by Sam Leach,
The palace-top fight with the villainous Doflamingo continues. I really have to applaud the anime staff with this last handful of episodes because their commitment to making sure the action looks good is commendable and this week's episode is probably the best of the bunch in terms of actual fight animation. Luffy has his hands full with both Doflamingo and his string-double, and the way that they move swiftly between attacks as they clash through the air looks great the whole way through. Whenever their slice of the action is on the screen (a healthy portion of the episode's runtime) it never stops moving and it feels effortless on the animation's part. It doesn't meet last episode's high points like the Red Hawk scene, but it's much more consistent and looks a lot nicer throughout.
On the other side of the palace top (I guess it's a roof now since the top got cut off earlier in the arc) is Law and Trebol's side of the fight which seems to have been taken care of for the time being. It turns out that Law's Radio Knife technique from last week is special in his quiver of Devil Fruit abilities in that it forbids the victim from putting himself back together for several minutes. The scene where Trebol is confidently stacking the pieces of his dissected body back together only for them to slide right back off is pretty funny.
Away from the main Doflamingo fight we learn that Sabo's battle with Navy Admiral Fujitora has come to an end. The big fight between two of the strongest visitors of Dressrosa has concluded by one of them… just kind of walking away. At some point while we were distracted by all the other events going on, the two of them devolved into a discussion. Fujitora makes the humble observation that the two of them are ultimately on the same side as far as the conflict with Doflamingo goes, and that if anybody is going to save the country it isn't going to be the Navy. It's here that Fujitora spouts an apt gambling metaphor (our introduction to the character at the beginning of the arc was as a blind old gambler) that he carries over to King Riku, who finds himself torn by his inability to do anything but put his trust in the crazy pirate who's taken the country's battle into his own hands.
On one hand, I feel like Sabo and Fujitora's fight comes off as a little pointless in the grand scheme of things. It had been going on in the background for a good handful of episodes but it never felt all that dramatically justified since we know both of them are pretty chill dudes and even though they are on opposing sides (the Navy and the Revolutionary Army) there wasn't a lot there in terms of immediate purpose. It was just a simple “what if” match up that gave us a chance to see more of Sabo's use of his new Flame-Flame Fruit, but the fight's role in the story clearly never intended to go anywhere despite how cool and interesting both those characters are.
The final note that this episode leaves us off on is the confirmation that Doflamingo was once a Celestial Dragon, a world noble whose lineage granted him the utmost privilege granted by the World Government. We kind of already knew this, as I'd be hard-pressed to have called it even an implication as we've been teased with this detail throughout the arc, but there's clearly always been more to the story. We get brief glimpses into Doflamingo's childhood where things went sour. Doflamingo rants about how his family's rejection out of nobility forced him to see the ugliness of the world below the heavens, and how he vowed to destroy it all as a result of his fostered hatred.
As of this point in the story, I really think this is a bit of a weak angle for Doflamingo's character. He's bitter because the world treated him badly as a kid and now he hates the world and wants to destroy it. If it wasn't clear that there was more context than that I'd say that idea is a bit of a yawn. What anime villain isn't like that? It gets to the point where Doflamingo is basically bragging about how bad he's had it and how justified his anger is and I'm just sitting here thinking, “C'mon, man. You're way more interesting than that.”
Anyway, the fight rages on. Between all of the really fantastic action are more and more little droplets of Law and Doflamingo's backstory. Really, the fighting right now is just a distraction as the show teases us with more of that stuff. I've braced myself. I know there's going to be a lot to talk about. The show just needs to pull the trigger.
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