The compounding mysteries surrounding Punk Hazard are raising more questions as this week’s One Piece episode titled “A Swordplay Showdown! Brook vs. the Mysterious Torso Samurai!” ends on a high note, foreshadowing an epic clash between two powerful foes.
Smoker’s G-5 push on into the icy (and ice-berg infested) waters surrounding the cold half of Punk Hazard, not minding copious amounts of poison gas and even icebergs seemingly intent on blocking their path. Brook’s newfound strange bedfellow continues to attack relentlessly as he tries to communicate with it. Luffy’s group heads straight towards the other side of the lake and into the line of fire from the pirate Brownbeard, who leads a group of centaur-like men. Sanji and Franky continue to mow down the gas-masked pursuers on their tail, while a pumped up Kung Fu Chopper opens up the way for Nami and the kids they are helping. The Samurai’s head acknowledges Brook’s strength, who his torso is blindly fighting outside the facility. As Smoker and G-5 finally strike land, Smoker’s suspicions prove true – there is no poison gas on the island itself, and as they knock on the door of the strange building they come across, their call is answered by Trafalgar Law, now a member of the World Government backed Royal Pirate Warlords.
The first thing you’ll probably notice is that the episode title doesn’t seem to encapsulate the entirety of the episode – Brook’s “Swordplay Showdown” versus the Samurai’s severed torso is short, comedic, and not much of a showdown. Of course, the episode proceeded slowly, gradually revealing the secrets that the supposedly abandoned Punk Hazard has in store – which means the episode probably couldn’t be titled efficiently enough to encompass everything that happened. The highlight of the slow episode, if there was any, was the revelation that Trafalgar Law, the Surgeon of Death from the Heart Pirates and one of the 11 so-called Supernovae of two years ago, is somehow entangled in all of this (and a Shichibukai, to boot).
The pace of this episode unfortunately afforded the audience next to nothing in terms of plot advancement regarding the separated Strawhats. Luffy’s group is still in the middle of the lake, and the only development: Luffy’s funky banana boat receives a cannonball from the centaur group led by Brownbeard, a pirate boss whose bounty was moderately high. Sanji and Franky are still keeping pursuers at bay, holding back their strength and taking their time (it doesn’t help that when Sanji attacks the men and obviously rips off their gas masks and destroys their oxygen tanks, they had to reiterate what just happened in plain view of the audience –an inherent storytelling flaw in nearly all anime). Nami and the kids escorted by Kung Fu Chopper, who were shown running away from the Biscuits Room where Sanji and Franky are fighting, are well… still running. Zero development there aside from showing Chopper’s Kung Fu moves which he already displayed in the previous episode, and his admittance that he’s “All fired up” since Sanji entrusted the kids’ protection to him.
The real developments – if you can call them that – were on the G-5’s side, where Smoker expertly navigates the waters surrounding the cold half of Punk Hazard, spotting telltale currents that point to hidden passages and correctly hypothesizing that the island isn’t as toxic as the surrounding gas suggests. The G-5 crew blast away at icebergs that seem to know where they are, and their progress is reported to the supposed “Master” of the island and its facilities, a purplish, gaseous mass (a logia devil fruit user, most probably) that sounds as malevolent as it looks. The climax of the episode promises a real showdown between the Shichibukai Trafalgar Law and the White Hunter Vice Admiral Smoker – if they decide to fight at all.
While half the episode simply reiterated what the Strawhats were doing in the previous episode plus a few nonessential details, it did manage to help build up the suspense bolstered by the mystery that is Punk Hazard. Why is a gaseous logia-type devil fruit user backed by Trafalgar Law in charge of the island ordered abandoned years ago, and what are they doing there? What are the roles of the centaur pirate groups and the giant kids? Why did Law cut up the Samurai (assuming he did it as he’s the only one known to have the abilities to do so in that sort of way), and what does the Samurai have against the Shichibukai? Why the hell does Luffy have so much affinity to land straight in the middle of some of the most complicated troubles of the One Piece world?
One thing’s for sure: if the entirety of the New World is as interesting as this first island the Strawhats came upon, then we’re in for a whirlwind rollercoaster ride the rest of the way.[By G Dino]