How would you rate episode 782 of
One Piece ?
As we wrap this Marine Rookies filler arc, I find myself surprisingly impressed! It’s not mindblowing, there’s obviously a ceiling for how wrapped up you can get in filler, but I’m impressed all the same. There’s a “What?! We could have been having stuff like this the whole time?!” reaction coming out of me as we say goodbye to Grount and the rest of these anime-only marines.
So the story picks up from last week where the Straw Hats are on their way off the island, having successfully stolen food to keep their strength up as they continue their journey into Big Mom’s territory. They’re being held up by the naval base’s resident Vice Admiral, but the defeated Grount is the most interesting point of focus. When we cut back to him, Bonham, and Zappa, Grount is teary and frustrated by his loss at Luffy’s hand. It’s here that we get our best look into the relationship between these three, where Bonham and Zappa, as goofy and comedic as they are capable of being, concede disappointment in Grount and decide to continue pursuing Luffy as part of their job.
Grount’s “deal”, we go on to learn, has to do with his arm, which has remained sealed inside of some kind of steampunk casing as a means of controlling his power. There’s a flashback to when Aokiji first met Grount as a child, and it’s revealed that he’s burdened with some kind of giant, monstrous devil arm. Normally, weird powers in the One Piece world can be grouped into certain categories, like Devil Fruits, haki, etc., but no logical explanation is offered here. It’s such a non-One-Piece kind of thing, but at the same time that’s what I find so appealing about it. The unexplainable just makes the world feel that much bigger and mysterious, doesn’t it?
Along that line of thought, these anime-original characters have firmly earned their place at the heart of this arc. All three of these marine kids are enjoyable and have their moments to command respect from the audience; Grount’s personal demons are genuinely evocative as he decides to go all in and use his terrifying arm to fight Luffy. When we see Grount as a little kid being taken in by Aokiji, his arm has such a horror vibe to it. Whatever it is that’s causing this, it’s effective as a tragic story until he decides to embrace it and harness its power. It’s also cool to see Luffy have an opponent who can mirror his massive Gear Third punches. The commencing fight is satisfying, if only because I’ve grown to like Grount so much, and it’s great seeing him be so expressive as he psychs himself up to fight.
Weird things like Grount’s devil arm raise the question of what’s okay for the anime to make up for its own filler content. It’s such a non-One-Piece kind of idea that it risks disrespecting the series’ otherwise thorough mythology. Conversations about the various characters’ power levels somehow competing with the Straw Hats also comes from this same concern. For my money, part of why I like this filler so much is that it walks that line very deliberately, succeeding in making the bigger picture more interesting as a result. Even though we’ll never revisit these characters again, I think I’ll choose to pretend that they’re always out there somewhere in the world. I don’t need their stories to be expanded on any further, but indulging them for this brief moment in the anime does just enough to sprinkle a little more flavor into the big picture.
So that’s the Marine Rookies arc. Ultimately, it’s fairly inconsequential considering that the moment the Straw Hats are back on their ship, the food has all been eaten, since starvation is an important element in the upcoming canon episodes. As much as I enjoyed this filler arc, part of me was eager to get started on Whole Cake Island, since the manga version has been climbing to the top of my favorite New World arcs. Now there’s not a thing getting in our way as we resume our little Sanji rescue adventure.