474: The Execution Order is Given - Break Down the Walls!
While the audience at Sabaody argues and protests with the stationed marines over the cut broadcast, the Eleven Supernovas look on from the shadows. Eustass Kid expresses annoyance at the show being over so soon, while Scratchmen Apoo explains to his crew that the Navy's obviously hiding something. Trafalgar Law makes to depart with his crew, while commenting that there's no way the allegations against Whitebeard are true. Basil Hawkins draws from his deck of tarot cards the Death arcana. As the lava fists rain down on the Marineford bay the ice begins to rapidly melt, dropping the pirates into scalding hot water. But even if they make it out, they still have to deal with an entire battery of cannonfire, as well as the Pacifistas guarding the opening of the bay. Whitebeard tries throwing out a seismic punch, but even that fails to bring down the steel walls. Akainu declares that Whitebeard's era is over as the Moby Dick takes a direct hit from the lava, and despite the frantic efforts of its crew to put out the flames, the ship goes up in flames. While the grunts wail the loss of their ship and curse the Navy, Whitebeard calmly watches the conflagration and apologizes to his vessel. Sengoku announces through his telesnail speaker that the execution of Ace will now proceed. The pirates debate over whether they should make the dash for the open spot created by Oars Jr. or not, until Luffy runs ahead of them alone, inspiring the others to follow in a grand charge. Ivankov yells that that's far too obvious a path, and sure enough the full force of the Navy's artillery is brought to bear on this charge, scattering the pirates and knocking Luffy into the ocean. Eyecatches: Luffy and Robin As the executioners ready their blades, a sudden rumble shakes the plaza, and a deep voice says Ace's name. It turns out that Oars Jr., previously thought dead, is actually still alive! Seeing him rising to his knees gives the pirates a badly-need morale boost. As Squardo watches, his men gather around him and offer him his sword. After a moment's hesitation he takes it, his determination restored. Jimbei, meanwhile, fishes Luffy out of the ocean. Luffy says that he has to save Ace as he's about to be killed, and grabs the front of Jimbei's tunic and desperately says that he has a favor to ask. The marines open fire on Oars Jr. again, but Kizaru says that he'll finish off the uber-Giant himself. Before he can shoot though, a huge stream of water erupts over the walls and crashes down in front of the three Admirals, revealing Luffy, armed with part of a ship's mast. The Admirals all praise him in their own way for making it this far, but also add that he doesn't stand a chance against them. Seeing Luffy's actions, Whitebeard remarks that he's quite a reckless kid, and orders Oars Jr. to stay firm for a little bit longer, for they're about to use their trump to break in to the plaza! On the other side, Luffy shouts for Ace and hurls the mast at the Admirals. Aokiji freezes it and sends it right back, but Luffy uses Stamp Gatling to break apart the frozen mast with his feet and shower the three with icy debris.
Before I talk about the episode's content, I guess I should talk about the animation director for this episode. His name is Eisaku Inoue, and he's been with the series since the very beginning (episode 2 was his first, I believe) and since then has done three of the movies (2,7, and 8), and has been absent since 377, the "Nothing at all!" episode. Even from the beginning, his episodes were noticeably high quality, but in recent years it wouldn't be a far stretch to describe his style as "Oda's in color". While his models have gotten a bit rounder over the years, his art style is the closest to Oda's own amongst the anime staff, and his episodes have been of very, very high quality. Just look at 312 (the Going Merry's Viking funeral) for a prime example. Also, he's infamous for giving the females rather, uh, noticeably large(r) breasts (he will never, ever live down Movie 7's ridiculous Gainaxing). In a nutshell, when his team is on an episode, it's bound to be a good one, so fans were really looking forward to this one. And it delievered. While again, not a whole lot of progress was made, it was the atmosphere and directing, coupled with the great art, that really sold this one. I loved how the aftermath of Akainu's attack looked, with embers floating everywhere, and the sea all red from the flames. I also liked how they extended the Moby Dick's destruction a little bit to really make it clear what it meant to the Whitebeards. And that scene at the end, with Luffy confronting the Admirals, that was amazing. As soon as I heard that track from the scene of the Straw Hats breaking in to Shiki's hall, I had the biggest grin on my face. That sequence had superb animation, and really did a good job at getting you pumped up for what happens next. What I didn't like...the craptasticness of Oars Jr. still being alive. I mentioned a while back how I couldn't feel anything from his "death" even though they went all out making it a tearjerker, and that's because I knew that Oda was going to pull his punches. He always does that when it concerns death like this. I know he doesn't like to kill off people, but when it hurts the drama of the story, well...that ain't good. Two other oddities: even though Akainu's attack was supposed to melt all the ice, there still seems to be plenty of it. Or at least enough for all the pirates to gather on. Also, weren't the pirates already climbing over Oars Jr. to reach the plaza like ten episodes ago? What happened to that? All in all, great episode, and it's good to see Inoue back in action finally.
475: Rush to the Final Stage! Whitebeard's Tide-Turning Maneuver
Luffy's attack does nothing to harm the Admirals' Logia bodies, but that isn't Luffy's aim. He quickly activates Gear Second and jets past the three towards the scaffold. Kizaru, however, is faster and materializes next to him and kicks him away into a building. As Luffy picks himself up out of the rubble, he sees the executioners on the scaffold bringing their blades down on Ace's neck, and there isn't a thing he can do. However, the next thing that happens is the executioners being knocked off of the scaffold. Sengoku demands to know who did that and sees Crocodile in the middle of the plaza. Sengoku says that he thought Crocodile would be more focused on Whitebeard, and Crocodile replies by saying that he can kill Whitebeard any time, he just doesn't want to see the Navy win. His own head then pops off as Doflamingo emerges from the crowd of marines, saying that him siding with Whitebeard and rejecting his offer to work together his making him jealous. Crocodile reforms and claims that he doesn't team up with anyone, and the two clash. With this reprieve, Luffy starts dashing towards the scaffold again, fighting off the marines and even a Rear-Admiral utilizing Rokushiki techniques, before running into Aokiji who manages to stab him with an icicle before being kicked away by Marco. Somewhere in an underground facility, Mr. 3, having escaped Aokiji's attack with a wax dummy, overhears an announcement that three Devil Fruit users have breached the plaza, and wonders if he's been found out. Hearing footsteps, he quickly hides and witnesses replacement executioners being hurried down the hall. Hmm. Eyecatches: Luffy and Chopper The pirates dive into the still-steaming bay water in order to make a swim for Oars Jr, braving a barrage of cannonfire. The marines can't understand why they're so determined, until a giant paddleboat breaches the surface and everyone scurries to get aboard. The idea of another ship being hidden underwater hadn't occured to the Navy, and Whitebeard himself says that he never said that he had revealled all his ships. The marines open fire on this new ship, but Sengoku yells for them to shoot Oars Jr. instead, but it's too late. Oars Jr. manages to grab the ship and heave it through the gap he created into the plaza, finally breaching it. After Oars Jr. goes down again from another round of cannonfire, Whitebeard himself steps forward and jumps down into the plaza. Ordering his men to stay back, he charges up his bisento and swings, unleashing a powerful wave that blows the grunts back in droves. Raising his fist into the air, he rallies his men by calling for them to save Ace and destroy the Navy. On the scaffold, Sengoku starts rolling up his sleeves, saying that it looks like he and Garp will have to intervene after all.
Finally, finally, after experiancing much loss and suffering the characters have gotten to the plaza and are this close to saving Ace. The problem is, I just don't care. See, by the time we first got to this point in the manga, I had realized that I no longer cared much for what was going on. The nonstop fighting was starting to get bland and drawn-out since everyone had already shown off their abilities, and we already knew that Ace was going to be gotten off of that scaffold and that the Whitebeard's would ultimately come out the losers in this fight. But above all, I missed the Straw Hats. I missed their interactions, the feeling of experiencing new locals and plot developments. I was beginning to suffer from Arc Fatigue, from an arc which had only been going on for fifteen chapters at that point. On to something else. I get the feeling that Oda was playing the Unlimited Cruise video game whilst brainstorming this chapter. How else does that explain Doflamingo and Whitebeard's moves in this chapter/episode coming right out of the game? With the filler Rear-Admiral fight, it's good to see Rokushiki being brought back, since I enjoyed how versitle and vast it was, and wouldn't mind seeing more of it in the future. Not impressed at Sengoku being so surprised at the idea of Whitebeard having a back-up ship, especially for a guy known for his strategies. The ending builds up expectations for him to finally strut his stuff on the battlefield, but given how this battle's been going, he'll be standing around up there with his sleeves up for several more episodes before finally doing anything.
476: Luffy's Limit! All-Out War in the Oris Plaza!!
Out on the bay, Ivankov manages to cross the ice without falling in the water, presses his ear to the wall, and takes a listen. Upon hearing the sounds of battle beyond and imagining all of the gruesome fates that probably befell Luffy, he accuses Jimbei of being at fault, claiming that if he had already beaten everyone and saved Ace none of this would be happening. Jimbei simply tells his flamboyant companion that that would be impossible. On the other side the battle continues to rage. Whitebeard prepares to throw out another seismic wave, but Aokiji uses an attack called Ice Ball to freeze him inside a block of ice. Whitebeard manages to shatter the ice with his powers and stabs Aokiji, yet the Admiral simply forms him body into a hole to avoid the blade before being stiff-armed by Jozu, who tells Whitebeard to go on ahead while he takes on the Admiral. Elsewhere, Coby and Helmeppo hide away from the fighting. We get a brief flashback to the Post-Enies Lobby arc where Coby promised that he was going to become an Admiral. In the present he recognizes that despite his words then, he hasn't really changed at all from the crybaby that he used to be. As he watches, Luffy encounters Vice-Admirals Momonga and Dalmation (the latter being a dalmation Zoan, unsurprisingly), and quickly gets overwhelmed by their swordplay and Rokushiki techniques, and as he tries to get up he gets hit with one of Kizaru's lasers. Kizaru tells him that even if he has the courage, he simply doesn't have the power to stand of this battlefield before kicking him away. This time, Whitebeard is there to intercept Luffy Eyecatches: Zoro and Sanji Kizaru says that Whitebeard's standards must be slipping if he lets someone like Luffy lead the charge. Just when he's about to send another laser his way, a voice calls out telling Jimbei that "I told you so!" Everyone looks up to see the sight of Ivankov's massively enlarged head dangling over the top of the walls with Jimbei standing next to him, before getting down into the plaza (Jimbei by jumping, Ivankov by falling). Awakened by the commotion, Luffy starts thrashing around in Whitebeard's grip demanding to be let go. Whitebeard tells him that he's done enough and tosses him to his men to heal. Luffy doesn't want any of that, but as soon as he tries to run off again he goes down. Whitebeard comments that he likes reckless fools like Luffy before stepping forward and challenging the marines to battle. His attack though, is intercepted by Akainu, who says that he can't allow Whitebeard to rampage freely lest he destroy the island completely. Whitebeard challenges him to protect it and their two powers clash. While this goes on, Marco turns into his phoenix form and takes to the air, making a bee-line for the execution scaffold, his body invulnerable to the marines' firearms. Just when he's there though, Garp springs from his seat and slugs him into the ground. Sengoku chastises him for jumping suddenly into the fray, but the marines are rallied by he prescence of the legendary hero. Garp sits himself down on one of the Admiral thrones beneath the scaffold and declares that the pirates will have to go through him.
As expected, Sengoku's big show of rolling up his sleeve last episode was for nothing. In fact, he even rolled it back down! Not a whole lot really happened in this episode. Luffy's down, presumably for the count (if I ignore the preview and my knowledge of what happens next, that is), more fighting, weird, slighty out of place comedy relief with Jimbei and Ivankov, and things not really picking up until the last six or so minutes, when Akainu stepped in. That scene looked really impressive, and Akainu's monstrously strong himself if he's capable of fending off Whitebeard all on his own. I did like the filler scene of Coby admitting that he's still a wuss despite his promise to grow stronger, because that's exactly what the audience is thinking, and I think the anime crew did a good job towards the end at turning a page-long panel montage into actual scenes. Garp introducing Marco to the "Fist of Love" was a nice little moment. Wasn't overly flashy, but still got the desired impact across, no pun intended.
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