by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 853 of
One Piece ?
So we've now established the three battlefronts facing our heroes: Luffy's fighting Katakuri in the mirror world to keep the mochi man from interfering with his crew, Sanji, Pudding, and Chiffon are on Cacao island, baking Big Mom's replacement wedding cake as fast as they can, and the remainder of the Straw Hats sailing the waters of Totto Land to avoid a starving Big Mom and her massive fleet. There are a few ways in which these individual scenes can still interact and influence each other, like Katakuri's flunkies having access to the Sunny through its unbroken mirrors, and the plan to take the cake itself to sea once it's ready.
So far we've gotten episodes that have covered Luffy and Sanji's subplots pretty thoroughly, and this week we're putting our focus back on the Sunny crew and their naval battle. Sadly, the recent surge of quality for the One Piece anime is starting to simmer, and it's falling back into its usual stiffness. It's an extra shame because the centerpiece of the episode is adapting one of my absolute favorite scenes in the arc. Big Mom uses her soul powers to possess the water itself and animate a giant tidal wave (complete with a big cartoon face in the middle that's equal parts dopey and menacing), and Jimbei takes the wheel to steer the ship towards the danger and narrowly surf through the "green room", the open space within a collapsing wave.
With Jimbei's formal recruitment into the Straw Hats imminent, the audience has been wondering what his official job on the crew was going to be. Jimbei as the helmsman has always been the most realistic guess, but it's always been speculation based purely on the fact that we briefly saw him steering a ship hundreds of episodes ago. This episode makes it crystal clear that's where he's heading, and it makes perfect sense. It's a great confirmation scene that requires Jimbei to pull of a massive feat of technical skill. If he screwed up, they all would have died, so it feels nice to know our fish uncle is so reliable.
Unfortunately, as much as I like this scene in essence, it's barely a step above the rest of this chore of an episode. It's extremely underwhelming in execution and you can tell the anime's going to hit a rough patch while we wait for the next big exciting turn to get the anime staff enthusiastic again. The scenes that cut back to Luffy and Sanji's parts are also at risk of getting tiresome already, since they're easy padding for the episode. It always sucks when the anime can take something good and ruin it by repeating it too many times—which is where Sanji and Pudding are for me at the moment.
This is a limp episode that covers some good material that serves as a benchmark for Jimbei's painfully endless journey to Straw Hat Land. It's also a really novel use of Big Mom's powers, with a giant tidal wave being a perfect beat to really hammer home how aggressive and inescapable the villains are, but the heightened drama just doesn't come through enough this week.
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