Lest ONE PIECE ever get too precious, the show goes out of its way to have a scene where Luffy socks the crap out of his milksop, would-be sidekick.
It’s a relief, to be honest. I was concerned this show was going to seem… I don’t know… like THE BUSY WORLD OF RICHARD SCARY for the next 30 episodes. Of course, this sort of wire-crossing happens enough, you’ve got to wonder if the show’s staff consciously tries to push different buttons at once. They’ve made a kids cartoon (rendered in delicate water colors at times, no less) that happens to include crucifixions and brutal beatings.
Thinking about it, I guess this sort of tension might be another secret of the show’s success. Just as Luffy stretches and re-shapes to fit a given situation, so too does deliberately undercut its own sweetness (lest it get saccharine) and deliberately undercut its conflict (lest it get melodramatic) - - and every opposite effort, as well. To put it lightly, it’s a difficult show to categorize.
On another note, having seen every kind of catch-all power catalyst in a given show - - from the X-MEN’s mutations to DARKER THAN BLACK’s “incident” to TIGER & BUNNY’s meteor crash - - I’ve got to say that ONE PIECE’s devil fruits has to be the most whimsical. I wonder how Luffy found the Gum Gum, and who else has eaten that particular fruit, and how rare they are… and then I’m sure that those very questions end up fueling dozens of latter storylines.
Indeed, I’m sure that Oda’s approach to all this epic storytelling, anyway. When Luffy says he’ll see his pink-haired pal again someday, I’m sure even Oda doesn’t have a clear idea of how that’d eventually shake out. He's got his map drawn (and the expository description of the Grand Line finally cleared up a lot of things for me) and he's got his action figures, but he has no immediate plan for how they're going to work together. If it ever seems like there's been a long-term plan, it's because he's as skilled an improvisation artist as Luffy shows himself to be in this episode.