One Piece Episode 794
by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 794 of
One Piece ?
Judge's eyebrows are the most exciting thing to happen to me in weeks.
Okay, so obviously the Vinsmoke family have some pretty funky eyebrows. Back when the only one of them we knew was Sanji, it was pretty amusing to see him swap the parting of his hair to the other eye after the timeskip, where we finally realized that he kept his bangs that way to hide the asymmetry of his swirls. Meeting his siblings, it appears that they too have the asymmetrical thing going on, but their swirls all pull in the opposite direction. As of the anime, we've seen nothing of Sanji's mother, and his dad keeps this big helmet on to hide all but a sliver at the base. We still haven't seen Judge's eyebrows in full in the manga, so it's been a huge mystery as we wait to see how heredity works in this family.
But as of this episode, there's been an upset! The way Judge was portrayed last week, with the thin black slivers of his eyebrows having prongs, looked more or less how I imagined he did based on the manga's black and white art. But this week, they changed! What I previously assumed were just thin eyebrows are now the outlines to fully colored, bushy monstrosities begging to be unleashed from their golden prison. The story I imagine with this is that Oda saw last week's episode, told his lawyers to call Toei's lawyers, and hashed it out from there to make sure his true artistic intentions remained intact.
This should not be as interesting as it is to me, but I'm enthralled. There's a history of Toei making assumptions on characters' color schemes and having to stick with them throughout production (some even influence the way Oda colors them in the manga moving forward) but here's a rare example of one that changed mid-broadcast and changed very fast. Not only that, but it serves as a possible spoiler for stuff we have yet to see in the manga. I'm assuming Oda was very particular with this design, planning to one day kick that helmet off of Judge's head and subvert our expectations by making us say, "Oh! His eyebrows were big this whole time! I couldn't tell!" He was using the black and white medium of manga to play with our expectations, but the character probably showed up in the anime much sooner than he was banking on. I'm also endlessly amused that I get to write such a lengthy breakdown about a character's eyebrows. Life's too good sometimes.
Eyebrow related questions aside, this episode is another slow one as it covers about half a chapter of material. In the manga, the Sanji vs. Judge fight was a single chapter, but here it's two episodes. Thankfully, similar to last week, it doesn't feel like a burden. A lot of what I had to say before applies here, where I admire the pulse on the snippets of backstory we get for Sanji's childhood. Even when we're in the middle of the action, there's a softness to Sanji as he thinks back to his youth, double-checking his memories to make sure disassociating himself from his family is the right thing to do. (Spoilers, it is.)
After the fight with Judge peters out, Sanji's threat to not cooperate gets tempered by a pair of bomb bracelets locked to his wrists. In a reach for poetic tragedy, the Vinsmokes are poking at Sanji's need to protect his hands for the sake of cooking. If Sanji doesn't do as he says and marry Pudding, then the bombs will blow his hands off. It's also made clear that Judge knows about Sanji's replacement father figure back in East Blue, Zeff, and that he has no problem hunting him down and killing him if need be. What started out as Sanji's mission to close some unfinished business with his family has turned into a story with genuine stakes. We know Luffy's got to come and break him out of this mess, but as of now we don't know how that's possible without consequences.
I should be bothered by the fact that they split this part of the story into as many episodes as they did, but I still found myself enjoying this one about as much as last week's. The fight itself looks pretty good, and Sanji got lots of chances to look cool. The anime really got the suaveness of his posture right, and it feels good to see these characters staying on model, as always. In spirit, this week's episode and last week's are really one episode, but I still found them effective in their current form. I'm honestly tempted to give this episode another A, but considering the first half of this review was just about eyebrows, maybe I'm in a biased position.
If there's anything I can hope for moving forward, it's that the next few episodes don't need to follow the same pacing that we've been getting. I've been counting on this show getting back to a one-chapter-per-episode pace, and I've constantly been getting my hopes trampled. If they can slow things down in a way that still feels dramatically meaningful (which is how I feel about these recent Sanji episodes), then I'm happy to enjoy the ride, but as we return to Luffy and the Seducing Woods for the next few weeks, I do worry.
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