One Piece
Episode 909

by Sam Leach,

How would you rate episode 909 of
One Piece ?

When it rains, it pours, and as we move on to the next phase of the Wano arc we become bombarded with information that steadily paints a clearer picture. There's quite a bit to talk about this week, both in terms of the core exposition laid out, as well as some fascinating ways in which the adaptation deftly expands on them.

First of all, I took note of how drastically different the anime handles Zoro's departure from the main group compared to the manga. In the original version, there's a really egregious joke where our favorite swordsman gets lost on the way to Oden Castle between chapters while the rest of the cast is distracted. There are a ton of important events in this arc that happen completely off-panel in the manga, mostly because Eiichiro Oda is trying to get through the story at a manageable pace and he doesn't mind leaning into that kind of artificiality these days. Zoro has to be somewhere else in the country ASAP so that future plot beats can develop in a certain fashion, and the anime concocts a whole subplot about Zoro fending off a vicious tiger that was following Luffy and the others. It feels significantly more organic this way, and it's an obvious improvement unless you're the type to mourn comically absurd contrivances. (I might be the type.)

We're getting quite a bit more detail this week on both Shogun Orochi and the samurai troupe that brought us into this country in the first place. There's still a lot of empty space for us to fill in the blanks but the gist is that Orochi has been ruling over Wano and teaching propaganda to children about the values of a closed nation over an open one. If you'll remember back in the Zou arc, our samurai friends' mission statement was to "open the borders of Wano" and fulfill the wishes of the prior shogun, Lord Oden. Back in the day, Kin'emon and company were associated with a group called the Akazaya Nine, a band of samurai that Orochi supposedly killed when he burned down Oden castle twenty years ago, fearing the prophecy that they would one day spell his doom.

But... twenty years presents an awfully strange timeframe, don't you think? And what was the deal with the graves from last week's cliffhanger? You see, it turns out that on top of the several dozen secrets our samurai buddies have been hiding, they're also time travelers. One Piece is a world where any old school storytelling cliché is free real estate, so it was only a matter of time (ba dum tish) before we reached the granddaddy of page turners. The specific hows and whys are being left for next week's episode—the time travel reveal is the stinger at the end of this episode—so we'll just have to sit and dwell on the fact that One Piece is now Samurai Jack.

This is where the Wano arc really starts to go absolutely nuts with its complicated plotting, so I'll do my best to be as clear as I can in these summaries. There's still a ton we don't know, but the relevant series of events as we understand them so far are thus:

  1. Shogun Oden wanted to open Wano's borders, but was usurped by Orochi with Kaido's help.
  2. Oden's wife shared a prophecy with Orochi, saying the Akazaya Nine will defeat him, prompting Orochi to kill them all by burning Oden castle to the ground.
  3. Kin'emon, Momonosuke, Kanjuro, Raizo, and Okiku somehow traveled twenty years into the future and escaped their deaths, and then they got spread throughout the New World and met the Straw Hat pirates. This is also when Kin'emon and Momonosuke started pretending to be father and son in order to hide Momonosuke's royal background.
  4. The Ninja-Pirate-Mink-Samurai Alliance is formed with the goal of taking down Kaido and Orochi. Also, the samurai and minks somehow know each other from before the twenty year jump.
  5. The Wano arc begins.

"The Akazaya Nine" is an interesting name for the group of samurai, if only because the number nine immediately makes me think of the Straw Hat pirates. The projected through-line seems to be that the time travelers will get the band back together, now living as "ghosts" in their own country, and stage Orochi's feared prophecy from beyond the grave. Perhaps that plan will go awry and it'll be the pirates putting on a show in their stead. There are about five billion different directions this could go, but that's the potential twist I find myself chewing on the most.

Beyond the mountain of exposition, I found this week uniquely expressive in its animation and humor. I love an episode that can run with a motif, even when the motif is a string of goofball diarrhea jokes. There are like, five different poop jokes this week, and they're all funny! There's a moment when we think Kin'emon's a ghost and build up suspense, but then we learn his ghoulish moans are just because he got gassy from the polluted water, and then a bird poops on his gravestone as karma for faking the audience out. The incidental storytelling that accompanies the bodily humor is the mark of true artistry. I couldn't ask for more.

Rating:

One Piece is currently streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation.com.

Sam Leach records about One Piece for The One Piece Podcast and you can find him on Twitter @LuckyChainsaw


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