Initially, I was planning to muse about the conclusion of ‘Fishman’ in this write-up. My entry point to this series worked out to be somewhere within the final episodes of that arc, and the experience of dropping into an epic saga at the critical mass of its plotting was a bit like taking a cannonball into the deep end of a swimming pool.
Actually, to stretch that analogy even further, the swimming pool in question would be filled with fish, too - - because it was just dizzying to keep track of the ten Straw Hats, all the numerous villains they were battling and all the countless mer-people they were protecting from those villains.
After about a year and however many episodes, I’m finally coming out through the other end (as it were). There are likely just as many participants at play on screen here, but I have a point of reference for all of them, this time. While this part of ‘Punk Hazard’ would surely be incomprehensible to the novice, it makes all makes sense to me.
Well, a kind of sense… and only up to a certain point.
Our big bad Caesar Clown has been soundly vanquished. He ain’t getting up from that beating. The island of Punk Hazard is destroying itself. The mutated children have been rescued, and the victimized innocents are on their way to recovery. However, just when “Punk Hazard” seems to be winding down to a fairly clean finale, Oda pulls a few more rabbits out of his hat like a magician trying to sneak as many tricks in before curtain call - - even though he’s still performing at the next set.
The interlude with Joker’s girl Friday and the human bi-plane is weird, even by ONE PIECE’s standards. I’ve previously said that the show can feel like a more bellicose Lewis Carrol and, damn, if these two’s random exchange about their personal peccadillos wasn’t as nonsensical as any conversation you’d hear down the rabbit hole. The bi-plane’s non-sequitor, sing-songy critique of the girl’s excessive magazine subscriptions struck me the most. Just... so... random.
We were probably never going to get a ‘clean finish’ to this arc, anyway.
Since fairly early on, Oda’s taken a very shonen-stats approach to framing this whole conflict as a long-form prelude to further battles. Not only has it been repeatedly stressed that Caesar isn’t a big bad in his own right - - he’s merely a lackey to true big bad, Doflamingo - - it’s also been made clear that all this mayhem with Shinkokuni is just an advertisement to give other major villains ideas. Sure, countless arcs can be described just the same, but it takes a certain level of comfort and confidence for a show to stress the lesser importance of the conflict-at-hand on screen.
This episode ties, of course, with the dramatic reveal of yet another player who’s pretty much been taking a break on the sidelines bench for the past few episodes. Don’t get me wrong… I like Franky. I even thought that this juggernaut’s emergence from the shore - - at just the moment that our new baddies are going to meddle in things, no less - - was effectively done. Nevertheless, I can’t help but smirk over how this is at least the tenth time Oda’s pushed this particular button. It really does feel like he’s a kid with a giant toy box, and he’s just endlessly picking up and staging his action figures.
I’ve criticized MAGI for indulging the mangaka’s urge to just throw characters on screen without spending time to properly develop them. Thinking about it more, the indulging of that urge wasn’t the issue so much as the timing, because Oda is doing the exact same thing here. The only difference is that he’s doing it at this stage, after the audience is already won over; and they were probably won over during those first 50 episodes that every fan describes as ‘slow.’ MAGI’s downfall was simply trying to jump to that point without putting the time in. And that’s really why ONE PIECE seems to get away with doing the same thing. (Frankly, that's why ONE PIECE gets away with doing anything).
As much I was initially yearning for ‘Punk Hazard’ to just be done, at the point, I think I’m more interested in the prospect of just reading somebody’s point-for-point plot synopsis of this glorious mess. At the least, I'd love to read somebody else's lucid description of the scene with the bi-plane.
About the Author
|Tom Pinchuk’s a writer and personality with a large number of comics, videos and features like this to his credit. Visit his website - - tompinchuk.com - - and follow his Twitter: @tompinchuk|