could not Ideo rush to him and cry "This is what you think of strength and honor? What has this family done to you child?" (Well too late, at that point Dell was already performing an improvised tracheotomy...)
And speaking of parenting...what is Dell's relationship like with Jora? She essentially raised him...has anyone noticed raising a baby is really hard? Like really hard? Not grad school papers hard, like, your whole life now revolves around this tiny human and they're not going to let your sleep for the next year, and they cannot control their bodily functions. Being a mother is about the hardest profession there is. And as Dell proudly boasts that he is no ordinary human, he clearly wasn't an ordinary baby either. He was the kind that could lift canon balls. But here Jora! Raise this kid! It has teeth! But Oda could barely give that a passing mention of Jora bringing up Dell in the SBS...but hey, don't forget about that Senior Pink flashback!
It's a complex, bizarre, and sticky situation. Here's a family that took in a child...likely through nefarious means. But Dell's needs were met, he was cared for, in a world where a half-fishman child would widely be regarded as a freak, a half-breed, and he most likely would have lived an outcast, or a slave. Humans would have been disgusted by him, fishmen probably even more so. Which begs the question of his parent's story yet again...how did they make their relationship work among their species? Or were they slaves? Or...though One Piece isn't really this kind of a series, was Dell never supposed to happen?
So is a bad family better than no family in a world where Dell would be unwanted? A family where Dell was yes, loved, cared for...but also bred and conditioned to be what he is, the family attack fish. Aggression and violence would have been rewarded, encouraged, so ingrained in him, it was his normal. What 16 year old boy thinks that his humanity is unimportant, so long he is strong? And yet it was also perfectly wonderfully normal to dance in high heels and throw out jazz hands...because your family patriarch walks around in pink feathers and pink stripy capri pants. Who needs traditional gender attire when Doffy is your male figure?
And now the horrible terrible family is going off to prison where they so justly belong, hurrah for justice.
Dell's story is not over. There are too many questions. And prison is not where he belongs, at least not permanently. It does not take much to make the imagination cringe at the thought of a 16-year old boy with Dell's disposition in Impel Down. There is hope, that something might be answered briefly as the finale reaches its final stages. But I think the time for any introspection on the family is long past...and any focus will be solely on Doffy.
Dell is a character I think who should have made us all uncomfortable. Made us ask uncomfortable questions about the family and where he came from. But instead we were too busy giggling about "Omg high heels" and having pronoun arguments and saying how crazy Dell is (Gee...I wonder who made him that way?) that we failed to consider the bigger picture of his character.
And while I've griped about my poor never-appearing Alvida....I am now learning what it means to love a character that Oda probably isn't bringing back. Which would be fine, if the character had been given the development they needed, their story was complete, and prison was where they needed to be in the end. But Dell is none of that...and regardless of whether you care about Dell's past, nobody should be comfortable with the thought of a 16-year old who perhaps doesn't even realize what they did wrong, in prison. It's been two months since Doffy was pummeled to the ground, three days in canon, and I read each chapter half with hope, half with dread, that I'm going to get some tiny grain of closure about this child who stole my heart. I now have an idea of how it must feel to Monet's or Vergo's fans...spending each chapter waiting that just maybe, this next chapter, we'll find out if they're alive or not. Or maybe Oda will never touch them again. You don't know. You wait. You hope.
I am reminded of the Cowboy Bebop finale. You're gonna carry that weight.
I can pray for a cover story. But we'll probably get "Senior Pink's Hardboiled Adventure."