474: The Execution Order is Given - Break Down the Walls!
While the audience at Sabaody argues and protests with the stationed marines over the cut broadcast, the Eleven Supernovas look on from the shadows. Eustass Kid expresses annoyance at the show being over so soon, while Scratchmen Apoo explains to his crew that the Navy's obviously hiding something. Trafalgar Law makes to depart with his crew, while commenting that there's no way the allegations against Whitebeard are true. Basil Hawkins draws from his deck of tarot cards the Death arcana.
As the lava fists rain down on the Marineford bay the ice begins to rapidly melt, dropping the pirates into scalding hot water. But even if they make it out, they still have to deal with an entire battery of cannonfire, as well as the Pacifistas guarding the opening of the bay. Whitebeard tries throwing out a seismic punch, but even that fails to bring down the steel walls. Akainu declares that Whitebeard's era is over as the Moby Dick takes a direct hit from the lava, and despite the frantic efforts of its crew to put out the flames, the ship goes up in flames. While the grunts wail the loss of their ship and curse the Navy, Whitebeard calmly watches the conflagration and apologizes to his vessel.
Sengoku announces through his telesnail speaker that the execution of Ace will now proceed. The pirates debate over whether they should make the dash for the open spot created by Oars Jr. or not, until Luffy runs ahead of them alone, inspiring the others to follow in a grand charge. Ivankov yells that that's far too obvious a path, and sure enough the full force of the Navy's artillery is brought to bear on this charge, scattering the pirates and knocking Luffy into the ocean.
Eyecatches: Luffy and Robin
As the executioners ready their blades, a sudden rumble shakes the plaza, and a deep voice says Ace's name. It turns out that Oars Jr., previously thought dead, is actually still alive! Seeing him rising to his knees gives the pirates a badly-need morale boost. As Squardo watches, his men gather around him and offer him his sword. After a moment's hesitation he takes it, his determination restored.
Jimbei, meanwhile, fishes Luffy out of the ocean. Luffy says that he has to save Ace as he's about to be killed, and grabs the front of Jimbei's tunic and desperately says that he has a favor to ask.
The marines open fire on Oars Jr. again, but Kizaru says that he'll finish off the uber-Giant himself. Before he can shoot though, a huge stream of water erupts over the walls and crashes down in front of the three Admirals, revealing Luffy, armed with part of a ship's mast. The Admirals all praise him in their own way for making it this far, but also add that he doesn't stand a chance against them. Seeing Luffy's actions, Whitebeard remarks that he's quite a reckless kid, and orders Oars Jr. to stay firm for a little bit longer, for they're about to use their trump to break in to the plaza!
On the other side, Luffy shouts for Ace and hurls the mast at the Admirals. Aokiji freezes it and sends it right back, but Luffy uses Stamp Gatling to break apart the frozen mast with his feet and shower the three with icy debris.
Before I talk about the episode's content, I guess I should talk about the animation director for this episode. His name is Eisaku Inoue, and he's been with the series since the very beginning (episode 2 was his first, I believe) and since then has done three of the movies (2, 7, and 8), and has been absent since 377, the "Nothing at all!" episode. Even from the beginning, his episodes were noticeably high quality, but in recent years it wouldn't be a far stretch to describe his style as "Oda's in color". While his models have gotten a bit rounder over the years, his art style is the closest to Oda's own amongst the anime staff, and his episodes have been of very, very high quality. Just look at 312 (the Going Merry's Viking funeral) for a prime example. Also, he's infamous for giving the females rather, uh, noticeably large(r) breasts (he will never, ever live down Movie 7's ridiculous Gainaxing
). In a nutshell, when his team is on an episode, it's bound to be a good one, so fans were really looking forward to this one.
And it delievered. While again, not a whole lot of progress was made, it was the atmosphere and directing, coupled with the great art, that really sold this one. I loved how the aftermath of Akainu's attack looked, with embers floating everywhere, and the sea all red from the flames. I also liked how they extended the Moby Dick's destruction a little bit to really make it clear what it meant to the Whitebeards. And that scene at the end, with Luffy confronting the Admirals, that was amazing. As soon as I heard that track from the scene of the Straw Hats breaking in to Shiki's hall, I had the biggest grin on my face. That sequence had superb animation, and really did a good job at getting you pumped up for what happens next.
What I didn't like...the craptasticness of Oars Jr. still being alive. I mentioned a while back how I couldn't feel anything from his "death" even though they went all out making it a tearjerker, and that's because I knew that Oda was going to pull his punches. He always does that when it concerns death like this. I know he doesn't like to kill off people, but when it hurts the drama of the story, well...that ain't good.
Two other oddities: even though Akainu's attack was supposed to melt all the ice, there still seems to be plenty of it. Or at least enough for all the pirates to gather on. Also, weren't the pirates already climbing over Oars Jr. to reach the plaza like ten episodes ago? What happened to that?
All in all, great episode, and it's good to see Inoue back in action finally.