Holy Jesus Fuck. Holy shitting christ on a bicycle. This was so UNENDINGLY AWESOME.
Laboon arc was short, but I think really demonstrated that, despite his behavior, Luffy is actually a pretty smart guy-I certainly wouldn't have thought of hitting the whale in the EYE with the mast to get it to stop its self-destructive behavior. Other than that, there wasn't all that much to this arc.
Whiskey Peak was better: it lasted longer and contained a truly hilarious episode where Luffy and Zoro are duking it out while Mr. 5 and Miss Valentine are trying to kill them both. It brought in Baroque Works and introduced two of the villains who would be plaguing them on Little Garden: Miss Valentine and Mr. 5. I thought they were both fairly interesting. Mr. 5 had an interesting power, and Miss Valentine appealed to me, although if you asked me why I would most certainly not be able to tell you. They were, as Lina pointed out, sadly unimaginative in the use of their powers, but hey, that's why they're the weakest Officer Agents.
More importantly, this arc introduced Vivi, Carue, the short-lived Igaram(Who was later brought back comic-book style) and-I think-Nico Robin, who was using the much cooler moniker of "Miss All-Sunday" at the time.It also introduced the driving force behind the whole saga: Getting Vivi to Alabasta so she can stop the rebellion, and so Luffy and kick Crocodile's ass. Carue was kind of annoying at this point, but his role was pretty minor. My only major complaint here is that Vivi is abominably stupid. Her colleagues are sacrificing their lives to let you get away, and rather than using the time they are buying, you are STANDING THERE LIKE A STUPID IDIOT AND WATCHING THEM.
After Whiskey Peak came Little Garden, which was similarely filled with awesome. Mr. 5 and Miss Valentine made a reappearance, along with their superior Mr. 3 and his partner, the irrepressively cute Miss Goldenweek. The giants were very well done, and you really got a sense that thiswas a battle for honor, carried out not because the two combatants hated each other, but rather because of a friendly compeitition. Despite trying to kill each other every time the volcano goes off, they really are friends, and the victor will miss the loser when the contest is eventually decided.
Mr. 3 proved that even the strangest-sounding power(Controlling wax?) can be effective in the hands of an intelligent strategist. His hair might have been dorky, but this dork knew what he was about, and he nearly takes all the Straw Hats out. Sanji was sadly sidelined for most of this arc, although he did make an awesome appearance to kill a vulture with his ankles and impersonate Mr. 3 over a Den Den Mushi. There's a very good reason for this, but it doesn't make it any less disappointing.
Oh, I have mentioned how cute Miss Goldenweek is, right? Because she is CUUUUUUTE.
Little Garden contains, as mentioned in previous entries, my new favorite lines ever. It's just so perfect: Zoro refuses to give up, and he'll take even the slightest possibility for survival, even if it means cutting off his own legs.
Also, Little Garden contains Nami without her shirt, which is hot and should be seen more.
Alright, so that's Little Garden. Next up comes Drum Island. And Chopper.
I sweartofuckenbran, One Piece deserves some kind of award for making characters cute without making them extremely obnoxious. Because it's something so few shows manage, and also something that One Piece does so incredibly well. None of the childhood flashbacks annoyed me in the slightest, which is an oddity. And then there's other characters like Miss Goldenweek, who make me squee every time she does something. And then there's Chopper.
Maybe I'm biased here, as Chopper shares a voice actor with Little Sanji, who was in my opinion the cutest of the bunch(Nami is also a candidate). But Chopper is so incredibly cute. At risk of repeating myself, he is CUUUUUUTE.
Both Dalton and Docterine were excellent supporting characters in this arc, but the villain was kind of lame: Wapol was an asshole, certainly, but he and his entourage were just too silly to be taken seriously, even by One Piece standards. Not to mention that the first time we encounter Wapol, Luffy nearly kills him with barely any effort.
And then finally, we get into the meat of the Saga: the Alabasta arc. And what do I mean by meat? Let me put it this way.
Laboon was 3 episodes long.
Whiskey Peak was 4 episodes long.
Little Garden was 8 episodes long.
Drum Island was 14 episodes long.
And Alabasta was 39 episodes long.
OK? That's more than the rest put together.
And don't get mewrong, there was a LOT happening in this arc, from being chased by Smoker and Tashigi, to meeting Luffy's Brother, to hanging out with Sand pirates, to testing a village's "Rebel Army" defenders, to pounding on Baroque Works to KUNG FU DUGONGS. But still, that's almost forty episodes! That's fucking massive! And as you may have guessed, there were some pacing problems, as at least half of this is wandring the desert from ruined oasis to oasis and we get it, the country's in disrepair, can we get on with this? What, are they still
However, almost the instant they arrive at Rainbase for their first confrontation with Crocodile, all that is forgotten, drowned beneatht he neverending tide of AWESOME. It has possibly the best ending to an episode ever ("This is the shitty restaurant") Sanji acting like the badass motherfucker that we all know he is, and not one, not two, but three fights between Luffy and Crocodile. Although the first two fights didn't go so well for everyone's favorite Rubberman, watching him beat the absolute shit out of Crocodile in the last is IMMENSELY satisfying to watch.
Also, Nami, normally sidelined in a big fight, gets a center-stage role as she takes on Miss Doublefinger, the spike-woman, with the special "Clima-Tact" staff that Usopp made her. This fight contained Nami stripping, which is ALWAYS a plus.
Usopp and Chopper take on the team of Mr. 4 and Miss Merry Christmas, and generally kick ass. Oh, Usopp was covered in bandages at the end of it, but at least he was walking away under his own power. Usopp shows himself to actually be a pretty tactically smart guy, as he tricks his opponents into taking each other out. He may not have much in the way of offensive power, but he's a fucking smart guy.
Sanji's fight with Mr. 2 Bon Clay was similarly entertaining. They both use lower-body based combat techniques, so they seemed pretty similarly matched. And Sanji's reaction to Mr. 2's Nami form was hilarious.
Zoro's fight with Mr. 1 didn't inspire me as much, but it was good to see him get over an old weakness and make one more step towards Mihawk's level.
Oh, by the way: The guys who made Advent Children totally watched One Piece, as they replicate something done in this arc almost PERFECTLY. I THINK WE ALL KNOW WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT.
I could ramble on some more, but because it's 6:00 AM and I should be SLEEPING right now, I'll just touch on one more subject before stopping: Pell. The man is awesome in every way the Guardian Spirit of Alabasta should be. His noble sacrifice was incredible, and he was just in general one of the best supporting characters from any arc so far. He's so awesome that I decided to make an icon of him. It was a little tricky to find a picture of him that he doesn't look a DBZ villain in: this is the best I could do. I had another one-him flying in into the sky, dragging the bomb behind him-but although it looked good big, it was just confusing looking when it was small. So I eschewed it. He was an awesome character, and I think it's a damn shame he survived. His noble sacrifice was perfect as is, and it kind of cheapens it if he survives. A lot of writers do this: They kill off a character, but either are too attached to him to let him go for good or chicken out at the last second, and so make them not have died, which cheapens the stories that center aorund their deaths. You see it in the new War of the Worlds movie, and you see it here.
Well, that's all for now.