by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 858 of
One Piece ?
The enthusiastic but slapdash structure of Whole Cake Island's climax has been starting to take its toll these past few weeks. Things were just heating up with Fourth Gear Luffy's onslaught against Katakuri, but the entire reason Luffy waited this long to bust this transformation out in the first place is that he knows it has a time limit and a gnarly recharge time. Katakuri's Observation Haki has returned and now Luffy's power is beginning to deflate, meaning he has to hightail it out of the mirror world altogether. He finds Brulee hiding around one of the corners, so he's able to kidnap her and escape.
There's a lot that's hit and miss about this portion of the battle. It seems with each escalation of the stakes, something else has to get dramatically undercut in the process. Luffy is able to escape the battle and leaves Katakuri stuck in the mirror world. That's good! But the mirror he exits from just happens to bring him to Nuts Island, where Big Mom is actively rampaging and throwing skyscraper-sized peanuts around. That's bad! I love that the second Luffy uses his Get Out of Jail Free Card he accidentally stumbles into a much, much worse scenario. There are so many places this could go, but unfortunately this will ultimately prove to be a momentary breather from the Katakuri fight, and all we're doing is wasting our time. The tension that was building during the actual important part of the story has been shot in the foot.
The animation isn't helping a ton either, and it really shows during the scene that needs it the most: a new musical number! That's right, this is still a musical arc, even in the heat of battle, and this time it's Praline singing away the Big Mom pirates' territory sea slugs. This is a nice return of Jimbei's Sun pirates, and a further extension of this arc's crazy Rube Goldberg machine of a plot. Though, it should feel a lot more effective and whimsical, really nailing the arc's equilibrium between the Straw Hats' crazy luck and their systematic domination of the Big Mom pirates, but it's barely animated and the song's composition feels unfinished. This could have been a perfectly timed breath of fresh air to contrast against the same-y Katakuri fight, but instead it's just really boring.
This is a big turning point for the climax of the arc. Luffy has changed locations, the Sunny crew is getting ready to make their next move, and the breading of the new wedding cake has been finished, meaning Sanji and company will be heading out to sea while they put on the finishing touches. Sadly, it's all too little too late. We're constantly waiting for the next big shake up, and yet when we get it we still feel like we're jogging in place. I like a lot of what this big operatic chase adventure is going for, but the weaknesses are showing through way too much this week.
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