by Grant Jones,
How would you rate episode 965 of
One Piece ?
We shift focus from the passing of Oden's father to further back in time. For most of the episode we follow the rise of Orochi from simple outcast to a position of power. As a youth, he was chased away and nearly killed as one of the last surviving members of the disgraced Kurozumi family. Two distant relatives found him and through a combination of skill, planning, cunning, and shapeshifting abilities, they managed to help him worm his way into the good graces of the Kozuki family – who he had sworn revenge on. Eventually, this scheme resulted in the conveyance of Oden's father's dying wish that Orochi be made shogun in Oden's absence, which was ultimately a ruse they had put together.
Across the seas, Oden continues to live an exciting and tumultuous life. He continued to travel with the Whitebeard pirates as his children grew older. Whitebeard and Gol D Roger encounter one another again after many years, and Oden rushes quickly to shore, runs across the waves, and barrels through Roger's crew to face the legendary pirate. He is promptly blown away by Roger's powerful strike through a dozen or so trees, and Whitebeard comes soaring out of the air behind Oden's crash and strikes towards Roger. Roger and Whitebeard are so powerful and evenly matched that the entire earth shatters around them, and yet their potent haki makes it such that their blades are not even touching. As they both grin with excitement, the episode cuts to the To Be Continued card.
We're really In It Now™ folks.
All One Piece flashbacks are potent and powerful, but few can elicit the raw excitement that this moment has.
It goes without saying that the Toei team knocks it out of the park once again. Wano is basically a long-running showcase for 'amazing things that can happen within the constraints of weekly television production.' The sequences with Roger and Whitebeard going toe to toe with one another are exactly as momentous as they should be. As the screen shakes, the world trembles under the might of these two men both in-text and meta-textually. Hats off to the Toei crew once again.
I think this is also one of those uniquely powerful One Piece moments. Few serialized works have run for this long and this consistently. When you have legendary figures meeting in a work that spans over 23 years, it truly is a ground-breaking event. There are a lot of interesting ways a creator can endow characters with a sense of great purpose or mythos-defining gravitas, and Oda uses these quite deftly in One Piece. But there is also something to be said for the sheer enormity of One Piece, the raw amount of material and time spent in this setting, that these characters coming into conflict feels like a grand culmination of the work. It truly is a powerful moment.
Orochi's backstory occupies the majority of the run time of course, and I think it is also very engaging. Sometimes detailing a villain's rise to power is less about making them sympathetic and more about establishing their perspective. I don't think the narrative is really trying to make the reader feel bad for Orochi per se – though obviously what happened to him as a giant is horrific and is precisely the kind of thing from which lifelong vendettas are born. Rather, I think the aim here is to establish the depths to which Orochi will go in order to achieve what he wanted. He didn't just oopsie-doopsie fall into this position while Oden was away. In fact, he worked just as hard to complete his takeover as Oden did to travel the world. It's a slow, unsympathetic burn, but it burns bright nonetheless.
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