by Grant Jones,
How would you rate episode 952 of
One Piece ?
Back in Ebisu, Kanjuro tearfully promises to take Yasui's body to rest in Kuri. They bid him farewell as he reflects on the debt they all owe Yasui. We get an extended flashback of Yasui's death by Orochi's order as well. Franky arrives on another Superrrrrrrrrrrr cool animal vehicle to pick up Nami and Kanjuro and head out.
Back at the Flower Capital, Orochi's men discuss the wanted criminals about Wano and show their posters. Robin, Usopp, and Brook have to get past a checkpoint without being spotted, so Brook spooks both of them into making absurd faces to pass through without issue. Toko sleeps soundly in Brook's robes and the trio get a moment of respite as they make their escape.
Ashura, Dog Storm, and Kinemon continue travelling towards the sea. There they find the ships are largely in disrepair. Ashura mentions that with a bit of work they can carry thousands of warriors into battle. The road has been long but as Kinemon declares: the raid is in sight.
At the prison, Hyogoro discusses training Luffy in how to use ryou/haki. Hyogoro illustrates its power, and talks about how Luffy did briefly use it on the collars. He also mentions how Kawamatsu can use it too.
Zoro returns to the snowy bridge to settle things and retrieve his blade. Battle commences, and Zoro quickly puts Onimaru on the back foot but the warrior has many weapons and holds his own. He demands that the sword be returned, but Onimaru says he will give any sword except Shusui - it is the treasure of Wano. Shusui's absence began Wano's tragedy in fact. When Kawamatsu arrives, the fight stops as Onimaru recognizes him.
At Kaido's fortress, big Mom is eating and regaining her strength. Even with all of the power of Kaido and his warriors, and with Big Mom in shackles, it's clear she is a huge threat. One of the goons even reveals that Kaido and Big Mom used to be in the same pirate group - which Kaido follows by telling them to uncuff her. She stands and they both pull out their weapons for an epic showdown, storms rumbling just outside. They cross blades and the To Be Continued flashes.
A portentous episode to say the least.
In a certain sense, this is a recap episode. Or maybe put another way, this is a check-in episode during the first half of the run-time. We are mostly looking at where all the various players in the drama are located, where they are moving to, and get a number of flashbacks thrown in to remind us of certain motivations/events. It is all quite functional but by no means unnecessary. It is critical to remind the audience of where everyone is due to the complexity of Wano and the sheer number of different threads being woven together.
The back half of the episode is where the really big deal stuff starts happening. The scene at the bridge is great because, well, Zoro content is always good. But finding out that Shusui - a sword introduced all the way back in Thriller Bark - has huge plot significance is immensely satisfying in terms of payoff. We also get to have our interest piqued further by Kawamatsu arriving and changing the dynamic, and have to wonder how/why he is a known quantity. But the even bigger payoff is with Big Mom and Kaido. Finding out that they have a history that goes all the way back to being in the same crew - just terrific stuff. The moment feels as big as the reveal needs to be. One of the great strengths of One Piece is that it is of such length that these kinds of lore reveals are profoundly shocking. Then as a kicker we see two Emperors come to blows?! Chills when I read it in the manga, chills here too.
In terms of visual spectacle, there's plenty to enjoy in this episode too. It feels like you could put together a top ten One Piece fights list for Zoro in the Wano arc alone, and the tradition continues here. Just a dynamite fight at the bridge with lots of big splashy impacts, as well as satisfying little moments such as Zoro shifting the grip on his sword hilts - minor details that are a rare treat in animation. On top of that the hilarious faces Usopp and Robin make during the checkpoint scene are worth the price of admission in and of themselves, and as a long-time Robin fan the short moment where she comforts Toko with the hug was very tender and sweet. If I weren't trying to check my bias, I'd say that makes the episode five stars all on its own.
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