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 (2009 at the time) 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.