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Episode 970 – One Piece

Oden heads straight for the Flower Capital, intent on revenge. Oden is full of rage at the treatment of his family and his homeland, and seeks to confront Orochi directly. He attempts to slay Orochi but one of the shogun’s subordinates creates a barrier around him, protecting Orochi from Oden’s wrath. Undeterred, Oden demands that Orochi relinquish the throne he is sitting in, as Oden has returned to take his rightful place. It is in this moment that Orochi reveals he is no mere warden of the throne – Oden’s father named him the shogun in truth, thanks to the shapeshifting abilities of his associates.

In addition, Orochi reveals that his family suffered greatly under the Kozuki clan. Orochi says that he will spare the people of Wano from his wrath if Oden plays the fool and embarrasses himself daily. Oden begrudgingly agrees. The people of Wano, at first excited to see Oden’s return to liberate them, now look on in horror as Oden prances about and sings silly songs while they suffer under Orochi’s rule. He becomes a figure of disdain, with parents telling their children not to grow up to be like him, and a dark time begins for Wano.

Then news arrives of Roger’s death. Finally executed by the World Government on the grand stage, Roger’s career ends and a new age of piracy begins as the next generation of lawbreakers watches on with mixed reactions. Whitebeard takes the news in stride, reflecting on conversations they had in the past. Oden is brought to tears and weeps for his lost friend, marvelling at the life Roger led as the episode draws to a close.

As the retelling of Roger’s life ends, the true story of One Piece begins.

It is hard to capture the momentous importance of this episode and its events. Obviously, the Oden flashback will continue – and if ever there were a truer One Piece moment, it would be that this flashback alone is longer than some arcs in other manga. But the legendary time of Roger’s life fades into history once again, and our brief glimpse into that time closes out. It has been a treat to see these events in full, or at least a portion of them, when for so long they have been hazy myth and legend. Now we have a sense of who these great figures were and what that past age looked like for the first time.

Most importantly, I think the revisiting of Roger’s flashback signals a certain trajectory for the series. One Piece clearly has many years left in it, and rumors of its impending end have often been proved false. That being said, it is hard not to see the gravitas of all this. Luffy and his plucky band are battling Emperors toe to toe, they are collecting poneglyphs and unearthing ancient secrets. And now we revisit the opening of our tale – Roger’s execution – with newfound clarity and emotional weight.

It’s hard not to see this as a setup for the final stages.

Eiichiro Oda always has a few extra tricks up his sleeves, so perhaps this is just the time he chose to tell these moments and there is still plenty of One Piece to go. Truth be told, even if the next arc were the :final arc of One Piece, it would still take years to tell if it were “just” as long as Wano arc has been. So we still have plenty of pirate adventure ahead of us. But in a bittersweet way, it is hard not to feel like we are setting up for the final stages of this great story.

Oh, and this episode has Doflamingo being totally bare-chested at Roger’s execution. Talk about a power move.