How would you rate episode 991 of
One Piece ?
This is where reviewing Wano becomes difficult.
Up until now, most episodes of Wano are of an extremely high caliber, whether due to phenomenal production quality, impactful events and character beats, or quite often a combination of both. Wano has been a terrific arc from start to finish as a manga reader, and watching the anime alongside it has only heightened my appreciation for the material on display.
Don't take this the wrong way either, because this is by no means a bad episode. In fact, I'd say it is a solid episode of weekly television! A few choice cuts of high quality animation here, a few dramatic character reveals there...what's not to enjoy, right? Ace is here! Nico Robin in the beast pirates outfit! The Brachio tank doing its cute little run! All should be good in One Piece reviewer land.
At the same time, however, an episode like this also highlights the strain of the material. Because the episode is neither excellent nor terrible and exists in a sort of average middle area (in other words, simply “good”, which I feel spoiled to say), it is easier to see just how much Wano there is. I mean, I've been covering Wano ever since I started my stint as the One Piece anime reviewer… and I started writing for ANN fifteen (!) months ago. And at this point, we are only just now meeting Yamato, who has to be one of the most developed and pivotal characters in the entire arc.
Folks… we have a long way to go.
In many ways I think that's terrific. Wano is good, and often great, and when the dust settles I think the general consensus will be that it is a superb arc in a series chock full of them. But given that most of the runtime in this episode is either flashbacks or introducing another dozen or so character designs for goons, merely acting as connective tissue… it can be a bit draining. I fully believe that the length of One Piece is its strength, but that can also make One Piece a weary watch sometimes, and this week I was feeling that pretty heavily. No matter how much meat there is, sometimes you just end up chewing the fat for twenty two minutes.
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