by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 835 of
One Piece ?
Big Mom's hellish tea party rages on as Luffy makes his second attempt to strike her Achilles Heel: the broken photograph of her childhood caretaker, Mother Carmel. These past few episodes could easily get a little frustrating because we're still trying to get this big scream out of Mom, but they make me extremely curious as to how the anime is going to handle the rest of the Whole Cake Island climax, which in the manga is one big complicated action scene that's divisively low on traditional one-on-one fights. Last week's episode almost felt like we were getting a proper Sanji vs. Daifuku fight, and this week there's a brief conflict between Brook and Charlotte Oven that wasn't in the manga. There's a sincere effort to flesh the story out with more action, as opposed to just taking the manga and stretching it out. Perhaps this could give some characters who fell by the wayside in the manga more chances to stand out.
But sticking closer to what the source material had to offer, the emphasis this week is still mostly on Luffy and company trying to outrun Katakuri and his mochi powers. I find it endlessly amusing that Katakuri is canonically sixteen feet tall, right between his mother's size and a regular human, and you see examples in this episode of that creating some jarring perspective shots. It's that weird One Piece quirk where strong guys (like Doflamingo) are just naturally super-tall, which has mostly been successful at simply creating a contrast between the big dudes and little ole Luffy. However, Katakuri just looks like a giant when I think he's meant to feel a little more Doflamingo-esque in that regard. You've got to be strategic about how often you show the dude standing next to other characters.
There isn't a lot going on in the episode that sets it apart from last week, but we do finally get that Big Mom scream, connecting us to the cliffhanger where we start to fade into her childhood backstory, ready to finally learn who this Mother Carmel actually was. Capone and his crew don't get the chance to pull the trigger on their rocket launchers just yet, but I've been hungrily waiting for this flashback to arrive and for One Piece to aggressively become less child-friendly for a couple weeks. Before her big scream, we see Mom finally confronting that Mother Carmel picture, desperately trying to put its pieces back together as her hands shake in horror. The deep dive we're about to take into Big Mom's psyche is so interesting and exciting to me.
The other change-up is Sanji finally breaking his family free of their candy prison and the Straw Hats providing them with earplugs (to withstand the scream) and the containers that hold their Super Sentai raid suits, since Capone had collected them as a part of his security duty. Now the Vinsmokes are going to join the fight, and we're facing that weird dynamic where the Nazi Power Ranger family get to be allies as the result of circumstance. It doesn't come without a lot of pontificating from Reiju about how Sanji's the only good thing to have come their family and how their mother's good will survives through him, but that continues to be something ripe to be made more interesting with further context. My theory for a while now has been that we'd learn Sanji's mom was also a supervillain type like Judge, and we'd string that reveal into the larger theme of managing our complicated relationships with the rare instances of love we receive in our lives.
There's some really fascinating stuff going on in this arc, as we deal with villains who range from morally compromised to the morally vacant, a topic One Piece has a unique perspective on by virtue of focusing on lawless pirates to begin with. The Vinsmokes get off a little easy in this arc, but because so many blind spots have been teased about their history, I'm not comfortable believing that their role begins and ends at "grudging allies."
This episode continues the colorful action from last week, although it looks a little more shoddy in places. I remain pleasantly surprised by how well the anime is handling the emotional chaos as we inch our way between plot points, but right now I'm just happy that we'll finally get to talk about Mother Carmel for real next week, and with her all the insane darkness lurking in Big Mom's memories. Let's get weird with this.
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