Impel Down is certainly turning into quite the place to have a riot.
What They Say
With Ace on his way to Navy Headquarters and Luffy and his new friends following, the mayhem continues in Impel Down as even more uninvited guests crash the gates. Magellan, however, has a secret weapon up his sleeve.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While I initially had some concerns with how the flip side of the Impel Down storyline would play out since it could be just as long and potentially feel like it's repeating itself, so far it's turning out pretty good. The idea that they can't sneak around anymore and have to work harder to get back up to the top works well, but it could easily get bogged down. So what it needed to do is shift from the stealth and long arcs within the arc to more up front and open encounters. That's practically a given though when you see that dozens and dozens and dozens of prisoners are being let out of their cells to cause trouble while Luffy and his new group do their level best to... level up.
There are a number of big set pieces in this as the action really goes along. Buggy and Mister 3 gain a lot of new admirers when they provide wax keys to open most of the cells and that leads to riots on other levels as everything approaches a perfect storm. There's a lightness and humor to much of it as it plays out and we get a few amusing moments, such as when Mister 1 shows up and Luffy can't really care because he didn't fight him back in the Alabasta arc. Where the show changes pace a bit is after we see some material with Ace on the Navy ship as it heads to Headquarters. Ace gets little love here outside of some mild lecturing about events but it talks up the point about the pirates and the Navy and the collaboration between the two.
It goes in a very different place back at Impel Down though when Blackbeard arrives with some of his crew and chaos is about to start. This being my first experience with Blackbeard there's not much to say on him yet, but it's definitely leaving me wondering what's happened in the past and what his motivations are here. His arrival is certainly throwing Impel Down into a new mode as Magellan has ordered that Shiryu be brought out of his cell as a Jail Manager to come up and take care of things. At the same time, Hannyabal is being told to keep himself down on Level 4 to deal with the uprising there until Magellan can get down there to assist him. The whole place is descending into chaos and it's an absolute blast to watch so much varied action as opposed to a single fight going on for most of an episode.
There's a lot to like here after some of the slower episodes we've had, especially since just before the Level 5.5 arc with Bon-chan running around in a panic. The action is pretty good, the large scale of the movements going on as the prison falls into chaos and the way that the wardens and guards are trying to get it all together. Having all of this is a big deal in and of itself but when you suddenly throw Blackbeard into the mix it's likely to get even more chaotic as Luffy and the others get closer to heading up the levels. I'm still hoping we won't spend ages on the trek upward as I'd love to see more of his crew finally return to the show, but if it keeps up like this I won't mind waiting a bit longer.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.