Skypiea: Episodes 152-157
The talk of the town (well, the internet) recently has been the journey of Monkey D. Luffy and co. With the Thousand Sunny and its captain fresh on everyone’s mind, I decided to seize the opportunity to revisit one of the anime’s most important arcs, “Skypiea”. There are many debates about Skypiea’s rank amongst the series arcs. Sam L of “The One Piece Podcast” boldly called the story the greatest in the series. Whatever side of the line you’re on, you can’t deny that there is something about Skypiea that makes it pop, not just for One Piece fans, but anime purists as a whole.
“People’s Dreams Will Never Die”
Right off the bat, the crew makes its way to Skypiea (and avoiding the pirate embodiment of black air forces). Oda is as sharp as ever here with the crew’s dialogue and interaction, making the journey all the more entertaining. One of the best pieces of this sequence gives Nami the chance to flex her skills. I enjoyed this thoroughly, following her strong battle showing in the previous arc. Nami is easily one of my favorite characters in the series, one whose flexibility the show relies on well. Coming off the Alabasta arc, its fun to watch the crew round itself out. The latest addition of the former Ms. All Sunday, Nico Robin, was one I felt a bit perplexed by initially; however, her gallows perch dryness is a fun shade to add on the Going Merry.
A Curious Cast of Characters
After being mesmerized by the white sea and acclimating to the thinner air, the Strawhats take in their surroundings. Introduced down this stretch are some of the peculiar characters that will be key cogs in this arc. Gan Fall and Pierre are an awe inspiring spectacle that hit all the checkmarks you want. Oda is good at giving you characters that are outside the box yet. These two are no exception to that statement. After passing through Heaven’s Gate, the crew Conis and her father, who fill them in on the peculiarities of the island. Conis and Pagaya as they deal with the strange “blue sea people” is an enjoyable side bit, but the arc finally finds it weight in adversaries when Nami ventures alone. We get a small glimpse at “God’s priest” and bold hints at this arc’s antagonist here.
Its excellent writing once again by Oda with his choice to have Nami discover more trouble. Having a strategist (and self-professed) coward witness just how much they don’t know about their surroundings helps raise the stakes. The introduction of dials and the tech they are capable of adds another excellent wrinkle to the island as well as the One Piece mythos. Skypiea has some of the series best world-building and expansion, with bits that really shake the series as it goes forward. The choices in these few episodes of the arc help solidify the characters and themes enjoyed up to this point. The brutality with which the priests dispatch a treasure hunter sends Nami scurrying back to the crew. This scene and Nami’s fear of the unknown power witnessed by her truly set a solid stage for the next few episodes.
Episodes 152-157 are a bit slow, but make up for the pacing in other ways. They remind me why One Piece is the rare anime with episodes you really can’t skip (unless it’s filler). They aren’t an action-packed portion of the arc, but they reinforce what Oda and his story do best. Accomplishing those layered building that is central in Skypiea is no easy feat this deep in any show’s run, and Oda proves during Skypiea to me he is as crisp as ever. Toei does falter a fair bit in the animation department, specifically in character design and a few battles. However, none of this is enough to turn an eye away from this arc for a second. A dive into these episodes if you’re not familiar with One Piece isn’t a bad starting point and a good way to get hooked enough to check out the previous arcs.
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