One Piece Episode 792
by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 792 of
One Piece ?
I think I've finally gotten to the point where Whole Cake Island's molasses pacing is getting to me. I had hoped we were returning to a one-chapter-per-episode pace soon enough, but I guess fate decided otherwise since the anime continues to break the original structure of the story in awkward ways. It's a shame too, because this awkwardness comes from the staff trying to get creative again with how they expand on the story.
Last week began the misadventures of the Straw Hats in the "Seducing Woods", the domain of Big Mom's haunted living objects and her more trickster-oriented subordinates. Luffy's fighting his mirror self, who may be an enemy in disguise, and the rest of the crew find themselves in an endless loop where they keep encountering a giant man partially buried in the ground (for his own enjoyment, he assures us). I felt a twinge of excitement once I realized that the morbid Disney musical thing from a few episodes ago might become a full-on motif for this arc, as the living trees and flowers start to sing about the Straw Hats' impending death. However, the excitement is dulled somewhat when the song ends fairly quickly, without getting much chance to deviate from the melody and tone of Big Mom's other recent number.
This is a mixed bag episode if I ever saw one, because I certainly like the idea of Toei coming up with fun ways to kill time as they try to keep their distance from the manga's current story material, but the execution isn't quite there, and the fragmentation of the original manga chapters ends up being disorienting and killing a lot of the intended drama. Oda's always been fantastic at dividing the story into juicy cliffhangers, and the stuff in the middle of any given chapter rarely makes a good end point for an episode. This isn't the worst example of that problem, but the repetition of the Seducing Woods gets exhausting, and the ugliness of the animation doesn't help.
Really driving home my problem with this pacing style is a scene that finally cuts away from the Seducing Woods where we get to watch a fight between Sanji and his brother Yonji. In the manga, this was off-screen, but the result of this confrontation connects us to the next major event between Sanji and his family. It makes sense that they would animate something like this instead of finding dead air to drag out elsewhere, but after seeing the manga get away with showing so little, going back and actually seeing the fight just feels like extra minutes on a screen. You know you don't need it.
I like the attempt, but it also demands the direction and art be much more engaged, and this is one of the weaker episodes of the arc from a technical perspective. As far as the canonical character introductions we manage to get in this episode, it's funny to see Chopper play the fed-up straight man to the dopey guy in the ground. We also get a non-Mink rabbit opponent for Carrot, and the episode wraps up with one of Big Mom's own daughters, Charlotte Brulee. Next week looks to focus a lot more on Sanji and his family, so thankfully we're not going to be hanging out exclusively in the Seducing Woods for the next couple episodes.
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