“A New Rivalry! Nami and Ulti!”
The first half of this episode works through some of the usual things going on with with the bad guys and all where they’re figuring out their positions and securing things up, but the character interactions still don’t land well for me. It’s simply a case of so many character introduced over the past 120 or so episodes of this arc that have had such incremental interactions that I don’t really remember their stories at this point. But things get better when we get Luffy and a few others making it clear to some that they will be the ones to take down Kaido and we get Franky and Jimbei lining up beside him to provide cover so he can head to the castle. That’s getting through to others that things may really be changing here, but it also provides a chance for Zoro to look all cool as he protects Luffy in his own way as well. And just to make things even more fun, we get Sanji providing some goofy cover as well alongside Luffy.
What will make a lot of people happy is that Nami gets a couple of minutes of screen time as she and Usopp join the battle, though they end up doing more to distract by running from a couple of their opponents to draw them away. It’s silly and goofy but it works. Of course, even with that, which provides for some good fun, it’s mostly the movement of Luffy and Sanji that counts here as they make their way closer and closer to Kaido’s castle by going the direct route. We do see a lot of rank and file members around, but it’s always the “Name Characters” that are the focus. The final few minutes do work rather well in setting the tone, especially when it drops the music for a brief period and just lets the characters fight, but it has to go big and deadly quickly instead of just engaging with the fight at hand because Queen has to get involved.
Drake vows to fight alongside Luffy, but Zoro becomes skeptical and challenges him to a fight. Meanwhile, Usopp’s practical joke pushes Nami into confronting Ulti, who is infuriated since her brother got attacked.