by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 715 of
One Piece ?
I never thought I'd find myself wanting to join some kind of Mansherry fan club, but here I am. This week opens with the continued antics of Mansherry and Leo and… and I just can't. The Tontatta princess is officially cuteness overload for me. All poor little Mansherry wants is for her hero Leo to carry her on his back and whisk her away to safety. Leo, completely incapable of picking up on her romantic signals, whines back at her, claiming that she's one of the faster runners and that there's no practical purpose to carrying her. The Tontattas bicker on and on until Leo finally submits and we end the scene with Mansherry's adorably content face as she nuzzles the beck of Leo's neck.
Elsewhere in the kingdom of Dressrosa, Franky continues his battle of manliness with Señor Pink (I say “manliness' tentatively, considering that Señor Pink is a mustachioed baby man). Obviously, we're near the end of this fight, as we've been in the climax of the Dressrosa arc for a while, but this finale in particular is really special because I'm pretty sure Franky vs. Señor Pink has been the longest fight in the arc, with it having started close to the middle and continuing on in the background ever since.
This showdown is also special in that it's a story about the respect between the two fighters. Episodes in the past have established this duo as a macho pair, often to comical degrees as they compete to see who's tougher. However, the relationship that these two have created over the course of the arc is significantly less comical now and more sincerely dramatic. Clearly, the chips are down as the good guys vs. bad guys war is reaching its end, and Señor Pink declares his finishing move: He grabs our cyborg Straw Hat and uses his Swim-Swim powers to swiftly glide him across town and up the tallest building so Señor can unleash the ultimate suplex of testosterone. During the attack he makes the statement: “If you can get on your feet again, it's my loss.”
There are a lot of classic shonen-style fights that I'm weak for, and ones where the two combatants admire each other is definitely one of them. Of course, Señor Pink is a man of his word when Franky, now with a cool glowing Terminator eye shining through as a result of the battle damage, picks himself out of the rubble. He crosses his arms and allows himself to be pummeled by Franky's retaliation. As he takes his beating, the baby exhibitionist begins to think back to memories of long ago…
Yes! The centerpiece of this episode is another flashback! By One Piece's measure it feels like it's been years. This is the somber story of Señor Pink, back when he was a handsome, suave gangster type, as he falls in love with the woman of his dreams, begins a family, and sees it all slip from his hands when the people close to him die as a result of his double life as a pirate. It's a very simple and straightforward melodramatic love story, but that's exactly what it needs to be. Señor's girlfriend/wife, Russian, seems like a real sweet girl, and the brief time we see of them together is really cute. They have a baby named Gimlet, but not for very long once it catches a cold and dies while Señor is away on “business.” Shortly after, Russian gets caught in a mudslide offscreen and put into a vegetative state.
It turns out that Señor's penchant for wearing baby's clothes came from a last ditch effort to entertain his braindead wife by putting their baby's bonnet on his head. In the manga, this entire story was told within a single chapter, with Señor Pink's accepting of defeat being the final moment. In the anime, things are shifted around a bit, and as of the end of the episode Franky is still pummeling his adversary as we cut in and out of the flashback. The last scene we get before the “To Be Continued” title card is Russian's vacant, smiling face back when Señor Pink discovered that wearing baby clothes does, in fact, work to cheer up your dying wife.
This is a story that really pushes One Piece's ability to balance comedy and drama. A possible read on this episode is that it's a parody of tragic backstories, since it's going through the trouble to give an empathetic origin to why a grown man would dress like a baby. Though, I'm really not sure that One Piece does parody. It's a funny show, it's a dramatic show, but at the end of the day I think its goal is to get you to accept absurdity as something real and genuine.
Not everyone is going to suspend their disbelief to embrace this episode with open arms, but my two cents says it's really special. Like I said, the love story is simple, but it's also surprisingly gentle and atmospheric. Obviously, the show's great soundtrack helps a lot too. Señor Pink had always been a character that made me uncomfortable, but today my feelings have changed. Today I'm here to say that the tragic backstory of a man who sucks on a pacifier is beautiful, and that his fight with a speedo-wearing cyborg is as hardboiled as can be.
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