One Piece Episode 709
by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 709 of
One Piece ?
Alright, let's talk about how often I have to use the word “flashback” in these reviews. It's a lot, basically. With Law and Corazon's backstory covered I was hoping to take a break from that word but the reality is that this is One Piece and the flashbacks big and small will never stop coming. But hey, at least the production values are back to looking pretty good.
It's an episode of Bellamy this week, at least for the first half of the episode, and that means flashbacks of all flavors. We start with how he became affiliated with the Doflamingo pirates to begin with, and then we recap his presence throughout the rest of the series. The story of Bellamy and Doflamingo's first meeting is all new to us at this point. Bellamy was a hopeful delinquent looking to impress his idol, and Doflamingo just happened to be in a gracious mood to say “I'll let you use our Jolly Roger if that's what you want. However, if you're ever defeated by someone, you're no longer allowed.”
This is both a nicely directed scene (a cool, moody bar for the location and some tight action as Doflamingo's officers threaten Bellamy and his friends) as well as an especially elegant bow on Bellamy's whole deal throughout the series. Obviously, that “defeated by someone” clause came to fruition when he fought Luffy hundreds of episodes ago, and the continued on-a-whim second chances Doflamingo is giving him have certainly not helped his mental state any.
The litany of Bellamy flashbacks continue on with some re-animated segments of the Jaya arc (from the mid-100s, before the series transitioned into HD) where Luffy and Bellamy had their initial encounter. I really loved these segments. Seeing the old Straw Hat designs in the show's current art style worked surprisingly well for me. Usually when they re-animate old content with new animation, it's for the TV Specials that way over-stylize the aesthetic, but here it's spot-on with what I'd hope a TV remake for One Piece would look like. The show tends to be in some desperate need for filler content (the lack of it contributes to the slow pace of actual canon material), and now I think the occasional revisit to dramatically relevant story events that happened a long time ago is something they could indulge in more often.
Then we catch back up to Bellamy's role in the Dressrosa, which is the point, if any, where the flashbacks this week begin to feel a little unwelcome. However, even that stuff was long enough ago that it doesn't feel like too much of a bother. Bellamy's an interesting character these days because he's always so close to earning his redemption arc. He's already forgiven Luffy for trouncing him back on Jaya, but his adoration of Doflamingo tears him still. This catches us back up to the current story where he's let go of Doflamingo's controlling strings, and given the choice to keep fighting Luffy of his own free will. With tears in his eyes (he's been abused pretty badly this arc) he accepts, and winds up his big Spring-Spring attack knowing that he's being foolish for hoping that he still has a chance at winning Doflamingo's affection.
Elsewhere on the island, all the other fights continue to rage on as well. These cutaway fights have been really hit and miss. It's strange how they can feel like time wasters in one episode and then be exhilarating in another. This week it's definitely the latter as we finally see some development. I'd say all the cutaway fights are looking pretty decent right now, but the main focus in this episode is on Hajrudin the giant and his fight with Machvise, the ton-ton man.
Machvise's power appears to be that he can increase his weight dramatically (though, we've kind of already seen this ability with Miss Valentine's Day from Baroque Works. I guess Oda was always going to have to recycle Devil Fruit powers some day.) This allows him to do some pretty gnarly damage when he drops himself from high in the sky. He gets several good hits in on Hajrudin, but it's the finale of the fight where things get really cool. Hajrudin stands up, despite his injuries, and faces Machvise's highest dive head on. Hajrudin is a giant, so his fist is about Machvise's whole body. The two collide and it becomes your expected slow motion showdown as the impact is drawn out. Hajrudin's bones shatter from the intense weight, but he keeps on trucking, allowing the full swing of his punch to follow through and sending Machvise to the sky and crashing into the sharp birdcage.
It's very Shonen and manly and a pretty damn satisfying moment. My favorite fights in shows like these are ones that put an emphasis on the characters' exhaustion, really making you feel like they're pushing their limits. This is the first clear victory in the the fight between the Colosseum fighters and the Doflamingo crew, the kind of moment that would normally be reserved for Straw Hats in any other arc. We've got a lot of fights ahead of us, and I'm happy we've got at least one really solid one under our belt. Hajrudin's going to be taking a nap now, and I'd say he's earned it.
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