One Piece Episode 793
by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 793 of
One Piece ?
There are four seasons in every year: fall, winter, spring and whatever time of year One Piece decides to delve into its increasingly tragic childhood backstories. When it was revealed that Sanji had an entire family he left behind, and that we had heard no word nor seen no trace of them in the entirety of the series, we knew we were going to be in store for a second flashback to the past of the Straw Hats' lovesick cook. His original backstory about starving on a rock with Zeff remains intact, but it turns out there's a whole lot of other stuff that happened before that.
The anime continues to stretch less than a chapter's worth of content to the length of an episode, but the focus makes it work a lot better this week. Even though this arc is all about Sanji, the story's been taking its sweet time getting back around to him since it started. This week, we're introduced to the lavish lifestyle that his royal family enjoys, as they try to offer it back to him in favor of his cooperation in marrying Big Mom's daughter. Sanji's having none of it, but this scene does finally connect us to his father—one Vinsmoke Judge.
Judge still hasn't fulfilled whatever his true role of the arc is yet in the manga, so it's hard to determine what we're supposed to think of him at this point. Is he a villain on equal dramatic footing with Big Mom, or is he yet another pawn in this winding story of twists and betrayals? His voice actor, Hideyuki Hori, makes his presence in the anime sound a lot whinier and less booming than I imagined, so I'm taking that as a clue for how threatening we're supposed to take him. One thing is for certain, though: he's a disgusting father. Sanji's new backstory is one of receiving constant beatings from his siblings, only to receive apathy from Judge, who only cares if his children can grow up to be strong soldiers. "I have no obligation to help you," says somebody's parent.
In the realm of One Piece backstories where genocide abounds, this is not the most horrendous past on paper, but the anime does a good job punctuating just how detestable Sanji's brothers are. "Go ahead and make a charge at him," they say as Ichiji and Niji hold Sanji down so Yonji can get a running start and head-butt him. Letting the camera just sit there and watch from a distance as the scene plays out was a lot more effective than I expected, and Ikue Otani—aka the voice of Chopper and Pikachu—reprises her role as kid Sanji. I'm sure you've heard what sad Pikachu sounds like.
My big question is whether or not this round of tragic backstory underscoring a damsel-in-distress arc (Sanji's the damsel this time) aims to do anything different than what we've seen plenty of times in this series before. This template definitely seems to be One Piece's bread and butter, but it's hard to go back to this well when the story has made it clear time and time again that this crew is much more tight-knit than they were at the beginning. More backstory and more drama doesn't really feel necessary or honest to the growth of the Straw Hats at this point. It still works just to see the basic mechanics of a One Piece arc play out, but it's been too long since we've seen a proper evolution within the status quo of the crew.
Thankfully, the stuff that matters in this episode looks really nice. There's a few goofy-looking drawings here and there, but ultimately this episode serves the content at hand really well. Sanji's sparring match with his father is animated smoothly, and his flashback is as aesthetically "pretty" as you could hope for given the more sensitive material. I'm starting to really enjoy seeing Sanji's family in color, though I enjoy seeing what they actually do to poor Sanji a whole lot less.
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