by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 751 of
One Piece ?
Yuck. I hate seeing the anime look this bad. I have a lot of affection for the One Piece anime as a whole, and I'm among the people quick to defend it, but every so often there's an episode so slap-dash that it's genuinely disappointing .
It turns out that we haven't entirely left filler territory yet on our trip to Zou, as we spend about two-thirds of this episode on Bartolomeo regaling his crew with the stories of how Luffy met each member of the Straw Hat pirates. The arcs included in this clip show range from the Shanks flashback all the way through Thriller Bark (not including arcs like Skypiea, where we weren't introduced to any new crew members). Once the story reaches the point where the anime started to broadcast in widescreen, the episode simply re-uses old footage. However, anything before that gets re-animated with a glossy new coat of modern Toei paint.
The only explanation I can imagine for why this episode looks so bad is that they're currently spending their resources on better future episodes and needed an extra week of filler, but even by bottom-of-the-barrel Toei standards, there's something weirdly alarming about some of this footage. Characters are almost never on-model, the static "animation" draws a lot of attention to itself, and the overall storyboarding/direction of these classic scenes is as dull and lifeless as you could possibly get. The Zoro and Nami related content was the worst of this material.
But by far the most heartbreaking thing about this episode is how it forces you to think about how much the animation style has changed for the worse over the years. Again, I'm usually an apologist for the modern incarnation of Toei's One Piece, but I do think it's lost a bit of soul somewhere down the line. Even if this was a more expensive looking episode, something about the way the show is made on a technical level wouldn't allow those old scenes to have the same organic quality they used to have. Shiny and plastic is just kind of Toei's thing now, and I do not understand why. This has little to do with how impressive the show does or doesn't look at a given moment, since even the old stuff had it's fair share of butt-ugly animation, this is purely about what feels good to look at. And feel-good episodes are few and far between these days.
The episode wraps up with a few noteworthy story events: First, we learn about the most recent addition to the Seven Warlords: a bulky and powerful man claiming to be the biological son of Whitebeard. We don't get to see much of this person, but the next-episode preview makes it clear we'll be seeing more of him soon. Second, Luffy and friends finally arrive at the island of Zou, which turns out not to be an island at all but rather an enormous living elephant wandering the oceans and carrying an entire civilization on its back. We've seen snippets of Sanji's half of the crew exploring this unique location, so now we'll be getting to see it in much more explicit detail.
Ignoring the poor quality of the episode itself, I do love the concept of Zou. Ever since the crew entered the Grand Line, every location has had some kind of crazy fantasy hook, and an entire kingdom that exists on the back of an elephant (who may or may not have ties to the dark history of the One Piece world) fits perfectly snug into that pattern. I look forward to the Straw Hats' adventures in this crazy new location, and I'm crossing my fingers about feeling better about the production starting next week.
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