by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 907 of
One Piece ?
How would you rate episode 908 of
One Piece ?
Episode 907: The first of these two episodes is a departure from the Wano arc, which is instead taking a week break to celebrate the anime's twentieth anniversary by adapting One Piece's prototype one-shot, "Romance Dawn." Specifically, this is was Eiichiro Oda's second stab at drawing his nautical epic before getting officially serialized, and it stars a fresh-faced young rubber boy (still named Luffy) who teams up with a girl named Anne (an early blue-haired take on Nami) to fend off an evil clown-themed pirate named Six Hones Spiel (not actually all that similar to Buggy, all things considered). It's interesting to note that Romance Dawn ver. 1, which already got a TV special back in 2008, had already established Shanks as the person who gave Luffy his iconic Straw Hat, while ver. 2 changed it up by having the hat come from Luffy's grandfather, which is ironic considering the type of character Garp would ultimately turn out to be in the series proper.
Adaptation-wise, this special episode is a bizarre assault on the eyes. There are so many visual filters competing for attention, and I've never been a fan of retrofitting Oda's early artwork with modern anime designs. Those old one-shots have a fascinating jank to them, and this episode doesn't capture that old spirit at all. The whole thing is the wrong kind of ugly. That said, there are a few moments of surprising sentimentality, and one hell of an impressive punch scene to send the bad guy flying in the end. It's interesting to see the elements that have survived between all drafts of One Piece's freshman days.
Episode 908: Back in the ol' samurai country, our heroes are finishing their escape from Bakura Town with lots of stolen fresh food and water that they can hand out to the peasants, Robin Hood-style. We've been in this arc for nearly twenty episodes now, and it finally feels like we've gotten the basic story ideas introduced. This is the first act of the first act, essentially, and now that Luffy has scene the damage that Kaido and Orochi have done to the civilians of Wano, he makes a promise to Otama that clean food will be a permanent fixture in her life by the time he leaves the island. As far as endearing the locals of Wano to Luffy (or at least his Wano-ian alter ego, "Luffytaro"), this is one of those episodes that washes over you like a tidal wave. The intense relief in the face of starvation hits hard, and we're beginning to see the legend that Luffy will inevitably leave behind in the aftermath of the arc. Luffy's not the type who wants to be seen as a hero, but that doesn't mean he won't help people when he takes a liking to them. This feels like an uncharacteristically altruistic declaration from him.
The cliffhanger this week is also killer. Now that Bakura Town is behind us and we've reunited with Law, it's time to return to the entire reason we're in this country to begin with: helping Kin'emon and friends topple the shogun and open Wano's borders. However, mystery is afoot, and our samurai companions may not be who we assumed. The final image that we're left with this week is that of decrepit old gravestones bearing the names of Kin'emon, Momonosuke, and so on. Did they fake their deaths a long time ago? Were they ghosts this entire time?!
With One Piece: Stampede hitting big in U.S. theaters and the Wano arc slowly but steadily getting into its groove, the One Piece anime is in a remarkably different place than it was even a year ago. I didn't love all of the Romance Dawn special episode, but it certainly connected me to old feelings I assumed were long gone. Episode 908 is just a fantastic installment altogether, riding the great production values we've been seeing the past few weeks and really landing the heartfelt moments and suspenseful intrigue. I'm glad we can finally start to wade into the more bizarre hooks of the arc, because things can only get more interesting from here.
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