by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 759 of
One Piece ?
When the clock strikes midnight, it's time for the dog to go to sleep and for the cat to take over the night. This episode introduces us at last to that cat, the Duke of the Night known as the Cat Viper. Unlike Dogstorm who seems fairly collected and withdrawn, Cat Viper is wild and unhinged. He has a big poofy lion's mane and dresses like a Japanese crime boss, meaning that's he's obviously one of the coolest new characters in recent memory.
However, he's only present for about the last fourth of this episode, if even that. The rest of the episode is the padded continuation of Dogstorm and the Musketeers fighting off Jack and the rest of Kaido's men in flashback form. There's something very unfortunate about the direction of this episode, because it's so notably lifeless for large chunks of it. Panels that I remember being amazingly cool in the manga (like Dogstorm stopping Jack's trunk in a big explosion of dust) are nowhere near as impressive here, and the pacing and music choices throughout demand little attention. My first thought when the episode started up was, “Wow, we've done nothing but watch this mammoth guy stand in place for three episodes now,” and that's really how it feels.
I've got mixed feelings on Jack at the moment. When one of his henchmen announces to the Minks (and more importantly, the audience) that his boss's bounty is a whopping one billion berries, my heart did a little pitter-patter of excitement. I've always loved bounties as a device in this series to create a hierarchy among the strong characters and establish who is a big deal and who is not very quickly. One billion is so much higher than what we've seen in the series so far (Luffy's 500 million is about as high as it's gotten), and yet Jack is still technically an underling of Kaido's. We've essentially just established the next ceiling for Luffy to break.
My mixed feelings come from just how unimpressive he is in this anime. Again, there's a lot of just standing around and talking, but even the big action highlights feel bereft of energy. We can safely assume that Jack and his henchmen are only being introduced at this moment, and that they will become more present and familiar as the Straw Hats get more and more entangled with Kaido, but there's still something that feels undefined. Like, could you imagine these guys being the common battle fodder in a Dressrosa-sized arc? Because that's what we'd have to expect.
Otherwise, this episode does give us the wonder that is Master Cat Viper. I was in awe when midnight hit, as we see his eyes open in the dark and hear his booming “nyaaaaa~" echoing throughout Zou. Dogstorm vanishes between shots like a slasher movie villain, aware that his turn has ended. There's still some wonkiness to the animation when Cat Viper arrives, but he enters the scene with so much speed and energy that I can forgive it. Jack and his men seemed like they were at least starting to sweat after hours of fighting with Dogstorm, and now they have a much wilder, well-rested opponent to fight.
Aside from Cat Viper, these last few episodes have been a bit draining. The fantastic production of the initial Zou episodes is on break, and we're in the middle of a slow-burn exposition dump as Luffy and friends get filled in on the happenings before their arrival. Both Dogstorm and Cat Viper are pretty cool dudes, but I'm hoping we get some forward momentum again soon.
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