by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 893 of
One Piece ?
Of course, One Piece's New Groove was always going to remain handicapped by pacing, and this week dares to inspire the question, "how can so little happen in an episode, and yet it still feels like so much happened?" As of the beginning of this episode, Zoro's still fighting his way through Wano's police force—compare the dozens of men he's already chopped down in the anime and the one he slashed in the manga—while Luffy's waking himself up on the beach without Nami, Sanji, or the rest of his crew anywhere in sight. By the end of the episode Zoro has moved on from his battle and is getting drunk under a bridge, while Luffy's still on the beach making new friends.
Enter Otama, Wano's resident scrappy kid character who immediately latches onto Luffy after he saves her from a pair of Kaido's henchmen who appeared on the beach following a fight between a lion-dog yokai and a katana-weilding baboon. She appears to have Devil Fruit powers, which allow her to pull dumpling treats out of her cheek and use them to tame wild animals. She also seems to have a connection to the Kozuki family that ran the country before Kaido and Shogun Orochi took over. It's adorable to see Luffy react to somebody call him "big brother" as a term of endearment, because he's so used to being the little brother. He's growing up!
There are a number of story-level adaptational choices that I find really intriguing in these Luffy/Otama scenes, like giving us a clearer image of the Kozuki family months ahead of when those characters will become important (Hold the phone, Momonosuke has a sister with teal hair?!), and also being upfront about Basil Hawkins' new role as a commander in Kaido's crew. Hawkins, Drake, and Apoo look to be fulfilling the Capone Bege role this time around; super rookies working for the Emperor. Perhaps they too will turn on their boss in a bid for power, but right now they're the only outsiders on the bad guy's team who might be able to recognize the Straw Hats in person. The anime isn't being too precious with some of the upcoming reveals, which I appreciate because I think it allows certain details to be organically woven into the story from the get-go and not be a part of the mystery box game that Oda has to play with his readers.
The anime is coming very close to overselling these opening set-up episodes of the arc, as the action is so big and dramatic that you'd think more was happening in the story than it actually is. Zoro (literally) blows down the house and Luffy's encounter with Kaido's henchmen looks absolutely killer in terms of shot composition and choreography. However, the pizzaz is balanced out really well with Wano's much more humble local flavor. The way the Straw Hats bounce off the country's citizens oodles with charm, and the show is planting seeds for upcoming story developments well in advance to make this arc feel more like a lived in world as opposed to a rollercoaster of twists and turns. Whole Cake Island was like trying to outrun a boulder, but Wano is meant to be a home away from home for the Straw Hats. The crew is building their reputations from scratch, living among the people and trying to stay ahead of the members of Kaido's organization who know their identities, like vigilante superheroes trying to outrun the cops.
The specific momentum seen in the Wano arc is not something that makes for easy comparison. In the manga it's so dense and tightly wound, yet it still feels slow like it's always building to something even bigger. It behaves like a casual stroll where we can sit back and smell the roses, but its plot is immensely complicated and continues to maintain that delay of gratification where we're still keeping the Straw Hats separated until the destined time arrives. Any adaptation from there will run the risk of pronouncing its weaknesses, like making certain parts move too fast or too slow, but I'm really impressed by the anime so far. The action looks consistently good enough to keep us entertained, while the pacing is putting in the work to encourage our patience.
Strap in, because we're going to be here a while.
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