We open on Nami and Shinobu’s castle infiltration mission where they are on the run from the guards. Nami tries to mew mew mew like a cat to throw them off their trail and shushes Shinobu by cutting off her air supply. Blades through the ceiling let them know that the guards are not having it and they escape onto the roof. Shinobu reveals her fear of sharp objects to Nami before waxing poetic about a mature woman’s beauty being as deadly as a weapon. As the wind picks up Shinobu uses her kite jutsu and they soar away across the city. Nami reveals that during their spying she saw the name of the port for the arms shipment, a critical piece of intel.
As they float over the city they notice a large number of young women lined up in the streets. It turns out they are waiting for Sanji’s cooking, and Nami makes her feelings on that known with a ~_~ face. It turns out that Ladies Love Cook SanJi, and he’s beaming with pride as they eat it up. In the shadows, a shady group glowers at Sanji for muscling in on their turf.
We cut back to the prison labor camps to see an old man named Hyo begin horribly mistreated by the prison staff. Additionally, Luffy and Kid engage in various feats of strength. They are running full tilt carrying cartoonishly oversized blocks of stone to earn more and more food, much to the dismay of the guards who realize they are this powerful while wearing the sea prison stone cuffs. They are rewarded with piles of food which they gobble up in short order.
Soon Dobon the hippo man arrives, demanding to know which prisoner ate all the food in the back. The guards bring out Dynamax Luffy and Kid who are swollen from how much they’ve eaten. The duo perform a Kirby-style inhalation and exhale the pounds away, with Kid specifying that in fact Everybody Poops – I guess he felt that was revelatory.
Dobon complains about the amount they ate, to which they reply that they worked hard and used the scrip system to earn the food. Ah, but that was supposed to be Dobon’s food you see, and he’s going to punish them regardless. He swallows them both in his enormous mouth to slice them up, and a scuffle ensues in the hippo’s mouth that manages to be Man vs Man, Man vs Self, and Man vs Nature conflict all at once. Kid and Luffy emerge victorious, scoop up Hyo to carry him to safety, and become heroes to the prisoners. Our old friend the To Be Continued card arrives and the episode draws to a close.
I enjoyed myself quite a bit with this episode. The visual standouts were not as frequent, but there was a lot of ground to cover and it can be hard to squeeze in those moments with the exposition and setup. Still, it had its moments. The scene with the cherry blossoms surrounding Shinobu complete with sparkling shojo bubbles was a delight. Plus the brief sequence of Luffy and Kid tossing gigantic stone blocks onto the boat was impressive and definitely the biggest *pop* in the episode.
I think the real joy in 919 is all the little characterful flourishes. when Nami is trying to pass off her and Shinobu’s intrusion as a cat’s meow and they are discovered, Akemi Okamura’s scream includes a sort of cat-like “meow” in her performance, a brilliant addition that she pulled off expertly. This arc exudes a lot of Fist of the North Star/Hokuto no Ken energy – which I am 1000000% here for – between the football armored and be-mohawked goons, the very wasteland warrior vibe of Queen, King, and Jack, and Wano’s vast stretches of post-industrial wasteland. The extra oomph on that front is Luffy calling Kid “Jaggy” which cannot help but bring to mind Kenshiro’s biker Zoidberg brother Jagi.
The real star of the show is Dobon though. Dobon is one of the most absurd character designs in the series and Quintessentially One Piece™ from the comedic beats of no one being able to understand him with his mouth closed to the sheer absurdity of it being a part of his fighting style. Not to mention that his consumption of Luffy and Kid acts as a not-so-subtle “in the belly of the beast” allegory for their current status in prison.
As always, Oda incorporates an undercurrent of the systemic cruelty of the world amongst all the more overt symbolism. Luffy and Kid have not done anything wrong – they worked and earned the food in exactly the manner they were told to. But it was never about “earning” the food, not really. The system was designed to be overwhelmingly cruel and punitive, they weren’t supposed to be that strong. So because of that they get punished anyway. Always nice seeing guys like this get walloped by our rubbery lead.
Sanji continues serving food to the ladies of Wano. Just as Franky begins berating Sanji for not cooking enough spicy food to attract samurai, three goons arrive who start messing with Sanji and his customers. They identify themselves as being from the Kyoshiro family and claim that this is their turf. Sanji continues to serve food anyway, giving a bowl of soba to a young girl named Otoko. In perfect villainous mook fashion they knock the soba from her hands and spill it on the floor. She begins laughing and crying at the same time, clearly upset by this.
At the sight of wasted food, Sanji goes beast mode and attacks them with a solid spinning bird kick. They pull out sword, but no metal can withstand the hairy leg of the culinary Straw Hat and it shattered beneath his heel. Franky cannot help but join in and delivers a titanic Frnosuke Iron Suplex on another goon. Sanji forces the goon to eat the food off the ground, and Usopp recalls having met Otoko previously at a shrine. Sanji prepares her a fresh bowl of soba with what he has left. He weeps and says she has to return to work then mentions the approach of Oiran’s procession. An elder woman arrives to describe Oiran Komurasaki to the Straw Hats, and notifies Robin that she has been summoned to Shogun Orochi’s palace.
Just before the episode draws to a close we have a brief scene at the labor camp. Luffy is in full beef mode cracking stones with a pick as Hyo comes to thank him for saving him from Dobon. Luffy tells him it’s no big deal and even hands over a clutch of the food scripts he’s secured. Finally we see a glimpse of the main road once more and Oiran approaching before the To Be Continued ushers us out.
A delightful episode all around. Sanji is a character who can be difficult to root for at times, so when we get to see him in his element – namely cooking for others and protecting the innocent against bullies – that is a treat. Not to mention the scene with Franky getting excited to deliver an enormous aerial suplex the likes of which you usually only see in fighting games. I wholeheartedly approve. Yet again the visual flair of Wano is breathtaking to behold. The star of the show was Oiran’s procession, from the cinematography to the closeups on her various jewelry/accoutrements. That penultimate shot of her in the road where the buildings and streets are vibrant pastels in all manner of hues while the crowds of Wano’s people are empty faceless masses of waving limbs. It’s another deft use of imagery to underscore the reality of Wano beneath its gorgeous veneer.
The facial work is another highlight this episode. The slow motion grin as Franky suplexes the Kyoshiro goon, his puffy cheeked laughter, and the exaggerated “OIRAN? KAMURO?” faces brought a huge smile to my face. Sanji’s red-eyed glare as he told the goon “I need you to finish your food, dear customer,” was equally stellar. And of course there was plenty of Robin laughing and smiling, which improves any episode exponentially.
Back at the labor camp, Luffy’s work is interrupted by the return of Caribou. Any illusions that Caribou had become less creepy or disturbing in the time since we’ve last seen him are immediately dashes as he begins pestering our hero for food with his tongue wagging freely in the air offending both God and man alike. A short flashback to Fishman Island reminds us of Caribou’s various misdeeds before we return to have Luffy tell him to get to work dude.
Back at the capital, Oiran’s procession continues apace and we get an extended flashback related to one of her upset suitors. It turns out that she came to him in secret and confessed her love. She could be with him if only for her current contract! Of course this spurs him to trade away or sell off the entirety of his possessions to pay off her current contract with the Shogun. He shows up to the pleasure hall asking for her to come join him and he is laughed at by everyone, including Komurasaki. He is beaten for being an old lecherous pervert and sent away in shame.
In the present time once again we see these suitors have been taken out by the samurai guarding her processional. She is beaming so brightly it forces people in the crowd to avert their gaze, and she sends a deft stinger of a line at the cowering perverts saying, “I don’t like poor people…” as a final mark of shame.
This episode’s flashback is one of the most interesting in Wano. The way it frames these men as victims at first but slowly reveals their horrible natures is really spectacular. In a sense they have been taken advantage of by Oiran, yet we see how cruel, petty, and ruthless they were, and it recharacterizes how we see her character – a preview of things to come for sure. The most interesting visual is a cutaway shot we briefly get of a dead insect crawling with ants picking over its corpse during all this. To my mind it represented the way so many had taken advantage of Wano’s “corpse” in the years since the fall of the Kozuki, men just like the ones Oiran was teaching a lesson to.
I have to say the real joy – if you can call it that – in this episode is Masaki Terasoma’s performance with Caribou. He absolutely knocks his scenes out of the part with his outrageously evil delivery. When Caribou says “I beg of you” to Luffy I was both laughing and cringing at the same time, a testament to the skill of Masaki’s delivery. It can be hard to ride the line between unnerving and hilarious and he manages to expertly deliver here.
Grant is the cohost on the Blade Licking Thieves podcast and Super Senpai Podcast.
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