by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 897 of
One Piece ?
With lil' miss Otama sick from the polluted water, Luffy must take a journey to the next town where they might be able to find a doctor and some healthy food. However, before he can begin his trek into Kaido's territory, he must strip down and don the local fashion, i.e. he slaps a kimono and a top-knot on and magically transforms into a samurai hero. Oddly, the anime hasn't addressed his Wano alias yet, but Luffy adapts quickly to his new gig and grabs one of Hitetsu's spare katanas to complete the outfit. The sword he takes is the "Nidai Kitetsu," which fans may or may not recognize as belonging to the same family as Zoro's cursed sword, "Sandai Kitetsu." Between Kitetsu and Shusui, it seems we're in for a ton of sword lore down the line, especially in how they're connected to Wano. It's a little odd that Luffy finds such an important item just laying around by coincidence, but I guess Zoro got his Kitetsu from a bargain bin so who am I to nitpick.
The story is still taking things pretty slow, but the series has been good at keeping itself busy in spite of that. If there's one aspect that's starting to drag, it's the redundant flashbacks to Tama and Ace's friendship, but even that stuff gets packed up before you know it and we're barreling into the next set-piece, which is Luffy's long-awaited reunion with Zoro and their subsequent fight with Basil Hawkins of the Worst Generation. I really appreciate how Luffy and Zoro's bromance is given more room to breath in the anime, as in the manga it was incredibly brief and took up so little page space that it didn't leave much of an impact. We've spent so long with the crew split-up between different islands that it feels great to see them interacting again, even if the rest of the Straw Hats are still MIA at the moment. The immediate smiling and hugging between these meatheads is infectious.
A Luffy and Zoro tag-team brings us back to the old days when they were the only two members of the crew at all. They're incompetent navigators and kind of stupid in general, but they're often on the same macho wavelength. They've got a sick little girl to take care of and their only skillsets are punching and slicing, so it's good fortune that their current obstacles are fellow pirates. Speaking of fortunes, that's Hawkins' whole schtick, meaning we're in for a lot of phrases like, "You have a 10 percent chance of surviving" and what have you. Right now, Hawkins is at the bottom of the Worst Generation hype list, but if Capone Bege can win the audience's respect then anything's possible.
The episode ends just before the fight with Hawkins is about to begin, and Zoro reminds Luffy of Kin'emon's request that they don't make a scene in Wano. Well, Luffy knows a fight when he sees one, and he resolves to apologize to Kin'emon later because there's no way he and Zoro are going to hold back. This is similar to Zoro's comment during the arc's first episode when his murder trial went awry, so I guess the Straw Hats have thrown that promise right out the window from the get-go. It's a One Piece cliché at this point for our heroes to nobly break their own promises, though we've come along way from the Sabaody days when that kind of decision was unexpected. Our modus operandi in Wano is to continually pick fights with Kaido's henchman, knowing full well that it will draw the attention of increasingly stronger guys. It's okay though, because Luffy can beat those guys up too.
Wano in anime form continues to be a delight. Even beyond the sketchy outlines and added graphic effects, there is a landslide of little visual choices giving this arc a distinct identity compared to what's come before. I'm always fond of a liberal use of focal blur in 2D animation, giving the scenes a cardboard diorama feel, and there's a ton of that. We're four episodes into this arc now (if you don't count the past two weeks of filler) and every episode so far has been engaging and fun. Even while we're moving through the story as slow as we are, the anime knows what's worth expanding on and what isn't. There's a vested interest in making sure this is the definitive version of Wano, and it's working gangbusters.
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