by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 710 of
One Piece ?
As the final battle of the Dressrosa arc rages on, it can get pretty difficult to keep track of who all the good guys and bad guys are, especially since a lot of the heroes this time around aren't even Straw Hats but rather the new friends made during the Colosseum earlier on. Sai and Don Chin Jao of the Happosui Navy get their time to shine this week as they fight Lao G and Baby 5 of the Doflamingo Family.
I feel like we're now constantly about to fall off the edge and encounter a fight that overstays its welcome, especially as the show teases us and slowly builds back to Luffy and Doflamingo, but so far so good, I'd say, as this is one of the most entertaining episodes we've seen in a long time. Having read the manga, it's rare that certain jokes will land upon revisiting them in the anime, but I'm still laughing at some of this stuff and it feels great.
This is an episode of absurdity. Lao G is a decrepit old man who isn't afraid to work that fact into his attack names (“Immortal Warrior's Joint Pain” is my favorite,) but that doesn't mean he isn't a powerhouse capable of crushing mountains. His opponent is the cone-headed Don Chin Jao, in all his tendril bearded glory, who seems a tad bit distracted as he disapprovingly commentates on the engagement of his grandson and Baby 5. Yes! It turns out that, in her fight with Sai, Baby 5 has been interpreting his battle cries in an… interesting way. “I'll never let you go!” he shouts as he attempts to shove his blade into her face. Of course, there's no other way to read that action other than romantically.
There's a lot of mayhem as the fighting geezers continually seem to be losing each other's attention and Sai and Baby 5 argue about whether or not they're actually engaged. There's a gag in this episode where, out of nowhere, Lao G's soul begins to lift out of his body and towards the sky as Doflamingo's grunts freak out that he's just suddenly died of old age. Obviously, his soul snaps back just in time for him to demonstrate his comically bad hearing. This scene has me in stitches every time (I'm always reminded of that alternate conclusion to The End fight in Metal Gear Solid 3) and I think of it as one of the golden jokes of One Piece. I don't think the day will come where I don't find that hysterical.
A lot of the Baby 5 humor gets laughs as well as she gets a little too excited about her upcoming marriage. She's supposed to be fighting for the bad guys but she' seems really sure that she's found “the one” here. Now, in usual One Piece fashion, even the silliest of situations has a tragic backstory attached to it. We get a flashback (perhaps I need a swear jar for that word) explaining where Baby 5's gimmick of always being needed comes from. It turns out she was born into a starving village that cast her out. Her own mother told her that she was a burden for being an extra mouth to feed and left her child self alone in woods to die.
This flashback is fairly brief and is by no means a centerpiece of the arc, but it highlights how this series treats comedy, tragedy, absurdity and drama. Simply put, One Piece does not believe those things are inherently different and seeks to show the world all the ways storytelling can be bent in that way. I know some people roll their eyes at this scene, since it feels so extraneous to give the villainous french maid a tragic backstory of all people, but I felt like it was handled elegantly enough here.
So, clearly, Baby 5 may not be such a bad guy. As she begins to steer more and more towards Team Luffy, Lao G starts to make jabs at her emotional condition. The Doflamingo family has been well aware of how unhealthily needy Baby 5 is and has been abusing that neediness for their own convenience. As emotions escalate over the episode and Sai settles some beef with his grandfather, we ultimately have ourselves a fight between a full-powered, crazy muscular Lao G (think Master Roshi when he goes all buff) and Sai having decided to embrace Baby 5's affection if only long enough to save her from her abusive crew. I'd have thought this episode was exciting enough as it was, but they decided to pour a bunch of money and hours into the animation of this fight so it looks crazy cool. I was really surprised.
I remember reading through these pre-Luffy vs. Doflamingo fights in the manga and it getting really exhausting after a certain point. However, between last week and this, I'm having a lot of moments of “Oh yeah! I forgot how cool that was!” to these early fights and the fact that they really had a hurricane of amusement in this episode has me pretty gleeful. Everything leading up to Sai's final blow on Lao G takes all that aforementioned absurdity and drama and puts it to good use. This episode is weird as can be and yet it still manages to have several character arcs at play, working together perfectly to earn it's bombastic finale. I really dug it.
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