by Grant Jones,
How would you rate episode 951 of
One Piece ?
We return to Zoro and Hiyori being chased by ninjas through the woods. Zoro and the ninjas cross blades – a bit of that sweet, sweet chanbara that I crave – and soon there's a pile of bodies with Zoro standing as the victor. Not to be outdone, one of the ninjas rides in on a giant fish and tries to take on our green-haired samurai in a solo duel. He uses armament Haki to try and even the odds, putting Zoro on the backfoot. But of course Zoro cuts him down in short order. Zoro and Hiyori then take a moment to discuss their next steps, and the green-haired samurai mentions that he wants to get his sword back from the warrior who took it from him back at the bridge duel. Hiyori mentions her concern for Toko and regrets not being able to help her. Hiyori goes so far as to say she wants to kill Orochi herself.
Back at the capital, Orochi loses his cool over the failure of his ninja force. As a consolation prize, they did manage to capture Trafalgar Law and aim to torture him for information. They also greatly expanded the amount of patrol-samurai defending the shogun, making him feel secure once again. Wanted posters of the Straw Hats, the Akazaya Nine, and more spring up across the Flower Capital.
Sanji and Shinobu lament the new wanted posters while also discussing their next steps. With so many samurai in prison now it will be hard to mount a revolution. As they discuss their next move, Sanji notices small beehive-like lanterns that Shinobu explains are called Sky Boats for the Fire Festival. It is an event to honor the dead, where the lanterns are lit and float upwards into the night sky.
Elsewhere, Luffy is fighting for his life against the effects of the poison. His heart pounds and he cries out in pain as his body is wracked with agony. Chopper continues to administer medicine that finally brings Luffy back from the brink –hungrier than ever. The others are also safely immunized against the poison and the prisoners rejoice. Soon Luffy is stuffing his face and back to his old self, ready to take on Kaido.
Meanwhile, the Heart Pirates return a bit battered and meet Nami. They bring word of the symbol Yasuie was showing everyone in prison. Nami runs off to help, while Bepo laments the loss of Law and the scene transitions to his duel with Hawkins. Back during their fight, Hawkins reminds Law that any damage to him will hurt the Heart Pirates through damage-transference. Law allows himself to be taken instead, and the Heart Pirates go free. Before he goes behind bars, he explicitly tells Bepo to keep this from Luffy and the others. As Bepo laments what happened, Hawkins tortures Law for as much information about Luffy as possible.
A solid episode that manages to really ratchet up the tension across the various threads in Wano.
It's episodes like this one where I am truly impressed by just how much is going on without it feeling overwhelming. I try not to get into “which arc is better?!” debates because I don't find them all that engaging. That being said, I think Wano has easily as much going on as other busy/complex arcs like, say, Dressrosa; but in Dressrosa I had a tough time remembering where everyone was and what their objectives were. Wano feels just as complex but all its pieces fit together well in my mind, even when we haven't checked in on certain characters for a few weeks.
The big bombastic opener is a real standout in terms of the visual bliss of the episode. Zoro doing cool stuff is always a crowd-pleaser, by which I mean every time Zoro swings his swords in the air I jump up and down like a six-year-old. The color palette whipping between the garish bright hues of Wano proper to the blue-black bruise-like tones of the sword impacts is just terrific, and the sequence where Hiyori is weeping and the entire forest lights up with heavy bloom does a great job matching the visual intensity to the emotional intensity of the scene. On an interpersonal level, I think this scene made me really vibe with Hiyori and Zoro being together through their shared intensity, rather than before where it was a bit more “ah you saved me so heart eyes.”
The rest of the episode was enjoyable as well. Luffy going from emaciated zombie to chomp chomp punch lad in sixty seconds flat was good comedy, and we get a significant amount of Bepo screen time which is rare and must be treasured. Loved seeing the Flower Capital framed in different lighting and perspectives too, with darker tones and more Dutch angles as opposed to its typical opulence and head-on viewpoint. And of course, lots of Law being a Cool Guy™ making Cool Guy Decisions™ – what's not to enjoy?
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