Celebrating One Piece

‘One Piece’ 1066 Retconned a Character Death, and I Beg You To Be Happy for [Spoiler]

Almost every character in One Piece has a tragic backstory and/or some kind of traumatic experience behind them. As cruel as it is to try to say that someone’s trauma is “worse” than another’s, try, for the sake of exercise, to name the One Piece character with the saddest backstory. First thought. Don’t think about it too hard. It was Nico Robin, wasn’t it? (Or Brook. Or Law. But probably Robin.)

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Robin’s backstory came to light pre-timeskip, during the Enies Lobby arc. We haven’t had to face that sadness head-on in about 15 years—until chapter 1066 of the manga released. The second that I saw the title was “The Will Of Ohara,” I knew shit was about to get real and that tissues were probably going to be in order. I was right.

A quick refresher on Robin’s backstory might be in order here. Robin grew up on Ohara, which was known as the island of archeology. Her mother was one of these archeologists, long MIA on an expedition, so Robin had kind of Cinderella thing going on with shitty distant relatives. Still, she sneaked off to Ohara’s great Library, where her intellect earned her credentials as an archeologist, even as a wee child. Her only friend, other than the archeologists, was a giant named Saul, who she discovered washed up on shore one day. Saul taught Robin to laugh, no matter how horrible things were. This, of course, would prove to be heartbreaking.

Turns out, the scholars of Ohara were researching the Void Century—an incredibly conspicuous and suspicious gap in the historical knowledge of One Piece’s world, after which the current World Government reigned supreme. The World Government did not like this at all, so they sent the Navy on a Buster Call to eliminate the entire island and everyone living on it.

Robin’s recently returned mother and all the archeologists assumedly burned alive while attempting to save the library’s books, dumping them into a nearby lake. The only person of the island’s entire population to escape was Robin, after Saul sacrificed himself to save her from Navy Admiral Aokiji. The Navy put a bounty on her and made her life hell, saying any archeologists of Ohara were dangerous fanatics who wanted to overthrow the government.

Lighthearted stuff, all around.

The Big Twist of 1066

All these years, I assumed that the remnants of Ohara’s library had been destroyed either by the fire that engulfed the island, or by the simple fact that ink and water tend to not like each other. And yet, in chapter 1066, Shaka-Vegapunk reveals that the books were not destroyed—nor were they confiscated, because Navy grunts were too ignorant to realize that maybe the books were important. (Which rings true to authoritarian grunts, no?) Instead, they were saved. The archeologists’ research about the Void Century, and—we learn—the war between an advanced ancient civilization and the 20 nations which became the World Government, still exists. In the words of Shaka, which made me choke up: “Ohara won.”

But if you thought the crying was over there, you were wrong. Because the real tear-jerker is who gave the order to save the books. We see a flashback of Vegapunk and Dragon (Luffy’s papa), who had each come to survey the scene, but they were both too late. A group of giants were already saving the books in the lake, under orders from a mysterious captain. And that captain is Saul.

Now. I have seen some online reactions that are miffed that a (very moving) character death has been undone. “Will any character stay dead?!” one might cry. After all, series creator Eiichiro Oda did the same thing to Sabo (twice, and perhaps a third time), and I will be 0% surprised if the “Tashigi is Kuina” theory is true. Normally, I would be a little annoyed, too. But I think Saul being alive in the context of this flashback provides some ridiculously exciting ramifications for the story ahead. Because now the long-promised trip to Elbaph, the island of the giants, has a distinct “One Piece end game” purpose: solve the mystery Void Century. If Vegapunk doesn’t tell us first, that is.

Characters and situations are starting to tie together in beautifully, horrifically neat and meaningful ways. For example, did you notice that the giants salvaging the books for Saul were Hajrudin and his crew? Hajrudin, who is currently one of the captains of the Straw Hat Grand Fleet?! Seriously, the number of long-standing questions and threads that the current Egghead arc is bringing up is enough to send goosebumps down any One Piece fan’s spine. What happened in the Void Century? What’s Kuma’s whole deal? When are Luffy and Dragon going to finally meet? Hell, this is probably the arc where we learn exactly what a Devil Fruit is!! And now Robin and Ohara are directly tied into all of that. The massacre of Ohara is literally the reason Dragon started the Revolutionaries.

But that’s all what my logic brain wants to say. The real reason I’m not at all upset or frustrated that Saul’s powerful death has been retconned is because of Robin’s reaction when she learns he’s still alive. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and dear lord.

nico robin finds out saul is alive one piece

This one panel makes me cry. They stuck a freaking Charlie Brown-style smile in the middle of One Piece. That is a serious, inexpressible concoction of sadness, relief, and joy. This might be the happiest single panel in all of One Piece’s 25-year history. If it’s not Number One, it’s up there. And the fact that it comes from a character who has been through so much, and who, on top of that, is never one to wear her emotions on her sleeve, makes it that much more powerful.

So you can be frustrated. Of course you can! But, for the sake of the characters we all love, think of the emotions flowing out of Robin in this single panel. Be happy for our wonderful Devil Child. She’s been carrying the weight of the legacy of a massacred island by herself for twenty-two years. Can you imagine suddenly knowing you actually weren’t alone in carrying that memory, that weight? I can only approximate.

(featured image: Eiichiro Oda)


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Author
Kirsten Carey
Kirsten (she/her) is a contributing writer at the Mary Sue specializing in anime and gaming. In the last decade, she's also written for Channel Frederator (and its offshoots), Screen Rant, and more. In the other half of her professional life, she's also a musician, which includes leading a very weird rock band named Throwaway. When not talking about One Piece or The Legend of Zelda, she's talking about her cats, Momo and Jimbei.