by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 845 of
One Piece ?
For this stretch of the chase, the Straw Hats' primary transportation is King Baum, the giant living tree who rules the Seducing Woods and can run shockingly fast for somebody with roots for legs. However, between Nami manipulating him and Big Mom chopping him up and burning him to a crisp, things could be better for our botanical friend. He might never get to see his darling fiancée—a curvaceous lady tree introduced just now to be his "one week until retirement" motivation—again! This show is weird.
Nami ends up being the one to lead the counterattack against Big Mom the most this week. She has King Baum under her thumb and her Clima-Tact's thunder clouds are a tasty treat for Zeus, giving them a way to knock Big Mom off her cloud to gain some distance. Even Zeus, who was given life by Big Mom's own soul, isn't especially loyal to her. It doesn't seem to matter, however, because whatever advantage our heroes can claim in this chase inevitably gets blocked by another aspect of Big Mom's powers. Oh, you're close to the shore? I'll control the trees and block your path. Oh, you stole my cloud? I'll drop the frickin' sun on you. It's the painfully neverending series of obstacles that gives this arc its charm.
The Germa 66 subplot continues to get the most attention from the animators. Their fights are electrifying and engaging, while the stuff with Big Mom and the Straw Hats shows a lot more strain. However, I think the fact that we're constantly on the move does a lot to alleviate stiff production values, and in general I'm having a better time with these chase episodes than I was up on the Chateau. An anime-specific flourish that I really appreciated was the moment between Sanji and Pedro, where Pedro offers Sanji his electro powers to light a cigarette, since they're both smokers. It's a sweet scene, and it speaks to both characters' upcoming roles in this arc in a succinct way. It's important that these two characters share a moment, and smoking as a source of comfort and companionship resonates in a story that's very much about bad habits and addictive personalities.
Speaking of bad habits, Charlotte Pudding's got herself a crush. Yes, after keeping her evil persona up for the episodes following her emotional breakdown, it seems clear that Pudding's heart throbs for Sanji. She's tracked down Capone and Chiffon to suggest her cake-baking plan, since she's good at making chocolate and Chiffon is good at chiffon cake. Chiffon almost refuses since she doesn't care about saving Mom or the family, wanting to leave it all behind just like Lola, but Pudding may be on a similar page. If their mom keeps rampaging, she'll chase Sanji and his friends to the ends of the earth, and that's what they want to prevent, the Charlotte family's well-being be damned.
I like how this scene works to avoid being cheesy. I remember that this reveal of Pudding being in love was an eye-rolling "Ah geez, we're really going there, are we?" moment in the manga, but the presentation in the anime makes it more serious and cool. I'll have plenty more opportunities to discuss my complicated feelings about Pudding in the future (spoiler: I love her), so I'll put a pin in that conversation for now.
This arc does a lot for me, both structurally and thematically. When it was all intrigue and mystery, I found the anime adaptation burdensome, but now that we're dashing by the seat of our pants, my mood has changed considerably. The animation's still rough around the edges—I'm going to be waiting patiently for an episode that can bring Big Mom's rampage to life the way it exists in my imagination—but this is the kind of slow-burn shonen that I can eat right up. It's all action and feelings, sympathizing with characters who maybe don't deserve it but you just like them, and you gotta follow the engine in your heart because we're all sharks who'll die if we stop swimming. Combine that with the Skypiea-like cascade of obstacles that keep us away from that finish line that's always visible but just out of reach, and it's all good stuff.
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