by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 872 of
One Piece ?
With an army waiting on Cacao Island and a fleet swarming the Thousand Sunny, the Big Mom pirates are all but admitting that they consider the Straw Hats to be an actual threat. Normally, they'd be trying to play it cool. They've got to act like they're above the pipsqueak nobodies who have the audacity to punch mountains, but at this point there have been way too many surprises, shocking victories, and freak accidents not to play it safe. They're in overkill mode now.
The primary subject of this week's episode is Pekoms, and I really didn't expect the show to expand on his role in the story as much as they do. He's the one lugging Luffy's exhausted body out of the mirror world so they can make the rendezvous time, and his plan for facing the Big Mom pirates is to use the full moon to unleash his own Sulong form. All Minks have the ability to transform, but unlike Carrot he isn't trained to use his power properly, so he's much more likely to succumb to the uncontrollable and life-draining rage that it embodies.
Pekoms is a microcosm of the tragedy of Whole Cake Island. Per his testimony, the only thing that's ever been able to calm him down once he goes Sulong is the voice of his good friend Pedro. Audiences who have been following closely will be quick to assume that this must be where Pedro is revealed to have survived the dynamite explosion from way back, and he'll save the day at the last minute. The show definitely seems to be telegraphing that much, but no, Pekoms goes Sulong, rampages around for a bit, and then almost attacks Luffy and Sanji in the heat of the moment before stopping himself. He hears Pedro's voice, but it's all in his head. The real Pedro is nowhere to be seen. As much as this is a character moment for Pekoms—the power was inside himself, you see—it ultimately accomplishes little. He powered up in order to fend off his crew, but it doesn't take much before the Big Mom pirates are tearing him down and beating him up for betraying the family. He's just one of several characters who have sacrificed themselves to create an opening for the Straw Hats, and then he gets left behind to an unknown fate.
From there, the battle to escape Cacao Island is Sanji carrying Luffy and trying to dodge the variety of powerful Charlotte children who are coming at them from all angles. As always I'm a sucker for that shonen onslaught of One More Thing and false climaxes. There are still Charlottes that we're getting acquainted with for the first time, and they have their own unique skills and powers to keep this escape from being too easy, which is pretty exciting even if the aerial combat is where the animation struggles to keep up. I also like that it's Sanji who's responsible for this final rescue, since he was the one who tried to leave the crew earlier. It's a nice full circle, asserting that things are officially back to where they should be. However, the twist is that once things start looking dire for Sanji, a whole new batch of "saviors" appear. Hey, did you forget that the Vinsmokes are in this story too? It's been a while.
This has been a battle of heroes trying desperately to maintain their momentum and luck, versus villains who are resolved to halt that momentum at all costs. That's pretty standard One Piece fare, but the cost of the Straw Hats' unstoppable propulsion is telling a more complicated story this time. Every heroic sacrifice that happens in their name comes with a message about not taking any opportunity for granted, even if those helping us are getting themselves screwed over or killed in the process. And even when our allies can hold their own, it's because they're people like Germa 66, whose help we almost don't want to take at all.
This episode really didn't need to be this good. The production values might be all over the place, but just about everything to do with Pekoms looks beautiful, and this manages to be a shockingly thoughtful and well-paced episode altogether. The new Pekoms stuff is wild, because in the manga he doesn't even finish transforming before getting torn back down, so these embellishments feel really bold. This sequence feels more pathetic and futile in the source material, which is appropriate for what it's trying to convey, but the anime version not only gives us a full view of our second Sulong design, it does a good job emboldening the arc's ideas about harnessing your baser instincts and trying to mediate your values and sense of self. The additions don't feel like filler, they feel like they're here to actually make the story just a little better.
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