One Piece Episode 824
by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 824 of
One Piece ?
A repeated downside of Whole Cake Island's pacing, even when the episodes in question are solid, is that there tend to be scenes that complemented each other extremely well when they were in the same manga chapter, but now have to get divided up between episodes. In the manga, the mission to rescue Brook had a punchline that we're just getting now: the Straw Hats discover Brook actually had succeeded in getting a rubbing of Big Mom's Poneglyph just before getting caught, and he's been storing the giant folded-up pages in the compartment inside his head this whole time. This moment gets to be shocking, funny, a little gross with the whole skull compartment thing, and amazingly victorious at the same time.
This is a great example of how One Piece unravels its story, where things can get told out of order and information withheld, before the true sequence of events gets revealed to us and voila, we've just gotten a whole dramatic arc that we wouldn't have been privy to otherwise. It's a bonus reward for the crew who were just looking to save their friend, and it means that the only objective they had left for Whole Cake Island, other than getting Sanji back, has been squared away. The Straw Hats now have two of the four coordinates to Gold Roger's treasure, and Brook comes out of the arc looking surprisingly badass.
Speaking of Sanji, the rest of the episode is about finally getting us to the point where he and Luffy reunite. It takes us until the very end of the episode, but we do get there. Luffy's fight with the grunts of Big Mom's crew is another example of a sequence that got drawn out far too long in the anime, spanning the past three or four episodes, but you can respect the hustle that went into making it atmospheric and dramatic. The animation gets really ambitious (and a little funky-looking, if I'm being honest) and we're treated to that Movie 5 soundtrack that I can't get enough of. I think the strongest element is the suspense over the outcome of the fight, as Sanji finally shows up just as it looks like Luffy is losing, only for the show to reveal that we're now much later in the night than we thought and we're looking at a field of unconscious bodies. It takes Sanji a while to find his captain in the mess, but when he does, Luffy looks like he's suffering from starvation more than any battle wounds. And hey, Sanji happens to still have that picnic basket he made for Pudding. How nice.
We also get some time with the Vinsmokes, drinking and partying it up the night before the wedding. We know that they're saps walking into a trap, so that's juxtaposed nicely against how sinister they can come off when they think they're on top of things. We're reminded once again of Judge's dream to re-conquer the North Blue, and while there are a lot of specifics missing as to why this is so important to him, it succeeds in making the story feel big and mysterious. There are all these exciting corners waiting to be turned, and all these backstories waiting to change everything we thought we knew.
We're slowly crawling our way through the midpoint of the arc, inching toward the climactic half finally kicking into gear. The scene where Sanji sees Luffy and has a relieved smile on his face is good, and the incredibly elegant ways that all the pieces are falling into place is commendable as always. Despite how little progress gets made between episodes, this week aims to feel massive. The big action set-piece with Luffy is much more dramatic than I expected, and I think it does a good job giving this episode a sense of heft where there wouldn't have been otherwise. Big changes are in the works, so I was pleasantly surprised to see this episode be so thorough and well-directed.
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