One Piece: Baroque Works (Vol. 19-20-21): I've spent entirely too much time sailing the seas with these crazy pirates!
Warning: Spoilers if you haven't read previous books but I've tried to be as generic as possible concerning these volumes.
I remember watching the Baroque Works Arc in the Anime and thinking, "please may we never see any more sand, Numbers, or Crocodiles!" It dragged on and on and on [and on and on and on], so I feared reading the manga. Usually in long series, the anime condenses the endless manga chapters (see Inuyasha and Bleach as reference). Here, it's the opposite; Eiichiro Oda has a way of packing in a vast amount of information, character development, and action in fewer pages then any mangaka I've ever seen. It's the Anime with all the scenes needed that actually lengthens the process!
Vol. 19: Rebellion - review of single volume here.
Anyway, after much travel, the group's finally made it to Crocodile's home base only for most of them to become immediate prisoners of him along with good old Captain Smoker. (Ah, Smokey; one of the few marines I actually like in this series.) The monologuing (and if that's not a word, it should be) villain reveals more of his evil schemes while the group is held and Vivi is given a horrible choice. But our good friend "Mr. Prince" makes a come back!
Meanwhile, we see the begining of Baroque Works plans as the male Number officers and the female holidays (code names like # 1 or Miss Merry Christmas!) begin to bring down the Kingdom.
Favorite Quote - Luffy: "Look!! There are gators growing out of those bananas!!"
Vol. 20: Showdown at Alubarna - review of single volume here.
Crocodile tries to grab Vivi but Luffy substitutes himself at the last second. The first battle between Rubber Man versus Sand Man shows the level it takes to be one of the Seven Warlords and just what it will take to defeat this devil fruit user when he has such a home field advantage. The rest of the crew works to get Vivi to Alubarna as she's the only person now who can stop both the military and the rebels. However, the top members of Baroque Works await them and battles loom on the horizon.
Favorite Quote - Usopp: "There comes a time when a man's gotta fight!!! And that's when somebody makes fun of their friend's dream!!!!"
Vol. 21: Utopia - review of single volume here.
Lots of action in this one! Against the backdrop of a country tearing itself apart, a few one on one battles take place that will decide whether Baroque Works or the Country through the Straw Hats will come out the victor. One of the best is seeing Nami fight with her new baton. I love her "weapon" of choice.(show spoiler)
We also see Crocodile appear in Alubarna and finally learn his true purpose in his plans against this country!
One of the great parts too are the one frame stories at the beginning of the chapters. An old 'friend' Hachi returns all the way from the East Blue and Nami's Island. He's having quite an adventure under the sea.
Favorite Quote - Zolo's (Zoro in the Anime) Sensei: Listen, Zolo, there are swordsmen in this world who are able to not cut anything. These same swordsmen also have the ability to cut through steel. And with the same instrument. The pinnacle of swordsmanship is the power to protect what one wishes to protect, and cut what one wishes to cut. A blade that injures all that it touches isn't really a sword.