by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 828 of
One Piece ?
There hasn't been an organic way to bring it up in the past couple of reviews, but during our time in the company of Capone Bege's crew with the intention of discussing the assassination of Big Mom, there's been one gangster in the lot who sticks out like a sore thumb, and that's mostly because he bears a striking resemblance to the mad scientist Caesar Clown. Luffy seems to think so too, but it takes him a moment of staying uncharacteristically quiet before he blurts out what's on his mind.
So yeah, it turns out that Caesar wasn't doing too hot under Big Mom's watchful eye and decided to team-up with Capone incognito, under the alias "Gangster Gastino". Normally, witness protection programs are designed to keep people away from the mob, but we'll have to make an exception in this case. I'm just happy because Caesar is one of my favorite characters, and I think the way he has to gel his hair straight up in order to hide his goat horns makes him look hilariously stupid.
The first half of this episode drags on painfully long—I wish I could enjoy the extended Caesar shenanigans, but none of it quite hits the spot—however, things do get significantly more engaging once the story has a point to focus on: the actual assassination plot. The challenge in trying to kill a monstrous woman like Big Mom is that her body doesn't work like a normal human's. She's so tough that her skin's as hard as steel, so it can't be pierced by swords or bullets. To count the increasing number of ways that Big Mom has been revealed to be ungodly threatening: she's thirty feet tall, invulnerable, physically strong beyond belief, has the ability to steal people's souls, surrounded by an army of her absurdly powerful children, and capable of Conquerer's Haki to boot. Thankfully, she may have at least one weakness, which is a framed photograph of the woman who raised her, Mother Carmel.
All we know about this person at the moment is that she was incredibly important to Big Mom, but she went missing at some point in the past. The only time Capone and his crew have ever seen Mom get a scratch on her was at a previous tea party, where somebody accidentally knocked the picture over, and she let out a massive blood-curdling scream before scraping her own knee. This moment of panic, described as even scarier than her city-leveling hunger pangs, appears to be the only window of time in which her body becomes fragile. Since it's tradition for Big Mom to keep this photograph by her side during weddings, the plan from there is to break the picture on purpose and strike her with a poison gas rocket launcher designed by Caesar. Luffy's job in this scenario is to be bait.
I really like how this episode works to make Big Mom even more of a ridiculous yet mythical figure. We get little flashbacks to her sinking ships and bullets bouncing off her, but it's the hint of Mother Carmel that makes her all the more spooky. This is a whole new story thread that will prove to be the backbone of the arc, implying yet another parent-child relationship to explore in the coming episodes. Among the copious exposition, we'll have to keep in mind the classic storytelling law that says if the characters discuss their plan on-screen, you know it's got to fail spectacularly. So that should be fun.
It still frustrates me that it took several episodes of build-up and teasing just to get these schemers to scheme, but it's over now and we can move onto the next stage of the story. The source material is such a tight and deliberate mechanism of set-up and pay-off, however sprawling it may be, and that's undercut drastically when it takes this much time to establish the setup. I know it can't be helped, but I really love the structure of this arc, so it saddens me that it had to be the one to suffer the most in the adaptation. The actual meat of the recent exposition has been strong at least, and we get some good world-building as we gradually transition into the wedding itself.
This is the kind of story with a lot of moving pieces at work. Trying to keep track of them is part of the fun, but it's inevitable that some are going to fall by the wayside just long enough to surprise us with their return. I'm going to do my best to stay on top of as many important details as I can, since everything's in place to get crazy moving forward, but my experience with anime lately has felt like jogging in place, mostly anticipating stuff that's coming up.
Three hours until the wedding.
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