by Grant Jones,
How would you rate episode 925 of
One Piece ?
Sanji lets it rip and transforms using the Germa suit and we get a full
magical girl henshin sequence. Law remarks on how he recognizes this as Germa science thanks to the manga he used to read, and Sanji rebrands himself as Soba Mask as Franky and Usopp beam from the sidelines. Soba Mask and Page One engage in a knockdown, dragout fight that sees a truly impressive amount of property damage.
Back at the castle, Robin is investigating the poneglyphs. However, she fails to notice that she is being pursued. The Oniwabanshu - Shogun Orochi's personal ninja force - surprise her. Their captain states that she has one chance to explain herself and the pressure is on.
Back at the Soba Mask and Page One battle, the fighting continues. A massive hit sends Soba Mask flying, which prompts Law and the gang to book it to Ebisu. Soba Mask retaliates with one last strike, the Shooting Star Soba Kick, which puts Page One out of commission long enough to make his getaway.
This episode is both easy and difficult to summarize. On the one hand, the entire synopsis is - “They fight,” and if you'll pardon me channeling a bit of Ken Watanabe, I say “Let them fight.” The difficulty lies in describing the events because it's a real smorgasbord of visual delights.
Gorgeously rendered henshin sequence? Check.
Outrageous special moves? Check.
Screen-shaking impacts? Check.
Raw electric energy in every pop of color? Check.
Beefy Sanji musculature on display for the fans? Oh that's a big check, folks.
Whether it's the wispy-like line work on him getting backhanded through four city blocks or the dazzling lighting in The Shooting Star Soba Kick, watching Soba Mask in action is an absolute joy. The animation team did really phenomenal work here, I'm truly astounded at the heights the Toei team reaches on a weekly basis these days.
Emotionally the big payoff is Sanji's willingness to use the suit. Sanji is a… complicated character with a complicated past, and his desire to have invisibility powers is initially rooted in the less desirable aspects of his personality. But ultimately in a desire to protect his friends he reclaims his family heritage and rebrands it to make himself a protector of the weak, and that's a great moment for him.
Special mention to the unbridled joy of seeing Franky and Usopp geek out over the tokusatsu glory of Soba Mask, as well as Law being an uber-dork over the Germa lore. Law being silly is always the good content.
How would you rate episode 926 of
One Piece ?
The Big Mom Pirates are bemoaning the loss of their mother in the scuffle with King, and we are treated to a rather grim dream Charlotte is having. She envisions herself fighting a shackled Luffy and killing him once and for all. Souls are snatched, souls are snacked, cackles are had - your run of the mill dream sequence tropes honestly.
Back at the castle, Robin is under pressure by the ninjas. She attempts to explain her presence but they see right through her ruse. They entangle her neck and riddle her with ninja stars, leaving her at death's door.
We take a brief interlude with Chopper and Tama practice-fighting in the forest. As they exchange adorable jutsu, they end up making their way to a moonlit beach, which we'll come back to later…
The Oniwabanshu execute Robin… but sike! It was actually a body double, and Robin tosses out a quick “lol later nerds” smirk before her infiltrator body turns to so many petals. The real Robin ducks into the party and places herself close to Shogun Orochi. He manages to creep out to the maximum, but it keeps her relatively safe in an open area. Even as the ninja scour the grounds for her, she manages to avoid detection with well-timed raising of her mask. Furthermore, she gathers more intel on the Fire Festival which will help in the coming conflict.
Across the room, Boss Kyoshiro waxes poetic about the yakuza code. He makes mention of the appropriate use of force, and Shogun Orochi comes over to add his two cents. Surprising no one, Shogun Orochi is in favor of cranking everything up to eleven all the time and obliterating all who oppose you. His presence sours the mood quite expertly.
Back at the beach, Chopper sees a shape on the shore. It turns out to be none other than humina humina humina BIG MOM zoinks jinkies yipes! He makes a break for it with Momonosuke as she begins to rise, while Kiku goes to make a last stand to protect Tama. Big Mom arises and says… “Who am I?” We've officially entered the most important trope of any stage play - amnesia.
This episode is more of an even keel compared to the bombastic energy of 925. It contains low points - like the moments where we fear Robin is dead - to some real highs - like the moment where we realize Robin is very much still alive. Animation wise the real delights were from the oddest of places - the ninjas prowling around the castle. Seeing the Oniwabanshu scour the castle grounds for Robin had a lot of characterful flourishes that made them feel like very distinct characters, and that was very much appreciated. Big Mom's flashback sequence also had very evocative color work with the stark contrasts.
But wow I think the direction was the standout in this episode. The petal screen wipe during Robin's body double dying, the close-up on Shogun Orochi's toothy maw when he was describing overwhelming force, the choice to focus in and do a close-up on Orochi creepily rubbing Robin's hand - all moments which hit that much harder because of those choices.
How would you rate episode 927 of
One Piece ?
On the shore of Wano, Chopper retreats in fear from Big Mom until he hears Tama begin to speak. Big Mom does not recall who she is, and Tama goes to remind her of her name, but Chopper stops her mid-sentence. He insists that her name is Olin and she rolls with it.
Back at the party, Orochi is fuming about intruders. He rants about the ghosts of Kozuki Oden and their 20 year revenge prophecy, clearly unhinged and disturbing the others at court. Otoko begins laughing at him and it sends him into a fury. He charges, and even though Oiran tells him to stop he presses on. Looming over Otoko, Orochi goes for the kill when Oiran smacks him across the face and halts him in his tracks. She berates him until he transforms into his dragon form out of spite. Orochi's heads begin gobbling up everyone in the court before at last he lifts her into his primary mouth and goes to bite down.
In the confusion, Robin grabs Otoko and flees to safety. The ninjas chase her down and she is trapped. At the last moment, Brook arrives in spectral form to assist her.
Back inside, Orochi's mouth begins to clamp down. Kyoshiro, laughing maniacally, exclaims that this is pandemonium and he draws his blade as we get hit with the To Be Continued card.
What an intense episode. An absolute knockout, if I'm being honest. Visually and thematically it is firing on all cylinders. Orochi's transformation in full is truly terrifying to behold, inky black masses tinged in crimson that slowly become a voracious multi-headed dragon beast. Hiroshi Iwasaki's vocal range also has to be commended, as he can play Orochi at his most petulant, disgusting, and imposing all within the scope of the same scene.
My favorite sequence was Orochi's mental image of the ghosts of the Akazaya Nine coming to get him. Those spectral white forms wielding samurai blades rising from the tombstones to attack him were terrific imagery. Most of all the choice to use a film grain filter over everything and give it an aging chanbara film vibe - appropriate, given that he is speaking of the ghosts of another time - absolutely knocks that moment out of the park.
Oiran's big moment was gorgeously rendered too. Something about her movements and actions glowing with a radiant pink aura helps to personify her as Wano's past and future, the embodiment of what was lost yet still remains. Her slapping Orochi was deeply cathartic as well.
Thematically, the criticism of despotic power could not be more clear. Orochi is a tyrant in the truest sense - petty, small-minded, egotistical and self-absorbed. He is consumed with his vices and the fear of enemies real and imagined. His rule is not based in his strength but in how pathetic and weak he is - laughing stock in his own court, unable to withstand even the laughter of a small child. Shogun Orochi is the smallest man in the room.
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