by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 771 of
One Piece ?
I have a ton of patience for One Piece's pacing, since it's usually pretty easy for me to think of episodes more like individual "scenes" in a much bigger narrative, but I do grow tired of it every now and then. These past few episodes, centering around the Road Poneglyphs and the crew's game plan regarding the upcoming Kaido and Big Mom fights, have been packed with useful game-changing information, as well as important emotional beats necessary for earning the deeper story content on the horizon. But it's getting a tad repetitive as we enter our third episode of standing around in a room talking.
The point of interest this week is Momonosuke, the samurai child and the deceased Oden's heir. Kin'nemon bows his head and asks Luffy and Law if they will fight alongside the Kozuki tribe to rescue Wano from Kaido, and in a big surprise, Luffy refuses. He could have simply said "yes" (and he does by the end of the episode), but he's bitter that Momonosuke didn't ask them himself. Momonosuke is the one who the Minks and the other three samurai think of as a leader, but he's too cowardly to play the part. Childishness is not a great excuse when it's Luffy of all people who's calling you out. This is one of those Luffy moments, reminiscent of his fight with Vivi midway through the Alabasta arc, where he refused to move forward unless the people he's fighting alongside can show their guts and make a tough decision. Luffy is often portrayed as a dumb character, but every now and then, we're reminded that the more accurate term for him is simple. Luffy's as much of a straight shooter as they come, and that translates to how he sees the world. The kinds of people he has little respect for are those who are too afraid to take responsibility for what they want.
So with tears in his eyes, Momonosuke finds it in himself to beg and the deal is done. The alliance, which so far has consisted only of Luffy and Law's crews, has grown to include the Minks and the Kozuki samurai. The bigger Straw Hat family continues to grow. I appreciate this scene for getting something heartfelt and emotional out of Momonosuke, who I think otherwise is one of the more obnoxious characters hanging around the cast at the moment.
The other significant emotional beat is the communication of Oden's final words: "Open up the Land of Wano!" Wano is looking to be the most significantly Japanese of all the locations that we've encountered so far. We already know it as a closed off country, independent from the reach of the World Government. The immediate parallel that I've been made aware of is to Japan's real-world Sakoku period, where the country held strict foreign policy regulations up through the mid-1800s. Wano is meant to be Oda's love letter to his country as he presents it, warts and all. The general vibe is that Oda has some domestic social commentary to impart as we learn more about the fictional Wano, something that hopefully remains interesting from an outsider's perspective.
These have been an incredibly important past few episodes of One Piece as the show lays out some immediate and long-term plans. The crying tears of the samurai are certainly moving, but the way the story got divided between these episodes leaves a lot to be desired. As big of a deal as the information is, and as emotional as the important moments are, it's structured in such an unhelpful way. All three of these past few episodes, which take place mostly in one room, have included repeats of Robin's childhood, extended narration reminding us of information we mostly already know, and big emotional moments of some kind with the samurai that all start to feel the same. This is entirely a structural issue with all of this being spread between three episodes, as this repetition was not felt in the manga.
I absolutely believe that the big, epic story that these episodes are setting up will deliver, but right now the time spent on the set-up is outstaying its welcome just a tiny bit. Let's get to fighting some Emperors already.
discuss this in the forum (576 posts) |