by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 700 of
One Piece ?
So here we are, the big seven-oh-oh. I'm sure One Piece should be reaching its mid-life crisis sooner or later. This is a monumental installment in that we've crossed another 100 episode mark as well as having finally reached the long-teased dramatic backstory of Trafalgar Law. This is one of the most awaited and important flashback arcs in the entire series, so it's pretty exciting that this is what we get to talk about for the coming weeks.
Before we jump back 16 years, however, there are a few bombs in the present day as far as story-based revelations go: First of all, we learn that the reason Doflamingo still has a lot of pull among the Government, despite being an exiled World Noble, is that he knows about the existence of a special treasure hidden among the holy lands of Mariejois. “Something that could shake the world by its very existence,” Doflamingo claims. This mirrors a lot of statements made throughout the series about the One Piece treasure itself, though it's implied to be something different than that. Whatever it is, Doflamingo is able to use this knowledge as blackmail.
The other revelation is that this mysterious treasure is somehow connected to Law's Op-Op Fruit and its secret ability. Apparently, this Devil Fruit has the power to grant somebody immortality at the cost of the user's life. Once upon a time, Doflamingo wanted this power to be used on himself, but Law's acquisition of it complicated matters.
Both the story of the treasure and the Op-Op Fruit's “Immortality Operation” introduce some incredible stakes not seen in the arc before. My feeling is that these things are meant to come into play much, much later down the line (after the Dressrosa arc has concluded.) Neither of these things are small deals meant to be swept under the rug. Hell, Law has basically been the One Piece world equivalent of the seven dragon balls this whole time and we never knew.
From there we leave in the middle of the action to dive back 16 years. A ten year old Law has basically been recruited as a child soldier in Doflamingo's pirate crew and he's being trained by the elite officers who are giving him a hard time. Law at this point in his life is determined to destroy as much of the world as he can with suicidal intention (he's covered head to toe in grenades hanging off his clothes,) a fact that seems to tickle the mob-boss styled young Doflamingo.
It's just refreshing to be transported to a new time and location. The new scenery really has a period piece feel, and it's cool to see other corners of the world outside of the Grand Line every once in a while. As of right now, the visual style of the flashback is relatively desaturated and grey, something that feels very different to what you normally see in One Piece. It's refreshing after nearly 70 episodes of the super colorful Dressrosa.
My big gripe with this episode comes in with the production values. This is another step back in a line of otherwise really nice looking recent episodes. Nothing dramatically bad, but whenever there's action (and there's a decent amount this episode) it looks obnoxiously cheap. This wouldn't be such a problem if this wasn't a story event that could really shine with some polish. The flashback arcs in One Piece have always been highlights of the series, animation-wise, providing some of the most beautiful episodes of the lot, but not this week.
I really had my fingers crossed that Toei would want to put their best foot forward for what I know is an incredible mini-arc, and they let me down. I wanted to be able to point and say “Hey world! Check out what One Piece is doing these days!” but I really don't think they're selling it very well so far.
Finally, this episode introduces us to a hugely important character: Doflamingo's younger brother Corazon. Corazon is a real prize. He has a really awesome design (almost a cross between Batman's Joker and a JoJo's Bizarre Adventure character) and his presence in the story right now has a lot of really cool mystery to it. We know he and Law are going to bond at some point and his death is going to be the reason Law wants vengeance on Doflamingo, but for now he's a guy who hates kids and even throws child Law out a window for seemingly no reason.
It's hard to keep track of all the really neat things we learn about this character right off the bat. For one, he's mute. We're told that something traumatic happened in his past that caused him to lose his ability to speak. The fact that he likely shared a childhood with Doflamingo makes this especially curious. On top of that, he's given a shocking amount of comedic relief for such a serious looking dude. Despite being cool in about fifteen different ways, he's a total klutz. He trips on nothing, he burns himself on coffee, he sets his own coat on fire with a cigarette, etc. He's a great foil for himself and he doesn't even have to say a word.
This flashback as a whole is pretty dear to me based on what I've read from the manga. The fact that I get to talk about it at length each week for the next couple of months is something I consider to be an honor. Even if the anime adaptation hasn't been stellar for this first swing at the bat, I really believe we're about to see One Piece at its best several times over throughout the near future. We've taken our first step into the story of Law, Doflamingo and Corazon and I can't wait to see what happens next.
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