One Piece Episode 698
by Sam Leach,
Boy, to call this an action packed episode is an understatement. We're diving headfirst into some of the most battle-focused content of the arc and we're welcomed with a truckload of punches and kicks.
The episode opens with some basic shonen smack talk between Luffy, Law and the major villains sat atop the palace. However, there's one more person in the mix: Bellamy. Humiliatingly crushed under Doflamingo's foot is the crying pirate who Luffy trashed hundreds of episodes ago. One of the core subplots of this arc has been about how Bellamy, normally an incredibly evil and violent guy, no longer holds a grudge against Luffy and it almost seemed like the two were on the fast track to becoming friends. But now the poor guy is being torn by his loyalty and adoration to Doflamingo, a much stronger villain who's made his condescending opinion of the subordinate clear, and his desire not to pick another fight with Luffy.
Once the episode gets past this rather slow opening scene, Bellamy is forced into battle by way of Doflamingo's String-String Fruit. The fight starts proper when Doflamingo uses Bellamy's face as a shield against Luffy's foot, a moment that made me bust out in a chuckle because of how goofily morose it looked. Gross and funny. Tragic and exciting. You just kind of have to feel bad for the guy.
The animation subtly takes on a distinct style this episode, something that reminds me a bit of the recent TV movies Toei has made for the series over the last couple years. In the main fight taking place on the top of the palace, it definitely seems like there was a lot of focus on the physical weight of the characters. The resulting clunkiness doesn't always really land, but the obvious effort is appreciated.
Not only is there a lot of action in this episode, there's a lot of different kinds of action. Fists and kicks, trickery involving complicated powers, constructing improvised schemes, fun action, funny action, bloody action, the whole deal. The real show stoppers come when it's time for Luffy and Law to pull out their named attacks, mainly Luffy's Red Hawk and Law's new “Radio Knife” technique. Both look insanely cool and the former is so lovingly animated I can't imagine a One Piece fan not jumping in excitement.
Another chunk of this episode focuses on cutting between the various other one-on-one battles going on between the good guys (mostly non-Straw Hats this time around) and the bad guys of Doflamingo's crew outside the palace. The colosseum fighters who make up the bulk of our allies in this fight all get brief chances to shine, with their unique styles really jumping out at me. They're not just fighting, they're head butting, they're dancing around and showing off all their special abilities that belong to them and only them. One after another in quick succession.
My favorite of the bunch was Franky and Señor Pink's fight. This is the battle that's been going on the longest in Dressrosa, serving as something to cut back to throughout the arc, and it has in the past ranged from being hilarious to cringe-worthy levels of annoying. This is an episode where "badass" now gets to be another appropriate term, as the ludicrousness of their showdown of manliness does not even get a tiny bit in the way of the raw grit they're displaying. They're punching each other real hard, and there's a cool sense of respect that they share between each other as they have at it.
This episode is just the palate cleanser for the rest of the fight. It definitely tries its darndest in its attempt to be exciting and visually interesting, even if the whole thing feels a little lopsided with the slow beginning and varied animation. We also got a few tiny flashbacks to Trafalgar Law's upcoming backstory, but that's definitely a discussion for another time.
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