One Piece Episode 790
by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 790 of
One Piece ?
If there's one thing that I often sorely miss as a result of less-than-stellar production values in One Piece, it's the atmosphere. I think of Toei's output as going through cycles rather than an overall declination, but something that we used to see the anime show a softer, more tender side more often. That goes beyond how sad or happy the plot is, because some of my favorite memories from the early days were those times where you could sit in silence without dialogue, listen to the pretty piano music, and admire the texture of this pirate world. Episodes that remind us of that still come around from time to time, but it's not often enough for my taste.
The Whole Cake Island arc has not been especially tidy so far. It had a major highlight with Big Mom's musical number, and I've gotten into the spirit of things despite whatever pacing or visual issues it's been facing, but this is the first episode of the arc so far that really feels great in the way that we wish the anime could be all the time. The heartfelt "I love these characters so much I want to cry" quality that's always been a highlight of this series is captured perfectly here, simply through well-drawn art and simple but nostalgic music choices. For once, the shine of the anime's modern look is not at all in conflict with the earthier tone of the story.
The anchor of the story this week comes in the form of a flashback, just a few hours before Jimbei's arrival onto the scene. Last week, he smashed his way into the arc's already meaty cast, and now we're reeling back to get a little more context for what's going on. As if there were any doubts about Jimbei's intention to join the Straw Hat pirates (he and Luffy's group will be operating on different sides of the island for a little while yet), we get a scene where Jimbei gushes about Luffy and his stern belief that the little rubber guy's going to be the Pirate King one day. His crew is more than happy to let him leave and follow his dreams of sailing with Luffy, telling him that he's done more than enough on other people's behalf for one lifetime. It's genuinely a beautiful moment, and Jimbei's surprise at how willing his crew is to support this big life change is adorable. His reasons not to join Luffy's crew are dwindling fast.
There's also a sequence with the Straw Hats and Pedro having an equally pleasant campfire, where we learn of Pedro's past life as a pirate and his prior relationship to Whole Cake Island. This is followed up with an animation-intensive fight scene where they all fend off an attacking army of cartoon ants. This sequence looks fantastic, and I love how much the characters are given distinctive body language as they fight.
This is the kind of episode that makes me wonder if I've been too easy on the others. Obviously, I've still been having a good time with the arc up until now, and adaptation quality is not the only thing on offer if you haven't read the manga before, but there's something that just feels so right here. This feels much more One Piece to me, exactly what I'd hope the anime could be even half the time. It's not good "for One Piece," it's just regular ole good.
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