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.