If I had to boil down ONE PIECE to a single word descriptor, that word would be “madcap”. You just never know what’s going to pop up in each individual episode and, in fact, episodes can vary wildly in terms of tone and theme while still following the same storylines.
And I certainly don’t mean this as a negative. On the contrary, “madcap” is one of my favorite things to watch (certainly my favorite kind of romp), and ONE PIECE once again manages to dish up its own unique recipe for humor, action, and ethos. In the most recent episodes the show is a veritable potpourri of plots and characters. Following Tom Pinchuk’s Patented Toy Box Theory, whenever one of the plots has even the slightest hint of slowing down the show jumps to another one.
Episode 657 is a fairly straightforward fight episode. Embroiled in the tournament for the Flare Flare Fruit, the chainmail-bikini-clad Rebecca is hunted through a battle royale by the enormous and enormously creepy Rolling Logan. While Luffy cheers for her, the crowds jeer her and wish her bones crushed by Logan.
What you don’t realize at the time, though, is that this fight is setting up for plot threads that occur over the next two episodes. The fact that the crowd hates on Rebecca as she is the old King’s granddaughter sets up for the meeting of the King, as well as setting expectations for the King’s downfall.
When King Riku is revealed in the following episode, you’re shocked by the intense reverence people show for him after all the derogatory remarks the crowds at the coliseum made. The origin of the Tontatta Kingdom of Little People further emphasizes this contrast, as the revere the royal family as saviors of their people from the previous rulers, ancestors of the ruthless Doflamingo.
And it’s in episode 659 that you really find out why Riku is despised. In a flashback it’s revealed that Doflamingo held the entire country hostage and all but forced Riku to order his knights to collect all the money his people had. Since the people loved their king so much, they obeyed and offered everything they had. But Doflamingo was never going to leave the country along, and used his Devil Fruit powers to make the king go on a deadly rampage, killing his own loyal subjects.
And that’s why everyone was shouting at Rebecca. As a member of the royal family, they hate her by extension. But she still continues her family’s tradition of peace, in her own way. Her determination to win the tournament without killing anyone or even cutting them with her sword reflects her grandfather’s deeply held “peace at any cost” philosophy.
And then there’s Bartolomeo, who just wants to meet his heroes the Straw Hats, running around looking for Luffy and being a goofball. In the same episodes where a giant threaten to crush a woman to death, or a mind-controlled king slaughters his people. He’s much needed comic relief after all that grimness.
But there are a myriad of other Straw Hats that don’t make an appearance in this run. Chopper, Nami, Sanji, and Zoro are nowhere to be found, and I suppose that’s a key problem with this highly structured and spread out story. You can’t possibly service every character every episode, or even every character in every few episodes. You leave your audience wanting more, and in this case the worrying about unseen characters actually keeps you further engaged.
What other show can do that like ONE PIECE? Let us know your picks in the comments below!
About the Author
Matt Murphy is a freelance nerd who has contributed to many nerd websites. You can reach him by going to where the light meets the shadow, by sending out zeta-brainwaves or by following him on Twitter @Murphix.