by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 841 of
One Piece ?
With the Big Mom Assassination plot a resounding failure, our heroes' efforts turn completely to escape. Capone can keep most of his crew and the Straw Hats safe inside his body, but he needs to shrink down to his original size so that Caesar can grab him and fly over the wall. The Vinsmokes' role from here is to protect them on their way out.
Obviously, it's never going to be that easy since 1.) Big Mom herself is back in the action, turning her sadness and heartbreak into rage as she smashes the ground around her and whips Zeus and Prometheus across the field in explosions of fire and thunder, and 2.) the Straw Hats are doing a poor job of keeping Luffy from jumping out of Capone's body and re-entering the fight himself. The boy just can't help himself and very quickly he's plowing ahead with Fourth Gear and trading blows with Big Mom. I think the scene where Luffy and Sanji both emerge to save Reiju from Big Mom's attack actually plays better in the anime than in the manga, since it takes one of the more random "the woman gets in trouble just in time for the men to appear" moments and changes the emphasis. The sense of scale and distance between Big Mom and Reiju is greater, and it's funny to see Luffy and Sanji bicker about whose turn it is to be on the offensive while they both fall a great distance in slow motion.
Getting mere inches ahead of the Big Mom pirates in each episode is likely going to be the status quo moving forward with this arc. There isn't a lot of story going on, but there's a lot of action that offers plenty of energy. On one hand, I'm getting real sick of the show giving little rundown sequences on each of the Vinsmokes and their powers. I know what they can do. I get it already. On the other hand, the animation this week is a lot more lively, and the show is clearly taking the time to flesh out some mini one-on-one fights between characters who otherwise wouldn't get anything if they were just adapting the material straight. I'm of two minds on that already, since I appreciate the attempt to expound on the source material instead of just dragging things out in ultra slow-mo, but I'd still much prefer we lived in a world where the anime could adapt the manga at a reasonable pace to begin with. The arc is long enough already.
The ending of this episode is particularly strong, with the heroes having to dance between fighting and escaping. Luffy wants a fight, but appears to be way under Big Mom's weight class. He's puffing his chest and making big declarations about coming back to Whole Cake Island and beating her after he finishes his beef with Kaido, but there remain so many uncertainties as to how that could even shake out. Can Luffy escape Whole Cake Island to begin with? And even if he can it's not like Kaido's going to be any easier of a fight than Mom. We get to revel in that in-over-our-heads feeling that has been absent for a lot of the Straw Hats' journey through the New World.
Buying Luffy and company some time to keep running is Judge, who's hungry for some vengeance on Big Mom after she crushed his dreams. I like the back and forth between his impassioned speech about the anger of the ancestors of Germa who he's letting down, followed up immediately by Big Mom effortlessly crunching his spear between her teeth and then dropping a monstrous lightning bolt on his face. This was Judge's one chance to look a little bit heroic and he gets squashed like a bug.
We're moving forward with the action-heavy half of Whole Cake Island, so there's a lot of potential slack for the anime to pick up in terms of both pacing and animation. An episode like this serves the latter fairly well, but I'm having flashbacks to Marineford where we spent like ten episodes of Luffy just running forward in a straight line, making minimal progress every week. I'm ready for that to be the case here. As far as this episode goes, however, the action does succeed in looking good, and I think that the little story we go was done admirably well.
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