One Piece Anime: Episode Summary and Critique:

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Hello, I am Comic X 6, and I've decided to start this liveblog. Why? Well, the One Piece series is my favorite manga series, and October of last year marked the anime's tenth anniversary. Within the past year, the anime's direction has undergone a number of changes. The art style has changed and there have been a lot more Animation Bump, Adaptation Expansion, and Early-Bird Cameo moments, making it a different viewing experience from what it's been before, in my opinion.

Now, what I am going to do is give a summary of each episode and then offer my own commentary on both the artwork and the episode's direction and qualities. If you read this and wish to comment or disagree with me, you are welcome to, just keep things civil. Now to summarize the plot...
The basic plot of the story, for those few who do not know, follows the adventures of the boy Monkey D. Luffy, and his pirate crew, the Straw Hat pirates, as they sail the Grand Line in search of the One Piece, a treasure left behind by the legendary Pirate King Gold Roger, while dealing with rival pirate crews and the ominous World Government. The big gimmick of the series are the Devil Fruits. Magical fruits which grant the eaters super powers, at the cost of never being able to swim. Luffy himself ate the Gum Gum Fruit, allowing him to stretch and contort himself.

Aside from Luffy, the Straw Hats include:

  • Roronoa Zoro: A former bounty hunter who's a heavy sleeper and has no sense of direction. He fights with three swords, a style that he calls Santoryuu.
  • Nami: The crew's redheaded, wily navigator. She used to be a thief for the Arlong Pirate crew until Luffy defeated them and saved her.
  • Usopp: The crew's sniper (even though he uses a slingshot). Not the most honest nor the bravest person you'll ever find, but he'll pull through when it counts.
  • Sanji: The crew's cook who only fights with his feet. Something of a ladies' man (or tries to be). He doesn't always get along with Zoro.
  • Tony Tony Chopper: A reindeer who can talk and has the intelligence of a human thanks to the Human Human Fruit. He's the ship's doctor.
  • Nico Robin: Archeologist who serves as the crew's information bank. She's been branded a criminal by the World Government for twenty years. Can replicate body parts thanks to the Flower Flower Fruit.
  • Cutty "Franky" Flam: The crew's shipwright. A cyborg with very eccentric mannerisms.
  • Brook: A musician who came back from the dead thanks to the Revive Revive Fruit. Since his skin has long since rotted away, he is now a talking skeleton.

However, at this point in the story, the Straw Hats have been defeated and scattered across the world by the Warlord of the Sea Bartholomew Kuma. Luffy ended up on the island of Amazon Lily, where he learned that his older brother, Portgas D. Ace, had been captured by the World Government thanks to the pirate Blackbeard. With the help of the Warlord Boa Hancock, he has snuck into the undersea prison Impel Down where Ace is held in hopes of rescuing him, while the World Government braces for battle with Whitebeard, Ace's captain and the strongest man in the world. Along the way, Luffy has joined up with some old foes:

  • Buggy the Clown: An enemy that Luffy met at the start of his travels. He was a member of Gold Roger's crew when he was younger alongside Luffy's idol "Red-Haired" Shanks. Thanks to the Chop Chop Fruit, he can separate his body parts.
  • Mr. 3: A member of the criminal organization Baroque Works. Smart, but becomes cowardly when faced with adversity. The Wax Wax Fruit lets him exude wax from his body.
  • Mr. 2 Bon Clay: Another member of Baroque Works. This flamboyant fellow actually befriended Luffy and crew. Like Sanji he fights with his legs, and the Clone Clone Fruit allows him to mimic others' appearances.

Opposing them are:

  • Warden Magellan: Warden of Impel Down. A large and serious man who resembles a classical demon. Ate the Poison Poison Fruit.
  • Vice-Warden Hannyabal: Magellan's subordinate who resembles both a hannya demon and an Egyptian pharaoh. Overly ambitious, he often criticizes his boss.
  • Sadie: A leather-clad woman with an apparent S&M fetish.
  • Saldeath: The imp-like commander of the Blugori, hooded gorilla-like creates who guard the prison.

And with all that out of the way, let the blog begin!
Episode 433: Warden Magellan Moves into Action! Completion of Straw Hat's Net
As Luffy and Mr. 2 fight back against the Blugori on Level 3, the Impel Down staff finally manage to identify Luffy’s allies (here, we learn that Mr. 3 and Mr. 2’s real names are Gardino and Bentham respectively). The staff have managed to locate Luffy and Mr. 2, who are on their way down to Level 4, but are unable to find Buggy and Mr. 3. A bunch of prisoners on Level 1 listening in to the guards’ conversation chuckle and laugh at the commotion, and say that it’ll all be over for them when they’re finally caught.

Meanwhile, Hancock and Vice Admiral Momonga have returned to the prison’s surface. Domino unlocks Hancock’s cuffs and hands her back her fur cape, thanking her for her cooperation during her visit. Hancock comments that she heard that there was someone loose inside the prison, to which Domino reiterates that Impel Down is impregnable, and that now that Magellan himself is taking control of the situation, the fugitives will definitely be caught before long. Hancock merely comments that anyone who’d break in to the prison must be crazy, but silently tells Luffy that he must not allow Magellan to find him.

In the warden’s office, Magellan himself demands to know what happened to Saldeath, who was supposed to be handling the escapees on Level 3. Since the Blugori were ineffective there, they were moved back up to Level 2 to quell a prisoner riot that Buggy had started earlier. Magellan demands to know why he wasn’t informed earlier, but Hannyabal says that he was, but didn’t pay attention because of Hancock. Naturally, Magellan doesn’t take this criticism very well and starts gassing his subordinate with his breath as he continues to bad-mouth him. Luckily for Hannyabal, Sadie arrives, drawing Magellan’s attention away. According to Sadie, no one’s left on Level 3 anymore, except for Minotaurus, a large, club-wielding bipedal bull monster. Magellan decides to let Saldeath and the Blugori handle Level 2, while he and the rest of the staff will go to Level 4 in an attempt to head off Luffy and his group. He’ll deal with them personally.

Back on Level 3, Buggy (now armed with a rifle and four katanas) and Mr. 3 continue to trudge through the oppressive heat, wondering where all of the guards have got to. Mr. 3 thinks that they’re already dead, but Buggy admits that he’s got a bad feeling about this… …and they’d be right, for as soon as Luffy and Mr. 2 reach the stairs heading down to Level 4, they run into Minotaurus who’s ascending them. Mr. 2 freaks out, and for good reason, as the beast charges them with its club, but the two barely manage to dodge. Then Minotaurus’s appearance is fully revealed…as a Holstein with a runny nose. The beast vanishes and reappears behind Mr. 2, smashing him into a nearby jail cell. Luffy barely has any time to comment on its amazing speed before he too is smashed by its club. Right before he gets hit again, Mr. 2 kicks the beast out of the way with his Okikae na Fourette (Pardon My Fourette) technique. However, Minotaurus recovers and smashes Mr. 2’s head to the ground. Luffy, however, activates Gear Second and hits Minotaurus with Jet Bazooka, sending the monster flying away and crashing through an archway in the distance.

Eyecatches: Zoro and Usopp

Mr. 2 catches his breath and comments on Luffy’s strength. Minotaurus is surely still alive, he says, but it must be hurting after that blow. After fussing over the state of his makeup, Mr. 2 tells Luffy that it’s incredibly easy to reach Level 4 from here. After climbing up a burning hot wall, the two find a large pit from which a large column of smoke and heat is emanating. Just down there is Level 4, the Inferno Hell (sort of redundant, if you ask me), and the extreme heat from its fires and molten liquid is what keeps Level 3 so dry and hot. Every action from here on out can lead to instant death. Luffy mentions that Mr. 2 had earlier said that he wished to find somebody in the prison as well, and asks who he’d go so far for. Mr. 2 happily obliges; the person he wishes to find, and possibly even save, is a man he calls Iva, someone who is capable of creating miracles! But that’s not all, Iva is also the ruler of the Kamabakka Kingdom on Momoiro Island (which, if you recall, is the same island that Kuma vanished Sanji to), and is someone that all queers like himself look up to. But then Mr. 2’s explanation is interrupted by a commotion…

It’s Buggy and Mr. 3 again, being chased around the edge of the pit by none other than Minotaurus! As Luffy and Mr. 2 are forced to run as well, Luffy is delighted that Buggy and Mr. 3 have joined them again, while Buggy is anything but. Buggy decides that it’s time to reveal his newest, most secret weapon! First, he starts off by asking Luffy if he remembers his Buggy Ball, a special cannonball that he used to blow up entire blocks of Port Town, where they first met; Luffy doesn’t (can’t blame him. That was four-hundred-twenty-some episodes ago). Buggy’s gets all depressed (and the music slows down as well), but continues his explanation. What he did was he managed to compress the Buggy Ball’s power into a miniature version, sort of like a hand grenade. He calls it the Muggy Ball, and whirls around and shoots it (out of his shoe) at Minotaurus at point-blank, enveloping the beast in flames. Buggy strikes a cool-looking pose against the inferno, proud of his accomplishment.

But no! Minotaurus is still alive! Hurting bad, but still on its feet. But it’s now time for the fugitives to fight back! Mr. 2 knocks it into the floor with his Ano no Fuyu no Sora no Memoir (Memoir of That Winter Sky) attack, while Luffy has Mr. 3 encase his arm in wax and strike with his brand-new Tonkachi Rifle (Hammer Rifle) attack. This attack finally knocks the beast down. The four celebrate their victory; they’ve done it! They’ve defeated one of the four Guardian Beasts! Onward to Level 4!!

Deeper still within the prison, Ace overhears the announcement for the Impel Down forces gathering on Level 4 and begs Luffy not to come.
This episode had one of my top favorite moments in this arc, namely, the fight with Minotaurus. It was great seeing these four individuals working together to take down an opponent that was above them, and it's a damn shame that we didn't see any more of this stuff in the arc's future. As usual, this episode covered only a single manga chapter, but from the way everything was paced out, it didn't feel drawn out or sluggish in the least. It also did a good job providing a sense of location during the two fights, especially the second one, as most of the background consisted of speedlines in the manga.

Artistically, this episode had several of the Animation Bump moments that I referred to earlier, both for the fights and for throwaway scenes like Hancock glancing towards Domino and Sadie's entrance. There were some really details closeups of character faces, including some using really thick lines of facial outlines that haven't been used in this show before. Outside of the fights, the art was generally pretty decent, though there were some parts where characters half-way in the background, which usually look shoddy anyway, were focused on for too long, taking away from those bits.

Nevertheless, a good episode of Impel Down. Next time we'll be delving even deeper into the prison, and seeing what's in store for our heroes in Level 4.

434: Readying for Battle! The Decisive Battle in Level 4 - Inferno Hell
We pick up outside of Impel Down, where Hancock and Momonga are being ferried back to their ship on a paddleboat. Hancock asks how much longer there is until Ace’s execution, and Momonga replies that there are twenty-nine hours left, meaning that as long as everything goes according to plan, it will take place tomorrow afternoon.

Back inside the prison, on Level 3, Luffy still hasn’t grasped the fact that Buggy and Mr. 3 actually want to escape and not come along with him. While they’re all arguing, the ledge that they’re all standing on gives way, and they fall into the steam pit, each one claiming that their attacks were the cause. Anyway, they all realize one thing: if they fall into the fire below, they’re dead.

So now we get our first glimpse of Level 4. It’s a chaotic mass of stone bridges and archways, all centered around a giant cauldron full of boiling lava, while prisoners carry giant logs in order to feed the flame underneath. All around the bridges is a sea of flame. It truly is Hell. A bunch of prisoners are cornered by a jailer and a giant, mace-wielding beast, and implore for them not to kill them. The jailer merely says that since they were murderers while free, they had this coming, and has the beast knock them over the edge and into the cauldron. Elsewhere, another prisoner snaps and tries to make a break for it, only to be sent over the edge by another prisoner who we see is none other than Daz Bones, aka Mr. 1, the Baroque Works agent that Zoro defeated in Alabasta.

Back outside, Momonga and Hancock have returned to their ship, and one of the officers brings his captain news. It appears that two of the Emperors, Shanks and Kaido, have clashed in the New World. Apparently Kaido was going to start something with Whitebeard, only for Shanks to stop him. Momonga doesn’t take this news very well, since the Marines aren’t able to handle all of the Emperors movements at once, especially not since they are gearing up for an all-out battle with Whitebeard’s forces. History is about to be made.

In a less fiery section of Level 4, Magellan and his forces have gathered. Hannyabal and Magellan have a little back-and-forth over ‘’the warden’s special seat’’ being too confined as well as a toilet before Sadie says that they should just head straight up to Level 3 to catch Luffy’s group instead of waiting around for them to show up on their own. Behind her are the other three Guardian Beasts, Minokoala, Minorhinoceros, and Minozebra. All three of them look even sillier than Minotaurus. Magellan then receives a report that Luffy and co. are falling down the vent to Level 4, and he remarks that they’ll save a lot of trouble if they land in the fire.

Eyecatches: Luffy and Sanji

Unfortunately for the warden, however, it turns out that the four managed to escape the flames by jumping off onto a walkway at the last second. Since there are only two ways prisoners can escape from Level 4, Magellan has Hannyabal and the jailers guard the staircase to Level 3, while having Sadie and the Beasts take the one to Level 5. And then he gasses them all when he senses that they’re not thrilled with that.

Back to Luffy and his gang! After complaining about the scorching heat, Luffy runs off in one direction, and Mr. 2 runs after him when he realizes that he’s heading for the kitchen, since he’s hungry too. Buggy tries to follow as well, but Mr. 3 stops him. Luffy and Mr. 2 plow through the jailers sent to stop them, and as the damages begin to grow and grow, Magellan gets angrier and angrier, until he decides to take action himself. Meanwhile, Mr. 3 warns Buggy that this is their only chance to escape from this floor, now that the jailers aren’t at their normal posts, otherwise they’ll be ambushed and captured.

Luffy continues his dash to the kitchen, but comes to a sudden stop and globs of poison fall from above, followed by a much larger figure crashing down. Mr. 2 freaks: it’s Magellan!!
Well, this episode wasn't quite as engaging as the previous one. There wasn't much in the way of detailed or complex action scenes, though I did appreciate Luffy's Hanabi (Fireworks) attack have some animation to it, since the last time I remember it being used in the anime it was simply a still shot. Most of this episode was set-up, and as such involved a lot of people standing around talking. It was a bit of a shame seeing Luffy, Buggy, Mr. 3, and Mr. 2 split up right after their collective moment of awesome against Minotaurus, but the back and forth between Magellan and Hannyabal was a little amusing, mainly thanks to Hannyabal's expressions and delivery, as the toliet humor did nothing for me.

I think my favorite part of the episode was during Momonga's talk with the officer on board the battleship, firstly because the anime added in a little sneak preview of Whitebeard and his forces standing on the prow of the Moby Dick facing Marineford, as well as the Warlords and the Admirals (even Akainu). This is also the second time Kaido's been mentioned, the first when he was said to have killed off Moria's former crew. That coupled with the apparent revelation that he's trying to make power grabs in the New World with Whitebeard occupied does not make a very positive reputation, and he'll probably be an antagonist sometime in the future.

I loved the treatment that Level 4 got. All of the shading and shadows from the flames gave it a very atmospheric feel, and the maze of walkways, seas of flame, and trident-armed Jailers knocking prisoners into the flame greatly resembled classical depictions of Hell. Good stuff.

Magellan's entrance at the end was a bit of a letdown and could've used more focus/oomph to it, but I'm curious to see how this early fight will be handled in the next episode, especially since the animation team handling it is one of the weaker ones.

435: Magellan's Strength! Bon Clay Flees Before the Enemy
Seeing that their boss has just crashed down in front of them and is about to fight, the jailers begin to panic and back away in alarm, begging Magellan not to start until they get away, lest they get hit with his poison. Mr. 2 tells Luffy that he’s facing Impel Down’s warden, that he mustn’t fight him since he has the power of the Poison Poison Fruit, and begs him to run away and make a break for it. Magellan expresses his surprise that the infamous rookie Straw Hat Luffy would actually break into Impel Down in his quest to rescue Ace and how shameful it is for him as warden. Then he says that after Luffy’s been captured, he’ll take his time learning how he got in, but Luffy retorts that he’d rather die before telling him anything. Magellan comments that that’s what every prisoner here says at first, before telling him that all exits out of Level 4 are completely guarded.

After all this talk, Magellan coats himself completely in his poison and produces a poison Hydra dragon head to send after Luffy. Luffy tries to punch it, but Mr. 2 leaps in front of him and takes the blow! The snapback bowls them both over. Mr. 2 reiterates again that Luffy can’t fight him, for if he even touches the poison, he’s as good as gone. So he decides to distract Magellan in order for Luffy to get away by using his Clone Clone Fruit powers to shapeshift into Luffy!...despite the fact that he’s wearing different clothes, can’t stretch, and talks with a completely different way of speaking. Naturally, Magellan isn’t fooled, and produces two more Hydra heads to attack Luffy and Mr. 2 with. The jailers get caught up in this attack, and several are doused in the poison, left begging for the antidote as they writhe in pain, and Mr. 2 helpfully explains that the poison’s full of paralyzing toxins that leave its victims in extreme pain before killing them.

Luffy grabs onto a block of wood that’s suspended above the flames and swings up on to it in order to get away. In the process of following him, one of the Hydra heads burns off in the flame, just like its mythological namesake. Magellan, however, is unfazed and uses his Chloro Ball technique to spit a poison bubble at Luffy and release poison gas. Luffy jumps back onto solid ground, but the gas leaves him with watering eyes, a sneezing fit, and general irritation. Magellan then uses Venom Road to flow through one of his Hydra heads to cross the pit and reach Luffy again. Daring him to hit him, the warden punches the wall behind Luffy, melting part of it. He then drops down behind him, saying that the two brothers will share the same fate of death.

Eyecatches: Luffy (twice)

Buggy and Mr. 3 have been watching all of the commotion from a high-up vantage point. Mr. 3 says that now that Magellan is occupied with Luffy, now is their best chance to escape back up to the higher levels. Elsewhere, Mr. 2 cowers while watching Luffy’s fight lamenting his powerlessness to help his friend. After determining that any attempt at rescue would result in his own death, he tearfully flees.

Meanwhile, Buggy and Mr. 3 have found the exit to Level 3. Since Hannyabal doesn’t seem to have any Devil Fruit powers, they think they can take him on and escape. The two jump down, ready to fight, but Hannyabal is all too willing to let them pass, much to his men’s surprise. Naturally, the only thing on the Vice-Warden’s mind is getting his boss fired so that he can become the warden himself. Buggy and Mr. 3 naturally suspect a trap, and attack anyway, eliminating the jailers with Buggy’s Muggy Ball. Hannyabal emerges from the smoke, unscathed and twirling his trident, pissed at the fact that he’s now forced to fight them.

Moving back to Luffy’s fight, Magellan complements his opponent on his tenacity. Stating once again that he’s going to rescue Ace, Luffy activates Gear Second, saying that he doesn’t care what happens to himself as long as he can beat Magellan and reach his brother. He hits Magellan in the stomach with Jet Bazooka, bringing the warden to his knees, but at the same time coating his own hands with poison.
I thought that this episode was a little too drawn out for one that was just fighting. This whole fight should've been covered in only one episode, if you ask me.

As I mentioned before, this episode was handled by one of the weaker animation teams on board the show, so there wasn't really anything all that spectacular here. Though I did like the animation for Magellan's Hydra. I don't really have much else to say. Next time will be different, since that episode is much better than this one.

436: A Queer's Resolve! Luffy's Final Suicidal Attack
Things have not gone very well for anyone on Level 4. Hannyabal was apparently much stronger than Buggy and Mr. 3 had expected, for the two have been defeated and bound up at the exit to Level 3. Hannyabal isn’t happy at this development either, since his plan to cause trouble for Magellan has been ruined. Luffy’s not doing any better, either, for the poison covering his hands is causing him crippling pain. And Mr. 2 continues to flee, wailing over his helplessness.

Magellan expresses surprise that Luffy had managed to bring him to his knees, but says that it doesn’t matter, as the poison will ensure Luffy’s defeat. Despite the pain, Luffy manages to hit him again with Twin Jet Pistol, dodge a volley of poison spat at him, and get behind the warden. Magellan sends another Hydra head at him, but Luffy manages to blow it apart with Jet Pistol, though doing so causes more poison to splash onto him.

Luffy notes in frustration that that didn’t work, but he’s already fallen into Magellan’s next trap, Doku Gumo (Poison Spider), a poisonous gas cloud which causes his vision to swim and muddle his other senses. He tries to get rid of it by blowing it away, but this naturally backfires, as doing so results in him inhaling even more of the poison. Magellan says that the poison will deprive him of everything as he falls to the ground.

Eyecatches: Brook and Luffy

Back with Hannyabal, he’s about to have Buggy and Mr. 3 carried off when Mr. 2 leaps down from above and takes out the jailers with his martial arts. Hannyabal and Mr. 2 clash, and during their skirmish, Mr. 2 manages to get behind the vice-warden. Hannyabal complements him on his fighting skill, but is suddenly left at a loss for words, since what he’s looking at isn’t the same as before…

Meanwhile, Luffy tries to pull himself together for one last effort, but his blows hit everywhere but his opponent. Magellan tells Luffy that both him and Ace are criminals, that he won’t forgive either of their sins, and that Ace’s execution was predetermined. Luffy yells at him to shut up and throws several more ineffective swings before activating Gear Second again. Magellan responds by producing all three of his Hydra heads. The two stare down before Luffy leaps forward, screaming for them to give Ace back, before the Hydra swallows him.

Magellan stands over the poison-covered Luffy, and states that this is his punishment. He’ll suffer unbearable agony for several hours, and then die.
Surprisingly, this episode only covered half a chapter. So inevitably, some parts of it felt a little bit draggy, though not to the extent of some past episodes. What helped was that the art and animation were much better than last episode, and I really liked some of the effects, such as the slight out-of-focus nature of Magellan's poison cloud and a particular shot of his retracting his Hydra head. Another high point was the episode's end, where they began to play a triumphant victory theme for Luffy's final attack before cutting it off right when he lost.

Plot-wise, I appreciated the extra filler with Mr. 2 engaging Hannyabal, and Magellan was pretty impressive in the fight. He was all business, a guy very dedicated to doing his job, without any ulterior motive like someone like Rob Lucci had. His power is incredibly deadly, so it'll be fun to see the good guys take him on in the future. I'm looking forward to seeing Level 5, how Mr. 2's upcoming rescue attempt is handled, and the chapters beyond that, for we will soon be meeting new characters, and discover new developments.

437: "Because He's a Friend!" Bon Clay's Do-Or-Die Rescue Effort
After polishing off Luffy, Magellan is met by a group of jailers who congratulate him on a job well done. Magellan tells them to cart Luffy off to Level 5 as he’ll die soon, and then receives word from another jailer that there’s been an incident over by the Level 3 staircase, where Hannyabal had been assigned.

Now the scene shifts to Level 5. It’s a level of extreme cold, with driving snow, frost, and wind. The half-frozen prisoners though, have a morbidly cheery outlook on their eventual fates, casually mentioning how one iced-over prisoner is probably dead, or how their food is much too hard to eat. Several parka-clad jailers drag the poisoned Luffy in on a sled, and as they pass the prisoners call out to him, asking what his name and bounty are, but they give up on him as soon as they see him covered in Magellan’s poison.

Back up on Level 4, Magellan stands shocked at the sight he sees. Hannyabal and all of the jailers under his command have been taken out. He scolds Hannyabal for his failure, shaking him awake in the process. Hannyabal hastily apologizes for letting Mr. 2 escape, but Buggy and Mr. 3 are still safe and bound with him. Since the riot on Level 2 has been quelled and the commotion on Level 4 is now over, Magellan has all his troops moved up to Level 3 to search for the fugitive Mr. 2. He then heads off to relieve himself, leaving Buggy and Mr. 3 in Hannyabal’s care.

Hannyabal takes the two to an interrogation room and looks the three of them in, before revealing that he’s really Mr. 2 in disguise, thanks to his Devil Fruit power. Buggy and Mr. 3 wonder what they should do now, but Mr. 2’s set on only one thing, to save Luffy! Buggy isn’t very hopeful on Luffy’s chances of survival, and says that they should leave him and get out themselves, and demands to know why they should stick their necks out for him. Mr. 2 responds by claiming that Luffy’s his friend, and that’s the only reason that he needs. The first thing they need to do, is to get an antidote for the poison.

But no luck there. Disguised as Hannyabal again, Mr. 2 consults with the prison’s doctors, and learns that Luffy has been hit with too many different strains of poison. There’s no way to save him with medicine. Once again, Buggy says that it would take a miracle for someone to survive Magellan. That sets off a light bulb in Mr. 2’s head. The person that he was looking for, Iva, is a known miracle-worker. He’s imprisoned on Level 5, so maybe he can help!

So Mr. 2 disguises himself again and takes Buggy and Mr. 3 down to the staircase that leads to Level 5, saying that he’s sentenced the two there. As he examines a prisoner list on the way down, Mr. 2 notices that Emporio Ivankov’s name has been crossed off the list. He inquires one of the accompanying guards about this, and according to them, he disappeared a while back. Apparently every once in a while, prisoners vanish under mysterious circumstances. It’s referred to as being ‘’demoned-away’’, and many live in fear of it. Anyway, the group soon reaches the large doors to Level 5. There, the guards warn them to stay away from the forest and the fierce wolves within. And then they relieve Mr. 2, Buggy, and Mr. 3 of their parkas and myriad of weapons, as Hannyabal apparently often strolls around Level 5 shirtless and weaponless to show off how tough he is. The three are…less than thrilled, shall we say. In fact, they’re frozen solid as soon as they set foot inside the frozen dungeon.

Eyecatches: Zoro and Chopper

Mr. 2 unlocks the other two’s cuffs, as they all complain about the biting cold. And then they find that they’ve been surrounded by the wolves that they were warned about before, and they’re apparently so vicious that they would’ve devoured all of the beasts on the floors above. Mr. 2 prepares to fight, but Buggy and Mr. 3 make a mad dash out of there to save themselves. Mr. 2 turns back to normal in order to fight at full strength, but the beasts and the cold overwhelm him. Witnessing this, Buggy and Mr. 3 make a break for shelter from the cold, but end up surrounded by the wolves themselves.

Meanwhile Luffy’s coughing up blood and writhing in his cell, the other prisoners wondering why the jailers even bothered. Luffy manages to pull himself to his feet and slam against the jail bars, repeating the mantra that he’s going to save Ace. After he collapses yet again, one of the prisoners gets angry and lectures about how in this world, the only person to look out for is himself, and screw anyone else. However, as soon as he finishes, a frozen and bloodied Mr. 2 staggers up to the cell, proclaiming that he’s come to save Luffy in the name of friendship.
This episode covered the last half of chapter 535 and the first half of 536. It's a bit of an odd instance of pacing, since now to cleanly finish this arc off a future episode will either have to cover half of one chapter, or one and a half. I suppose it's possible to do, seeing how the second half of Impel Down is pretty much non-stop fighting.

I'm not really sure how I feel about this episode's second half. They probably could've squeezed in the rest of chapter 536 if they'd cut out the filler with Buggy and Mr. 3. The ending was sort of abrupt, without any real buildup like past ones. Mr. 2 shows up, and the episode just ends. I guess the lack of heavy music and Kazuki Yao's kinda weak deliever on Mr. 2's final line contributed to that feeling. I will admit that everyone repeated freezing into solid crystals got a chuckle out of me though, since it reminded me of a video game status effect.

Next episode will be handled by the weakest animation team currently on the show, but we will see some new characters, so we'll see if that balances things out or not.

Nice job so far. You could probably get away with shorter summaries.

Am I the only one who thinks some of the translation choices in the official subs are a bit odd? They use Gratuitous Japanese when it isn't really necessary ("Haki energy") but they feel the need to translate "okama" as "queer"? Then again, "queer" is probably the best English equivalent.
Currently taking a break from the site. See my user page for more information.
Executive Meddling in action, that's why. According to one of the translators for the simulcast, Toei has this list of terms that they have to follow, and to get them changed back is quite a struggle, apparently. Orginally he wrote "Ambition energy", and it was changed back without his consent later on.
438: The Paradise in Hell - Impel Down Level 5.5
Having been surrounded by the wolves on Level 5, Buggy and Mr. 3 decide that they should take shelter inside one of the empty jail cells. However, this doesn’t work out for them, so they instead come up with the rather clever plan of a creating a mobile shelter out of wax. With this, they are able to move without the wolves being able to touch them. Until they decide to burrow through the snow underneath, that it.

In front of Luffy’s cell, the battered Mr. 2 apologizes for running away earlier, and says that he’s not going to let him die. He hauls Luffy off in a makeshift sled, leaving the keys behind in the cell, leading the other prisoners to wonder whether they should try and escape or not. From there, Mr. 2 goes around to each of the cells asking the prisoners if they know where Ivankov is. Many of them think he’s dead, as he apparently vanished quite some time ago. One certain prisoner, however, points Mr. 2 towards a forest of evergreens, saying that he’s seen an odd person come out of it every now and again. What he doesn’t tell him, though, is that that forest is a wolves’ den. Soon, Mr. 2 is surrounded and is forced into a losing battle against the ferocious beasts. His painful struggles though, actually bring Luffy to his feet. Despite being half frozen and covered in poison, Luffy manages to get one of the wolves off of Mr. 2 by biting it, and angrily demands to know what they think that they’re doing to him. His angry aura is too much for the beasts, and they collapse in fright. Mr. 2 wonders what that mysterious power was, but the both of them fall unconscious in the snow as well. Silence reigns, until the two are discovered by a man wearing an orange and white fur coat, sunglasses, and holding a wine glass.

There are now twenty-six hours left until the execution.

Eyecatches: Brook and Chopper

Flashback to the conclusion of Hannyabal and Mr. 2’s fight. After Mr. 2 dodged his last strike, Hannyabal turned to see not Mr. 2, but rather Nami in a prisoner’s jail stripes. Perhaps due to the dearth of female Impel Down staff, Hannyabal cannot resist the sight of this young, sweaty redhead, and is easily lured into a storage room where he is left bound and gagged in nothing but his strawberry-print boxers by the transformed-back-to-normal Mr. 2. Elsewhere around the prison, Magellan is in the middle of an epic struggle on the crapper (complete with graphic sound effects), Sadie has been unable to find Mr. 2 on Level 3 and is angry, and Saldeath has fully quelled the riot on Level 2 but has noticed that there are several missing keys.

Meanwhile Mr. 2 awakens and finds himself bandaged up in a dark room. Hearing the distant sounds of people talking and music, he staggers around in the dark until he finds a door and passes through, finding himself in, against all odds, a brightly-lit party hall full of people eating, drinking, and generally having a good time. They greet Mr. 2 like a hero once they realize that he’s awake, and assure him that he’s still within Impel Down. Understandably, Mr. 2 doesn’t believe them and instead thinks that he froze to death on Level 5 and is now in Heaven. He is then greeted by a woman wearing the same clothes as the mysterious man from before who introduces herself as Inazuma, and says that she (she?) was the one who found both Mr. 2 and Luffy ten whole hours ago.

Before Mr. 2 can inquire about anything else, the lights dim and one of the crowd remarks that the show’s about to start. Curtains roll back and stage lights illuminate a pretty odd-looking man up on stage (imagine Dr. Frank-N-Furter with the proportions of a bobble head) who asks if ‘’Bon-boy’’ is doing well. At this, Mr. 2 realizes that this is the man that he's been searching for, Emporio Ivankov! Ivankov then begins to put into song the answer to Mr. 2’s questions: this is a secret prisoner paradise, dubbed Level 5.5 – New Kama Land. Yee-haw!
As I said last time, this episode was handled by the weakest animation team currently on the show. The art wasn't terribly great and noticeably simpler than past episodes, but generally wasn't eye-scarring, though things dipped a bit towards the end with the crow scenes, which seems to be the bane of this particular animation director. Animation wasn't terribly outstanding either, thanks to the outsourcing that went on. However, I did like the painted backgrounds for Level 5. Really pretty.

Content-wise, we're getting into a group of chapters that have elements that aren't looked on fondly by a portion of the fanbase, or at least my corner of it, thanks to the Fridge Logic surrounding New Kama Land and how it completely destroys Impel Down's rep. A giant party hall that's been undiscovered for twenty years or so despite being right underneath the staff's feet. It's like they've never done any investigating or anything. Either that, or they're incredibly incompetent without Magellan in command, which I guess is possible.

But enough of that. Ivankov was voiced by Norio Imamura, whose only other credited role seems to be Gaskunk in the 2000 Transformers cartoon. I was expecting something rather raspy, so I was a bit surprised ot hear his voice being a lot softer than I had imagined. But by the end of the episode, when he let out that "Yee-Haw!" I knew that everything would turn out all right.

Anyway, next week looks like we'll be in for a treat, since not only are we apparently getting a bit of the flashback that was originally in chapter 549 (sort of darkly humorous considering the recent manga developments), but that episode is being handled by Naoki Tate, a personal favorite of mine.

439: Luffy's Treatment Begins - Iva's Miraculous Power!!
After a dance routine that can only be described as ‘’eye-searing’’, Ivankov staggers on the stage, claiming that his exertions have worn him out, only to triumphantly rebound and exclaim otherwise. The crowd loves it, and Mr. 2 is still left agog at the sight that he’s witnessing.

However, a door is kicked open and a real beefcake of a man bursts in, armed with come kind of high-caliber mini-cannon, and he’s absolutely furious with Ivankov. Fifteen years ago, he explains, his father, the king of a country, journeyed to Kamabakka and came back just as queer as the rest of them, ruining his family’s reputation and forcing himself to become a pirate, and now he wants revenge. Ivankov panics, legs shaking. insisting that no violence take place. Just like before though, he quickly changes his tune and says that he’ll be fine.

Well the ex-prince won’t have any of this and fires his weapon. Ivankov simply whirls around and winks at the incoming cannonball. This Death Wink is so forceful that it actually displaces the air, and blasts the cannonball right back at the ex-prince. Leering from ear-to-ear, Ivankov then springs from the stage and comes down right on top of his assailant. Syringe-like spikes pop out of his glove-tips and he jabs the guy with them. Much to his alarm, the ex-prince’s bulk begins to shrink, his beard vanishes, and his voice gets higher, all while Ivankov taunts him. Once the transformation is complete, the spotlights focus on the now ex-princess as the inhabitants of New Kama Land applaud sarcastically. The newly-born women squeals in embarrassment and hikes up her pants and flees while everyone laughs and Ivankov says that she’s got a long way to go before she becomes one of them.

After picking his jaw up off of the floor, Mr. 2 prostrates himself before Ivankov and begs for him to work his miracle-making powers and to save Luffy from Magellan’s poison. Later, as Ivankov leads Mr. 2 down a dank passageway he asks him if he knows why he saved him. As he puts it, they’re all prisoners, they have no obligation to help others. The reason was that even though he himself was dying, Luffy had pleaded with Ivankov to save Mr. 2 himself. Very few people would be that selfless, so Ivankov had no choice but to heal him after that. His own treatment has been going on for ten hours already, behind a heavy, padlocked door.

Eyecatches: Luffy and Franky

Back up on Level 5, Buggy and Mr. 3 have taken to using wax slits in order to get away from the wolves, breaking the fourth wall in order to inform us of the fact.

At the padlocked door, Mr. 2 expresses horror at what he’s hearing, saying that this sounds more like torture than treatment. In a flashback we see Luffy chained to a giant slab within the cavern while Ivankov explains the procedure. It will knock a decade off of his lifespan, and even then, there’s still only a two or three percent chance that it’ll work, and that the success of this operation depends entirely upon his own willpower. And with that, he jabs his syringes into Luffy’s side, causing him great pain.

Back in the present, Mr. 2 is horrified at all of this, not helped by Ivankov describing how the hormones and chemicals that he injected into Luffy are breaking down the insides of his body and rebuilding it into one that can withstand the poison. Ivankov eventually has to punch him to calm him down and then lecture him on how even if he’s known as a miracle-worker, miracles are only brought about by one’s own will.

Finally, we have another flashback, this time one from Luffy’s perspective, of just him and Ace as kids, sitting by the sea.

There are now only sixteen hours left until the execution.
Well, more material with a plot element that I don't much care for. This time it's the whole "take X amount of years off of your lifespan" because that device is such an overused cliche in shonen and a cheap way to create drama/suspense, especially since it almost never has any actual consequences within the story itself. Unless Oda's going to have Luffy's figurative head on a chopping block at the end of the manga, I don't know. Anyway not much action going on in this episode, though there was one thing that really stood out and actually made the episode fun to watch, and that's the art.

This episode was handled by Naoki Tate. He's pretty much the Norio Matsumoto of One Piece, for those of you familiar with the Naruto anime, in that his style is looser with a greater emphasis on fluid animation. Some don't care for it much, but myself and many others enjoy it because of its spontineity and how each of his episodes are usually handled pretty well (his last episode gave us a nifty fight scene and some fanservice in the form of several key scenes from the Arlong arc being reanimated via Nami flashbacking, and an in-the-flesh cameo of Gold Lion Shiki). The little extra here was the flashback of Luffy and Ace by the sea, taken from the end of chapter 549. It was a nice way to end the episode.

Also, I liked the the text at the end wasn't narrated by the Narrator. Just having it appear with a big ol' DONG was plenty impactful.

440: Believe in Miracles! Bon Clay's Soulful Cheering
After hearing Ivankov’s explanation, Mr. 2 decides that he’ll put everything on Luffy managing to beat the poison, since it is Luffy after all. Ivankov says that just standing out here won’t help him, and the two repair back to New Kama Land’s party hall. Over the feast, Ivankov explains to Mr. 2 that he’s eaten the Hormone Hormone Fruit, which allows him to manipulate multiple aspects of a person’s body in any way he wishes, which is how he turned the prince from earlier into a princess. He mentions that everyone here has transcended the barriers of gender, that some of the men here used to be women, and vice versa. All of the people here used to be prisoners, and there are secret passageways and tunnels leading to New Kama Land all throughout the prison, which they use to steal supplies and gear from the prison staff, with them being none the wiser about it. And all this thanks to a prisoner with a tunneling Devil Fruit who created this secret space in between the floors of Level 5 and Level 6.

Mr. 2 interrupts here, as he’s never heard of a Level 6. Most haven’t, Ivankov replies, since Level 6, the Eternal Hell, is where the truly dangerous prisoners are placed, so that they will fade away from the world’s memory. He even rattles off a few names: Catalina Devon, Vasco Shot, San Juan Wolf, the rebellious Warlord of the Sea Jimbei, and even Mr. 2’s former boss, Sir Crocodile. In addition, there’s the head jailer of Impel Down, Shiryuu of the Rain, who flashbacks reveal as a kinda M.Bison-looking fellow who slaughtered the prisoners for pleasure, something which Magellan would not tolerate. That is the floor where Portgas D. Ace is being held.

Ivankov then says that it’s too bad that Luffy’s going to have to give up on saving his brother, since Ace is scheduled to be transferred to Marineford in the morning, long before the treatment is finished. After despairing a little, Mr. 2 turns down an offer to take a rest and proclaims that he’s going to go to the padlocked door and cheer Luffy on himself. Once there, Mr. 2 spreads his arms wide and begins to bellow his pleas for Luffy to hang in there and persevere. Time passes, and he’s still at it, even though he’s about to collapse himself.

Eyecatches: Luffy (twice)

Several of the Level 5.5-ers try to get Mr. 2 to stop because he’s going more harm to himself, but Ivankov shows up with the rest of the people, and tells them to stand down. Both Luffy and Mr. 2 are struggling through their pain in order to bring about a miracle, and they can’t stop that. All the rest soon join in cheering as well.

They’re starting to run out of time, however. Back in the prison, Magellan receives word of Luffy’s disappearance from Level 5, Hannyabal is found tied up in the storeroom, and the extraction fleet nears the prison. On Level 6 Ace is still clearly distressed, so Jimbei suggests that maybe it was possible that Hancock had lied to him about Luffy coming. Ace snaps back at him that this is exactly something that Luffy would do. He’s always been jumping headlong into reckless situations.

Back in front of the padlocked door, and inky liquid begins to seep out from underneath. Everyone fears the worst, until something starts banging on it from within and a large bellowing voice demands for food. Everyone cheers, Mr. 2 is overjoyed, and Ivankov is dumbfounded: it hasn’t even been a single day yet, and Luffy’s treatment is already complete?! The desired food is quickly brought, and sucked into the dungeon and consumed at a prodigious rate. The feasting subsides, and Luffy, now restored to his former color and build, triumphantly steps out into the light, bellowing ‘’I’M BACK!!!’’
Due to the recent earthquake in Chile this episode had the tsunami warning map up on the screen, though it was angled in such a way that I didn't find it quite as intrusive as I did with the latest episode of Fullmetal Alchemist, though at the very end of the episode they suddenly shrunk the image to fit in a blue border with more info on the quake that I thought was a bit obtrusive, but it was the very end of the episode, so no real damage done.

Anyway, a fair amount of exposition in the first half of this episode. When Ivankov was talking about Baroque Works they put up the Vol. 21-22 cover spread of the Straw Hats and the agents facing off, which I thought was neat, and also made me realise how friggin' tall Mr. 2 is (or at was, as aside from the nine Straw Hats, Oda's never been completely consistent with character size), as he's a bit bigger than Crocodile there. Ivankov's explanations brought up some Fridge Logic for me though, namely in that I find it incredibly hard to swallow that the jail staff has apparently been completely oblivious to this hidden party hall when they're apparently getting their stuff and prisoners stolen out from under them left and right, and this has been going on for who knows how long.

Aside from that we've got some name dropping going on, as well as the introduction of Shiryuu, the rogue jailer. When he first showed up people made a lot of fun of the fact that he looked sort of like M.Bison with his large chin and cap, and were hoping/wishing that Norio Wakamoto would voice him to continue the humor factor. They'll have to settle with Takayuki Sugo instead, but his voice worked out plenty well. That little flashback also reinforced my love of Magellan's "serious-mode" voice. Ivankov's continues to grow on me as well.

Speaking of voices, this is the first episode that Jimbei has been in since Daisuke Gori's unfortunate suicide, and the role has been passed down to Katsuhisa Hoki. In other words, Gecko Moria. Yeah, my mind kinda broke too. But never fear, you wouldn't be able to tell it was the same guy since he uses a completely different voice tone. Jimbei's new voice is less gravelly than before and actually a lot closer to how I originally imagined it, but it does feel a little weird right now because it's clearly not Gori. But I'm sure that Hoki will fit right in soon enough.

Well, I personally thought the second half of this episode/chapter content was rather cheesy and melodramatic, but One Piece has never been a series to shy away from the cheese and explosive emotion. But we're almost out of New Kama Land, and starting next week we'll be having...pretty much non-stop action for quite a while, save for the inevitable drop in on the other Straw Hats. The upcoming material will certainly be a challenge to adapt, but Toei hasn't really let me down much with this series, so I'm sure they'll figure something out.

And finally, is it just me, or has the anime had a funny sense of timing recently with the weekly manga material?

441: Luffy's Back! Iva's Escape Plan Begins!!
The New Kamas are naturally shocked that Luffy managed to complete the treatment far earlier than he should, Ivankov even calling the recovery ‘’beyond miraculous’’. They all gather around and begin to toss him into the air in celebration. Mr. 2 is beside himself in relief, but he promptly keels over. Ivankov assures Luffy that it’s just from exhaustion, and Luffy tries to thank him only to be told that Mr. 2 is really the one he should be thanking for cheering him on despite the cost to himself. Luffy kneels down and tells his unconscious friend that he is indebted to him.

Inazuma, now a man once again, steps through the crowd to give Luffy back his straw hat and a new yellow vest. He tells Luffy that now he must rest for a few days in order to fully recover, but Luffy won’t have any of that, as he’s eager to resume his rescue attempt. After checking his Vivre Card he asks where they are, and Ivankov explains that they are in between Levels 5 and 6. Luffy asks if he’s going to try to escape as well, since that’s why Mr. 2 was willing to come down this far. Ivankov finds this amusing and says that he has no plans to escape at the moment. Right now, the World Government and the Whitebeard Pirates are attempting to tip the world’s scales of power, but one other group hasn’t budged yet, the Revolutionaries under the command of Dragon. Once they do, Ivankov, himself part of the revolutionary movement, will rise up and rejoin the outside world.

During his exposition, Luffy casually mentions that Dragon is his father, and once Ivankov realizes what he just heard, he flies backwards into the cavern wall in shock (with a triple take, no less). Seeing everyone’s surprise and confusion, Luffy admits that he doesn’t even know Dragon himself, or even what he looks like. His simplicity, along with the feats that he’s just pulled off, convince Ivankov that he’s telling the truth, and we get a brief little flashback showing Ivankov and Dragon on a rocky, windswept island. Ivankov notes that Dragon always faces in one certain direction whenever he comes out here, and inquires as to whether he has a family or relatives in that direction, to which Dragon essentially tells him to mind his own business.

Ivankov orders Inazuma to find out Ace’s execution and announces his intentions to go with Luffy down to Level 6 to free Ace. In his mind, he thinks that since Luffy is Dragon’s son, by extension that would make Ace his son too. What could the World Government be thinking, antagonizing both Whitebeard and Dragon? Once finished with that thought, Ivankov tells Luffy to be more discreet concerning his parentage in the future, and orders all of the New Kamas to prepare for battle. They’re all going to break out of Impel Down after all! Luffy’s all psyched up over this…and promptly passes out.

Eyecatches: Luffy and Zoro

After a brief moment where Ivankov pisses off everyone present by leading them to believe that Luffy’s dead, Ivankov diagnoses him with extreme exhaustion after the treatment, and so injects him with Tension Hormones, an extra-strong dose of adrenaline that’ll keep him going for a day regardless of his condition. Of course, there will be nasty side effects afterwards, but Ivankov wisely assumes that Luffy won’t care.

Meanwhile in Magellan’s office Hannyabal, now sporting a new jackal-themed nemes, is puzzling over what happened to Buggy, Mr. 3, and Mr. 2, as they naturally haven’t been found yet. Despite the prisoners being on the loose, he’s still not very motivated to actually do much about them, until he learns that his job could be on the line, that is. Speaking of Buggy and Mr. 3, they’re currently tearing through Level 4, thanks to it being practically abandoned. Their only obstacle is one lone telesnail, which is thankfully knocked out by leftover fumes from the fight with Magellan earlier. Magellan himself is on his way down to Level 6 on the elevator to extract Ace, while a convoy led by Vice Admiral Onigumo awaits outside the prison.

Luffy, Inazuma, and Ivankov tear through Level 5 in the meantime, Ivankov blowing the wolves away with his Death Wink. Inazuma unlocks the giant door at the end of the level and they descend towards Level 6. They’re quickly spotted by security, and Hannyabal, suddenly taking his job surprisingly seriously, orders countermeasures to be deployed.

The rescue crew may be too late though, as Magellan and his jailers have already reached Ace, to transfer him to Marineford for his execution.

There are now only six hours left.
Earlier I said that that in order to wrap this arc up cleanly, one of the episodes would have to cover less that a chapter of material. Well, this was that episode, which covered the last three-fourths over chapter 539, so we should be back to at least 1:1 pacing for the rest of this arc.

Episode-wise, this was fairly average. The art was okay. Nothing spectacular, save for perhaps the shot of Ivankov's eye twitching and the one of Ace at the end which looked like it was taken straight from the manga with all the lines, and crosshatching and stuff that it had, but passable. The only real point of contention was the brief flashabck with Dragon which had noticeably weaker art, Dragon especially poorly drawn. But it was over pretty quickly. Next episode will be handled by one of the stronger animation directors, though I will admit that from watching the preview it looks like it will not be one of her stronger efforts. Well, as long as they're saving their money for the really big stuff coming up.

Well, we're finally past the New Kama Land episodes, and the jailbreak will soon begin in full. Lots of action, and hopefully there will be some expansion filler going on as well. I remember being rather hard on the upcoming material when it was coming out in manga form, but let's see if the passage of time has softened my heart a bit.

Oh yes, during the part where Ivankov was explaning the power balance, in addition to the requisite silhouettes of Whitebeard, Shanks, and Sengoku, they showed a few of the new division commanders, namely Atomos, Vista, and "Trap-chan". Vista was the only one that wasn't shaded in a certain color, so one could make out his color scheme as being predominately white, which is sort of odd when you consider that his clothes are inking in in the manga. Maybe they'll change it when he makes his full appearance later on, as they've done that before.

And one last observation that has nothing to do with the anime (well, it sorta, kinda does). Each and every one of the Straw Hat pairings on the recent coverpages in the manga (Luffy/Nami, Sanji/Usopp, Brook/Franky/Robin, Zoro/Chopper) are the same "teams" that the Straw Hats were divided up into for Strong World, the tenth film. Oda must be fond of those pairings or some such.

442: Ace's Convoy Moves - The Defenses of the Lowest Level, Level 6!
Luffy, Ivankov, and Inazuma continue their mad dash down the stairwell to Level 6. A group of guards mobilize to block their way, but Luffy knocks them out of the way with Pistol. One of the guards activates a trap that shoots lances out of the walls, but Ivankov demolishes them with Death Wink and strikes a pose. Inazuma reminds him that they need to hurry, so Ivankov grabs one of the fallen guards and slings him over his shoulder and continues onward. They soon reach the staircase's end and arrive in Level 6, Eternal Hell. Here, the prison cells are haphazardly stacked on top of each other, and the air is deathly quiet. None of the other prisoners say a word to nor heckly the three fugitives nor even acknowledge their existence.

Luffy shouts out for Ace, creating an incredible racket. Ivankov asks the guard he captured where Ace is being held, but he refuses to answer him. So Ivankov puts him down and uses his powers to turn him into a woman. Unlike the prince from before, the guard is actually overjoyed at this transformation, and she gladly points the three in the right direction. When Luffy reaches the cell, however, only Jimbei is inside. Inazuma comments that they must be too late. Jimbei, meanwhile, recognizes Luffy by his straw hat, and is shocked that he had managed to get through the upper levels of the prison. Upon confirming this, he urges the group to pursue Ace, as he's just been taken up the elevator.

When the three dash back to the elevator, however, the crank mechanism is locked, and when Luffy attempts to climb up the shaft chain, it's collapsed. They run back to the stairwell, but iron bars drop down, sealing it off. Gas then starts spewing into the room through the sealed-off stairs, forcing the three to retreat out of fear of poison. Luffy tries charging in, but as soon as he inhales he's out like a light, enabling Inazuma to identify the gas as a sleeping agent. In the prison control room, Hannyabal confirms that Level 6 is now completely sealed, and pops a party popper in celebration of he job position being safe. His ambitions, however, are clearly transmitted through the room's telesnail. Up above, Magellan hangs his telesnail up with a "Hmph" and turns to Ace, telling him that, unfortunately for him, Luffy showed up just after they had left, leaving Ace gaping in surprise.

Eyecatches: Chopper and Zoro

Magellan comments that it's very fortunate that they just moved Ace, since now Luffy can occupy his cell. At this, Ace suddenly fights back, despite being cuffed, kicking the jailers away and even managing to steal one of their tridents. Magellan quickly puts an end to his insurrection by snapping the weapon in two with his fingers and pinning Ace to the floor. Magellan tells him to stop resisting and that Luffy, as a pirate, is also a sinner. He himself wonders how Luffy could have possibly survive all of the poisons from their fight.

Meanwhile, Buggy and Mr. 3 have finally made it back up to Level 3, and are elated, as well as exhausted, since it's much harder going up than down. But they don't have long to rest as their old friend the Sphinx soon comes across them.

Down below in Level 6, Inazuma elects to do something about their situation. His hands turn into long scissor blades, and he runs back and forth along the corridor, effortlessly slicing up the stone floor as if it were paper, before throwing the strips up and blocking out the flowing gas. Inazuma explains to some of the surprised prisoners that Inazuma has eaten the Snip Snip Fruit. Luffy then wakes up and berates Inazuma (whom he's dubbed "Crab") that he's now blocked their only exit.

Ivankov says that at this point, there's not really much that they can do. Ace is being handed over to the Marines as they speak, which Luffy's Vivre Card confirms. Ivankov says that he'll do everything he can to help Luffy escape the prison, but after that, things are out of his hands and into Whitebeard's. Luffy retorts with that he's going to go to Marineford as well. Ivankov yells at him for being stupid and reckless. Does he realize just how powerful Whitebeard is? That all of the Vice Admirals, Admirals, and Warlords will be there? He almost died fighting Magellan, what hope does he have against the entire esembled might of the Marines? Luffy responds to this by simply saying that if he can't save Ace, then he'd regret it forever. This sends Ivankov reeling, and realizes that Luffy's aura is the exact same one of Dragon's!

Inazuma, however, points out that they can't even leave this level. After he says this, a dry, staccatto laugh echoes through the silent air. One of the prisoners in a nearby cell offers to bore a hole in the ceiling for them if they set him free. As he steps forward into view, Luffy recoils in surprise as he recognizes him. It's none other than Sir Crocodile! "It's been a while...Straw Hat."
This episode almost covered a full chapter, just left off a few pages at the end. Shame, since I would've liked to see the team fully formed at the episode's end, but ending with Crocodile's reintroduction was a nice cliffhanger.

Art was pretty good mostly. Animation wasn't the best we've seen from this team (Inazuma demonstrating his powers was less than impressive) but it held up pretty well. At first I thought the flashabcks at the end were ripped straight from Movie 8, though upon watching the HD version they clearly aren't, though they still look rushed and low quality, just like the movie did. The direction was pretty good however. First we had the little situation with the guard being turned into a woman and loving it; definitely more amusing than Ivankov simply beating him up like in the manga. Then there was Ace's little revolt that was implied to have happened in the manga, but we only saw the aftermath. Good use of music from Movie 9 at the end, and the Dragon overlay was a nice touch, though Luffy and Dragon don't really look alike at all. Luffy's words about "regretting it forever" makes me wonder just how Luffy would deal with such a crushing failure and loss in the long term, especially since right now the rest of the Straw Hats are Kuma-knows-where. Certainly an interesting prospect considering the recent manga chapters.

Looks like next episode will cover more than one chapter. Interested in seeing how the anime handles the next batch of Impel Down.

443: The Strongest Team is Formed - Shake Impel Down to the Core!
From inside his cell, Crocodile comments that while he has no interest in the outside world, now that there's the prospect of war he'll gladly take this chance to kill Whitebeard himself, and with his powers, Luffy will be able to escape from the prison himself. It's a win-win situation. Luffy angrily turns him down, since he was the head of Baroque Works and instigated the Alabasta civil war after all. Ivankov, however, tells Luffy that he should release him since he'll need all the help he can get if he truly intends to go to Marineford. In addition, he appears to have met Crocodile in the past, and the former Warlord is not at all happy to see him. Apparently Ivankov has some dirt on his past that he'd rather be kept secret. Ivankov says that as long as Crocodile doesn't do anything to betray them, he'll keep this little tidbit to himself.

Then, another voice calls out. Jimbei begs to be released too, since he's known Ace and the Whitebeards for a long time, and would fight to save them even if he himself died (you'll be hearing this a lot). Luffy agrees, despite Inazuma's misgivings, and soon both Crocodile and Jimbei are standing alongside the others, and quickly get off on the wrong foot with one another. Ivankov declares that now they're going to break out of this prison.

A squad of guards then breach Level 6 to capture the fugitives, but only find a spiral ramp going through a newly-opened hole in the ceiling. As the guards run about a voice tells them that their prey is long gone. The imprisoned Shiryuu comments on the guards' incompetence in handling this situation, and says that he'll be willing to offer Magellan a hand in dealing with this incident. In the control room Hannyabal is alarmed by this turn of events, and after learning that he'll probably be the one to bear the brunt of the blame, he grabs a bundle from the wall and says that he'll head to Level 4 to fight them and has all of Impel Down's troops moved there as well.

Meanwhile in Level 5.5 Crocodile appears in a new, all-black outfit reminiscent of his old Alabasta attire, while Ivankov lectures Mr. 2 on the use of his tension hormones. Mr. 2 points out that he won't be able to move without them, so Ivankov goes ahead and injects him with the crotch. "New Kama Land..." indeed. Soon afterwards, all of the New Kama gather outside in the bitter cold of Level 5 while Ivankov gives them a quick rundown of what they need to do. Since they are in the middle of the Calm Belt, their only hope of escape is to steal a battleship from outside, but if they're going to get that far, they'll need as many people as they can, so he advises everyone to release prisoners as they go to both swell their ranks and cause chaos. After hearing that Luffy, Crocodile, and Jimbei have already gone ahead of them, the entire assembly begins their mad dash to freedom.

Eyecatches: Franky and Luffy

As Luffy, Crocodile, and Jimbei head up the stairs to Level 4, Jimbei notes that it's almost ten o'clock in the morning, so if they're going to save Ace, they'll have to do it before three in the afternoon, when the execution is scheduled. Crocodile goes ahead of the others and arrives at a thick, wooden door, which he comments is useless. Here we get a brief refresher on his Devil Fruit: the Sand Sand Fruit is a Logia that allows him to turn into and manipulate sand, as well as allowing him to dry up objects upon contact. He does so to the door, disintegrating it and knocking the metal frame off of its hinges. The jailers gathered on the other side open fire on Crocodile, but all they manage to do is blow a few holes in him which instantly regenerate. He then dashes forward and slices through several jailers with his Barchan technique, leaving behind mummified bodies. Several others try shooting a net at Luffy, but he leaps into the air and attacks them with his new Ame (Rain) move. Finally, Jimbei displays his powers by throwing a punch. At first nothing happens, but after a little bit the confused jailers are blown away by a delayed shockwave. The remaining jailers panic, and open fire on all three of them. Hannyabal, currently en route, receives a panicked call from them, and orders his men to step on it.

Meanwhile, Buggy and Mr. 3 have finally made it back to Level 2, where they're currently hiding from the manticores beneath a wax covering. Unfortunately for them, the animals stink to high heaven.

Back on Level 4, Crocodile, alone, approaches a cell and tosses the keys inside. One of the prisoners pounces on them, then freaks when he recognizes Crocodile. Crocodiles says that he'll need some extra muscle when escaping, and asks if one of the prisoners wants to join him. Mr. 1 replies that he will, since he'd been getting bored himself.
Coming from one of the weaker animation teams, this was a very solid episode. They were really on the ball with this one, good art, decent animation, and some pretty good direction on top of that. Almost covered a full chapter, almost. Kind of a weird stopping point, since Mr. 1 turns out to not be all that important in the scheme of things. About the only bad thing I have to say about this episode is that Jimbei's Karakusagawara Seiken (Arabesque Tile Fist) was dragged out for way too long, those it was animated in a way reminiscent of Kenshiro's finishers, which was pretty amusing. They also redid Crocodile's sand and gave it a constantly moving, stipling effect. It was pretty cool.

Speaking of that, I do wonder what Oda has in store for Crocodile after all of this. He doesn't seem to have any motivations beyond this Whitebeard business, and up until now it looked like his story was done with as far as the overall series goes. I am pretty curious as to what this big, dark secret is (and no, I do not subscribe to the crackpotted "Croc was a woman!", theories), so I hope covers that soon, since looking at the manga right now, he's running out of opportunities to do so. Also, regarding him, I still don't really care for how Luffy let him out without much of a fight, being one of the most harmful and diabolical of the series villains. It's certainly a slap in Vivi's face, and it's not going to be doing his karma any favors. I wonder what the other main characters will think of this, at any rate.

And that's about it. Next week's looking great as well.

444: Even More Chaos! "Blackbeard" Teach Arrives
From within a wax shelter on Level 2 Buggy and Mr. 3 watch as the Bluegori and guards march down the hallways, rushing towards Level 4. They realize that this is a great opportunity for them, and after recounting their struggles to get back up as far as they have, they put their plan into action. Using more fake wax keys, the two go around unlocking cell after cell and freeing the prisoners of their chains. Hannyabal quickly learns of this, and orders the guards to restrain them, but most of them are already on their way to Level 4, and the few remaining are quickly overwhelmed by the horde of prisoners.

Meanwhile, Ivankov's group has caught up to Luffy on Level 4. Luffy's delighted to see Mr. 2 up and about again, while Mr. 2 is surprised to see that Crocodile has freed Mr. 1. Ivankov uses his powers to enlarge his own head to the size of a parade float, and unleashes his powered-up Hell Wink on the hapless jailers. There's nothing they can do to stop them!

Onboard the Marine convoy, Onigumo remarks that there is apparently a massive riot taking place inside Impel Down, with Luffy being one of the leaders. He tells Ace, who's changed to a chain, that he should take this time to look at the sky, since once they pass through the Marineford Gates of Justice, he'll never see it again.

Eyecatches: Zoro and Luffy

Within Sengoku's office, a Marine officer gives an important report: even though everyone should be gathering since the execution is in only five hours, the Warlord Blackbeard can't be found anywhere! And that's not all, an unauthorized battleship just arrived at Impel Down.

Sure enough, Blackbeard and his crew have arrived at the Impel Down. A guard insists that they haven't asked for reinforcements and that they can't see him right now. The Blackbeard Pirates walk right past them, their captain saying that it doesn't matter since they're all on the same side, as his darkness swallows them up along with the iron gate. The Marines on the nearby stationed battleships take aim at him, but Blackbeard uses Liberation to shoot the iron gate fragments back at them. The guards yell for backup before they fall into the darkness as well.

Hearing all of this through his telesnail, Hannyabal is at a complete loss. With the Blackbeard Pirates at the entrance, Buggy, Mr. 3, and the prisoners on Level 2, and Luffy's group on Level 4, there's no way he can handle this. His dreams of becoming the warden are smashed. However, Magellan comes through on the telesnail. He's already taken care of the riot on Level 2 by simply flooding the floor with poison, and he's blocked off the escape route for Buggy, Mr. 3, and the remaining prisoners. He says that he has no idea why Blackbeard is invading, but he has a plan to deal with him. He doesn't want to, but he has no choice; he's going to release Shiryuu.

Deep down in Level 6, several guards release Shiryuu from his cell. Magellan asks him via telesnail if his jail time has taught him anything, and Shiryuu responds that it was incredibly boring and that Magellan's not going to just put him back in after this is all over. Magellan says that this will merely delay his sentence a little, and Shiryuu remarks that he'll keep that in mind. One of the guards hands him his sword, and Magellan says that he'll let him handle Blackbeard before signing off. Shiryuu comments that it's been a while has he unsheathes his sword, blade glistening red, and the first thing he does is to cut the guards down.
Hm, I wouldn't say that this was a bad episode, but it wasn't all that outstanding, either. The art was pretty good overall, but the pacing and directing needed some work. The mugshot part during Hannyabal's distress was very obviously a ploy for padding, and then there was Blackbeard's entrance, with poor animation and directing.

And about Blackbeard, well, this little development kind of comes out of nowhere. I'm not a huge fan of him, and at this stage of the story it is kind of hard for me to envision him as the series' Big Bad like many of his fanboys hyped him up to be when he's only appeared a grand total of three times in the story and isn't tied in to any of the material that is being hyped up as endgame material. I would say a bit more on this topic, but this blog deals with the anime, not the manga.

Anyway, best part of the episode was the end, Shiryuu's release. Fittingly creepy music for a fittingly creepy atmosphere. I wonder if the effects they gave to his sword mean anything, or is there to look cool, since the blade is glowing in the next episode preview too. Probably the latter, but you never know.

445: A Dangerous Encounter! Blackbeard and Shiryuu of the Rain
The New Kama army continues to rampage throughout Level 4, freeing more prisoners to add to their ranks as they go. Saldeath sends the Blugori after them, but Ivankov takes them out with his Hell Wink attack. He then tells Luffy that he has to keep going, but there's an even bigger obstacle before them, the three Demon Beasts. Luffy and Jimbei move to attack, but a new group of the New Kama bar the way, telling Luffy that he mustn't waste time and that they'll fight the beasts instead. Ivankov explains that these fellows are called the Six Forces, and that they're hankering for payback. As it turns out, however, they're useless as well, so the burden of defeating them fall to Luffy, Crocodile, and Jimbei, who do so with one shot each.

Up on Level 2, Buggy and his forces are still stuck at the poison blockade. After much deliberation over how they should handle it, Mr. 3 comes up with the idea of using wax to remove it, similar to how they used wax to defeat Minotaurus. So Buggy tries to punch out the poison barrier with the newly christened Bara Bara no Do Hade Tonkachi (Chop Chop Flashy Hammer) and fails epically. He takes to cursing at the wall of poison, and the other prisoners join in, believing that his poisonous words will overcome the poison.

Eyecatches: Nami and Robin

On Level 1 the Blackbeard Pirates are making short work of the guards in their way, and then Shiryuu shows up, startling the ones who were unaware of his release. Blackbeard asks if he's Magellan, and Shiryuu only confirms Blackbeard's identity and begins to unsheathe his sword.

Back down on Level 4 the escape army rushes forward, boldened by the Demon Guards' defeat. However, Sadie is still there, and she lashes out with her whip, destroying part of the bridge in the process. Luffy moves to fight her, but Ivankov once again says that he can't keep getting caught up in these battles, and hurls him across the gap. Then he confronts Sadie himself and...turns himself into a woman. Really. Apparently this offers him/her certain advantages in combat, such as lithe movement and shock absorbancy.

While this is going on, Luffy manages to pull himself out of the Luffy-shaped-hole in the wall and Inazuma tells him that he'll open the exit door for him. When they get there, however, the door opens on its own, and the grunts are blown away by a halberd-wielding Hannyabal.
This episode is a bit of a connundrum for me. It wasn't terribly great, in fact, it felt pretty listless at times, though at the same time, I can't say that it was that bad either. It's like the good and the mediocre cancelled each other out and left behind a big, blank feel of adequecy.

But I guess there are some things that I can comment on. First, the filler. The filler New Kama were about as lame as expected, which is why they're glossed over in the summary, though Crocodile being unimpressed with them was funny, since he was echoing the sentiments of all the watchers. Buggy's filler started out on the right track with the wax foreshadowing, though it went on for way too long, so by the time he was leaping around with his behind showing, I was just ready to move on to something else, anything else. The animation got better and less lame towards the end with Ivankov (his voice staying exactly the same only added to the absurdity of the situation) and Hannyabal's arrival. I wouldn't call it a great cliffhanger though, since the preview makes it abundantly clear that Luffy pounds the stuffing out of him.

Now, on a different note, there's a cam rip floating around of the tenth movie, Strong World. The framerate and sound isn't very good though, so it's typical bootleg quality. I skimmed a few key scenes that I wanted to see how they came out, but I'm not going to be using it to blog the movie. That'll have to wait until it's properly out and subbed. I will say this though, it's certainly going to be a treat, with all of it's visuals, animation quality, and character interactions.

446: An Unbreakable Spirit! Hannyabal Goes All Out
Luffy asks who this guy bursting in on them is, and Inazuma informs him that it's the vice-warden, Hannyabal, who tells them that there's no escape, since there are a thousand guards in the stairwell behind him waiting for them. Luffy steps forward to confront him, and Hannyabal says that he'll handle the world-famous Straw Hat Luffy himself. The sight of the vice-warden actually taking his job seriously puts the wind back into the battered guards' sails, and they begin cheering their support. The blades of Hannyabal's halberd burst into flames and he attacks Luffy, who continues to demand the vice-warden to clear the way. After having enough of it, Luffy activates Gear Second and pummels Hannyabal with Jet Gatling.

As he hits the ground, battered and bloodied, Hannyabal laments his quick defeat, and flashes back twenty years ago to his first day on the job as a prison guard, where he was partnered up with Magellan. He was soon put to work inspecting the new Level 1 inmates, a job which he didn't care for. He was even tricked a few times, but each time Magellan would reprimand him, saying that his job was still very important no matter what Level he was assigned to. With renewed resolve, Hannyabal manages to pick himself up off of the floor, again saying that he won't allow Luffy to pass. The guards let out a huge rallying cry and renew their attack on the escapees with renewed vigor. Luffy activates Gear Second again, and after a brief exchange of blows, knocks Hannyabal to the ground again with Jet Stamp.

Meanwhile, on Level 2, Buggy is still hurling insults at the wall of poison. But he's run out of insults, and decides to take a break and relieve himself...and the other prisoners decide to join in as well. During this extended bathroom break, one of the prisoners reports that the wall of poison has mysteriously vanished, and everyone assumes that the insults were finally too much for it. The reality, however, was that it was Blackbeard and his crew who removed it.

Eyecatches: Robin and Nami

After being knocked down again for the third or fourth time, the guards start pleading for Hannyabal to not get back up again, for he'll just get pummeled again. Hannyabal is still defiant, and tells Luffy that he has no right to go on about saving his brother. What he's doing is releasing criminals back upon the seas, criminals who the citizenry of the world live in fear of. Impel Down exists to keep them locked away and to reassure the world that yes, they are being protected and can have peace of mind. All he gets, however, is a stomp to the face courtesy of Blackbeard, who calls his ideals ridiculous.

Jimbei, fists clenched, demands to know what he's doing here. Blackbeard tells him that he shouldn't be blaming him for his friend Ace's capture. Luffy recognizes him as the man he met on Jaya, and connects the dots on his own, Ace telling the Straw Hats that he was chasing after a criminal named Blackbeard in Alabasta, and Nyon's telling him about Blackbeard becoming a new Warlord thanks to Ace's capture on Amazon Lily. Blackbeard recognizes him as well, and says that he was surprised to learn that he was Ace's brother. He goes on to explain that his original plan to become a Warlord was to kill Luffy, the one who defeated the previous Warlord Crocodile. Ace couldn't just let that by, so he had to try and stop him. In fact, Luffy should be thanking Ace, for otherwise, it would be Luffy up on that execution scaffold today.

And with that, Luffy flies into a rage and attacks Blackbeard.
All right, this episode was better than the previous one, despite the inferior animation team. There were of course some low points, such as the really pathetic, low detail still shots (seriously, they really need to find a way to make those more dynamic or something), and the really obvious cost-saving technique where they just showed the faces of everyone spectating the fight. The Buggy filler wasn't as long and drawn out as before, and does fit is "accidental savior theme" that shows up later, and while the image of fifty-odd guys urinating next to each other liek that was amusing in a "what am I watching" kind of way, it must have been a really slow day at Toei for them to come up with something like that.

Anyway, some good key animation during the Hannyabal fight, and it's nice to see that Hannyabal isn't a wackjob like some of his cohorts and has genuinely noble motivations. It makes to realize that he does have a point. While Luffy may be content to simple sail the seas and go adventuring, not all pirates are like that, and many of the criminals that his group are releasing probably do deserve to be there. Heck, Crocodile tried to reserect Pluton and tried to conquer a country after driving it to civil war. I do hope that Luffy does get called out on some of this stuff later on, especially since it all turns out to be in vain.

I did like the flashback, and how it showed the working relationship between Magellan and Hannyabal and how they've been together for years. I think Toei could've been a little braver and connected it to Shiki's jailbreak since chapter 0 hinted that Hannyabal played an unwitting role in it, but I guess that'll just have to wait for the elusive OVA.

As for Blackbeard's arrival, his voice acting has improved to me, as his seiyuu's hit upon the right mix of loud blowhard and smarmy arrogance. Also nice how they showed Luffy getting angrier and angrier as he talked, as opposed to just cutting to him throwing the punch, like in the manga.

I guess this just goes to show, and artwork doesn't need to be top class as long as the directing pulls through.

447: The Jet Pistol of Rage! Luffy vs. Blackbeard
Luffy's Gear Second-powered punch sends Blackbeard flying backwards and into the wall. After thrashing about in pain, he manages to pick himself up and intercept Luffy's next attack with Kurouzu (Dark Vortex), sucking Luffy into close quarters and cancelling his Gear Second, before smashing him headfirst into the stone floor. Luffy quickly manages to recover and jump back to a safe distance, but starts bleeding profusely from a gash above his eye. Blackbeard laughs at how he probably has no idea what happened, and a flashbakc to his fight with Ace reminds us how the Dark Dark Fruit can nullify Devil Fruit powers, in this case Luffy's rubber-like body. Unsurprisingly, Luffy shouts that he doesn't care, and tries to attack again, but Jimbei manages to intercept him, telling him that this isn't going to help Ace and that now's not the time to be fighting Blackbeard. Luffy reluctantly cancels Gear Second and calms down somewhat. Blackbeard chuckles that Luffy has gotten stronger and more spirited since they last met.

Crocodile then speaks up, saying that Blackbeard is essentially throwing away his Warlord title by being at Impel Down instead of Marineford. Blackbeard says that it's all part of his plan, but before he can say anymore one of the prisoners screams that Magellan is hot on their tails. Ivankov urges Luffy to go on ahead, since if he gets hit by his poison again, there will be no way to save him. As the prisoners rush up the now deserted stairway, Jimbei and Blackbeard both comment that they've made things easier for each other due to the commotion. But there's a new obstacle in their way, as a bandaged Minotaurus now stands in the stairwell. Mr. 2 is startled to see it back on its feet, but Crocodile says that it should be no surprise, as the four Demon Guards are "awakened" Zoan users, and the other three should be up on their feet soon as well.

Meanwhile, Magellan is heading towards the scene of the commotion, cursing how letting one small enemy get away has blown up into something like this. What's worse, communications have been cut off, as unbeknownst to him, Shiryuu has destroyed the monitering room.

Eyecatches: Zoro and Usopp

Luffy, still angry, stares down Blackbeard and repeats that he's going to save Ace. Blackbeard tells him to go ahead, as there's nothing in the world that's impossible. After all, didn't Skypiea really exist in the end? However, they're still going to have to get by Minotaurus. Luffy takes out his anger on it by sending it flying into a wall so hard that it gets stuck with one Jet Pistol. With the final block gone, the way to freedom is clear! Balckbeard laughs as he and his crew move in the opposite direction. In just a few more hours, he'll show the world a spectacle unlike any they've ever seen!

Magellan, meanwhile, discovered Sadie tied up with her own whip, and orders some of the all-to-eager guards with him to free her. Then, he runs into the Blackbeard Pirates and wastes no time with words. As soon as confirms their identities, he hits them with a deluge of poison. Leaving them to writhe on the floor in agony, Magellan comes across the wreckage at the base of the stairwell to Level 3. He has the guards attend to Hannyabal, thinking ot himself that he's the only one that he'll allow be his successor. Upon entering the stairwell itself, be bellows out Luffy's name, floods the space with poison, and shoots up the stairwell to exact his revenge.
It's kind of odd that they'd name an episode after an attack that took place last episode, but what can you do? Mostly an infodump episode, but the visuals were still pretty good. While I may have some issues with Katsumi Ishizuka's art (namely in how he angles faces), no one can draw a pissed off Luffy quite like he can. Next episode is another Naoki Tate one, so that should be an okay one too.

Really liked Magellan's attitude in this one. All business, no grandstanding, or anything liek that. Just whips out his poison and goes on his way. It's always nice to see a World Government employee who isn't a complete nut, despite the satanic nazi undertones.

Well, originally I was going to blog episode 448 here, but I'm going to do something different. Remember chapter 0, the backstory to Movie 10, Strong World? Well, it was animated as an OVA which has just now been put out on the Internet. I'm not going to let this chance to blog it slip by, so enjoy.
Episode 0
We open with a series of scenes taken from the movie. The Straw Hats crashing the Thousand Sunny into the gate of Gold Lion Shiki's headquarters, the Straw Hats, dressed up in formal wear and armed to the teeth, training their weapons on Shiki in the assembly hall while Luffy tells him to prepare himself for the fight that's to come, Nami, sickly but defiant, standing atop a building shouting that Shiki's plans are over, and Luffy, filled with righteous anger over everything that Shiki's done to both Nami and his home sea, bringing down his final attack, while Shiki can't believe that he's been defeated once again by someone from East Blue.

Twenty years ago, before the start of the Great Age of Pirates, the klaxons in Marineford sound as Fleet Admiral Kong receives word that Gold Roger and Gold Lion Shiki have made contact in the Edwa Sea. Upon hearing this, Vice-Admiral Garp, eager for some action, walks out of his meeting with Kong, much to his superior's displeasure. In the hallway he meets up with Vice-Admirals Kuzan, Tsuru, Saul, and Sakazuki. Garp asks Tsuru to lend him her ship, but she turns him down, since he'd just end up destroying it as usual. At the harbor, Admiral Sengoku yells at Garp to stay out of this, as Shiki is his responsibility, but Garp laughs him off and says that he'll just let Sengoku take all the credit.

Meanwhile, an ocean away in the New World, Roger's ship the Oro Jackson is in a standoff with Shiki's considerably larger fleet. The young Buggy wails in fright, pleading with the doctor Crocus and the first mate Rayleigh to try to talk the captain out of this, even though there's no stopping Roger, and, as Shanks points out, Buggy is immune to being slashed and stabbed thanks to the Chop Chop Fruit. Standing on the bow of his flagship, Shiki tells Roger that while they may have had their differences in the past, that they now should team up and work together. With Shiki's fleet, and the Ancient Weapons that Roger has knowledge of, they could rule the world! Unfortunately for him, Roger retorts that he isn't interested in ruling the world, and a fight breaks out between the two crews. The narration then informs us that despite being outnumbered by a considerable margin, the Roger Pirates pulled through thanks to a freak storm and won the day.

Sometime later sequelching footsteps announce the arrival of the clownish Dr. Indigo into the doctor's office where Shiki is being treated for the injury he received during the battle, leaving part of a ship's steering wheel embedded in his head. Unfortunately the doctor doesn't think that they can take it out without killing him, but Shiki takes the news quite matter-of-factly, and then mistakes himself for a rooster when he looks in the mirror, prompting Indigo to slap him for being a dunce.

Time passes, and the Roger Pirates conquered the untameable Grand Line, earning Roger the title of Pirate King. His crew disbanded, and Roger himself was captured by the Marines, which came as a great shock to the entire world. Shiki himself takes this very poorly, literally shooting the messanger because he can't believe that Roger could possibly be captured. So Shiki invades Marineford all by himself, slaughtering the soldiers sent after him and demanding that Roger be brought before him so that if he had to die, at least let it be by his hand. He's met by Sengoku and Garp, who tell him that Roger is no longer there, and will be executed in his hometown, Loguetown, in East Blue. Shiki says that for him to be executed in the weakest of the four Blues is an insult to his strength, and the three begin to fight, in a battle that results in half of the Marineford city being destroyed, as well as Shiki dropping a battleship into the harbor. Shiki was defeated and imprisoned in Impel Down.

And so Roger met his end at Loguetown, but sparked the Great Age of Pirates with his last words. Many pirates and figures who would play great roles in the future witnessed his death, including Buggy, Shanks, Donquixote Doflamingo, Dracule Mihawk, Sir Crocodile, a thin Gecko Moria, and even Monkey D. Dragon. The news quickly spread across the seas, where we see a lone blond woman in a blue dress staring out to sea, Nefertari Cobra of Alabasta comments that a fearsome age is upon them, the giants Kaashi and Oimo of Enies Lobby comment that now there will be more pirates than ever, Dorry and Broggy clash on Little Garden, the nomad Tonjit ignores the news in favor of his champion stilts, Montblanc Cricket thinks the upcoming age will be a true adventure, the young CP9 recruits train hard, and the snake sisters on Amazon Lily resolve to grow stronger so that they may become pirates as well.

On Level 6 of the isolated Impel Down, the prisoners start cheering and clamoring away at the prospect of a new pirate era. Only Shiki, locked and chained in his cell, isn't pleased. He laments Roger's passing, and how now every two-bit wannabe is going to take to the seas searching for the great treasure that they do not deserve. However, his time soon comes. Two years later Magellan reports to the warden that Shiki has managed to escape his cell by cutting off his legs! The unfortunately guard to find him is none other than the hapless Hannyabal, who's quickly forced into handing Shiki over his two swords, Oto and Kogarashi, which he uses as his new legs once escaping.

In the rural Windmill Village Garp receives a call from Sengoku concerning Shiki's escape. Garp comments that they're going to have to be careful about this, and adds that Shiki's the cunning type. If he's going to try anything, it'll be after everything is perfectly planned out. And so we get another montage of scenes from all over. An infant Ace is chased by his grumpy caretaker, the dojo master Koshiro laments having a newborn daughter instead of a son, but his wife assures him that she'll grow up to be a fine, strong young woman, Shanks pays a visit to Syrup Village to invite local Yasopp to join his pirate crew and the servant Merry designs his dream ship, the Going Merry, the marine Bellemere vows to give Shiki a beating if he ever shows up in East Blue, Red-Shoes Zeff reads about Shiki's exploits, on Drum Island Hiriluk dooms another patient while the king and Dalton worry that the prince is too spoiled, the young Nico Robin is on the run from the World Government, Tom's Shipwrights work on the Water 7 Sea Train, Gaimon gets stuck in his chest, Crocus looks after the island whale Laboon, Brook is all alone in the Florian Triangle, and a young Hatchan visits Rayleigh and Shakuyaku at their bar on Sabaody.

In the New World, Shiki pays Whitebeard a visit, saying that now that Roger's gone, he's the strongest pirate in the world. Whitebeard threatens to throw him overboard, and Shiki laughs, saying that it's good to see that some things haven't changed from the old days, and then says that he's going to hide himself away for a while. Whitebeard immediately sees that he's up to something.

On the towering island of Merveille, home to all sorts of unique, monstrous beasts, Shiki meets with Dr. Indigo to ask how his research is going. Indigo starts going into an explanation on the island's ecosystem, but Shiki cuts him off by asking him how long it'll take for his plan to come to fruition. After some calculations, Indigo says that it'll take twenty years, and Shiki says that that's fine; he'll wait twenty years, and then unleash Hell upon the world.
And there we go. For a feature that was less than twenty minutes long, there was a lot packed in, and was basically a non-stop fanservice ride, getting to see all of these characters, both past ones and current ones, how they were in the past and what they looked like (particularly the Warlords). Shiki himself is a lot of fun to watch, thanks in small part to the excellent performance by his seiyuu, Japanese actor Naoto Takenaka. One of those kinds what can make you laugh at in one instance, and then loathe with all your might the next, without the switch flip feeling forced or unnatural, and now I'm really looking forward to finally watching the movie itself.

Production-wise, everything was top notch, the art, the animation, music, etc. Kinda fun to note after last week's chapter that Dadan's voice is very obviously female (maybe that was why this took so long to come out, they didn't want to spoil the surprise). We also got the anime debut of Rouge and her color scheme (unfortunately I couldn't get a chuckle out of it since they didn't go for what I had envisioned), and serves to remind me that a lot of neat stuff is going to happen in the main series soon. I guess my only complaint is that it followed the manga almost panel-by-panel, while I was hoping that they would expand on some of the material (particularly the fight between Garp, Sengoku, and Shiki) like they usually do in the episodes.

But despite that small issue, the OVA was well worth it, and with this much build up and hype, the movie will hopefully be worth every minute of it.

18 A_H_R29th Apr 2010 05:49:07 PM from Crevice of your Mind
Resistance is Futile
Oooooh. One Piece @_@ me likey.

448: Stop Magellan! Iva Unleashes His Secret Technique
The mob of escaped prisoners have made it up to Level 3, but Magellan is still on their tails, dousing any stragglers with his poison. Once everyone who can still move have made it up the stairwell to Level 2, Inazuma slices the walls of the stairwell with his scissor blades on Ivankov's orders, leaving his boss behind to face Magellan. Praying for his safety, Inazuma cuts the whole thing loose, and the tower unravels and crumbles on the floor below. Magellan asks Ivankov what the meaning of all this is, and Ivankov syas that anyone who doesn't realize the point of it all is an idiot, turns himself back into a man, and destroys one of the hydra heads with Death Wink. Magellan reforms it and brings out the other two, saying that he's not going to allow Ivankov to stall for anymore time. Ivankov scoffs at the notion of being defeated, and decides to show the prison warden the power of his New Kama Kenpo.

Upstairs on Level 2, Luffy wants to go back after learning that Inazuma and Ivankov are trying to stop Magellan, but Mr. 2 says that it's more important for them to keep moving. Ivankov's a miracle worker after all, he'll manage. Crocodile comments on how the floor is completely deserted of guards and the prisoners are missing. Of course, that's the handiwork of Buggy and Mr. 3, who are on Level 1, freeing prisoners and adding them to their army as they go.

Eyecatches: Nami and Luffy

Back down on Level 3, Ivankov is saved from certain death at the hands of Magellan's poison thanks to his heavy makeup and nonexistant shoelaces. Magellan thinks all of this is just a waste of time, so Ivankov offers to end the fight, and brings out his new, secret move: Mudage Shouriken (Waxing Fist). This doesn't help him one bit, for Magellan soon emerges before Inazuma on Level 2 from within a column of poison. Inazuma panics and rips up sections of the floor to throw at him, but these too barely slow Magellan down.

Above, Buggy's group has run into a major roadblock in the form of the revived Demon Beasts. They end up running smack dab into Crocodile and the rest of Luffy's group, and Mr. 3's none too happy to see his old boss again. Luckily for them, however, Luffy and Jimbei take out the Demon Beasts again off screen. It seems like nothing will be able to stop the escapees now, until Magellan arrives on the level, having dealt with Inazuma effortlessly. Can anyone stop him?
This was another Naoki Tate episode. Typical Tate episodes usually have fluid, lively animation, and good directing. This was not a typical Tate episode. I don't really know what happened here. The pace was sluggish, Ivankov's fight plagued with the old "stare-down showdown" trick, and the animation, usually the crown jewel of Tate's work, was very underwhelming. I was looking forward to him doing this, since I was sure that the fight would turn out great, but it was a big letdown. Least the key animation for Ivankov turning back into a man was pretty good, and I have to admit that where they ended made a better cliffhanger than where the corresponding manga chapter did.

Well, I hope Tate was just getting the bad stuff out of the way, so that he can be in tip top shape for the coming arc.

449: Magellan's Plot! The Escape Effort is Blocked
Having taken care of Ivankov and Inazuma, Magellan sets his sights on the rest of the fleeing prisoners. Luffy tries to attack him out of anger, but like before, Mr. 2 tries to stop him since there's no way he can beat Magellan right now. Jimbei overhears a group of guards talking with Magellan via telesnail and realizes that there's another scheme afoot. He gets Luffy and the others to head for the main entrance, but Magellan sics the Hydra on them once again. However, the highly acidic poison is blocked by a hardened wall of Mr. 3's wax! Their unlikely savior bemoans Luffy's nature, claiming that this is just to make sure that he remains undebted to him, and urges everyone to hurry and beat it before he loses his weak nerve.

Luffy tells Jimbei to go on ahead to steal a warship, since he's got an idea that'll help him fight Magellan. This requires Mr. 3's reluctant help, and a bunch of the prisoners gather up weapons to help out as well. Luffy's big plan? Wax armor on his arms and legs, similar to Mr. 3's Candle Champion wax suit. After being overcome by the sheer coolness of it, Luffy springs into action, dodging Magellan's Hydra heads and landing a Champion Rifle on the warden. Thanks to the wax, he can now touch Magellan without getting poison on himself, and the prisoners add a barrage of cannon fire to the mix. Magellan's not looking quite so invincible after all!

The rest of the escapees finally reach the top of Level 1. Mr. 2 gloats at how powerless their enemies are, but Mr. 1 admonishes him and points out how there are still ten battleships out in the harbor that they'll have to get past. Jimbei also points out that there's one more additional obstacle that they need to get past in order to escape.

Buggy and his men, meanwhile, have reached the exit to the outside. Buggy rallies them for the final upcoming push against the marines and to hijack a battleship, and they all get ot work pushing the massive wooden doors open, letting bright sunlight into the dank, dark prison.

Eyecatches: Zoro and Luffy

Following Buggy's lead, the freed prisoners pour out onto the pier...only to find that there's not a battleship in sight! There's no way out. Just as they start to fall apart and despair, Jimbei tells them that they have no time for tears. Magellan ordered them to set sail only a short time ago, so the ships are just shrouded in the fog not far away. Since they have him with them, there's still hope. He pulls one of the doors off of its hinges with his bare hands and tells the group that they can use it as a makeshift raft in order to hijack a ship. Crocodile, Mr. 1, and Buggy get on (Buggy more for the protection Crocodile and Jimbei offer than bravery), and off they go, flying across the water thanks to Jimbei's speed. The warships open fire on them, but Jimbei manages to dodge each shot before warning the occupants that he's going to launch them onto the deck of the nearest ship. He dives underwater (much to Buggy's horror, as he thinks the Fishman's abandoned them), and uses the Fishman Karate Mizugokoro (Water Soul) technique to grab ahold of the ocean water as if it were cloth and heave it upward. The result is that a giant waterspout erupts from the ocean, blasting Crocodile, Buggy, and Mr. 1 onto the deck of the nearby battleship. The soldier onboard gird themselves; all they need to so is force the intruders overboard and they'll drown!

Back inside the prison, Magellan demands to know how Luffy can still fight him after getting so thoroughly defeated before. Luffy retorts that he's already forgotten about that and retaliates with Champion Bazooka. Magellan says that this time, he make sure that he'll never forget.
This episode was like an apology for the last one. The problems back then were mostly absent here. The real high point was Luffy's armor. Ever since the Demon Beasts were introduced in the original manga, I was eagerly looking forward to seeing Mr. 3 bringing out his old Candle Champion battlesuit, since they seemed like the perfect enemies for them, and was mightily disappointed when that never materialized. Then came the armor later on, and I thought "Cool! This is going to be great!" as the idea was so delightfully absurd yet made perfect sense in this situation. And then "Champion Luffy" was in the manga for all of about two and a half pages. This is where the anime usually comes through in giving more screentime ot stuff that the manga sometimes skims over. It came through here, let me tell you, with added scenes and a nifty little transformation sequence reminiscent of the one for Big Emperor back in Thriller Bark. I especially liked the standoff at the end, with Luffy's retort of having forgotten about the earlier fight being a perfectly in-character, smart-alecky way of showing his determination.

The other highlight of the episode was the makeshift raft ride. Good choice of music there, and some great faces for Buggy. Impel Down is coming to a close with only two episodes left after this one. Hope they go out with a bang.

450: The Escape Team's Hopeless Situation - The Forbidden Technique "Venom Demon"
On Level 3 Ivankov lies unconscious on the floor, covered in Magellan’s poison. However, his finger begin to twitch, and he manages to bring out the syringe bards on his fingertips…

Outside, the marines have surrounded Crocodile and Mr. 1 (Buggy’s unconscious from the fall onto the ship) with weapons trained, and Mr. 1 says that they don’t know who there’re dealing with. Right when the captain is about to give the order to fire, Jimbei surfaces from the sea and calls out his Yarinami (Lance Wave) technique and throws a stream of water so powerful that it punches through the forecastle of the battleship with the force of a cannon, leaving the marines shocked and Jimbei admonishing himself for damaging their getaway ship.

Back inside Impel Down, Luffy’s fight with Magellan continues. Luffy seems to have the advantage with his wax armor, as he beats down the hydra and lands a blow to the warden’s gut that brings him down on one knee. The prisoners start cheering, as it looks like Magellan’s almost finished, but they celebrate too soon, for Magellan gets back up and says that he’s finished with the stalling.

He starts to exude a new, red poison. Luffy tries kicking him, but Mr. 3 wails that the wax won’t work anymore, and quickly retracts the wax before the poison can fully touch it. The new poison begins to ooze towards the prisoners, tainting anything it touches. Magellan then gathers all of it to him, and fashions a large, skeletal golem made from this poison. The prisoners bolt and Magellan makes a swiping motion which the golem copies. Luffy’s able to pull Mr. 3 out of the way in time, but the guy behind them isn’t so lucky and gets doused in the poison. He grabs another fleeing prisoner in panic, and the poison spreads to this second unfortunate chap. As Mr. 3 explains, the poison is spreading like a virus, whether it touches flesh or stone. There’s absolutely no way to fight Magellan now, they have no choice but to run.

Back outside, Crocodile and Mr. 1 make quick work of the hapless marines, as the Sand Sand Fruit and the Dice Dice Fruit render bullets harmless. Jimbei, meanwhile, leaves the ocean depths for the surface.

Eyecatches: Franky and Luffy

Seeing how badly things are going, the Rear Admiral captaining one of the neighboring battleships orders his men to open fire on the one currently being hijacked, as it would be a huge disgrace for the Navy. Unfortunately for them, however, Jimbei surfaces and dumps another huge waterspout on them, ruining the ammunition.

At the entrance to Impel Down Mr. 2 is immensely relieved to see Luffy and the few remaining prisoner’s round the corner, and then freaks out along with everyone else when he sees the poison golem punch through the stone wall after them. Luffy yells if they have a battleship yet, but Mr. 2 shouts back that it still isn’t here. Meanwhile, below, Ivankov, having used an injection of adrenaline on himself, trudges along before collapsing, unable to move any further. So, he uses his Hell Wink to propel himself upwards before crashing through the floor of Level 1, amidst the startled prisoners, before promptly passing out from smashing his head against the ceiling so hard. Both Luffy and Mr. 2 are relieved to see that he has Inazuma with him.

One of the prisoners tosses Luffy a baby telesnail with a call from Jimbei on it. They’ve taken the ship (Buggy’s now awake and praising the others for a job well done), but they won’t be able to get back to the prison in time, since the prisoners have run out of room to run from Magellan. But Jimbei has a plan, they just need to jump into the ocean, a plan which the prisoners don’t care for one bit. Magellan says that they’re free to jump into the sea if they wish, for all that will await them are ravenous Sea Kings. The prisoners wail in despair yet again and pour out of the prison and crowd onto the small pier outside in an effort to put some distance between them and Magellan.

But Luffy’s got one more move left to buy time. First Mr. 3 puts up an extra-large wall of wax to block the golem, while Luffy activates Gear Third, enlarges his leg, and attacks the wall with Gigant Stamp. The golem is thrown back by the force and into the wall. But this isn’t enough to completely stop it. Luffy, wakes up Ivankov and urges him to use his wink again, and for everyone else to grab hold of Ivankov’s head. Magellan yells once again that he won’t allow anyone to escape as the prisoners scramble to do this, and right when he’s about to grab them Ivankov unleashes his Hell Wink and the force propels him backwards and into the air, out of the prison and away from a stunned Magellan’s grasp.

Even though they’ve finally made it out of the prison, it looks like they’ll all fall into the sea after all, but instead, the group lands upon the backs of a huge school of whale sharks! Jimbei apologizes for calling them out to such dangerous waters. Even though the escape team is still within the gloomy doldrums of the Calm Belt, on the backs of these smiling fish, everything seems bright.
The end of Impel Down is almost here, and while this episode wasn't the flashiest art and animation wise (save for the huge Animation Bump during Gigant Stamp) it did a pretty serviceable job throughout. The creation of Magellan's Venom Demon went smoothly, and it's functions remind me of Konomura's Bankai, what with it mimicking Magellan's actions. After the initial creation, it was animated a bit stiffly, however, and towards the end of the chase they ran into the problem of too much exposition during the action that many anime suffer from. While this isn't much of a problem in the manga, the side effect of covering all that is to make it seem like the characters are taking much longer than they should to cross short distances. However, the aforementioned Gigant Stamp scene made up for the episode's earlier weak points was animated splendidly, and it was nice to see Mr. 3 go something with his power besides making keys for people.

The means of escape, Ivankov's wink propelling everyone through the air, was one of those things that are silly yet make perfect sense in execution and hindsight that make up so much of One Piece. The chain of prisoners dangling off of his reminded me of , appropriately enough, the chain of prisoners clinging on to the motorbike in Dead Leaves. The arrival of the whale sharks smacks of convenience to me, but it is a reasonable ability for Jimbei (himself a whale-shark Fishman) considering that the mermaid Camie did something similar earlier on.

Anyway, one more episode of Impel Down to go, and what an episode it will be.

451: Bring About One Final Miracle - Break Through the Gates of Justice
Magellan stands frozen with disbelief as the whale-sharks happily frolic about in the bay carrying the prisoners, his poison golem collapsing around him. Jimbei orders them to bring the prisoners over to the ship, and the fish all line up and bounce Ivankov and Luffy like beach balls from one to the other until they land on the boat’s deck. Upon recovering, all of the now-former prisoners jump up and celebrate, for they’ve finally managed to escape Impel Down. Jimbei, however, says that they’re not out of the woods yet and takes the ship’s wheel, steering them towards the exit. Ivankov says that they need to treat Inazuma’s poisoning immediately, and has several of the New Kama run off to the infirmary to fetch some medicine. Buggy asks all of the prisoners who they have to thank for all of this, and they all shout his name in unison.

Meanwhile Magellan orders one of the Navy ships to come back so that he can board. The escapees haven’t yet noticed that they’re still trapped, so he’ll take care of them himself. The other ships meanwhile open fire on the escapees’ ship, and Jimbei begins evasive maneuvers, saying that warships are formidable regardless of who’s on board. However, these maneuvers are useless, for the prisoners had completely forgotten about the colossal Gates of Justice barring the way out. Despite the panic that breaks out, Jimbei stays calm and says that they’ll sail right through, and Crocodile suggests that they return fire with their own cannons. Naturally the marines wonder what could be going through the escapees’ minds to keep on sailing forward, since the only way to open the Gates is from within Impel Down.

But then, the impossible happens. The Gates of Justice slowly begin to open! Mr. 3 thinks it’s a trap, but Luffy and the others could care less and start celebrating this new stroke of fortune. The marines are left at a loss. The answer comes from within the control room, where none other than Magellan is giving the orders to an understandably skeptical team of guards. And their skepticism is well warranted, for another Magellan bursts into the room demanding to know what’s going on. The jig is up, and Mr. 2 turns back to his normal self, laughing at how he tricked Magellan again. Magellan manages to retain his composure and says that even if the ship does make it through the Gates of Justice, they still can’t escape with so many warships after them, so Mr. 2 turns back into the warden and issues an order to close the Gate. Magellan yells back to not do it, and the confused guards ends up accidentally hitting the button on the control panel to close it anyway. Mr. 2 shouts that he’s won and kicks the device, destroying it.

Eyecatches: Usopp and Chopper

Outside, having learned the truth, Luffy insists that Jimbei turn the ship back, as he can’t abandon Mr. 2 after everything he’s done to help Luffy and contribute to the escape. Jimbei retorts that they’ve already abandoned countless allies during their escape, and that he can’t afford to do something as reckless as going back, and that somebody needed to stay behind to open the Gate, and that Mr. 2 had volunteered himself as his Clone Clone Fruit is perfect for a task like that. It would be a complete waste of his and everyone else’s sacrifices to turn back now. But despite this, Jimbei does hand Luffy a baby telesnail that’s connected to one Mr. 2 still has on him, but it’s range is limited. Once they go through the Gates of Justice and they close, that’ll be it.

Back inside, Mr. 2 continues to laugh in Magellan’s face as the warden gets angrier and angrier, and saying that it was very lucky of him to have copied Magellan’s form while he was disguised as Hannyabal earlier on Level 4. However, Luffy’s voice calls out to him through the telesnail within his warden jacket, much to his surprise. Luffy wants to know why it always has to be this way, Mr. 2 sacrificing himself for him, just like back in Alabasta where he fought Hina to allow the Straw Hats time to get away. Even now, just when they were going to escape the prison together. The other escapees start calling out to him over the telesnail too, and Buggy and Mr. 3 are moved to tears, with Buggy even apologizing for his selfish behavior during their time in the prison. Then, with Mr. 2 still not having answered and the ship sailing through the Gates of Justice and the transmission starting to break up, Luffy and the escapees all cry out “THANK YOU!!” into the communicator. Mr. 2, hearing all of the crying and cries of gratitude over the telesnail, finally breaks down himself and yells out for Luffy, and shouts through his tears that he knows that Luffy’s going to save Ace, no matter what happens. And then, the Gates of Justice close and the transmission dissolves into static.

Safe from the fleet trapped now trapped on the Impel Down side of the Gate, the entire escape team bawl their collective eyes out over their comrade’s brave sacrifice, proof that friendship can blossom, even in such a hellish place. Inside, Mr. 2 squares off against Magellan, who, for the first time during the entire arc, has completely lost his temper. As he prepares to strike a killing blow, he asks if Mr. 2 has any last words, and he has only one thing to say: "Satisfaction!!"

So, in the end, even though Magellan was able to take his vengeance out on one prisoner, over two-hundred and forty managed to escape, the first successful jailbreak since Gold Lion Shiki twenty years ago, and the worst blunder in Impel Down history. However, this incident didn’t end there…
And there we have it, the end of the Impel Down arc. Most of the episode consisted of the ship trying to sail away while under bombardment, so there really wasn't much to analyze there. I did like the touch of Magellan's poison golem dissolving like that, symbolic of his defeat since he wasn't physically defeated at any point.

The highlight of the episode was, of course, Mr. 2's sacrifice. I won't lie, I found it to be Manly Tears inducing. It's just one of those things that even if you know it's coming and know that it's a definitive moment of awesome, that doesn't stop it from feeling so unfair. I think the anime executed that moment very well, adding some nice touches such as Mr. 2's tear smudging his mascara, and using the same music track for the closure of the Gates that they did when he fought Hina back in Alabasta. I think it worked even better here. If there's one thing that I would have changed about that scene it would be to remove the dialogue during the montage. Actions speak louder than words, as they say.

So is Mr. 2 dead or no? Well, by all rights he should be, since there's no way Magellan's going to back down from this, especially since he's finally snapped and the cutaway in both the anime and manga show his hand an inch away from Mr. 2's face, but since this is Oda, he'll probably come up with a contrived way to spare him, and I personally fully expect him to become the next Ivankov of Impel Down. Well, either way, it was quite an emotional sendoff.

As for the Impel Down arc as a whole, it was an arc that had its share of the good and the bad. Things I enjoyed seeing were the old villains like Buggy coming back into the story, and Magellan was a refreshing antagonist, being a villain who was all business, yet his only crime was taking his job seriously. He wasn't a wackjob or a sadist like some of his peers, and his performance was quite impressive, never once coming close to losing in battle, but was still defeated symbolically when the crew managed to escape.

The bad, well, some of the confrontations were anticlimactic, and the existence of Ivankov and his men required quite a bit of Willing Suspension of Disbelief. The pacing during the second half was pretty brisk, which ironically translated to sluggish during the animation. There were a few moments that I really wish the anime would have expanded on a bit more, but unfortunately failed to deliver. In the end I'll say that this was by no means the greatest arc in One Piece, but for what it set out to be, it did its job competently.

edited 1st Jun '10 8:46:15 AM by ComicX6

23 BetaRay1st Jun 2010 09:34:51 AM , Relationship Status: Can't buy me love
Web Slinger/Hope Bringer
To be honest, I probably should be reading this. It's a really super job your doing here.
You are not alone, and you are not strange. You are you, and everyone has damage. Be the better person.

452: Destination Navy Headquarters - The Voyage to Rescue Ace!
On the now empty Level 4, Shiryuu comments that the Blackbeard Pirates underestimated Magellan, and if he hadn’t come along with the antidote, they would have died. The pirates shrug it off, attributing it to fate. Blackbeard wrings the poison out of his shirt and thanks Shiryuu for saving them, and adds that he’ll make a fine addition to the Blackbeard Pirates. Shiryuu responds by saying that he has no future in Impel Down, and that he’s been waiting to meet a man of Blackbeard’s caliber.

Beyond Impel Down, the hijacked Navy battleship cruises onwards. While Buggy leads many of the escapees in celebrating their escape, Ivankov tells some of the others that they need to let Inazuma recover from Magellan’s poison in the infirmary on his own. He’s an important member of the Revolutionary Army, so it wouldn’t do to risk shortening his life with the same treatment he gave Luffy. At the ship’s stern, Luffy, Mr. 3, and a small group of prisoners and New Kama still gaze gloomily at the retreating Gates of Justice, still saddened by Mr. 2’s sacrifice. A tipsy Buggy wanders over to them, asking how long they’re going to stand around moping. It was too bad about Mr. 2, he says, but now he’s gone and there’s nothing they can do about it, and that they should be celebrating their escape. Luffy gets into a fight with him and as the two argue Mr. 3 says in exasperation that those two can just do whatever.

Jimbei, meanwhile, is guiding the ship’s helm. The only other one up there with him is Crocodile and Mr. 1. Crocodile says that he was surprised that Jimbei was able to summon that school of whale-sharks earlier, and that Jimbei is actually a decent fellow, to which Jimbei concedes that Fishmen are generally rather hostile as a species. Luffy hops up onto the deck, and Jimbei thanks him for giving him the opportunity to help save Ace. He then introduces himself as one of the Seven Warlords of the Sea (shocking the ignorant Luffy), but has since cast that title away, and adds that he’ll help Luffy raise hell at Navy HQ.

Upon hearing that that’s their destination, Buggy and the other prisoners freak out and demand that Jimbei turn the ship around. Crocodile calls them idiots for not realizing sooner, since the only places you can go to on this sea current are either Impel Down, Enies Lobby, or Marineford. The only reason they escaped in the first place was to take part in the war. Luffy suggests that Buggy can just get off if they disagree, only to be shouted down by him and Mr. 3. The prisoners wail in despair as they recount all of the big names that will be present on the Navy’s side. There will be the fleet admiral Sengoku, the three admirals Aokiji, Kizaru, and Akainu, as well as the five remaining Warlords Boa Hancock, Donquixote Doflamingo, Bartholomew Kuma, Dracule Mihawk, and Gecko Moria. All of them versus Whitebeard’s entire fleet. They’d rather go back to Impel Down! However, the group is soon distracted by the sound of a telesnail ringing from somewhere, which turns out to be from a compartment set into the main mast.

Eyecatches: Nami and Sanji

After much angst and deliberation over whether to answer it or not, Luffy nonchalantly picks up the receiver and casually answers it. The man on the other end is an officer at Navy HQ, who informs them that they are fully aware of how the ship has been taken over, and over what transpired at Impel Down. They’ve determined the two masterminds behind the jailbreak to be Luffy and, much to everyone’s surprise, Buggy. The officer continues by saying that they once though Buggy was just a low-level pirate, but now they are aware of the fact that he was a part of Gold Roger’s crew and that he was “like a brother” to Shanks, one of the Four Emperors. While everyone freaks out over this revelation, the man continues to express his amazement that Buggy has managed to lie low all these years, but now he has revealed his true strength, and that the Navy is positive that his goal is to save Ace as well. He concludes by reminding them that they are trapped in the Tarai Current, for the Gates of Justice will never open for them, and to just sit tight and wait. Luffy then yells into the receiver that he’ll definitely save Ace, and slams it down. While Buggy frets to himself that now the Navy’s going to be actively hunting him down, the other prisoners express their surprise and admiration for him, now that the truth is out. Luffy even remembers that Rayleigh mentioned Buggy back on Sabaody. The prisoners begin to hail Buggy’s name, and he tries futilely to discourage them until realizing that he could use this to his advantage. Everything that the officer had revealed was the truth after all, from a certain point of view. Now his reputation is sure to skyrocket, maybe if, by some chance, he defeated Whitebeard, he would become one of the Emperors, and from there, the Pirate King!

While he’s planning all this, the prisoners produce weapons and attempt to mutiny against Luffy’s group, but Buggy silences them and declares that thins ship will indeed head to Marineford. There, he’ll take Whitebeard’s head and make his mark upon the world, and urges anyone that has a dream to ascend to greater heights to rally behind him. The prisoners drop their weapons and break down sobbing, realizing that their stay in Impel Down had robbed them of their dreams, and plead undying loyalty to their savior, Captain Buggy. While the prisoners bask in Buggy’s golden light, Luffy comments that the mutiny seems to be over, Jimbei observes that Buggy has a talent for inspiring people, while Ivankov simply shakes his head in incredulity.

Meanwhile, Ace’s convoy has finally arrived at the fortress city of Marineford, home to Navy Headquarters.
As should be apparent from the length of this recap, this episode was pure exposition. Since it was a talking heads episode, it was given to Toshio Deguchi, the weakest animation director on the team. However, despite his reputation, the wasn't that bad. There were a few odd looking bits in the background and the animation that was more involved than simply walking around was a bit stiff, but everyone was on model and looked pretty decent. Since I keep discussing the various animation directors, I think I'll do a post profiling them in the future.

Plot-wise, there were only really two significant things that happened. First, Shiryuu joined the Blackbeard Pirates, who fits right in with this freakish bunch and will certainly be fighting Zoro in the future given that he wields a sword.

The second is Buggy's meteoric rise to fame. I can't help but admire him for the fact that he knows that he's the weak link in the chain, but is still able to get things to work in his favor. Whether he deserves it or not, he's certainly setting himself up for a larger role in the future. I fully expect him to make it to Raftel in time to participate in the series' Grand Finale through sheer dumb luck. He's Oda's favorite villain after all, so he's bound to go places.

After this we're in for another batch of "Where are they now?" Straw Hat episodes. It's a welcome respite after Impel Down, since I'm sure everyone misses the rest of the crew, even if they won't admit it. Come to think of it though, they've been more absent in the manga than anime, since the whole crew appeared in Movie 10 and the tie-in episodes. I'm certainly looking forward to them.

453: The Crew's Whereabouts - The Weatheria Report and Cybernetic Animals
As the ship continues to sail the Tarai Current, Luffy sits on top of one of its batteries, gazing out to sea. Jimbei comes up behind him and says that he should be resting up instead of worrying about Ace right now. They are about to dive headlong into a battle that will change the world, after all.

High above the clouds drifts the small floating island of Weatheria. Nami sits on a hillside, gazing at the sea of clouds and her Log Pose with an expression of longing. Her longings are interrupted by the old man Harudas, come to show off a new creation of his, cloud candy, though he almost suffocates her with it instead. After that mishap, Nami asks the old man how long it’s going to take for the island to reach the Sabaody Archipelago. Harudas’s answer is that the island depends on the wind to move, and as of right now, they’ve made the grand ol’ progress of two-hundred meters. Naturally Nami isn’t very pleased at that, and grumbles that she would’ve left long ago if this hadn’t been a floating island. Harudas replies that even if she were down on the surface it would take her quite a while to get back. But then he suggests that they go down to the surface anyway, as his research funding is starting to run low.

Their method of descent is a contraption in the shape of a boat powered by a flame suspended in a bubble not unlike the ones on Sabaody. Soon they arrive in a village on a desert island. The earth is parched and ground cracked. After discussing matters with the village mayor, Harudas reveals that using his weather science, he’ll be able to bring rain to this drought-ravaged land…for the discount price of one-hundred million berries! When Nami points out that that’s way too much, he brings it down to one-hundred berries, which is way too little.

Anyway, Harudas goes to work and activates a machine on his boat which starts spewing out miniature thunderclouds encased in bubbles. Harudas throws Nami a wind-rope and instructs her to undo all of the knots, summoning up a gust of wind which blows the bubbles high into the air where they coalesce and turn into a giant raincloud which lets loose a downpour, providing the ground with much-needed rain. As Nami marvels at this, Harudas hands her an umbrella and tells her that he’s spoken to the mayor, and he’s agreed to help her on her way to Sabaody as thanks. Nami, however, says that she’s changed her mind, and now wants to stay on Weatheria for the remainder of the voyage in order to study the weather science. Harudas is overjoyed at the news, and decides to start lecturing on the properties of his miniature thunderclouds…and it blows up in their faces.

Eyecatches: Nami and Franky

Within the Bulgemore Kingdom on Karakuri Island, the Darjeeling tea-powered Franky takes a long sip and remarks on how calming it is. The boy Kitton spies on him from around the corner and lets out a sigh, since Franky was so much cooler before they gave him tea. His grandfather tells him that since they don’t have any sodas on the island, Franky’s wild nature has been lost. This gives Kitton an idea…

So Franky later awakes to find that he has been left in the woods, bed and all. He wonders what happened and finds a scarf to help keep him warm. A scarf that is actually a cybernetic snake which fires a laser beam at him. After making his escape, Franky comes upon a broken keep out sign that informs him that this forest is full of cybernetic animals. As he turns back to the woods at the sound of a commotion, animals of all shapes and sizes emerge from the darkness and surround him, each one sporting some kind of mechanical part. Kitton and his dog keep watch via an underground hatch, with the plan of forcing Franky to regain his wild nature by pitting him against the wild environment. Franky, ever the gentleman, starts reprimanding the animals for being so worked up before breakfast time, but then realizes that it is indeed breakfast time and that he’s the breakfast. He takes another sip of tea and the animals pounce on him, but he elegantly makes his escape, saying that it’s good to be alive.

Kitton laments the failure of his plan, and is then attacked by a giant gorilla. However Franky, or as he says ‘’Mr. Frank’’, steps up to defend him, and begins to reprimand the animal for using violence, even as it continues to incessantly wail on him. But as he’s being pummeled, the tea within his inner refrigerator begins to boil, emulating the carbonation of cola. Steam shoots out of his ears, his sleeves rip, and his fashionably-combed hair spikes up into a pompadour. Franky is back, and effortlessly beats up all of the animals, yelling if they know that they’re dealing with the great Franky.

Kitton’s pleased to see Franky restored to normal, but there’s a new problem: the boost the steam provided is fading. So Kitton decides to lead him to an abandoned laboratory in hopes of creating a solution. The laboratory, Kitton explains, was the home of a quirky yet brilliant man named Vegapunk, who left the island some time ago, leaving his creations, such as the cyborg animals, behind to roam the island. After tearing down the boards covering up the entrance, Franky, Kitton, and the dog step inside, only to trigger an alarm. Something begins to move towards the three, something that Franky finds incredibly peculiar.
So after the Impel Down arc we get a little break to catch up on what the rest of the Straw Hats are up too, just like we did after Amazon Lily. The episodes here follow the same formula, each half of the episode covers a different Straw Hat, and the beginning has a short bit with Luffy (though Jimbei reiterating for the nth time that they're going into a giant battle is a poor substitute for Hancock's threesome fantasies).

Nami's half was pretty low-key, but it did contain some key points of information; that Nami is heading back to Sabaody on Weatheria, and that she's going to be studying the weather sciences. Since all she really does with the Perfect Clima Tact these days is spam lightning, a power up is welcomed, and the Cyclone Burst from earlier is a step in the right direction.

Franky's half may not have been as informative, but it sure was hilarious! From Mr. Frank to the ACME door gag, I was laughing throughout. It was great to hear Franky's leitmotif again, since it's one of my favorite tracks in the show. I wasn't expecting the ending at Vegapunk's lab to be a cliffhanger. Looks like we're going to get another set of episodes feature the Straw Hats' misadventures after Marineford, which means that Oda should probably start drawing more coverstories...

So next episode looks like we're following Chopper's quest to not get eaten by both ooga-booga natives and giant birds, and Sanji's waking nightmare on Kamabakka.

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