One Piece Episode 723
by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 723 of
One Piece ?
Of course, the final battle between Luffy, Law and Doflamingo couldn't be that simple. We left off last week with Law ready to deliver the final blow. Here he mentions that, even if he were to fail, the Gamma Knife attack is designed to tear its victim apart from the inside, and that Doflamingo's organs were being ripped to shreds as they spoke. This seems like a pretty definitive win, but obviously we're still early in the fight and Law's attempt at a final blow leaves himself exhausted and tumbling back. Doflamingo has taken quite the beating himself, but that doesn't stop him from standing back up to everybody's surprise.
It turns out that Doflamingo's String-String powers never seem to run out of uses. He claims that he has strings working on himself from the inside as impromptu stitches holding his shattered organs in place. “It's a bit different from full recovery,” he mentions, implying that his body is still taking a toll from the damage. There has always been a precedent in One Piece that how you use your powers is far more important than what they are to begin with.
So this is our “all is lost” moment. Law is defeated and on the ground and Doflamingo is standing, as joyously furious as ever. Doffy is about to land the killing blow with a kick, but Luffy gets in his way, stopping the attack with his own foot. This was always one of my favorite scenes in the manga. Seeing the absurd size difference between Luffy and Doflamingo as they have their little stand-off is super cool, and the thought that little ole Luffy has no trouble stopping such a strong guy makes for some really exciting imagery. At least, in the manga that was the case. This episode seemed to have a lot of difficulty keeping the characters on-model, let alone capturing the strength of their body language.
Doflamingo tries to kick again but Luffy retaliates with an even stronger attack and suddenly the two are engaging in a battle of their Conquerer's Haki, marking this as a fight between two people chosen by the heavens to be kings. Trebol watches on, remembering the time when he and the other officers of the Doflamingo family took Doffy in and accepted him as their king on the basis of his Haki's strength. It was the family that nurtured his dark side and made him in to the champion of evil he is today. I have mixed feelings on this plot point, since another one of the Dressrosa arc's muddled thematics lies in Doflamingo's motivation, which has gone every which way over the course of the story.
There was once a time where Doflamingo was one of the few villains who seemed to be coming from a place of sincere emotion, but this scene seems hellbent on reminding us that he is just pure evil, and that this is ultimately a good vs. evil story. I liked seeing hints of a Doflamingo who cared about his crew and had ambitions of being the Pirate King, as Monet mentioned back on Punk Hazard. There was a chance to take Doflamingo, one of the most overwhelmingly sadistic characters we've met in the series so far, and give him a sympathetic character arc of some kind that came to an end with his defeat by Luffy's hand. I think there was evidence that Oda was toying with the idea of making him a deeper character, but he may have changed his mind by the time we got to this fight.
This an episode with some strong highs and lows. I love seeing Luffy and Doflamingo clash like this, and the Haki lightning that erupts through the second half gives the fight a strong sense of atmosphere. However, I'm less keen on the lower quality animation on display and the continued confusing mess that is Doflamingo's backstory. The more we learn about him and where he came from, the less I understand what kind of story Oda is trying to tell. I've mentioned before that I think Dressrosa is full of subplots that keep changing their mind, direction-wise, and I think this is a perfect example.
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