by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 830 of
One Piece ?
When you're anticipating matrimony, time is sure to move much slower than normal. It's a big day after all, and I can only imagine what pre-ceremony jitters could do to a person, especially if you knew your bride-to-be was preparing to murder you in cold blood. Morning has arrived, everybody's showing up at the Whole Cake Chateau, and we can assume that this damn wedding will finally begin one of these days.
Exacerbations aside, this is a powerhouse of an episode. The show-stopper belongs to the arc's biggest musical number since Big Mom's introduction. Considering this is One Piece, you can never count on the already enormous cast to ever finish growing, and we're being formally introduced to Big Mom's prestigious guests—a collection of unsavory figures from the underworld including loan sharks, undertakers, and similar riffraff. I'd pinpoint two of the more interesting figures in the lot as Stussy, the queen of the pleasure district, and "Big News" Morgans, a Big Bird-looking avian man who runs a famous newspaper. For completely new characters who mostly function as a group, they all have pretty memorable designs. Equally striking is the crass banter between these characters serving as the lyrics to the musical.
An episode like this can only truly work if it looks good, and to that end it's fantastically successful. One aspect of One Piece that lives and dies based on adaptation quality is its strong aesthetic sensibility. There hardly exists a location in this series that isn't begging to be brought to life in color and motion, but that's something the anime can't always offer. With Whole Cake Island, the Disney musical inspiration is obvious, but tangible references pale in comparison to something that can actually summon its own whimsy and charm. With the underworld bosses arriving at the scene, and Big Mom's eldest son Perospero welcoming them with gusto as he constructs a massive candy escalator to lead them to the party, it kills me that episodes of this quality are so rare.
The musical would be reason enough to love this episode, but this week is also the proper introduction of Charlotte Katakuri. We're learning just how unprepared our heroes are on two fronts when it comes to enacting their own plan, since Sanji is meeting a drop-dead gorgeous Pudding in her wedding dress for the first time, and Capone seems to have neglected mentioning one of Big Mom's most threatening forces. In short, Katakuri is the strongest of Big Mom's "Sweet Three"—we remember the gajillion episodes it took for Luffy to beat Cracker—who boasts a bounty of over a billion berries on top of a powerful Observation Haki that lets him see slightly into the future. He flicks lethal jelly beans into his enemies' skulls and blatantly cribs Joseph Joestar's "You're about to say..." gimmick, but I can't imagine there are any hard feelings there because they got the voice of Joseph himself, Tomokazu Sugita, to play the part. Katakuri is quite the presence in this arc to say the least.
By virtue of having at least two distinctly strong scenes, this episode feels much more packed than usual. However, that doesn't mean it can't commit significant chunks of its runtime to filler. There's an extended scene with an army of organ dealers attacking while Capone and his gang are still playing security, prompting Katakuri and a couple of his brothers to jump in and show off their powers. This sequence is mostly fluff, but the designs of the filler assassins are bizarre enough to warrant a peek, and getting to see more of Katakuri, Oven, and Daifuku in action doesn't hurt.
There's so much going for this episode that I don't know where to start in summation. This is easily the most well-adapted episode we've received in a long time, a perfect demonstration of the colorful yet twisted nature of Whole Cake Island. It's a Disney musical! But it's also got some gnarly grit detailing the world of pirates and underworld brokers. Everything is firing on all cylinders as we indulge in Big Mom's hellish tea party and set the stage for Sanji and Pudding's wedding. This is where One Piece becomes a world I'd want to live in, occupied with characters whose stories I want to learn, and I couldn't be happier with the execution.
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