One Piece Episode 809
by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 809 of
One Piece ?
If we're judging pure chapter content compared to episode content, this arc has got to be the slowest One Piece's anime has ever been. People have always been harsh on the show at a chapter-per-episode pace, but that was pretty close to "just right" for me, considering how busy your average chapter of One Piece is. We're not moving even that fast right now, and considering the frequency with which the manga takes breaks these days, I wonder if we'll ever get back on track.
It's especially frustrating because I think this is the part of the arc where stuff starts to get really cool and there are all these things I'm excited to talk about, but every time I think we're about to get to some of it, the episode ends and I feel like I'm running through a cave in a JRPG, triggering a bunch of annoying random encounters.
This episode lies in the fallout of the Luffy vs. Sanji fight. Luffy's made up his mind that he isn't going to move an inch from where Sanji left him, preforming his own impromptu hunger strike. Even once the sky starts to rain syrup (which sounds very inconvenient and sticky), Luffy keeps his mouth shut, refusing to eat or taste anything that isn't made by Sanji. Normally when somebody tries to leave the crew for personal reasons, they need to learn to trust Luffy to fight on their behalf, but here Luffy's putting all his trust in Sanji not to stay separated for too long. This gesture is complicated since he's worn out by two very big fights, and now Big Mom's army of hundreds are on their way to avenge Cracker.
There's only a small amount of new story content getting covered in this episode, but what it tries to do with its time is admirable, as we're getting a good dose of the arc's bizarro Disney-musical motif. Sanji and the rest of the Vinsmokes get to meet with Big Mom in person for the first time for the engagement ceremony, and there's mounds of creativity bringing the singing tableware to life as they try to be as helpful as possible to Big Mom's guests. Also, the Whole Cake Island arc wouldn't be complete without creepy smiling food begging to be eaten, as if that's a totally normal thing to offer foreigners. Does Big Mom go out of her way to put souls into food? Where do the souls go when you eat them?! The morbid friendliness of Big Mom's kingdom is available in spades in this episode, extending to Big Mom's youngest children who all seem to be out to stab each other.
The outdoors portion of the episode, focusing on Luffy and Nami as a storm picks up, looks really nice and atmospheric, the awkward army of CGI soldiers approaching be damned. Luffy looks truly worn out and tattered, and one of the most mystifying details is his missing tooth from one of Sanji's kicks. Something like that would normally get cartoon-logic'd back into his face by now, but I really enjoy how the story goes on to play with it like it's a battle scar. It's one of those little things that should be inconsequential, but it bugs you just enough to keep your eye on it.
In the midst of meeting Big Mom, Sanji also has a moment to interact with his fiancée Pudding, who wants to talk to him in private. This thread is properly suspenseful in the moment (we don't get to see their conversation until the next episode), but pulling Sanji aside all happens within the span of a single manga chapter, and it's ultimately a simple setup for something else that happens down the line. We're creating all these extra story beats to buy time before the real rollercoaster can start, and this arc is already looking long enough as is. This episode does a good job keeping what it has to offer entertaining, and the world of Whole Cake Island has a lot to take in for those who want to dawdle and enjoy the environment, but man, I'm ready to speed things up.
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