One Piece Episode 697
by Sam Leach,
Well, there were basically zero expectations that last week's production values would carry over for two episodes in a row, and here we inevitably are with a perfectly average episode. Animation is limited, as in most of the episode is a series of still images, but thankfully nothing ever really goes off model nor do any of the scenes really push the animation to begin with. Like I said, perfectly average. Neither good nor detrimental.
The bulk of this episode revolves around the return of Sugar, Doflamingo's child-formed henchman who was previously responsible for turning large chunks of Dressrosa's population into living toys and forcing them to be forgotten by their loved ones. Luffy and Law are merely feet away from their rematch with Doflamingo, but one more drawn out conflict awaits them as Sugar tries to turn the two of them into toys using her Devil Fruit powers.
This episode very much borrows from the DBZ school of logic where we kind of have to assume that what we are seeing is the super dramatic slow-mo version of events, since really not a lot happens for 90% of the run time beyond Sugar walking slowly up to our heroes, Luffy and Law just standing there confused (Law really should recognize Sugar as a member of Doflamingo's crew) and Usopp and Viola watching them from a far distance, preparing Usopp's big sniper attack to disengage Sugar.
The big kicker here is that on top of using Viola's “all seeing eye” powers, Usopp discovers another supernatural means of honing his sniper skills. This episode marks the very first implication that Usopp has Observation Haki, the ability to see and sense spiritual energy. This kind of power is usually reserved for stronger guys like Luffy, so the fact that Usopp, the notorious weakling of the Straw Hats, has hints of the power is pretty exciting for fans of the long nosed marksman.
Usopp's been through some tough times in the Dressrosa arc, so this episode's primary purpose is to finally give him a big win moment. He was the one who beat Sugar earlier on, kicking off all the chaos seen in the country to this moment, but it was a pathetic victory that kind of happened on accident. This time, Usopp successfully snipes Sugar, firing a “doll” of sorts that mimics the terrifying face he made earlier that shocked Sugar into unconsciousness to begin with. It's a win, but kind of a joke of a win that repeats a gag that was funnier the first time.
Really, the most exciting thing to happen this episode is when things kick back into high gear and Luffy and Law are immediately barging in on Doflamingo in person once again. It's cathartic to know that the final battle is really here and really about to begin (taking into account that there's no way it's going to be a short battle.) The scene is accompanied with a great music track from the Strong World score, which definitely got my blood pumping. Luffy and Law versus Doflamingo and Trebol. Super average episode, but hey, it's a marathon, not a sprint.
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