One Piece‘s Wano arc has been a strong anime adaptation for most of its run, and episode 1048 is one of the best episodes yet.
It’s worth repeating, but when Wano is on, it’s really on. There are so many characters, plotlines, battles, locales, etc., that it can take a lot of effort to sift through what’s happening; at times, this can create confusion or lack of investment in the sub-sub-sub-stories as they struggle for time in the limelight. New characters are often introduced in scenes despite the overabundance of existing and newish cast members, making it hard to get attached to them.
None of these issues are apparent with Yamato. He has been consistently one of the most engaging and interesting characters in the entire Wano arc and gets a lot of shine any time the anime adapts parts of the story addressing him. It’s shocking when you consider that Yamato has only been appropriately introduced into the manga during the actual Onigashima raid itself—again, Wano is a very long arc.
1048 delves into Yamato’s past in a way we haven’t quite seen up until this point. We get a particularly close look at those early days immediately after Oden’s demise, and it’s heart-wrenching stuff. Any time One Piece dwells on the mistreatment of children, it’s hard to watch, and we get the additional mini-theme that has run through Wano regarding feeding people and children. Yamato is denied freedom and succor, forced to live in shackles within a lonesome stone cave. Kaido isn’t exactly winning any father of the year awards here. All this time spent with Yamato is excellent, especially the emotional moments reading Oden’s journal, complete with minimalistic flashbacks.
And it all gets capped off with a dynamite final section showing Yamato and Kaido resuming their battle. Once again, I have to hand it to the entire Toei team for delivering yet another showstopper sequence within the confines of weekly television production constraints. It’s gorgeous, fluid, and directed with a high level of care. Even if someone had zero investment in One Piece, they would be hard-pressed not to be drawn in by these final moments in 1048. I can’t wait to see the rest of this fight play out in all its glory.