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Recap / One Piece Impel Down Arc

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Short Summary
With the news that Ace has been captured and set to be executed, Luffy manages to convince Hancock to sneak him into Impel Down to rescue him. But with the prison's toughest security standing in his way, the task might be easier said then done.

Main Summary

Impel Down Arc has the following tropes

  • Advancing Wall of Doom: Magellan after he finally arrives in the middle of the break out. Much of the latter part of the arc is trying to stay ahead of his vicinity, as his poison powers are pretty much a One-Hit KO — So much so that not even Ivankov and Inazuma can stop him. Luffy, Mr. 3, and a few other inmates manage to briefly stall him for a bit, but Magellan gets fed up and upgrades his poison to a a lethal substance that can be spread through the touch of others. After this, no one wants to fight him anymore and focus on trying to get away from Magellan and get out of the prison.
  • Actually, I Am Him: Luffy never got Blackbeard's name after their first meeting. So he's not exactly happy to find the bloke who encouraged him to find Skypiea was the guy who sent Ace to the gallows for his own ends.
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  • Agent Peacock: Ivankov, Inazuma, hell, all of the Newkama Land prisoners.
  • The Alcatraz: Impel Down. A giant prison situated in the Calm Belt that is build like an upside down tower with all but the administrative floor situated underwater making it a constant threat for Devil Fruit users. Not only that but each floor houses its own brand of horrors for the inmates, starting with Level 1 the "Crimson Hell" reserved for low level criminals, all the way to Level 6 the "Eternal Hell" for criminals so dangerous their crimes had to be erased from history. The prison is even the trope page image.
  • Baddie Flattery:
    • Blackbeard notices that Luffy's Haki has improved since the last time they met, and partly agrees with him when the latter declares he'll save Ace no matter what, since he has the will to do it.
    • During their rematch Magellan admits that he cant help but admire Luffy's shear tenacity.
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  • Betrayal Insurance: Ivankov convinces Luffy to release Crocodile as he'll need him to break out, and had discovered a "weakness" of his during his early encounter with him, which he won't hesitate to use if he turns against them. Said weakness is implied to be neither water (or any liquid) or even Haki.
  • Big Bad: Magellan. Ironically, he also counts as the Big Good of Impel Down.
    • Big Bad Ensemble: Blackbeard appears towards the end of the arc, as Shiryu rampages throughout the prison.
  • Changed My Mind, Kid: Ivankov was just going to let Luffy go on his way and stay in the prison by himself, waiting until such time as Dragon makes his move before breaking out. It's only when Luffy told him he's Dragon's son, that he decides it's imperative that the Newkamas help him and Ace breakout of the prison.
  • Combat Sadomasochist: Sadi-chan. To bring it home, she's dressed in a red (hot-pink in the anime) dominatrix outfit.
  • Continuity Cavalcade: An addition to Ace, Luffy encounters several of the opponents he met on his journey up to this arc, Buggy and many of the Baroque Works agents, even Crocodile. Mr. 2 Bon Clay even uses his powers to impersonate Zoro and Nami, like back in the Alabasta arc. Oh, and he meets that guy from the bar back in Jaya again - you know, Blackbeard.
  • Crazy-Prepared: In the event the prisoners did make it to the surface, Magellan has the ships docked at the entrance moved away to prevent the escapees from taking one. Too bad for him he didn't count on Jimbei's Fish-man abilities.
  • Cultured Badass: Inazuma would still fight bloodthirsty wolves while keeping a wineglass in one hand.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Luffy vs Magellan. Luffy only gets one solid blow in the fight and it doesn't do anything against the Warden. If anything, it damages him as it just coats his body with more poison.
  • Curb Stomp Cushion: Luffy's second fight with Magellan, after Mr. 3 coats his arms and legs in wax, lets him put up a much better fight and allows him to land actual blows on the warden. However eventually Magellan just upgrade his poison to his "Venom Demon" mode, forcing Luffy to flee.
  • Designated Girl Fight: Ivankov deliberately invokes this by using his powers to change himself into a woman in order to fight the female Sadi.
  • Determinator: Completely deconstructed in this arc: despite the rest of the series mostly relying on Heroic Resolve for the heroes to finish fights, Mr. 2 Bon Clay points out that it isn't going to do much good against the superpowered warden who can give you a painful death with poison. And he's proven right when said warden confronted by Luffy coats him with multiple poisons until he can't even move, effectively sentencing him to death in the prison.
    • Also, while Luffy succeeded in releasing a lot of prisoners, he ultimately failed to reach his objective, and Blackbeard was able to use all the mayhem that Luffy had created to reach his objectives.
    • However, it's briefly reconstructed when Luffy must rely on his willpower to survive the Ivankov's "miracle healing" process which was breaking down his body and rebuilding it again to counter the poison. Ivankov expected the process to take two days, but Luffy emerged after 20 hours. Despite this, Ivankov warns Luffy not to fight Magellan again as he won't survive the next time, and when Luffy finds a way to effectively fight him, Magellan ups the ante forcing him to make a run for it to live.
  • Downer Ending: Luffy doesn't reach Ace in time before he's shipped off to Marineford for execution. What's more, he unwittingly helped out Blackbeard during his breakout, and Mr 2 is forced to stay behind to enable Luffy and the others to escape.
  • The Dreaded:
    • Magellan, the warden of Impel Down. Even Crocodile doesn't want to tangle with him, and he was itching for a shot at Whitebeard.
    • Shiryu, the former Head Jailer. He's as strong as Magellan despite having no Devil Fruit and while serving as Magellan's subordinate the prison was impregnable. And unlike Magellan who takes his job as custodian of the prisoners seriously, Shiryu had a habit of killing them indiscriminately.
  • Dungeon Crawler: What this arc basically is as Impel Down is structured like an upside down tower with each new floor offering their own dangers that Luffy must content with.
  • Elemental Rock–Paper–Scissors: In a rather surprising turn of events near the end of the arc its revealed that Mr. 3's Wax-Wax Fruit abilities are able to counter Magellan's poison. This gives the heroes an edge that buys them just another time to hold Magellan back so that they can make their escape.
  • Elite Mooks: The Blugori in Level 1 who put up a much better fight against Luffy and co. then the guards but are only able to fight Level 1 or 2 inmates before they are overwhelmed.
  • Enemy Mine: Luffy winds up having to team up with several of his former enemies, including Buggy the Clown, Mr. 3, Mr. 1, and Crocodile, in order to escape.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: Level 2 of Impel Down aka "The Wild Beast Hell", which has mythical creatures such as the the Basilisk, Manticores the Sphinx, alongside Puzzle Scorpions and in the anime, a fighting giant praying mantis, and a tiny hippo that can bite through walls.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: Based on how long Ace has to be executed from when the arc starts (33 hours) to when it ends (4 hours) the entirety of the Impel Down Arc takes place over the course of 29 hours. And given Luffy spent 20 of those hours in recovery, most of the events actually took place in only 9 hours.
  • Friendship Moment: Multiple ones between Luffy and Mr. 2 Bon Clay. It just makes the ending all the sadder.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Jimbei said that if there was the chance that Whitebeard died, it would mean disaster for the sea. Guess what happens?
    • The things Blackbeard said:
    Blackbeard: Hold on to your horses, guys! As in a few hours, we'll put on a show that will shake the world to its core!!! Zehahahahahaha!!!
    • It was mentioned that a Devil Fruit user with the power to tunnel helped create the secret Level 5.5 where Emporio Ivankov and an army of Revolutionary soldiers as well as okama gather. Fast-forward to the Reverie Arc, revolutionary Morley is introduced. Morley is an okama with the power to move earth around freely, with an SBS confirming that he was the prisoner who created that area with the powers of the Push Push Fruit, though Ivankov doesn't know it was Morley the digger.
    • Crocodile mentioned to Ace and Jimbei, that within the prison (particularly in Level Six), there's a lot of "silver medalists" to Whitebeard and Gold Roger: people who had their ambitions crushed by either of them, and were just itching to get out to take it out on Whitebeard. the next arc has one of Whitebeard's most loyal allies stab him over the legacy of Gold Roger.
  • Five-Man Band: A variation, since the crew was separated at the time, Luffy had to make a temporary one with the prisoners.
  • For Want of a Nail: Ivankov is quick to point out to Mr. 2 Bon Clay that Luffy's break-in would not go as far as it had if Shiryu wasn't imprisoned, as in addition to being equal in strength to Magellan, Shiryu was considered the more dangerous as he spent more hours than the former note , and as The Dragon to Magellan, Impel Down was impenetrable.
  • Gender Bender: Part of Ivankov's Devil Fruit ability to inject hormones, and so the Newkama Land residents have all crossed gender once before.
  • Godzilla Threshold:
    • Things were so dire in the Impel Down situation, that Magellan decided to temporarily release former Head Jailer Shiryu from death row, in order to suppress the riot and stop Blackbeard. Shiryu, however, turned on Impel Down and cut off communications with the outside world (specifically Marine HQ and Mariejois), and slaughtered much of the staff in the process, making the situation worse.
    • Venom Demon spreads through anything it touches, the walls and floor included, it is said to be powerful enough to destroy Impel Down itself. Magellan only releases it in the last part of the arc once the inmates have reached Level 1 and Luffy has pushed him back thanks to Mr. 2's Wax-Wax fruit abilities.
  • Guile Hero: Hancock manages to slip Luffy into Impel Down, and buy as much time for him to rescue Ace, with little more than her charm and craftiness. Even when faced with seastone handcuffs and a body-search upon entrance (which would have exposed Luffy almost immediately), with a simple smile, she took Domino off-guard and petrified both her and the Den-Den security cameras, allowing Luffy to slip though before anyone suspected a thing. In other words, she helped instigate one of the World Government's most embarrassing incidents, without suspicion, and barely lifted a finger doing it.
  • Great Escape: Luffy originally only wanted to get his brother out when he broke in and winds up releasing several others instead, not counting those Blackbeard freed personally.
  • Greater Need Than Mine: Luffy apparently pulled this despite dying from Magellan's poison when encountered by Ivankov and Inazuma, telling them to help Mr. 2 Bon Clay who was savaged by wolves trying to look for them.
  • Hell Hole Prison: Impel Down is so bad, it's literally called hell. When Luffy told Ace You Are Worth Hell in the next arc, he meant it.
  • Heroic Antagonists/Anti Villains: Magellan and the rest of the guards. They only want to prevent a mass prison break and as Hannyabal points out, most of the prisoners are horrible people and do deserve to be imprisoned.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Bon Clay purposely stays behind to give Luffy and the rest of the escaping convicts a chance to get out by posing as Magellan. A cover story reveals he's still alive, albeit still trapped in the prison.
  • Implacable Man: Magellan. By the final act, he's become a full-blown Advancing Wall of Doom.
  • La Résistance: It's revealed that Ivankov and Inazuma are both Revolutionaries, working with Dragon.
  • Mistaken for Badass: This arc starts a trend of this happening to Buggy as a series of coincidences lead the prisoners he broke free to think of him being capable of much more than he actually is, and the Marines doing research on him and discovering his connection to both the Roger Pirates and Shanks, which leads to Buggy going from a relative no-name pirate to a high priority target simply by association of who he's been close to.
  • Moment of Weakness: Mr. 2 Bon Clay considers his running away from Magellan to be this, as even though it would be an otherwise completely reasonable thing to do when encountering him, he left Luffy to fight him on his own. After Luffy's defeat, he spends the rest of the arc trying to make up for it.
  • Noodle Incident: Croc and Ivankov have encountered each other at some point in the past, and Iva knows something about Crocodile that he really doesn't want getting out, to the point where Ivankov is able to blackmail him. We don't find out what.
  • No-Nonsense Nemesis: Magellan, hands down. He confronts Luffy, and when he doesn't cough up who let him in the prison, he goes for the kill. When he shows signs that he might get dangerous, he decides to use several poisons on him so that he can't even be treated, leaving him on a death knell much less easily defeating him. A similar thing happens when he's confronted by the Blackbeard Pirates, except he doesn't bother to ask them why they're here and coats them with poison on the spot. Good thing too, considering Blackbeard's powers.
  • Odd Friendship: Ace and Jimbei.
  • One-Hit Kill: Pretty much how Magellan's powers work, as getting hit with the poison paralyzes the victim and too much of it will kill them. Even Blackbeard and his crew weren't immune, as Magellan quickly takes them out when they run into him. It's only due to Shiryu that they survived.
  • Oubliette: The lowest level of Impel Down, also a secret level, is a place of total darkness where the worst prisoners are either kept for life or until their execution day. Until then they're effectively erased from history.
  • Poisonous Person: Magellan, who ate the Poison-Poison Fruit and can cover his body with a variety of poisons.
  • Prison Riot: Organized by Ivankov, prisoners from all levels join Luffy and co. to storm the guards in an desperate attempt to escape the place.
  • Quirky Miniboss Squad: The Four Demon Guards.
  • Race Against the Clock: By the time Luffy arrives at Impel Down he only has 33 hours to get to Ace before he is scheduled to be executed at 3pm the next day at Marineford. Unfortunately after his near fatal poisoning at Magellan's hands it takes 20 hours for him to recover thanks to Ivankov's hormone treatment and by the time he reaches Level 6 Ace is already being moved to a ship bound to Marineford forcing Luffy to change his course of action and chase after him.
  • Rescue Arc: One of the rare times it doesn't succeed.
  • Rescued from the Underworld: Thematically the arc resembles a rescue, which should foreshadow the ultimate outcome.
  • Revenge: Turns out that Crocodile has unsettled business with Whitebeard, which is why the news of the upcoming war is the only thing that interests him in the outside world. Despite this coming into conflict with the goals of much of the party, he is released by Luffy.
  • Run or Die: What the last part of the arc is focused on, as Magellan is mighty pissed that a prison riot is occurring under his watch.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Jimbei refused to answer the World Government's call to fight against Whitebeard because his homeland owed a great debt to Whitebeard. This led him to being imprisoned in Impel Down and also directly meeting and befriending Luffy. He would then defect to aid Luffy and the Whitebeard Pirates in their attempt to save Ace from his execution.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: When Hannyabal hears the extent of the assault on Impel Down (hundreds of loose prisoners, attacks by Warlords of the Sea from above and below, and uncontrollable riots on three different floors), he starts foaming at the mouth and in a moment of clarity decides he and his subordinates should just go back to the monitor room have a snack. One of his officers tells him to get a hold of himself.
  • Shout-Out: To emphasize the theme of Impel Down being hell, there are a lot of references to classic stories set in hell or specific religious views of hell, the most apparent being to Dante's Inferno. The first level, Crimson Hell, is a wholesale recreation of one specific kind of hell from Buddhism.
  • Spanner in the Works: The first ever break-in of Impel Down eventually led to its first ever mass break-out. The result of Luffy's actions tarnished the reputation of the jail so badly that in the aftermath of the next arc, it was mentioned that Magellan tried to commit suicide over it.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Crocodile and Luffy, BIG TIME. Just because they are working towards a common goal doesn't mean they have to like it.
  • True Companions: In a setting where everyone is only looking out for themselves, Mr. 2 really displays this trope toward Luffy.
    • Also Ivankov and Inazuma (especially when they find out he's the son of Dragon), Jimbei for similar reasons, and eventually, Mr. 3 of all people.
  • You Are Too Late: By the time Luffy reaches the hidden Level 6 where Ace was held, he was in the process to being transferred to the Marines en route to Marine HQ.