by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 754 of
One Piece ?
We're two for two on the Zou arc so far. The One Piece anime has been stagnating these last few months, and now we're in for a breath of fresh air with new characters, locations, and an overall much more engaged production. It just feels good to have a ton of great things to say about One Piece again.
In pursuit of finding Luffy and Law's remaining crew members on Zou, our heroes have reached the top of the elephant only to run into the tribe of animal people that inhabit the area. These people are the Minks, and we get introduced to the dog woman, Wanda (Get it? "Wan" is the Japanese onomatopoeia for a dog barking) and the rabbit girl, Carrot. I noticed that the events of this episode were paced slightly different than in the manga, so the question of whether these Minks are friends or foes gets unceremoniously deflated as the episode goes on. They ultimately seem like allies who are already familiar with Sanji and company, despite how standoffish and vague their goals seemed at the beginning of the episode.
Otherwise, the strongest aspect of this episode is the direction. Again, the anime was suffering from some stagnation recently, so it feels like a miracle to see an episode get so creative with all that padding that other episodes always feel burdened with. It's nice to see moments like Luffy's break from the group as he explores the forest, or the rest of the crew taking their time to observe a rundown town. The slower moments exist so that the story can breathe, and we can appreciate the atmosphere. That feeling just hasn't been common enough in this show as of late.
More on the production side, this episode has some of that Naotoshi Shida shininess to it throughout. Normally, that look is reserved for key scenes, but it's all over the place this time. I'm not in tune with all that sakuga stuff enough to say that Shida was involved for sure, but the look is noteworthy enough. Honestly, it contributes to some wonky off-model shots, especially in the character's faces, but the episode in general is so kinetic that it balances out. Everything involving the Minks looks super cool, with Wanda and Carrot looking great in motion. From the manga, I've become a real big fan of Carrot's character specifically, and I'm very happy with the way she looks and sounds in the anime.
The Zou arc marks the beginning of many things in One Piece, most notably the quote-unquote "Four Emperors Saga." If you count Punk Hazard, that means we've been under Doflamingo's reign for well over 150 episodes, so now I think we can declare this a new reset point for the series where a person with a tentative grasp on the story might want to jump in. You can feel a new sense of energy coming from the production, which makes me very happy as a fan who was getting really bummed out about this show just a couple of episodes ago. I don't expect it to last for an astonishingly long time, but Toei has had a track record for nailing the beginnings of these arcs, and I expect to see a few more home runs in the near future.
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