by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 706 of
One Piece ?
Okay, this is the last of the flashback episodes, I swear. When last we saw our heroes, Corazon was on his way to face Doflamingo head-on in an attempt to help Law escape from Doflamingo's birdcage. Corazon fully expects die here and he'll be damned if he doesn't do some good in the world before he goes. The final confrontation happens with him beaten and bloodied against a mountain of treasure chests as the Doflamingo crew stares him down.
Law, however, has been tucked away in one of said chests. Cora placed a Calm-Calm spell on him before hand and hid him in there before deliberately gaining his brother's attention and bringing this finale to its head. Law can cry and scream and beat his hands against the inside, but Cora's Devil Fruit powers prevent a single sound from escaping. Poor little Law is trapped, unable to do anything but listen to the horror about to commence.
There's something incredibly elegant about this set-up. Early on in this side story Doflamingo made note that Corazon was family and because of that he won't tolerate anybody picking a fight with him. Compare this to what he revealed earlier in the arc, back in the present, about his relationship with his crew: “They're all I've got. I won't forgive anyone who laughs at my family.” He may be a violent psychopath, but he seems to have a soft spot for those he considers close. To feel betrayed by his own blood is an especially deep cut for him.
Doflamingo is a tough nut to crack, as a character. There is a crazy shocking scene in this episode where we see him again as a ten year old child, pressing a gun to the back of his father's head and pulling the trigger. I remember reading that scene in the manga and having my jaw drop at how harshly dark it is. His dad's smiling face as he apologizes for being a bad father just makes it all the more sickening. This is an amazingly intense scene and I'm blown away that it was preserved for the anime adaptation, but taking a step back from it I am starting to realize that I have no idea what Doflamingo's “deal” is.
Where does his sense of family come from? What is it that he actually values the most? There's his crew (his “family”), and there's his lust for destruction, but do those two things really mesh? At what point did this anarchistic, Joker-like figure who just wants to watch the world burn decide that he was also entitled to love and acceptance? Does he have an introspective opinion on that? He seems like he would but I don't think we ever get to hear it.
Regardless, it has brought us to this moment. Two brothers staring each other down with their pistols. Corazon is pulling out all the stops, showing no shame or regret in his decision to act on behalf of the Navy. Law pounds on the walls of the chest, desperate to be heard as Doflamingo pulls the trigger in what I believe will become one of many iconic images in the series. Corazon is shot and left for dead, and the crew takes the treasure chests with them. Law is able to sneak away at this point, crying uncontrollably as we keep our eyes on a dying Corazon. The Calm-Calm spell works especially well here in providing an emotional punch, as it keeps Law's sobbing from getting him caught, but once the spell does fade off we know it's a sign that Corazon has finally passed away.
This is an episode that shows One Piece at it's harshest. Both the scene of young Doflamingo killing his dad and the showdown between brothers have an edge to them that you don't see often in the series. Last week was sad and tender, this week was sad with a bite to it. The inevitable conclusion to this story is our little Trafalgar Law, crying as the sorrowful music swells. It definitely pulls at the heartstrings in all the ways you'd expect.
So, that's the tragic backstory of One Piece's current golden boy of merchandising. There's some cynicism to be had about one of the series' few “emo” characters getting such an exhaustively tough childhood, but the story definitely earns its tears as well as any other, if not for the magic that is Donquixote Rocinante, a.k.a “Corazon.” One Piece is a really upbeat show, but I think these sad flashbacks have always been deep at the heart of it. They're a testament to what this series is capable of when it comes to tapping into the emotion of the audience. It's confirmation that Eiichiro Oda knows what he's doing when he decides he wants you to laugh or cry or any of that stuff.
Now it's finally time to return to the present, and follow through to the conclusion of the Dressrosa arc and the battle between Luffy, Law and Doflamingo. I'm sure it will be a brisk, tidy and fair fight as we quickly see our heroes to victory. (That is a joke, I know there's probably another thirty episode of this junk.)
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