by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 889 of
One Piece ?
The title of this episode is "Finally, It Starts! The Conspiracy-filled Reverie!" but ironically for the audience, this is the end of our adventure in the government's holy land. The political intrigue builds to its most crucial moment, the actual meeting of the kings to direct the world's future, and then the show pulls a meanwhile-back-at-the-farm on us as we transition into the next 100-episode arc, leaving the consequences of the Reverie a perpetual mystery. Eventually something will happen in this show, I promise.
As for the episode itself, the new material continues to be as massive in scope and perplexing as ever. To start, the various monarchs spend their free moments before the proper meeting discussing Luffy and Wano. The past couple of weeks have reiterated a few of the more interesting tidbits about the samurai country, like how it's isolationist in nature and functions independently of the World Government. The Zou arc already set up the isolationist aspect, since that's what Kin'emon's troupe is hoping to change, but it feels appropriate to bring this up again in the Reverie setting. Some countries, like Fishman Island, are looking to expand their horizons and build a better future for themselves, but they're forced to do so in a distressingly cutthroat political climate. It's no mystery why somebody wouldn't want to join the World Government in its current iteration, but Wano's independence is shady in its own right. They're completely cut off from the world and held down by the reigning shogun's dictatorship—not to mention Kaido's world-destroying machinations. We still don't know much about what's up with the place, but apparently its samurai warriors are powerful enough to even keep the Navy's admirals at bay.
3D2Y recap: In probably the flimsiest reach of all the Reverie's recap segments yet, this episode focuses on the journey that led us to the infamous time-skip. Since they just got done talking about Kuma, Sabo and the gang figure this is a good time to keep talking about the Straw Hats, since it was the ol' bear man who sent them flying to different corners of the world in the first place. Looking back, this development feels like the nexus for what the series is doing nowadays by splitting up the crew and constantly delaying their eventual reunion. It was crazy that we got such a long saga with only Luffy as the central character, watching him put together a makeshift team of allies throughout the Impel Down and Marineford arcs (already covered in previous recaps).
Once it finally came time for Luffy to send a message to his crew, telling them to stay separated and train for two years in the wake of Ace's death, a lot of unusual story hiccups began to form. I think an overlooked complication that accompanied the two-year jump is that time no longer exists as an abstraction in One Piece. Before the time-skip was introduced, you could have imagined the Straw Hats' adventures already took place over several years. Was Zoro still a fresh-faced nineteen-year old? He could have been thirty by that point for all we knew. The idea that these characters could visibly age and get design revamps was a shock to the system back then, and their new looks never quite outgrew the over-designed smorgasbords that replaced their original simplicity. Part of me hopes that we'll get another time-skip in the future just so we can look back at this era as the gaudy teenage years of the series.
The final big reveal of the Reverie is the nature of the shadowy figure who was looking at that giant refrigerated straw hat a few episodes ago. This person is referred to as "Imu-sama", and while they remain in silhouette, we discover that they're the secret one-true-king of the World Government, taking a seat on the fabled Empty Throne and giving orders to the Five Elders. This scene is a little punchier in the manga, where we got the history and meaning of the Empty Throne in one chapter, and then one week later the truth undermines its symbolism. It's spread out more in the anime.
As usual, the ambiguity doesn't give us much to work with, but there are some interesting implications nonetheless. Imu potentially gives us a singular villain to blame for the evils of the World Government, guiding the Five Elders toward "cleansing" the world and other virtuous synonyms for genocide. To what end? We still don't know, but everything we've seen of this character implies that they're far more in tune with the story's big picture than anybody we've met in this series to date. Before Imu is summoned to meet with the five elders, we see them relaxing in a flower field, cutting up pictures of Luffy, Blackbeard, and Shirahoshi. Vivi's picture is also present, but it hasn't been cut.
If anybody's still in need of a One Piece Lore 101 lesson, this is all relevant to the general arc of the entire series that's been hinted at through vague mysteries, about how there once was an ancient kingdom that got wiped out during the creation of the World Government, likely involving the oft-talked about "Ancient Weapons" (which we know Shirahoshi is one of thanks to her ability to control sea monsters), and then the government proceeded to erase all historical record of the century preceding their existence. Characters who have the middle initial "D" in their name, like Luffy, Law, and Blackbeard, are speculated to be carrying on the will of that ancient kingdom by way of free will, destiny, and all that jazz. Be it an act of literal in-universe fate or simply the audience's understanding of basic narrative poetry, Luffy and Blackbeard are bound to be the ones duking it out for the One Piece at the end of the series, yet here they're mutual enemies of the state, acting as representatives of free will and individualistic desire to counterbalance the administrative wickedness of the government.
Even a brief glimpse of Imu's existence opens up a ton of opportunities to unite these scattered ideas into something more focused. The Celestial Dragons fear the Will of D because they represent a dead kingdom's vengeance, however indirect, and Imu probably recognizes the cogs of destiny churning as these pirates rise to power. I've always figured that the Ancient Weapons meant the series had to escalate toward an apocalypse of some kind, and whether it'll be a "good" apocalypse or a bad one will be determined by whoever kicks it off. (Spoilers: It'll be Luffy.)
So that's more or less the Reverie. It's not a full-blown arc so much as a more significant version of the post-arc info-dumps we usually get at a time like this, but it's also a massive tease full of incomplete exposition. Thankfully, the upcoming Wano arc does have a built-in storytelling device that let's us check in with the outside world periodically, so the Reverie isn't completely behind us, but I'm not going to get into that side of things quite yet. In a few weeks, Wano will officially begin, not just with Luffy's adventures in the land of samurai, but also with a full-blown anime revamp that looks promising as all hell. I eagerly await the change of scenery.
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