by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 876 of
One Piece ?
Now that our phantasmagoric opera of existential dread is out of the way, it's time to come back to reality for a hot minute. No, the Straw Hats are not dead. It turns out the ship we saw getting blown up last week was actually the Sun pirates' own ship, which Wadatsumi—the giant-sized fishman fighting on the Straw Hats' behalf—quickly swapped with the Thousand Sunny at the last second from beneath the surface. The Sun pirates even remind us that their ship originally belonged to Fisher Tiger, just to make its sacrifice sting a little more. Now Wadatsumi is holding the Sunny in his mouth and trying to swim away as fast as he can, but Charlotte Oven's heat powers can still catch up to him.
We're so close to the finish line, but it was never going to be that simple. This episode is a sobering moment of reflection, but also one of the most baffling and frustrating developments of this finale, where Jimbei decides to stay behind and fight the Big Mom pirates alongside his old crew. He plans to guarantee the Straw Hats' escape while also making sure every member of the Sun pirates survive, but doing so means that he won't be sailing with us on our way to Wano. Even after everything that's happened, Jimbei's quasi-official status as the tenth Straw Hat remains up in the air.
I honestly can't pretend to know what the story is trying to do here. I guess the arc didn't want us to be too happy as we sail off into the distance, or perhaps Oda has something specific in mind for how he's going to bring the whole crew back together in Wano, but considering how touch and go Jimbei's relationship with the crew has been for years now, it's a confusing choice. It's important to see our heroes returning the favor to their allies, but now fans get to be paranoid that Jimbei's going to die in the name of dramatic irony, even though that's extremely unlikely considering this is One Piece. Hey, Luffy trusts that Jimbei will return alive and well in Wano, so we should too!
Jimbei's a much too emotionally collected person to contribute to the messy impressionistic void that characterizes the rest of this story, so an episode like this forces you to observe the wheels of the big picture spinning fruitlessly in place. The episode ends with Morgans and Stussy flying away and preparing to communicate what they saw to the rest of the world, and Morgans has a big dramatic speech about how a pirate from Luffy's generation will soon claim the throne. He seems to be rooting for Luffy to do it, but almost every arc ends with a scene like this so any implication that we're on the brink of something massive happening to the broader One Piece world falls on deaf ears. The arcs keep getting bigger, but the actual sense of progress is getting smaller, and an episode where we learn that our helmsman still isn't formally joining doesn't help.
To my utter shock, the One Piece anime continues to look great. Key moments are offered way more flair and polish than they ever warranted, and I'm crossing my fingers that this quality can extend to next week's conclusion. Next week is my most intensely felt "Oh god, please let them get this right" episode of the batch, so I'm going to be on edge until then. Otherwise, Oven has been a surprising character who wasn't introduced as anybody special, but has been the most vigilant and antagonistic of Big Mom's kids nonetheless, and I get the sense that somebody over at Toei really likes animating him. We get a whiff of an Oven vs. Aladdin fight this week, possibly the most negligible match-up you could imagine, and it still looks absolutely killer.
This is such a straightforward episode compared to everything that's been going on around it. Yeah, it's disappointing that Jimbei still isn't tagging along on the Sunny, but in the meantime it's hard not to admire the character and his dedication to both of his crews. You get to feel warm and fuzzy inside knowing Jimbei and the Sun pirates are a gang of wonderful people who will always look out for each other, not to mention the joy of Luffy putting on his serious captain face for once as he tells Jimbei to survive at all costs. Our fish uncle's larger journey aside, this episode is very clear in its emotional goals, and the execution is strong enough to elevate what could have easily been a much more discouraging installment.
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