by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 708 of
One Piece ?
We're at the point in the Dressrosa arc where you pretty much have to be resigned to One Piece's excruciating pace and low production values in order to muster through. We continue with the one-on-one battle of Trafalgar Law and Donquixote Doflamingo, which has reached a phase of repetition that's really starting to challenge my patience watching it week to week. We get the usual shonen smack talk, an exchange of String-String and Op-Op powers, Law gets desperate and cocky, Doflamingo gets angry and then maniacally gleeful, etc. Thankfully, we seem to have reached the end of it due to an interesting development that I'll get to in a bit.
Continuing on from last week, it seems One Piece has temporarily bottomed out in its animation. Toei held on long enough to keep the Corazon flashback looking pretty nice, but now the toll has been taken. Throughout the episode we see the camera cutting away from the action just as the most interesting motions are in play, letting the sound effects tell the story more than anything. This has been used effectively in the past, but it feels so stiff and unnatural here, like the various shots are uncomfortably crammed together and desperate to make you look the other way just as things get to their ugliest.
Thankfully, this episode does have a bit more meat on it than the last. The way the modern One Piece anime normally operates is that each episode is a direct adaptation of a corresponding manga chapter, but every once in a while they do mix and match some of the scenes from nearby chapters. This week we're spared from the run-time being focused almost entirely on Law and Doflamingo and in addition we get a really entertaining scene from Zoro and Pica's fight.
This is the portion of the episode that holds up the best, animation-wise, but the actual content is also really amusing. Pica's comically high pitched voice is funny on its own, but it reaches it's peak mixture of disturbing and hysterical when he laughs. Their fight in general is one of the most interesting of the bunch as well, since you've got a regular sized Zoro smashing a mountain sized enemy who can move throughout the island with ease thanks to his stone-assimilation powers. There's a lot of room for big spectacle that carries the fight to a lot of different locations.
The most important event to happen in this episode, however, does occur back during Law's fight. Doflamingo has him pretty much beat and lands a nasty blow using something called a “string-saw” attached to his leg to cut Law's arm off. This is a crazy dramatic development for a series like One Piece. There are no expectations that Law might die by the end of the arc, but it's cool to think that permanent damages are still on Oda's mind. This is exactly the kind of edge that feels right for a series like this, which often aims itself at kids and teenagers, but also trusts them to handle violent and scary things. I just like knowing that things can be permanently lost or changed in this show (and to the people current with the manga, I know.)
This episode makes it pretty clear that Law is more-or-less out of the fight now, meaning the focus can change as we build back up to the real, no-holds-barred Luffy vs. Doflamingo fight. We've got a lot of other battles going on in Dressrosa, and we're really, really at the show's mercy right now in terms of how rewarding or exhausting each one can be. Fingers crossed we get more hits than misses with the next upcoming batch of fights.
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