by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 892 of
One Piece ?
The reputation of the One Piece anime has surely not been lost on anyone. Generally speaking, I'm probably kinder on it than a lot of people have been if only because I still have so much room in my heart of the hundred episode marathons that I raised myself on over the years. Between One Piece and DBZ and the like, I get it. I get that these shows are slow and not always the prettiest, but there's still a charm to be found in a pulp-y alchemic kind of way. Though, even by my own personal metric for One Piece, the point of diminishing returns started somewhere at the 300 episode count. The rise of much higher-quality Shonen Jump adaptations like My Hero Academia certainly haven't helped my ache for something better, either.
Starting with the new opening theme 'Over the Top' by Kitadani Hiroshi, the differences this week are staggering. It's an actual anime opening! One of my big pet peeves with the New World openings was how they always defaulted to the Straw Hats' Fishman Island outfits, as if that was what the characters actually wear on a regular Tuesday. This new opening shows the crew in their new ninja/samurai duds, really selling us on what's actually going to be happening in this story arc. The new sketchy hand-drawn art style is also greatly appreciated, and the (slightly) shorter runtime for the opening means there isn't as much room for bland or generic shots. It's all action and exciting teases for scenes to come, even if that means the opening isn't shy of spoilers.
As we step into this brave new world, we need to catch up on what the missing half of the crew has been up to since Luffy made his trip to Whole Cake Island. Zoro, Franky, Usopp, and Robin have been blending in as citizens of Wano, taking up local jobs and Japanese aliases. (Zoro's Wano name is "Zorojuro", for example.) They've been instructed by Kin'emon not to make a scene, as they need to wait for Luffy and the others before they can properly begin their attack on Kaido and his crew. An important motif of the arc is introduced to us in the form of a stage curtain opening to reveal Wano's landscape. This arc is a samurai film/kabuki play/rakugo performance and this is formerly 'Act One' of Wano. The curtains go along with the masked shamisen player—a teal-haired woman who's sure to become an important character soon enough. I eagerly await how this arc is going to develop its act structure hook. I feel like we have to see the artifice take on a literal meaning by the end of the story.
For all the updates to the visual and directorial style, the question of pacing is still a big one. I felt as though the voice actors were talking slower than usual this week, like the anime is trying new ways to pad the story out without it becoming immediately apparent. There's at least one significant flourish to the plot, as we're being led step-by-step through the events that led Zoro to being tried for murder, something the manga just cut to in media res. Obviously, he didn't do it, but the sequence leads to a showstopping fight scene where Zoro smokes a bunch of swordsmen with a tiny seppuku blade. He's not blending in very well, is he?
Things are really looking up for the Wano anime, as we've barely gotten started and the visuals are already singing. At its heart, this is still a fairly standard One Piece episode, but there's so much more care put into avoiding the trappings that made our last few adventures feel like a chore. Even when the animation quality inevitably takes a backseat again, the new art direction will ensure that there's at least some baseline charm keeping the show's head above water. There's a lot of good anime being released every season, so it'd be nice if One Piece had a chance at competing with any big franchises other than itself for once.
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