We're living in the Golden Age of Punching
The Wano arc in One Piece is great, but it's also very dense, y'all. Not only is it the culmination of a plot line that was started back in 2013 when Trafalgar Law was like "Hey, how about we beat up an Emperor?", but it's also an introduction to an entire new country with multiple towns/locations and dozens of new characters. So the fight scenes actually kind of feel like a break. As soon as people start punching one another, I think, "Oh thank god. I don't have to learn someone's name for twenty minutes."
And what an incredible break they've been, as the One Piece anime has been doing a great job in this arc of lengthening fight scenes. Now, I know that opinions differ on the subject, but I am personally very pro fight scene extension. When Whitebeard thumped his naginata behind Akainu and then proceeded to basically give us the One Piece equivalent of a WWE Brock Lesnar match as he absolutely demolished the admiral? I adored it. At one point, Akainu literally tries to spin kick Whitebeard and Whitebeard punches him in the chest so hard that Akainu flies into another time zone. How can I not enjoy that?
So as soon as the music kicked up at the end of the first episode of the Wano arc and Zoro not only cut down the magistrate but a bunch of his goons, too, I knew I was in for a treat. One of the biggest themes of the Whole Cake Island arc was that there are some battles that you can't win and that sometimes you're never really gonna get the closure you want and have to settle for the closure you're given. And that's fantastic, but it meant that big fight scenes were often about surviving to fight another day rather than big, satisfying beatdowns. And few people do big, satisfying beatdowns as well as Zoro.
It also didn't hurt that we hadn't seen Zoro in about two years, so if the first episode ended with Zoro just trying to read a map on the toilet, I would've fist pumped my arm out of its socket in joy.
Then, a few episodes later, Zoro took on Basil Hawkins' huge, nightmarish straw avatar while riding on the back of Komachiyo, dog/lion monster that looks a lot like King Caesar from the Godzilla series (They're both based on the Shisa statues found in Okinawa.) This was pretty cool because, again, in Whole Cake, the Straw Hats spent a solid chunk of time trying to escape a giant chasing after them. So to see them be able to handle one, especially one that looked like a Batman: Arkham Asylum boss battle, was so fun.
Of course, we also got Luffy vs Kaido, a gorgeously animated clash that did a fine job of both illustrating Luffy's tenacity and stubborness and Kaido's borderline invincibility. Watching Kaido stumble around drunk while Luffy pummeled him with everything he had didn't diminish the mystique of Wano's depressed warrior/dictator in the slightest. Instead, it heightened the stakes of the arc, showing that Kaido isn't someone that can be beaten with willpower alone. Luffy's gonna need a serious upgrade if he wants to get in a brawl with Kaido and stay conscious.
And finally, we have Sanji's fight against Page One, a headliner that ate an Ancient Zoan type Devil Fruit and now can turn into varying levels of Spinosaurus. To handle the jerk reptile, Sanji had to don one of Germa's raid suits "Stealth Black." Of course, he went by the name of Soba Mask because, deep down, every Straw Hat crew member is secretly the biggest dork alive.
What followed was one of the coolest fight sequences in the anime's history as Sanji's prowess for being able to just kick everything got combined with Germa technology. He was now able to turn invisible, zoom around on some dang ol' rocket shoes, and shield himself with a cape—all of which freshen up Sanji's combat a little bit. Not that Sanji's fights have ever been stale (There are few sentences in the English language that are more exciting than "And then he kicked him in the face."), but it gives him so many more options for maneuvers and tactics. Sanji now has a Plan B to add to his Plan A: Hit him with your foot and hope that works out.
In short, I can't wait to see what Toei does with the fight scenes in the rest of this arc and beyond. Series creator Eiichiro Oda has used the Wano arc to not only flex his muscles as a writer of lore and interesting characters, but to show off his prowess in devising interesting match-ups in fights. And to see the anime consistently knock this aspect out the park has been downright heartwarming. So more punches, please. It's truly chicken soup for my soul.
What's your favorite fight scene in the Wano arc so far? Is there a fight scene that you're waiting for? Let me know in the comments!
Daniel Dockery is a Senior Staff Writer for Crunchyroll. Follow him on Twitter!
Do you love writing? Do you love anime? If you have an idea for a features story, pitch it to Crunchyroll Features!