One Piece
Episodes 807-808

by Sam Leach,

How would you rate episode 807 of
One Piece ?

How would you rate episode 808 of
One Piece ?

Alright, where do we start?

This week finally marks the beginning of One Piece's 20th opening with a song called 'Hope' by Namie Amuro. I'm still yearning for the more charming yesteryear of One Piece openings, but I've been very frustrated by the past three and I feel much better about this one. Like 'One Day', it's the kind of song that would feel right at home in any other anime, but since One Piece has a very distinct sound to most of its openings, it's refreshing. The animation could be better in places, but a lot of the images really pop in HD. I also appreciate that it's focused on the arc at hand, minimizing the generic "Straw Hats hanging out" scenes that haven't felt appropriate in ages.

From there, I'm burdened with a series of mixed feelings. This week's One Piece offerings were hyped up as a big one-hour special to ring in the big fight between Luffy and Sanji, and for anybody who's read the manga that's frankly seemed like an odd choice, but we'll get to that in a bit. What's being touted as a special is technically two episodes back-to-back—meaning if they weren't doing this hype campaign with Dragon Ball Super, these episodes could have conceivably aired on a regular schedule, except I doubt even that much because the first of these two episodes is not really an episode. It's at best a clip show full of flashbacks we've revisited several times throughout this arc and new scenes we just saw a few weeks back.

There's certainly an argument to be made that they're flashing back to prepare people who might not be caught up with the story but are tuning in thanks to the marketing. That's partially true, but these two episodes are so bizarrely structured that I believe the one-hour special idea must have been invented much more recently than the production of this fight. It reeks of reverse engineering. I was very let-down to start the episode, see a lot of nicely animated and directed content, only for the flashbacks to go on and on, and then for the new content that I liked to just be repeated again in the second episode. 807 doesn't really qualify as its own episode or as proper build-up to 808. If you've been keeping up with the show, you're free to completely skip it.

As for 808, the real meat of this week's One Piece special, my feelings are significantly more positive. The fight avoids feeling contrived thanks to the fact that we still don't really know what Sanji's thinking in terms of how to get himself out of this situation, or whether help from his friends is needed. Stories about Straw Hats temporarily leaving the crew have been done much more effectively in the past, and a fight like this forever hides in the looming shadow of Luffy vs. Usopp from back in the Water 7/Enies Lobby days. The crew has gone through so much together and repeatedly proven what they're willing to go through for their friends. The series can't push that kind of story anywhere it hasn't been, but I think this take on it works by hanging onto a few specific threads:

1.) Luffy's just as surprised as the audience when he happens upon the Vinsmokes on their way to Sanji's engagement ceremony and Sanji immediately fights him off. Like us, Luffy's thinking "Sanji's been through this kind of stuff lots of times! He knows how we deal with this." Then he's forced to realize that no, this might not be one of those times. This makes us wonder if there's something we don't understand.

2.) This is the first time somebody's tried to leave the crew for the sake of a third party (in this case, Zeff). Sanji's forced to play the role of an antagonist so that his family doesn't kill his mentor on the other side of the world, and he's still clinging to hope that this can end with everybody keeping their heads. He's not proud of hitting and badmouthing his own captain, but that pride is less important to him than Zeff.

3.) This fight works well as a beat within the arc itself more than it does for the larger story of the Straw Hats. This is a case where being familiar with the manga and where it's going helps, because Whole Cake Island is such a meticulously structured arc that its real strengths don't show until you've gotten further in. Basically, seeing how the Straw Hats deal with their beef eventually creates a strong juxtaposition between them and the other families of the arc. The drama is just believable enough to serve that role, even if it feels like a worn out trope in the context of the whole series.

It's kind of bizarre to place this fight alongside the upcoming Goku vs. Jiren battle, since what we get is mostly Sanji beating on Luffy and Luffy not fighting back. The whole emotional journey of this episode is that Luffy holds his ground and just lets his friend have at it. As far as the presentation goes, it's immaculate. As we reach the end of the fight, and the two pals part ways, everything about the art, music (is that some Ghibli-style piano I hear?), and atmosphere are entirely worthy of the one-hour special hype. Honestly, I think the drama that the direction adds is a significant improvement over the manga version, which was weighed down significantly by the comparisons to other "Straw Hat leaves the crew" stories.

And then it wraps the episode up with a montage set to the show's first ending theme, 'Memories', completely pandering to my desire to see the old feelings of this show paid due respect within the modern content. Toei, my buds, my friends, you're free to use insert songs whenever you want. You can do it in every episode for all I care. I'll be happy with it.

It feels good to like episode 808 as much as I do, because it's ultimately just the jumping-off point for the stuff that I find really interesting about this arc. I can't imagine that anything else will get such a flashy hype train going for it, but I'll take the emotional roller coaster while I can get it. This "special" is Toei's adaptation at its best and worst, really pushing my patience with all the flashbacks and filler, but also giving me all the depth of feeling I could ask for when the direction really pulls it off.

Episode 807 Rating: D

Episode 808 Rating: A+

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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