by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 732 of
One Piece ?
There are tough times when you want to enjoy an episode more than you do. I love One Piece and will stick with it until the day that it ends (jokes about it never ending aside), but every now and then all of its worst qualities come together into a single episode and it just feels yucky. I was optimistic too, since I was finally vibing with this ‘Luffy-needs-to-recharge’ mini-arc but man, has it let me down.
This is the last episode of said mini-arc, ending with Luffy finally returning to the fight. There's a sense that the build-up was meant to be an important factor in this final battle, but that doesn't mean our patience can't be tested. The episode's hook is that Gyatz and the citizens of Dressrosa have all rallied behind Luffy (or “Lucy”, as they know him), and are embracing him as their savior. Now they're counting down to the second that Luffy has at last regained his strength and ability to land the final blow.
In theory, I think the countdown could be a pretty satisfying idea. There's the right dissonance between the citizens' countdown and our own doubts as to whether or not the exact second Luffy recovers will be the right one. There's also a race against the clock because of Doflamingo's side fight with Viola and Rebecca. He's actively using his String-String powers to puppeteer the two of them into fighting, and it's clear that they don't stand a chance against the villain's strength and manipulation. The countdown brings us to the exact moment when Viola is about to get killed before Law is able to use his powers to swap Viola and the now ready-to-rumble Luffy, making his re-entrance especially exciting. Or at least it would be if not for…
So, people have not been fond of Rebecca's role in the Dressrosa arc. She's easily the most bemoaned-about One Piece character in recent years, if not ever. There's some debate as to whether or not she's a bad character or just a badly developed one. As far as I'm concerned, there isn't much cause to draw a line between the two. Rebecca is a bland 16-year old character in an incredibly loud fetish-y outfit whose greatest contribution to the story is crying for men to save her.
I'm not even a person who's especially interested in the gender politics of a show like One Piece, but the number of bafflingly aggravating decisions, when you know that we live in an era where people are super conscious about that stuff, reaches a point that's just too much to tolerate. I empathize with the people who really wanted to see her have her moment, at the very least. Here, we've got a scene of two female characters trying to make a stand, being given ample opportunity by the story to make some kind of huge gesture for the sake of the other, but what it boils down to is the same thing it always does: Rebecca cries and and screams for a man to save her.
I get that Rebecca is not the heart of the story. Her dad is. Luffy is as well. It's supposed to feel good when either of those two characters are strong and have the power to make a difference in her life, but it's simply not worth the headache. I don't think it's important that every single female character in every story be strong or have agency, but Rebecca feels like such a blunt crash course in how to aggravate an audience that I still can't believe it really played out the way that it did.
Anyway, none of these problems take away from the other issues that this episode suffers from. It's just kind of boring and ugly. This is episode three or four of Luffy's recharge phase, right? Aside from the ending, there's just not a lot here that we haven't already seen a million times in the past month or so. There were some standout shots of nice animation, but also some real stinkers. There was a screenshot being shared around of Rebecca being forced to attack her aunt by awkwardly jumping in mid-air, and it's such a prime example of an unflattering drawing of an already unflattering design being held on for a few seconds too long. Kind of a gross episode all around.
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