One Piece: Chapter 859- Review

Chapter 859 followed one of the two routes I anticipated in my previous review. In many ways, I felt as if I was reading an extension to last week’s chapter as opposed to an entirely new chunk of the story. I can’t complain, that’s just a given issue of long-form storytelling through the medium of serialized comics.

This week we were treated to what was essentially just a lecture on Bege’s Big Mom assassination plan. Despite its genius, the plan is far from flawless. Clever planning and research was evident, but there are simply too many red flags for this plot to go over without a hitch.

A major component of the strategy relies on the complete cooperation of Caesar Clown, a character we have come to know as anything but trustworthy. Although Bege’s ownership over Caesar’s cubed heart is a strong insurance measure, it is not foolproof. Caesar may have calculated a plan of his own to retrieve his heart, one that may not aline with the goals of the Straw Hat and Fire Tank crews. Further, even if Caesar does not have any ulterior motives, he was initially captured and taken to Whole Cake Island; he does not have a ship to escape on. This leads me to believe that either the Straw Hats or the Fire Tanks will have an unwanted stowaway in the near future.

Another major liability comes in the form of Brûlée and Diesel. If they somehow manage to escape before the assassination and retreat are completed, the entire plan shatters. Not only will the Straw Hats and the Fire Tanks be unable to escape without Brûlée’s mirror world ability, but either her or Diesel will, without a doubt, warn Big Mom.

Speaking of everyone’s favorite Yonko, we learn that Big Mom can’t simply be killed like an ordinary human. If I remember correctly, immense skin strength is a characteristic amongst most of the Yonko. I attribute this trait to some form of powerful busoshoku haki. It would simply be too contrived if it were another aspect of her devil fruit ability.

We learn that her only weakness comes in the form of a mysterious new character named Mother Caramel. Big Mom’s weakness in the wake of Caramel’s absence opens the door to a potential Big Mom flashback sub-arc in the near future. Some of my early predictions for this character see her as a mother and/or mentor figure to Big Mom. I also see potential in her being the former holder of the yonko position that Big Mom currently occupies. Whatever the case may be, the fact that Mother Caramel is noted to still be alive signifies her importance in the future of the narrative.

Luffy spends the chapter bragging about a “super cool” wedding entrance that he plans to make. This boast signifies major red flags with regards to the overall success of the plan. I hope Luffy has matured enough not to jeopardize a major assassination plot with a joke. I have faith in our protagonist, but not complete trust.

Bege makes sure to emphasize that, as soon as each major player makes it to their respective ships, the alliance is over. The prominence placed on this statement is yet another indicator of Bege’s true loyalty- himself. I would not be surprised if Bege were to betray the Straw Hats during their escape, propelling himself away as the crew falls back into the hands of Big Mom.

Next week’s chapter seems as if it will be the official start of the wedding. Just thinking about the structural fragility of their plan makes me nervous. I will, without a doubt, be on the edge of my seat reading chapter 860.

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One Piece: Chapter 858- Review

Chapter 858 was one of the most satisfying chapters of the Whole Cake Island arc thus far. Continuing with 857’s trend of explaining lasting mysteries, this chapter is one filled to the brim with immense payoff.

To start, a hearty chunk, or potentially all, of the New Fishman Pirates are confirmed to be hiding out on Whole Cake Island. Now that we know this information, there is a much larger change that the crew will come into play when it comes down to the actual wedding sabotage plan. Further, we learn that Pekoms, one of the few characters with potential of ratting out to Big Mom, is being stalled and tricked by the hiding crew. He is oblivious to Jinbe’s defection from the Big Mom Pirates, and potentially clueless of his alliance with the Straw Hats.

Continuing with the A plot of the arc, we finally get a look at Capone Bege’s hideout. Although the art leaves it vague as to whether this is a ship docked, or simply part of the island, the citadel fits Bege’s aesthetic perfectly.

This castle also serves as a house of reveals and plot progression, starting with more information on Lola’s backstory and Big Mom’s relationship with the giant race. It is revealed that the powerful suitor that Lola evaded marriage with was actually the prince of Elbaf, the home country of the giants. We learn that Elbaf is the strongest nation in the world militarily, further edging the buildup towards a seemingly inevitable Elbaf arc.

Through Chiffon’s lament, we gain a deeper insight into Big Mom as a character. She is not only abusive to her children verbally and situationally, but physically as well- Chiffon being the victim of harsh beatings despite Lola being to blame for the situation. Big Mom is slowly making her way towards irredeemability, but hasn’t quite hit it yet. Maybe the actual wedding or the future Elbaf arc will cement this status.

This chapter wasn’t only oozing with serious narrative payoff, but with comedic punch lines as well. Luffy’s lost tooth and Brook’s skull crack were healed thanks to the magical abilities of calcium-rich milk! I typically place a mammoth amount of faith in Oda with regards to continuity. However, I admittedly thought these injuries would simply disappear between chapters at some point. I’m very proud of Oda for directly addressing such a miniscule detail.

Continuing with satisfying comedy, we learn that the member of Bege’s gang that looked similar to Caesar was indeed Caesar himself in hiding. Believe it or not, I was just as shocked as Luffy was. I thought this was simply an issue of similarity in character design on the part of one of Oda’s assistants. I was elated to learn of the truth, as well as of Caesar’s reasoning for being at the hideout. It makes perfect logical sense that Caesar would want a way to escape Big Mom’s inevitable wrath. The added plot element of Bege being given control of Caesar’s still cubed heart wasn’t necessary, but is not a weak loyalty insurance measure.

The main takeaway from this chapter is that Luffy and Bege officially formed a pirate alliance. Whether this alliance will remain intact after the wedding is yet to be seen. If the Heart/Straw Hat alliance is any indication, it may last longer than intended. This may be the next step towards my theorized endgame of a complete alliance between all of the Supernova crews.

Bege reveals to Luffy that he has already constructed a game plan for their now joint wedding crash. Whether this will be explained in the next chapter, or be communicated through the actual enactment is yet to be seen. If their plan ends up failing, I would say the prior.

If the next chapter is not an explainer, then it seems the climax of the arc has begun. I would typically offer a prediction on how the wedding will go down here, but I find it very exciting that I have absolutely no idea. I guess we’ll just have to wait to see what Oda has in store for us. If his past track record is any indication, this will be a wedding for the ages.

Thoughts on the 2017 Oscars

The 2017 Oscars were unique for me in that I had a stake. Unlike in years prior, I had actually seen (and enjoyed) roughly half of the films nominated for best picture. I was also pretty well-versed in a hearty chunk of the other movies awarded.

I did feel cheated in the sense that Arrival, my hands down favorite film of 2016 (as well as one of my new all time favorites) was, in a sense, snubbed. However, with 2016 being such a strong year for movies, I understand why. The Academy has a certain taste in cinema that can be better reflected through works such as La La Land and Moonlight (both of which were also great). I’m not going to take the time to dive deep into why Arrival is such a masterpiece here. Once I manage to get a copy of the DVD and give it a few more watches, I will definitely be writing an in-depth analytical review. If you would like a brief excerpt of what’s to come, check out my HIGHLY OUTDATED top 4 films of 2016 list.

Overall, the award choices this year were a mixed bag. Some I strongly support, while others I severely disagree with. However, as I said, with so many great movies in 2016, I was prepared for disagreement.

The animation awards were, as usual, highly misguided. Piper, while a beautifully animated short film, was a bland and sub-par romp, vastly overshadowed by its companion feature Finding Dory. Inner Workings, one of my all time favorite short films, wasn’t even nominated. This trend of neglect oozes into the animated feature department with Kimi no Na Wa (Your Name in English) not even receiving a nomination. Kimi no Na Wa was an international sensation, becoming one of the most renowned Japanese films of all time. How it didn’t receive a nomination was beyond me; the irony is that it definitely would have won. Without Makoto Shinkai’s magnum opus in the frey, it was down to Zootopia and Moana. Deep down, I knew Zootopia would win. Its timely allegorical narrative clearly struck a chord with audiences and the Academy alike. In my opinion, however, the timeless Moana was the vastly superior film in story, character, and message. Zootopia preys on the current political zeitgeist, but I’m sure Moana will go on to inspire a generation of creatives.

In the realm of live action short films, I can’t say I had a stake. The only one I loved from 2016 was This House Has People In It, which wasn’t nominated. I knew it wouldn’t be, it had no Academy sensibilities whatsoever. Being of the horror genre and produced by Adult Swim, I guarantee you it went under the radar of every single Academy member. However, I can’t think of a more original and thought provoking movie to come out of 2016. I plan on covering This House Has People In It (along with the rest of Alan Resnick’s filmography) in some capacity in the near future, so stay tuned for that.

When it comes to cinematography, Arrival was, to put it simply, robbed. Don’t get me wrong, La La Land was a beautiful looking movie, but Arrival had some of the best cinematography I’ve ever seen. I understand the impressiveness of La La Land’s long takes and camera movement, but it still felt like a movie. Arrival manages to use cinematography to break all possible disbelief, and transport you into the story. Everything feels crisply real, something a majority of movies fail to accomplish. People cite La La Land with having a dreamlike aesthetic. I can see where they are coming from in terms of the generic common sensibility. However, Arrival is shot like an actual dream; all of the uneasiness and fluidity that dreams bring was not neglected.

I’m not going to dive too deep into La La Land’s best original song victory. It was undeserved, plain and simple. La La Land had a fantastic story, message, and set of performances, but it did not have great music. At best, the majority of its songs were decent. My favorite song in the movie, Audition, didn’t even win. Further, Audition, while great, wasn’t even amazing to begin with. How Far I’ll Go from Moana is not only one of my favorite songs from a musical, but one of my favorite songs of 2016 period. It inspired and stuck with so many on such a personal level, including myself. I hypothesize that it didn’t win because not enough of the Academy saw Moana, while I guarantee you every single voter saw La La Land.

This same bias flows into the best director award, which was snagged by La La Land. Damien Chazelle is a fantastic director, especially for his age. However, his skill is much more apparent in 2014’s Whiplash. All bias aside from Denis Villeneuve being one of my favorite living directors, both Arrival and Moonlight were much better directed films than La La Land.

Perhaps my most positive takeaway from this year’s Oscars was Emma Stone’s victory as best leading actress. I do believe Amy Adams deserved it more for her masterful performance in Arrival. However, I am a huge Emma Stone fan. I have been following her career closely since my pre-teen years (thanks to Superbad). I have watched her mature as an actress, progressing from tertiary generic comedic roles to competently starring in intense dramas. Seeing her finally awarded after all these years was both heartwarming and satisfying, and I can’t argue with that.

Now for the gargantuan elephant in the room, best picture. We all saw the hilarious debacle; there’s not much to say on the matter that hasn’t already been said. However, it will go down in history as one of the funniest Oscar moments. I even made a joke before it happened, “What if they say the wrong movie?” I proceeded to follow up with “I personally enjoyed La La Land more, but I think Moonlight deserved the award.” Apparently I’m a foresightful genius.

All jokes aside, I knew Arrival had no chance of winning best picture. Despite being the far superior film, this is the Academy we’re dealing with. The true battle was clearly going to be down to La La Land vs. Moonlight. Again, despite my personal preference towards La La Land from an pure enjoyment perspective, Moonlight deserved to win from a technical viewpoint. I may end up writing a full analysis of Moonlight at some point, so I don’t want to delve too deep into the movie now. What I can say is that it is a very important film, and, despite its depressing nature, one everyone should see. It was a successful exercise in empathy, and truly helps you to put your life into perspective.

There you have it, my opinions on the 2017 Oscars in a nutshell. I’m really looking forward to what the rest of 2017 will have to offer in terms of film. With 2016 being such a great year for the medium, the coming ten months have massive shoes to fill.