by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 784 of
One Piece ?
Last week, we began the Whole Cake Island arc, as Sanji was being shipped to his family for his upcoming wedding. Luffy, along with Nami, Chopper, Brook, Pedro, Carrot, and semi-friend Pekoms, are sailing to his location on the Thousand Sunny, albeit with some difficulty. The food they gathered during their recent filler arc is already gone and they're immediately back to starving, trying their best to reel in some fish despite the fact that the local waters are boiling as per the New World's crazy environmental conditions. They do manage to hook a pretty big fish, but it turns out to have deadly poison in its skin and Luffy digs in without a second thought.
I always liked that little detail about Luffy's resistance to poison ever since he survived his fight against Magellan back in Impel Down, but it turns out this fish was extra poisonous, so even Luffy is down after it's been in his system for some time. A good chunk of this episode is just the rest of the crew running around trying to figure out how to survive until they can find a doctor with the required medicine. These early Whole Cake Island episodes are stretching themselves extra thin, adapting less than a chapter's worth of story material each, yet I can't bring myself to be bothered too much. The time spent on Nami cooking a poison-free meal out of this fish and Chopper rummaging through Sanji's porn-stuffed locker for an informational book on the topic were interesting enough to keep me entertained. If there's one problem I have, it's that the episode title promises the arrival of two of Sanji's siblings ("0" and "4"), but their screen time is squashed into the last few minutes only. The story is moving very slowly right now, but so far it isn't hurting my enjoyment.
So yes! The Vinsmokes are here! Just as the crew are at their most vulnerable with their captain incapacitated, a new string of potential foes arrive. For a moment, the Straw Hats think they've run into Sanji himself, but in reality, they're meeting Yonji. Yonji has green hair and doesn't hide his family's signature, asymmetrical eyebrows. He's got the same wannabe ladies' man demeanor as Sanji, but he's also quick to show that he's much more vicious when he refuses to assist the Straw Hats in their time of need. Sanji's sister, Reiju, also shows up, but only for the cliffhanger.
The one clear detail we're able to pick up about the Vinsmokes right now is their Super Sentai theme, complete with a color and number scheme represented by their hair/costumes and the numbers in their name. In theory, Sanji would have been Power Ranger #3 had he not left his family as a child, but what color he would have been is speculative. (Yellow Ranger? Black Ranger?) With his family now present, there are a ton of innocuous details about Sanji's character, like his name and swirly eyebrows, that suddenly lend themselves to deeper meanings. There's a lot of enticing mystery surrounding Sanji's relationship with his family. Where's it all going?
As for the rest of the episode, it's hard to put my finger on it, since the difference is nearly imperceptible compared to the last few arcs, but there's something that comes off as just a bit old-school about the show for these past couple weeks. Something in its blood reminds me of how the anime felt in the Water 7 days, where the production values and pacing were just as hit-and-miss, but there was still a palpable texture to the world. Is this just my imagination? 'Cause it really feels the way that marathoning those older episodes felt.
The Whole Cake Island arc is off to a slow start, but for what it's worth, I'm having a really good time. So far, I'm finding that extra amount of patience in my heart for the show, because something just feels right about watching it right now. For whatever reason, it feels like we're returning from a much longer filler break than we actually are. This is not an impressive episode by most measures, and the slowness means there's not as much story to dissect for the time being, but there's an X-factor there isn't often present. It's hard to describe, so I hope people will tell me if they're feeling it too.
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