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Episode 40- "Proud Warriors! Sanji and Usopp's Fierce Battles!"
hetalllia wrote in op_rewatch
There's something I realized while watching this episode.

Lots of shounen series follow the following formula:

Hero is weak
Hero fights someone, barely wins.
Hero fights someone, loses.
Hero trains. Power up!
Hero fights someone, barely wins.
Hero fights someone, loses.
Hero trains. Power up!

etc...

Now, there are several ways in which One Piece does not quite follow this formula (one of the ones I most appreciate and am most nervous that Oda might one day abandon is that improvements between battles is frequently not do to ye olde standard raw power up. A LOT of the time it has to do with character's using their brains and coming up with new techniques. Which is to say, as opposed to new abilities they stretch the limits of the abilities they already had, and stretch and stretch. Zoro is not an example of this-- he has the closest of all the crew members to the standard shounen format...

Eh. Whatever. Rambling. My point was not that.

My point was that I realized during the fishman arc that Luffy, Zoro, and Sanji were portrayed as clearly more powerful than their opponents (as opposed to being overpowered by them). And Arlong was the strongest villain in East Blue, thereby it follows that the entire East Blue arc was Luffy against outgunned opponents that he did NOT have to undergo a training sequence or anything to defeat.

What do I mean by portrayed as clearly more powerful? That the only reason they had difficulty with the opponent was because of a HEAVY handicap. Luffy's was self-imposed-- there would have been none of the dramatic tension of the arc at all if he hadn't smashed his feet into the cement-- but Zoro was fighting mere days after getting horribly wounded-- I mean, just look at Arlong's face when he uncovers the bandages...

And none of this came together until Sanji jumped into the water and I realized that that was his handicap. With Zoro and Luffy handicapped, Sanji needed one as well. So he fights with half his strength against an opponent whose strength has been doubled and he STILL WINS. That's how out of the arlong pirate's league the strawhats are.

...Usopp and Nami do not fit this theme but then they are the weakling members of the crew. Usopp's character growth in this episode is still heartwarming.


By the way this ties into another topic which has been a thread through the entire East Blue arc- what I'll call East Blue Syndrome. During these first 50ish episodes it is sometimes very disorienting the way side characters talk about certain things-- the rarity of Devil Fruits, for example, seems ridiculous in light of how many you encounter over the course of the story, and some of the reactions to certain levels of strength, etc.
What I have to forcibly remind myself of at those moments is that the series is a bit misleading. We spend the majority of it in the Gran Line so the Gran Line's standards become the norm. But the vast majority of the One Piece world is not the Grand Line. It is in fact very sheltered from the Gran Line. All the big clashes, all the really high-caliber marine power as well as all the really powerful pirates are not in the four seas. Which is why somehow there's so much disinformation or lack of proportion... it's not lack of proportion in the four seas, it's lack of proportion in the Grand Line.

That wasn't very much of an episode recap, gotta say. D=
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