by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 899 of
One Piece ?
After a rather tedious episode last week, Wano swiftly gets back on track with both bombast and story progress. We left off with Basil Hawkins and his straw man pursuing Luffy and Zoro as they dash their way through the dessert, hoping to find a nearby village to get Tama her much-needed first aid. The first half of this episode concludes the Hawkins fight, with Zoro going all out to tear the straw man to shreds in a slickly animated finishing move. The sinister clouds part and Hawkins retreats, leaving our heroes back to square one.
We meet a few new characters this week, starting with Otsuru (not to be confused with the Navy Vice Admiral, also named Tsuru), the Ukiyo-e-faced teahouse owner that Zoro inadvertently saved a few episodes ago. Tsuru leads our protagonists to Okobore Town, where we meet Okiku, the stupendously tall teahouse waitress currently fending off the advances of Urashima, Wano's reigning sumo champion. Urashima is well-regarded and rich, so he can offer Kiku a comfortable living if she'd marry him, but she insists that their social standing is too different, trying to keep her rejection polite. The private farms that the shogun and his associates use are brought up in this conversation, which are the only sources of clean food and water in the country. Kiku seems to know what's up, however, and wants nothing to do with the sumo-champ or the shogun.
The table scraps of plot we receive this week are at least satisfying in execution. One of the greatest attributes about this adaptation continues to be in the opportunities that the anime can add scenes to connect plot points together more organically. In the manga, there's a lot that's skirted off-screen as Luffy arrives in Okobore Town and Urashima gets shooed away. In the anime, we get the whole sequence of events as the Straw Hats arrive with a sick child, giving Kiku a reason to blue-ball Urashima and tend to someone else. Threatened by these tough-looking new men, Urashima walks away, inviting Kiku to a sumo show in the neighboring town and setting up a later scene in the story.
It's the last few minutes of this episode that provide the largest whirlwind of new information. We end up cycling very quickly between our introduction to Kiku, and then our reintroduction to Trafalgar Law and the Heart pirates, and then we wrap the episode up with an anime-original scene showing Kaido ominously sitting on his throne. "He's the strongest creature in the world, but for now he's simply waiting around and biding his time," the narrator pointedly tells us. No, seriously, this character is going to be important eventually! It's a little silly how calorie-free this tease is, and yet it sells the crap out of Kaido's sinister presence. He's truly a mythical, larger-than-life figure, and the atmosphere alone goes a long way in rousing the audience's attention.
We're tiptoeing our way through the early stages of this arc, but there hasn't been a boring scene in Wano outside of last week's episode. There's a lot of important set-up this week, and even the Hawkins material manages to wake up and put on a show. Okobore Town is the first proper village outside of the bustling Flower Capital that we've encountered, so this is where we'll be getting into the nitty gritty of the country's poverty, and its citizens' relationship with the powers that be. For now, the scenario is fairly standard as far as fantasy epics go, but for now I say it's worth trusting the pondering drip feed as this ocean-sized story gradually takes shape.
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