by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 725 of
One Piece ?
This episode is the beginning of something big. So big, in fact, that it teases its surprise in the background of the episode title card. Not that this is unprecedented, since Toei often seems to assume you've already read the manga, but it's nice to know up front that this episode is all about that thing.
So the palace top is now aflame as Trafalgar Law is escorted safely into the hands of Robin and Cavendish. Law is also in the vicinity of Leo and Mansherry, a.k.a. the two characters who already seemed the most likely to reattach his severed arm. I was hoping that this arc could have left some permanent damage against our tatted bad boy, but I kind of knew that was wishful thinking, even way back when we first saw it cut off.
Now there is nothing standing between Luffy and Doflamingo. This is 100% their fight from this point forward and the flaming background is a nice touch to make the action a bit more exciting. Another nice touch is the animation whenever it comes to seeing Luffy and Doffy clash with their fists. It's fast and three dimensional as the two continue to hop back and forth and collide with their Supreme King Haki. There are a ton of great examples of animation throughout this arc when it comes to Luffy vs. Doflamingo. I get the feeling that somebody behind the scenes wanted to make sure that was the case, episode to episode, so I'm grateful to Toei for that much.
I also like the idea of Supreme King clashing in general. The idea that two people with the ability just exuding waves of power and energy as they go head-to-head. Most shonen fight anime have their energy fueled by stuff like ki or chakra, but in One Piece characters fight with the power of destiny. I look forward to seeing more characters with this ability in the future.
Down below, the usual suspects are watching the fight with awe. Robin and Rebecca and friends are eager to escape off of the plateau, but Law is determined to stay put and see the fight through to its end. It's nice that Law just accepts that Luffy is the one to defeat Doflamingo. His vengeance streak never had anything to do with personal pride, but rather something much deeper. He begs to be left below the palace to watch, even if it gets him killed. This is where Cavendish, the man that he is, agrees to babysit Law and keep him safe as he has his final moments with the devil who ruined his life. The mutual respect between pirates who would be enemies in any other scenario is pretty neat.
Which brings us to the finale of the episode: Luffy preparing a certain new technique. Doflamingo gives a big evil villain speech as usual, asking Luffy why he's even bothering to fight for this country. We know from past arcs that Luffy has no interest in being seen as a hero, “so why would a pirate just passing by get in my way?” Doflamingo asks.
“No! You're the one in my way!” Luffy responds. I thought this was an incredibly exciting way to turn clichéd villain banter around, empowering Luffy and letting his impatience carry us into the next episode. He strikes a pose and brings the back of his arm to his mouth, announcing his next move as “Fourth Gear!”
I honestly thought we were pretty much done introducing Luffy's “Gear” upgrades. Over the last few years Second and Third Gear began to feel like fluid parts of his attack style as opposed to transformations. When the manga version of this scene came out, it was jaw dropping partly because we couldn't wrap our heads around what it would even be. The episode ends just before we get to see anything, but the next episode preview shows a ton of promising hints that I very much look forward to.
As a whole, I found this episode to be pretty refreshing. The nice animation was certainly a plus after the last few weeks and the content that we're dealing with includes stuff that is substantial and new, as opposed to all the predetermined events that we were coming through through over the last few months. It's still a slow episode, stretched out with a long episode recap segment, but just the inclusion of something as dramatic as Fourth Gear yanks it out of the autopilot I feel like the show has been on recently.
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