by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 905 of
One Piece ?
Since these Bakura Town episodes don't easily lend themselves to coherent reviews, let's do a bullet point list to organize the worthwhile talking points:
Jack the Drought - To absolutely nobody's surprise, we learn this week that mammoth-man Jack is alive and kicking it in Wano. Since Jack is one of Kaido's top officers, it's only natural that he'd be around for this arc and likely serving as one of the Straw Hats' adversaries in the final battle. The last we saw of him was at the bottom of the ocean with the reveal that he's part fishman, and therefore one of the few Devil Fruit users who can sink without drowning. In pure One Piece fashion, the villains' line of command is circuitous to an absolute wacky degree. Urashima is the yokozuna of Bakura Town, but Holdem is the boss of Bakura Town, yet he answers to Jack, who answers to Kaido. Got that? It will all be on the test.
An amusing detail that means more to up-to-date manga fans is the scene where Okiku discovers that Luffy and Zoro have already encountered Jack, and she latches on to all the talk about "Dogstorm this" and "Cat Viper that." It appears as though she's just daydreaming about cute animals, but perhaps she's closer to the whole situation than we realize.
Zoro and Okiku - Okiku's presence in the story continues to be the most perplexing thread of the arc so far. She's a physically strong swordswoman who holds back for reasons unknown to us at the moment. This has been the case for a few episodes now, but this week prompts more direct comparisons to Zoro and Tashigi's dynamic back in Punk Hazard. There are a million ways to feel about the way Zoro has been dismissive of his female counterpart in the past—even if there is an in-character logic behind his attitude, he and Tashigi don't exactly make the feel-good odd couple of the century—and his notably contrasting demeanor with Okiku feels like an attempt on Wano's part to address something, but the floodgates are still wide open for a litany of unfortunate implications.
Zoro knows that Okiku is strong, and therefore won't help her when she plays damsel. He seems very terse with people who don't behave according to their true strength-level; Okiku pretends to be weaker than she is and Tashigi pretends to be stronger than she is. I think that's the main throughline the story is going for, but we'll have to wait and see if the arc digs any deeper as it plows ahead.
Red Hawk - The flashiest scene of the episode also serves the climax of the Bakura Town storyline, with Luffy facing off against Holdem head-to-head. Sometimes the most thrilling scenes come when it's the heroes applying the pressure against the villains. Holdem nearly gets off scot-free with Luffy running away with Tama in his arms, but Luffy just can't let the fight go once he learns Holdem had been torturing the little girl with pliers. The ensuing Gum-Gum Red Hawk is spectacular in motion, though for my money the most delicious part was the re-orchestrated East Blue music.
This final blow is strangely complicated on an emotional level. It's not necessarily cathartic, like when Luffy punched the Celestial Dragon all those years ago. It's more authoritative than that. Luffy is The Man™ now, even when he's a stranger in somebody else's country, and it's his personal obligation to break skulls when the bad guys step out of line. Luffy's vindictive force has a different flavor to it this late in the series, and I think that's why the underlying drama of the story plays out so weird with all these mini-bosses. Holdem and Urashima were set up to fail.
More importantly, this conflict is a chance for Luffy and Tama to bond. Red Hawk was always an homage to Ace, and the significance of using this move in front of Tama is likely lost on Luffy, but hopefully the poor kid finally has a chance to mend that hole in her heart. I'm very interested in seeing where all the Ace material goes thematically, but like most things we'll have to wait and see.
Unfortunately, this week suffers for the same reason that most of these recent episodes have suffered. The content being covered doesn't flow comfortably in anime form and we end up either repeating ideas that have been drilled into the ground, or reminding ourselves of questions that might get answered later. The best scene of the episode—the aforementioned Red Hawk—is stylish, but also the sole highlight. It'd be nice to say "it was slow getting here, but at least the pay-off is satisfying," but even that wouldn't really be true. Holdem's swift defeat was an inevitability, so it's not like tension has just been released. I think there's an interesting thought to be had about how the Straw Hats' constant growth means that the usual One Piece plot beats become compromised and how that's possibly an element of the story's intent, but once again those are all ideas that would be communicated better in a snappier show.
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