by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 854 of
One Piece ?
When Luffy first pulled Katakuri into the mirror world, it was done with the implication that neither of them would have an easy way back to the Sunny. Luffy was willfully facing a challenge where he'd not only have to beat Katakuri in a one-on-one fight, but he'd have to beat any other Charlotte siblings who might get in his way once it's time to find a new mirror elsewhere in Totto Land and find the way back to his crew. The hiccup is that there's more than one mirror on the Sunny, and the Big Mom family has easier access to them than he does, so using a loose shard from the original mirror like a phone, Luffy has to command his crew to destroy any extraneous exits from the outside, thus helping him double down on his crazy gamble.
After surviving Big Mom's tidal wave, the Sunny crew is momentarily in the clear. The enemy assumes that the Straw Hats are dead, and Big Mom gets distracted on her rampage and steers herself towards the delicious-looking Nuts Island. There's a significant release in tension that leaves the Thousand Sunny side of the chase a little limp, since they're basically free to sail off and hide until Sanji has the cake ready, though the shift comes with Luffy's fight becoming even more dire. He lies to his crew and tells them everything's going to be okay before their communication gets cut-off, when in reality he's getting his ass kicked by an opponent who he'll have to deal with for the ten-plus hours it takes to bake a giant cake.
So since we're going to be spending a lot of time with Charlotte Katakuri, let's get to know him, shall we? Brulee is very quick to brag about his outrageously silly backstory this week—not only has he never lost a fight, he's never once laid on his back! He came out of the womb standing up, and this obviously true legend (no need to look it up, there are no lies here) is supposed to be evidence of true nobility, coolness, and masculinity. Katakuri doesn't seem like to type to brag on his own behalf, but he is demonstrably much stronger than Luffy, so much so that it barely feels like he's trying in this fight until he gets mad at Luffy for trying to strike his siblings.
We get a brief return of the Germa 66 subplot this week, though I had forgotten they were even still in this story and not a lot has changed in their ongoing skirmish with the Big Mom pirates, but there was an interesting anime-only detail where Charlotte Bassquarte (one of the nobody Charlottes whose name you wouldn't even know if you didn't follow supplemental materials) pulls down the covering on his face to breathe fire and you get to see he's got a jagged monster mouth. It was interesting to see the anime add some flourish to the arc's motif of Charlotte children hiding a part of their true appearance, though it's a little redundant if you have even an inkling about what's going on under Katakuri's big scarf.
This is a decent episode for the Katakuri fight, but you don't reach the end feeling like a whole lot of progress is made. The biggest issue with this battle is that it gets repetitive by following the same basic beats: Luffy attacks, Katakuri dodges. Luffy attacks again, Katakuri copies his move but bigger. Rinse and repeat. This week introduces Katakuri's trident into the mix, but now is about the time we'd want to see a shift in the power dynamic between the two. Thankfully, the moment-to-moment pacing is much more exciting than last week, so as bare bones as this episode is, it still manages to be enjoyable enough.
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