by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 879 of
One Piece ?
Okay, so in the manga we got the news that Luffy was the unofficial Fifth Emperor shortly before the full reveal of his new bounty. The whole chapter was loosely structured around a gag where Luffy gets depressed because the number on his wanted poster dropped to 150 million berries for some unknown reason, only to realize at the end of the chapter that he misread a decimal point and was now worth 1.5 billion. It already barely worked in the manga, where the punchline was pretty obvious if you took five seconds to think it over, but it's even more awkward in the anime because that chapter is being split into two episodes, and they've had to shift some scenes around. Now the setup for the joke is coming after the Emperor business, and we're given a full twenty minute episode to scratch our heads and ask "Wait, why would a new Emperor's bounty go down?! That doesn't make sens--OH!"
But it's an exciting time to be alive nonetheless! 1.5 billion is just over Katakuri's bounty, so it makes sense that Luffy would get this kind of bump, and if we take the Emperor title seriously (which I do, haters to the left), then I assume he's still the runt of the big-hitters. The audience hasn't been told Big Mom or Kaido's bounties yet, because they represent the ceiling of the pirate world and the story doesn't want to put a price on that just yet, but I've always adored bounties as One Piece's alternative to classic shonen power levels. It's got the same smashing-your-action-figures-together excitement of "This guy's a big deal! But this guy's the biggest deal! And this guy's the biggerest deal!", but instead of feeding into the fanboy compulsion to objectively measure strength, it's all about status and infamy. Your bounty informs your place in the world, and there's great character writing to be found in how characters choose to live up to their reputations.
Elsewhere, the world is still gearing up for the Reverie, and some surprising characters are crossing paths. Koby, Luffy's bespectacled pink-haired friend from the earliest episodes of the series, is now a captain in the Navy and protecting Dressrosa's royal family from pirates. Even if everyone present is technically on the side of the World Government, they can't help but form an impromptu Luffy fan club over his most recent accomplishments. Rebecca and Koby's interactions in particular are super-cute, and it's fun learning that even the new and improved Koby still needs his glasses to read the paper (assuming he can read through his tears of happiness). This transitions us into another lengthy disposable flashback, this time recapping Luffy and Koby's relationship.
These past two episodes don't flow particularly well with the protracted padding, but the new material they offer is great. It's nice to get back to the usual camaraderie of the crew hanging out on the ship, and the Reverie promises the secondary characters who don't travel with the Straw Hats a chance in the spotlight. We've made so many friends on our adventures whose stories can still be important way after the fact, and there are nearly infinite ways for them to interact with one another. I was disappointed that the anime adapted the montage of the other Emperors reacting to Luffy's new profile completely straight, since I thought that would have been an ideal time to embellish—especially with Big Mom's scene, where we're bound to be curious what a post-Luffy Totto Land looks like. I'm hoping the anime can find more opportunities to flesh out the story beyond just recapping old episodes, because there's so much great stuff to mine from these characters and scenarios now that the focus doesn't have to be on suspense so much.
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