by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 797 of
One Piece ?
It's been almost 800 episodes and I still stand with the One Piece anime as a way to enjoy this series, even if its heyday is behind us. Most of it comes from an acknowledgement that the production values have in fact never been consistent and the show's worst pacing issues have been present since at least the 300s, and yet that's never stopped people from falling in love with the series. It also helps that nowadays you get the occasional amazing episode that's way above something you would have seen in the early years.
But every now and then even I get a little glum, particularly whenever the show has to flashback to earlier animation and I realize how much I miss the way it used to look. That feeling returns this week as we finally get confirmation that one of Big Mom's many children is none other than Lola from Thriller Bark, while the lookalike who's married to Capone is her twin sister. This triggers a series of flashbacks to the Thriller Bark arc, none of which looks spectacular, but it looks the way One Piece looks in my mind's eye. There are so many little flourishes the anime has added over the years—the softer color pallet, the increased detail in Nami's eyes—and it all looks fine when the rest of the production is up to snuff, but if the animation's going to feel half-finished a lot of the time anyway, I wish we had the bold colors and old designs back.
I probably wouldn't be feeling this right now if the episode wasn't stretched so absurdly thin. The aforementioned flashback takes up a shocking amount of screen time and I've already been getting exhausted by the Seducing Woods stuff. I'm at the point now where I'm trying to imagine how this arc might feel in a marathon, and even with my patient standards I think this section is going to be at least one episode too long. Clearly the production cycle is in a tight spot compared to where the manga's story is at, and the show is begging for even a small break.
To dredge up some something positive here, when Charlotte Cracker arrives on the scene and knocks out many of Big Mom's minions, the art on their horrified corpses after having their souls dispatched was ghastly. There's a lot about Cracker and his upcoming fight with Luffy that's super cool and interesting, but as of this episode there would be no way to know how big of a deal he is. His massive 860 million bounty is relegated to the next episode preview (alongside a lot of stellar looking animation) but it's in this episode that we desperately need an adrenaline shot to keep the momentum going, and I don't think there is one nearby.
I think that's the problem. Cracker is a big deal, but right now he feels like just another tedious obstacle in the Seducing Woods. The setting isn't the problem, the characters aren't the problem, the problem is that we've spent so much time goofing off and going through all these repetitive challenges that I can't imagine the few people who keep up with the anime week to week will be getting a whole lot out of the Whole Cake Island arc so far. Next week's episode looks great, and I wish that was the one we were getting this week instead.
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