One Piece
Episode 776

by Sam Leach,

How would you rate episode 776 of
One Piece ?

Nowadays the Straw Hat crew and their larger alliance has grown so big that the story cannot reasonably handle so many characters at once if it wants to keep introducing new faces who will be important in their respective arcs. That never stops each arc's cast from being massive, but it's been a while since the core nine member crew has been whole. It's been over a hundred episodes now since half the crew (Sanji, Nami, Chopper and Brook) separated from the team on Dressrosa in order to head to Zou. Since then, the whole crew minus Sanji has regrouped, but things have only gotten more complicated, and now that we're turning the page towards the next arc, Luffy's going to be spending some time with the crew mates who missed out during Dressrosa while the rest set up camp and wait to fight Kaido.

The fun part, however, is that the Sanji Rescue Team does not consist exclusively of Straw Hats, as they're taking Pedro the leopard Mink and Pekoms of Big Mom's crew with them. Moving forward I think we're going to see the Straw Hats split up a lot more, but as to who goes with who, the Straw Hat/Heart Pirates/Kozuki Samurai/Minks of Zou alliance allows for a lot more variety in the mixing and matching. This greater alliance is made up of at least 30 distinct and recognizable characters, and now they're all one big happy family who are in this together.

This episode is effectively the finale of the Zou arc, as it marks the moment the crew steps off of the "island", but it's gonna be a few episode yet until we're setting foot on Whole Cake Island, especially if the hints of an upcoming filler arc are true. I'm ready for the anime to get that extra boost of energy that it usually does at the beginning of a new arc, but for now it's holding itself together. This episode looks and feels much more pleasant than the last few, and the last scene especially demonstrates a lot of creativity on the production staff's end. There's a lot of camera-roaming, unbroken shots as we cycle through the goodbyes and various reactions, something that could have easily gotten repetitive. The crowning moment is, just as the Sanji Rescue Team is being offered a ride down to the bottom of the elephant where their ship is anchored, Luffy effortless grabs his crew with his stretchy arms and hops off the edge backwards, much to his friends' shock and panic. It's a very Luffy thing to do and the crew should have seen it coming, but the comedic timing of the moment is worthy of a chef's kiss. Luffy's boundless energy set to some classic East Blue-era music gives us that perfect whiff of One Piece's adventurous spirit.

There's a healthy amount of content in this episode: we say goodbye to the elephant, we get a definitive rundown as to how the alliance is going to divide up what each team's goals are, we get introduced to Nami's new Clima-Takt weapon (which for better or worse resembles an extendable, personal massager a bit too much) and we get a last second tease of our old friend and honorary Straw Hat, Nefeltari Vivi, as the various kingdoms embark for the upcoming Government Reverie, an event that happens every six years within the One Piece world and has been given an extraordinary amount of significance in the story for ages now.

The Zou arc has been a good time. Up until this last stretch of episodes, it probably had one of the better hit-and-miss ratios we've seen from the anime in recent memory. It's hard to judge it as it's own full blown storyline, since it's more of a pitstop between much bigger events, but it unflinchingly plants seeds for important things to come. The reveal of the Road Poneglyphs maps out the course to the One Piece treasure itself, and we've established the game plan for the crew to tackle its two biggest foes yet in Big Mom and Kaido. I don't think there have been any arcs since the two year timeskip that have quite hit the heights that the series had been reaching repeatedly just before then, but at the same time the arcs themselves are much more unified with each other and bleed together in much more complex ways. There are fewer clean breaks between sagas. Luffy's beef with Big Mom started in Fishman Island, Luffy and Law's Kadio targeting alliance technically started back in Punk Hazard, as did the samurai story, etc.

This episode is fairly modest for the most part, but there's a purity that it taps into. That last scene with the crew jumping off the elephant especially falls firmly into the "Why I Love One Piece" category, and I had a big smile on my face through the whole thing. This tends to happen as we're changing arcs. The anime's production quality was starting to grow stale (as it often does for periods of time), with this last stretch of episodes being the biggest blight on an otherwise strong arc, but you can feel how ready the staff is to get onto something new. I'm pumped for Whole Cake Island to get started, and I'm happy to still be getting episodes that make me excited to be a fan.

Rating: A-

One Piece is currently streaming on Crunchyroll and

Sam Leach records about One Piece for The One Piece Podcast and you can find him on Twitter @LuckyChainsaw

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