by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 826 of
One Piece ?
Every review it feels like I have to come up with a new way of saying "this is moving way too slow," but thankfully the show makes it a little easier on me by having vastly different pacing issues just about every week. These past couple episodes are especially hurt by trying to contrive suspense around every minuscule detail—which can range from effective to hindering depending on the episode—but somehow this episode manages to come across even more lifeless and meandering than last week's. It's not just the lack of manga content to cover this time, it's the incredibly stiff editing as well.
As for what's going on in the plot: Sanji's back, baby! And now the Straw Hats are devising a plan to crash his wedding and rescue the Vinsmokes. Most of the episode centers around Luffy and Sanji communicating with the crew through a small shard of mirror, since the rest of the gang are still hanging out in Charlotte Brulee's mirror world. There's a moment of fear over how the others might react when they hear the plan to go headfirst into a fight with Big Mom, but the crew is so relieved to know that they have Sanji back that this cancels out the terror of imminent doom. One of the stand-out moments in this conversation is when Nami, happy to be talking to Sanji again, still has to play the "I'll never forgive you for scaring us like that" routine. It's played like a joke, but I think it's going to get brought back up again by the end of the arc.
Given how elegantly all the loose threads and subplots have been weaving in and out lately, it's a shock to remember that there are still a number of important characters we haven't heard from in months. Luffy and Sanji don't have any concrete ideas for how they're going to deal with this wedding, but with expert strategist Jimbei on our side, it turns out we have more options than we considered, most notably a potential alliance with Capone Bege of the Firetank pirates. This leads to a really good example of the editing problems in this episode, because it tries to Tarantino us at the very end with an extremely abrupt jump to the meeting between crews, with everybody decked out in new gangster duds, but the attempt to jumble the scene order only comes off jarring as opposed to creative. (And it turns out that they're just trying to get clever in avoiding the last two pages of the chapter that's being adapted.)
So we've known Capone to be working for Big Mom, having married into the family through Lola's twin Chiffon. We've also seen him conspiring against Big Mom earlier in the arc when he shot Pekoms off a cliff and into the ocean. It turns out that the Sun pirates caught and rescued Pekoms before being eaten by sharks, and this is how Jimbei learned of Capone's Big Mom assassination plan and decided to communicate with him. Capone and his crew have been trusted to operate security at the wedding, and now it's to be seen if a mutually beneficial partnership can be made between the Straw Hats and the Firetanks. Between Luffy's crew, Capone's crew, Big Mom's crew, and the Vinsmokes, this has been quite the arc of people plotting each other's demise.
I really love how Whole Cake Island continues to add new aesthetic themes into the mix, making the elevator pitch for the arc even more delightfully absurd ("It's a Game of Thrones/Disney musical/mobster drama with bunny girls!"), but I think we'll have to wait until the next episode before we truly get to revel in it. This is an episode of exposition that sets us up for the juicier exposition to come, and the pacing problems only seem to be getting worse. Sadly, I didn't find myself enjoying this week all that much, since the adaptation doesn't feel very engaged. The last shot of the two crews meeting, covered in solid black shadows and rad outfits, is memorable and striking, but this will be easier to gush about next time.
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