by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 860 of
One Piece ?
Capone "Gang" Bege: Pirate. Crime boss. Murderer. Absolutely stellar husband and father.
Our heroes have hit a low point in their attempt to soothe Big Mom with the most delicious wedding cake in the world. Luffy's fight with Katakuri is currently a bust, and Charlotte Oven has stopped the cake-baking team in their tracks. The heart and soul of this episode belongs to Chiffon and the new life she's carved out with Capone and his crew. She's determined to repay her debt to the Straw Hats, even if that means letting her brother kill her, but since this is One Piece, such a scene is merely an opening for her actual loved ones to rush in and fight, no matter how dangerous or reckless it is to do so. The Charlottes are so messed up as a family unit that even a crew of backstabbing mafia bros look amazing and heroic in contrast. Capone and Chiffon were paired up in a political marriage just like any of Big Mom's children, but like Sanji and the Straw Hats, they've developed a real family now, and their enduring love will see them through the end of this battle while the rest of the Charlottes self-destruct.
This is an especially slow and padded episode, but I'm impressed that the emotional core manages to shine through so clearly regardless. Chiffon is great. Capone is great. Sanji and Pudding are great. (And I love seeing Pudding graduate from blushy tsundere to unabashed horndog—character development!) The tides are turning back in our favor confidently, and the show knows how to wring this small amount of story material for all its worth. I felt like the soundtrack choices were notably effective throughout the whole episode, and the numerous subplots that we jump between all make sure to show our heroes regaining control of their circumstances.
Moving away from the shore of Cacao Island, we briefly revisit the Sunny crew. Not much has changed for them as they remain in the clear, but we're teased about what's to come with them—especially Carrot, who spends her time looking up at the afternoon sky, wondering if tonight could just so happen to be a full moon. We know something happens to the Minks during a full moon, so it's time to prepare for some were-bunny action!
And then we conclude the episode by wrapping up Luffy's Nuts Island shenanigans. As long as Luffy has a grip on Brulee, Katakuri can't actually escape from the mirror world at all. If Luffy was simply concerned with surviving this adventure, he could just leave Katakuri behind and one of the arc's strongest enemies would be effectively taken out of the story. But of course, Luffy isn't smart in that way. Rather than rejoining his crew early and helping out in the Big Mom chase, he decides he wants to go back and fight Katakuri some more, believing that winning the fight and growing stronger from it would make him a much more effective captain for future battles. When else is he going to have the chance to beat a man worth one billion and learn some of that future-reading Haki for himself?!
This is where the recent structural issues come into play. I don't dislike the recent Nuts Island detour on its own, but either Luffy's decision to return to the mirror world is another disappointing hit of the reset button or this is an essential character choice for the arc that's let down by the numerous episodes of dillydallying before it. The Katakuri fight is too damned long as it is, but it does have an integrity that's necessary for understanding the pathos of the story. Luffy doesn't have to fight Katakuri anymore, but he wants to. It's like the golden bell on Skypiea, where a huge chunk of the final battle persisted because Luffy had something personal he wanted to accomplish.
This is a thoughtful and sharply directed episode that ends this particular story act on a high note. The Katakuri fight should resume next week, and the cake is now finally seaborne. Despite how bloated it felt in pacing, the quality of its material and execution do a fantastic job compensating. Everything's coming together for our heroes in a delightfully messy way.
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