by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 739 of
One Piece ?
When it rains, it pours. This is true even when the rain is coming from some kind of weird water volcano. The One Piece anime has been on a roll lately as we power through all the post-arc shenanigans. This was expected, since the after-fight info-dumps tend to be where all the coolest stuff is, but it's a breath of fresh air all the same. It always feels good to be excited about One Piece.
While our Dressrosa half of the Straw Hat crew sleeps into the night, the story cuts across the ocean to what the other half is up to. Sanji, Nami, Chopper, Brook, and our bonus traveling companions Momonosuke and Caesar Clown, are anchored on the mysterious island of Zou. We don't get a very good look at the island(?) behind all the fog and clouds, but considering that things are nice and sunny where the Straw Hats are hanging out, we can ascertain that they're pretty high up.
It's been 76 episodes since we saw this portion of the crew. If One Piece were doing thirteen-episode seasons that would have been nearly six that we've gone without a healthy bulk of our main cast. Suffice to say it feels pretty good to see them again, as well as getting hints of our next story arc to come. Dressrosa was very yellow as a location, whereas Zou is a bombardment of green plant life. There also seem to be some strange animal people watching our heroes from behind the tress.
Brook and Sanji definitely come across as the cool kids this week, when some strange horn-themed antagonists attack and we get to see the two of them strut their stuff in several fantastic action scenes. They also have something of an ice and fire theme going on between them. Maybe it's just the fresh air talking again, but seeing these tag team attacks alongside the crew's usual running gags (Sanji loves Nami, gets punched when he dives in for a kiss) is a treat. It's a little reward for our patience after they vanished partway into Dressrosa.
However, that's not even the most significant surprise this week, as the episode's central theme rests firmly on the shoulders of Kaido, one of the Four Emperors. Kaido has been mentioned and teased occasionally throughout the past few hundred episodes (I think he was first name dropped all the way back during Marineford?), and the fact that he was the big bad who lorded over Doflamingo meant he was primed to show up soon enough. The enemies that Sanji and friends were fighting off on Zou were also henchmen of his, so we know this is his episode all around.
It's such an enormous entrance too, as we once again cut to another part of the ocean where Eustass Kid and his alliance are investigating a huge crash that happened outside of their safe house. The episode jumps around several minutes in time as the narrator gives one of his most dramatic rundowns in the series yet. We see Kaido, still covered in shadows, crossing his arms up above on a sky island. The narration assures us that he's making a suicide attempt as he drops, hoping to finally find an action extreme enough to kill his absurdly powerful body. This was the crash that Kid and company heard, and of course, Kaido has failed to kill himself.
The sequence where Kaido emerges from the crater he left in the ground is another scene by Naotoshi Shida (the Fourth Gear transformation guy). It's glossy, kinetic, and dramatic as hell. Kaido is a humongous man with tan skin and a long mustache. He looks maybe twice the size of Whitebeard or so. I'm really curious about his desire to commit suicide, which so far seems to be presented as a wacky quirk. As Kid and his alliance watch in astonishment, Kaido yells to the heavens, saying "Hurry up, Joker! Let's start the greatest war this world has ever seen!" So we know he'll be sorely disappointed when he learns that his partner Doflamingo has been defeated.
We usually don't get this much stuff happening in a single episode. I probably would have been complacent if the Zou sequence and Kaido sequence has been split into separate chapters/episodes, but the fact that they are being tied together means you know Eiichiro Oda is being extra generous with his storytelling. The news has been that we're stepping forward into the "Four Emperors arc" of One Piece, meaning that things are going to be speeding up considerably moving forward as we barrel towards the end, however long that still ends up taking.
Between the refreshing Zou stuff and the really bombastic Kaido scene, this is an episode that feels tailor-made to give Toei an adrenaline shot. Just seeing new swatches of colors is enough for me to feel like we're mixing stuff up just the right amount, and I can't wait for the crew to meet back up again and be complete for once in almost a hundred episodes.
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