One Piece Episode 821
by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 821 of
One Piece ?
When reactions are based solely on the weekly release of the anime, it's easy to forget to emphasize how masterful One Piece is at juggling and threading its immense number of subplots. Since the reveal of Pudding's dastardly nature, a lot has already changed. Luffy is out of prison, Pedro's finishing up his fight, Nami and Jimbei are off to reunite with the rest of the crew, and so on. I like how we get to enjoy the distinct feeling that most of the arc's conflicts are wrapping up, but just as things are settling down, Brook also gets captured. No matter how clean the path is to Luffy and Sanji's reconciliation, there's always going to be at least one more problem to take care of. One Straw Hat steps out of prison, and another just falls right in.
Brook's situation aside, this episode is probably the most positive development our heroes have gotten in a while. Just when things are starting to get hairy in Pedro's fight with Count Niwatori, the jaguar uses his trademark move (excessive amounts of dynamite) as a distraction to make his getaway, allowing Chopper and Carrot to pull him into the safe haven they've created in Brulee's mirror world. So that's three members of Team Straw Hat together, and then later they catch Nami and Jimbei running through the halls, bringing the gang up to five. Making the mirror world the meeting point for our main characters does a lot to pay off the endless padding we've spent on Carrot and Chopper's shenanigans up until now. Also, the sparkly shojo fanart that Carrot draws so that the sentient mirrors can locate their friends just makes me fall for her even harder. What a good bun.
The most mixed aspect of this episode is the amount of time spent on Luffy's dash through the Whole Cake Chateau looking for Sanji. It's probably the most well-animated portion of the episode, as Luffy picks fights with every enemy pirate that steps into his path, but it faces all the same padding challenges that we've come to sigh at. There's a lot that I like in this episode, but the story flow is very stiff as a result of drawn-out action that would have worked best zipping right past you.
In the theme of absolving the Straw Hats of conflict, Luffy finds himself in Reiju's hospital room, having just missed Sanji. Reiju catches Luffy up, confirming that Sanji knows about Pudding's lies and comforting anybody in the audience who might have been worried that this misconception would get in the way of the crew finally coming together. The efficiency at which the show addresses every little thing that could keep Luffy and Sanji from making up would almost seem robotic if it weren't so charming. The only reason the story is delaying their reunion at this point is mostly a matter of poetry, as Luffy takes this chance to break out of the chateau and make a beeline for the spot where he and Sanji fought—the place where he promised he'd be waiting. Meanwhile, Sanji is struggling to decide what he wants to do. He has his freedom, but it's starting to become clear that he might have a problem leaving his family to die.
After an arc of ups and downs, it feels good to see the moving pieces start falling into place and for the real story to reveal itself. It's important that once Luffy and Sanji meet, there aren't any baggage or excuses for them not to be completely honest with each other, in direct contrast to what was going on in their fight where Sanji had to lie in order to appease his family. We're moving into the next big turning point of the Whole Cake Island arc, where clarity becomes one of the story's biggest strengths, and seeing things tidy up this elegantly goes a long way toward setting up that strong sense of focus.
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