by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 831 of
One Piece ?
There's a specific plot thread in this arc that thankfully gets brought back up this week, because otherwise it would easily get swallowed up in all the chaos. One of Big Mom's passions is treasure chests, because she loves opening them and discovering what rare artifacts are inside. It's a tradition for her guests to give these chests to her as gifts during tea parties while trying to outdo each other in extravagance. It sounds pretty in-character to learn that even when it's her children getting married, Mom's the one raking in all the presents.
But Big Mom has been holding on to a very special treasure chest for a while: The Tamate Box. This has been a leftover thread since the end of Fishman Island, when the royal family gifted the Straw Hats all their treasure to thank them, and then Luffy gave that treasure to the Big Mom pirates to calm them down enough to not destroy the island for being unable to afford tribute. The Tamate Box was among that treasure, described as an important chest with a lot of history, passed down for generations. In the context of the Fishman Island arc, we learned that it originally housed the energy steroids that Hody Jones and his crew stole, and that the royal family rigged the chest with a bomb in order to catch future thieves. The family failed to warn the Straw Hats of this before they handed it over to Big Mom, and the implication has always been that one day Big Mom would open this "gift" and interpret it as a malicious attack from Luffy. Hundreds of episodes later, Mom still has that chest, and she's looking forward to opening it on this special day.
This ends up being one of the more interesting details in an otherwise calorie-free episode. We've spent the first half of this arc establishing Big Mom's monstrousness, and between the Tamate Box, the Mother Carmel picture that the crew is looking to smash, and the wedding cake that Mom has been looking forward to so much, we have at least three ways in which we could piss her off. Speaking of the Mother Carmel picture, there's also a scene in this episode where a random guest asks her a simple question about it, but gets a violent "Don't pry into my memories!" response in return, implying that it's a touchy subject.
Compared to all its build-up, there's something I found off about this episode. I was hoping to coast a little longer on the recent pretty visuals, but this plays out more like an empty buffer holding us over between the more interesting story beats. Visually this episode is mostly flat, with a lot of charmless waist-high medium shots making up the compositions. The core is in the scenes between Sanji and Pudding as they wait for their wedding to officially begin, and Sanji being hopelessly won over by his bride as she continues to play innocent. There's a growing concern over whether Sanji can keep himself together for the assassination plan, since the fantasy "good" version of Pudding is winning him back over while she inner-monologues about his coming death.
Hopefully this is the last episode of pre-wedding setup, since Sanji and Pudding are in the process of walking down the aisle. (If by "walking" you mean getting flown in on a giant piece of candy.) We've dedicated a lot of time to preparing for Capone's assassination plot, some of which we've seen in action and some of which is still a secret to the audience. The pieces are all in place, and it's time to see where they fall, considering how many ways this day can go wrong for every party involved. Let's get these kids hitched and get this mom assassinated, shall we?
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