by Grant Jones,
How would you rate episode 916 of
One Piece ?
In the wake of Luffy and Kaido's Ultimate Battle to End All Battles* we get a moment to savor the multi-hued destruction of Wano. Kaido orders Luffy to be sent to prison and not even mentioned as a pirate to avoid rousing up the people with dreams of the outside world. However, as Kaido's goons go to cart Luffy off our hero's
anti-theft device Supreme King Haki activates and knocks them out cold. Kaido complains about the prevalence of Haki and exits the scene, regrettably sober. Hawkins' goons return to let him know they failed to capture Law before they cuff Luffy in sea prism stone and haul him off.
After a brief interlude of Kinemon appreciating his wife from afar, we find Kiku searching for the rest of the assembled pirate crews. She finds an enormous pit and, much to our relief, our heroes are safe and sound within the pit. They are in fact resting on top of Chopper who used the ample chunkiness of his Point Guard to keep them from plummeting to their doom. Sanji – unable to resist being Sanji – scoops up the ladies of the team and carries them to safety, leaving his male friends to die in a pit. Shinobu thankfully saves the rest of them using a highly specific jutsu and our heroes are safe for the time being. Kiku relays to the crew what happened to Luffy, and we see a brief shot of the Minks rescuing Tama. Luffytaro's wanted posters spread across the land of Wano and come to the attention of the rest of the Straw Hat pirates – Usopp, Franky, Robin, and Zoro, to their shock.
Meanwhile, at the big house, we are shown more of life in Kaido's prison as Luffy is taken to his cell. A mysterious creature lives in a darkened cell eating fish and spitting bones like deadly missiles, while Luffy meets his new roomie – Eustass Kid?! Then it's curtain call for Act 1 of Wano.
This episode was the denouement for act one, and obviously lacked the energy of the amazing climactic fight between Luffy and Kaido. In that sense there were less visual flourishes and feasts for the eyes but it was by no means bad (and who wouldn't need a cooldown after everything we have just seen?). The scene transition with the blowing leaves over a white background was a great touch when shifting away from the Kiku and rescued pirates scene. I also really enjoyed the choice to have Luffy and Kid speaking in the dark with the two colors of text overlaid on top of each other in front of a black screen, I thought that did a good job of communicating the dark cell and darkness before the realization hit that they were in the same cell together. We also got a wonderful moment where an evil horse prison guard wore goggles and grinned maniacally! Sometimes it's the little things in life, you know?
I'm also a complete sucker for Oda's use of the Kabuki theater framing devices. Curtains drawing to a close, the use of act numbering title cards, and Hiyori just ripping into the shamisen as everything draws to a close. It does a tremendous job of setting the mood and expectations for how Wano is going to play out.
But truly, the big show here – the real draw of this episode?
Usopp. Franky. Robin. Zoro.
One Piece is a series known for the expressive work of the cast. Oda has many talents and perhaps his most remarkable is the wide range of emotions he can create through absurd-yet-strangely-relatable facial expressions. It is astounding how after nearly 1000 entries in this series there are still times when he can amaze with these faces.
When Usopp, Franky, and Robin - and to a lesser extent Zoro – find those Luffytaro wanted posters and make those outrageous facial expressions it is incredible. Nothing but joy, nothing but bliss. The anime team did a superb job bringing these faces to life and the added color-shift at the end of each sequence to “solidify” the frames was a great touch. Hats off to them.
*Some restrictions apply void where prohibited.
How would you rate episode 917 of
One Piece ?
This episode begins with the arrival of news gulls on Gloom Island where Mihawk and Perona are currently residing. Between bouts of arguing over who has done more cooking, Perona notices on the front page of the paper that Gecko Moria is in fact alive! She sets off to make connect with him once again, and Mihawk's simple statement to be careful prompts her to weep from the sign of affection.
Meanwhile, far away on a pirate island, a large party is interrupted by Gecko Moria. He comes tromping into town at the head of a zombie army and finds his old pal Absalom
creeper cat-man extraordinaire his former ally. But suddenly Gecko Moria is attacked from behind by an invisible swordsman – Shiryu. With horror Moria realizes that invisibility was Absalom's power which means… yes, he has been slain and Absalom is in fact Catarina Devon. Blackbeard himself calls out via snailhorn that he needs to calm down and enjoy the party, because all the power players are making their moves for the throne.
This was largely a transitional episode between chapters one and two, an interlude of sorts. Mostly exposition by way of newspaper and a few speeches, but it's always nice to get a peek in on other characters in the One Piece world just to see how they're doing.
I think there were enough interesting directorial choices to keep the episode interesting. There was a heavy emphasis on food and drink overflowing with red this episode. During the Mihawk and Perona scene we have these brief shots of the sandwiches(?) full to bursting with red jam, and see enormous globs of it spilling onto the plate. Meanwhile, during the moments with Blackbeard in his tower there was the bottle of wine that fell to the floor and we had an extended shot of the wine running red like a pool of blood on the stones. Both were effective ways to set the mood for the impending bloodshed coming between these various powerful factions.
The real big show visually was Bleackbeard using the Gura Gura no Mi. Every time he punches the screen it looks dynamite, those arcing blue-white cracks just pop over the black background. It's an attack that has a lot of weight and it looks and feels momentous. I think the choice to have the effect shatter the “To Be Continued” card at the end of the episode was a particularly brilliant touch.
Also, this episode has the world's greatest swordsman chopping cucumbers in a v-neck tunic. What's not to love?
How would you rate episode 918 of
One Piece ?
Act Two of Wano begins, with curtains opening to Hiyori's shamisen. Dog Storm and Ashura are dueling in the field as the other pirates look on, the force of their sword blows blasting away nearby onlookers. Dog Storm asks Ashura why he has become this way, only for Ashura to remind him that they have all been away for twenty years – they cannot return out of the blue and act like nothing has happened. As the fight draws to a close and they part ways, Raizo returns to mention that he has located Luffy in the prison.
Elsewhere, Tama is recovering thanks to Chopper and the Minks providing medical aid. She is concerned for Luffy's safety, which transitions to the prison camp itself. The harder the inmates work, the more food they are given. Luffy and Kid are butting heads, spilling food, and generally not cooperating.
We jump once more to Robin and Franky enjoying Sanji's cooking. Robin smiles and compliments Sanji for his efforts,
meaning that Sanji has definitively found the One Piece and the show is over to which he replies that he is cooking with love and that's making the difference. A paperboy runs down the street and Franky takes one of the papers, which is how the team learns of the killer Hitokiri Kamazo. We are shown a scene at night with Hitokiri slaying, before we cut back to the Straw Hats and more papers being sold.
There's an extended sequence with the Straw Hat and Heart pirates giving papers to samurai throughout Wano. These small papers bear the emblem of the Kozuki clan, letting them know that the time to rise up has arrived. Various samurai are ready to take the fight to Shogun Orochi and Kaido, but an elderly man mentions that they have no weapons, no training halls, and therefore a slim chance at success.
After another moment in the prison camp with Luffy working hard, we see Nami and Shinobu on a stealth/infiltration mission. They crawl through a roof space and spy on shady arms deals but are discovered in the act. They high-tail it out of the castle and make their escape.
Finally we spend time with Queen, King, and Jack discussing weapon distribution and the issues the Straw Hats have caused. There's some sniping between Queen and King with regards to not being able to control Luffy or Kid at the prison camp, and the episode draws to a close.
As the opening part of the act this is largely more setup for what will constitute the major events coming up. The emotional beats with Ashura in the beginning are probably the most effective, but largely this episode was about making sure we knew who all the players were and what to expect as the Kozuki clan begins making its move.
This episode was mostly setup to make sure we have all the pieces in play. While I would not say that Wano has Dressrosa-levels of “wow a lot is going on everywhere,” there's no denying that Wano has quite a few moving parts. Making sure the audience has an idea of where everyone is and where they are going takes time.
In terms of visual highlights, I think the opening segments are where this episode really shines. Wano's clashing color iconography and color palette make for a distinctive introduction. The lush verdant greenery and dazzling pink cherry blossoms clashing with the soot-covered industrial infrastructure in the distance is such a striking visual, and a helpful reminder of Wano being a land of harsh contrasts. The segments with Hitokiri shifting to blood red hues during the night-time murder sequences were also particularly gripping.
There were also a handful of fun character moments for cast members who are not necessarily in the lime light all that often. Kiku parrying a slash while standing on the sidelines during the Ashura/Dog Storm fight was a nice touch. Nami and Shinobu make for a terrific comedy duo, and Shinobu screaming at the top of her lungs while trying to make their escape is particularly funny thanks to Yuriko Yamamoto's always wonderful voice work.
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