by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 884 of
One Piece ?
How would you rate episode 885 of
One Piece ?
The Reverie may still be trudging along at a snail's pace, but at least something kinda sorta happened this week. For starters, we have the long-fated meeting of the princesses. Vivi of Alabasta, Rebecca of Dressrosa, and Shirahoshi of Fishman Island are crossing paths, and they all share a habit of wanting to discuss Luffy's greatness with anyone who will listen. Inevitably, this leads us into the next pair of elongated recaps, so let's dish out some Cold Takes, shall we?
- Alabasta arc: There are a seemingly endless number of "checkpoints" in One Piece—story arcs where the series turns it up a notch and it starts to more closely resemble the behemoth we know today. You might commonly hear phrases like "Get to the ______ arc and then you'll know if One Piece is for you," but the reality is that this series has so much to offer that there can never be one single example of this. Alabasta is One Piece's first sweeping epic; it has a civil war as the backdrop, there are political ramifications to the Straw Hats' victory over Crocodile, and the final battle is the climax of a multi-arc saga beginning with the first time the crew picked up Princess Vivi. Structurally speaking, this is the most "classic" One Piece adventure, and everything that follows is pulling from a specific formula established in this arc. It's a distinctly less piratey romp, looking more like the Saturday morning cartoon version of Lawrence of Arabia, and it has one of the series' absolute most iconic villains. I love the exhaustively stupid number of obstacles and back-up plans that Crocodile was able to bring to the table, and Luffy's finishing blow against him is Grade-A.
The next recap comes courtesy of Wapol, who's still allowed in the Reverie because he became the king of the new Black Drum Kingdom. (The original Drum Kingdom has since been renamed "Sakura Kingdom" under Dalton's lead.) It's a little odd that we have an episode recapping Alabasta followed by an episode recapping Drum, since that's reverse chronological order, but I digress:
- Drum Island arc: Alabasta's inverse in terms of climate, Drum Island is mostly known for one specific thing—that heartbreaking Chopper flashback. It's the real deal, the bar that all other tragic One Piece flashbacks strive for. If you like beautiful found-family stories that take place while overthrowing an oppressive government, this is as gut-wrenching as they get. Though I am kind of sad that one of the manga's best gimmicks never translated into anime form, where the entirety of this pitch-perfect, self-contained flashback takes place in the middle of Luffy punching the villain in the face.
One common theme we're seeing is how the different royal groups meet the expectations of nobility. The Fishman Island crew can't help but feel that something is off, choosing to avoid using the automated walkways that look like a simple modern convenience on the surface, but are really being operated by slave labor underground. The Fish-people have a terrible history with the Celestial Dragons and slavery, so they're more likely to have a sixth sense about these things. It's the single most evil characteristic at the heart of the World Government—where the privileged have developed an inescapably hateful expression of opulence. So if you're bummed out about certain contemporary anime and their half-hearted portrayals of slavery, perhaps I could interest you in this little known series called ONE PIECE.
On a related note, Shirahoshi is finding herself with a unique problem, which is that her beauty brings all the boys to the yard and now she's being pelted with marriage proposals. There's a callback here to one of my favorite underrated gags from Fishman Island, where Shirahoshi finally meets Vander Decken and the line "you're just not my type" happens to be an accidentally savage way to turn down your creepy stalker/murderer man. The poor girl is too earnest for her own good, and her brothers have to desperately instruct her on how to deflect all the horny princes without making them feel rejected, lest they start a diplomatic incident. She either plays the game and gets harassed, or she says what she means and someone starts World War III over it. Yeesh.
By far the biggest development in these two episodes comes with the most recent cliffhanger, where we see a mysterious figure in the underbelly of Mariejois approaching a giant straw hat that the government has been keeping inside a refrigerator. This is as bizarre a twist as they come, and the vagueness of every circumstantial detail is infuriating. Who is this mysterious figure? Why is it now of all times that they're holding up Luffy's wanted photo for comparison? Is this a science experiment, and for what cause? Is Luffy's hat an alien?! I don't know if any answer would be satisfying at this point.
The overlong recaps are still a burden on this arc, making it difficult to parse how much important information is going to be doled out each week if you're looking to save yourself some time, but at least we're getting to the point where the table scraps of new material are uniformly juicy. The Alabasta and Drum Island recaps have been re-animated from scratch, and while I could never part with the old art style from yesteryear, these particular flashbacks look miles better than the Luffy ones we were getting a few weeks ago. Episode 885 even briefly animates the Straw Hat Grand Fleet cover story, the little bonus narrative that unfolded during Whole Cake Island. I always wondered why they haven't been more eager to mine those cover stories for added filler, since they usually prove to be important to the canon. They managed to adapt this one pretty economically.
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