One Piece episode 972. I don't know what I could say to do such a masterfully crafted piece of fiction justice.

Not only is this the best animated episode of the entire Oden Flashback by a huge landslide, but it's also by far the best animated episode of any One Piece flashback.
This is the 2nd time that Tu Yong-ce has supervised the animation from the beginning of the episode until the end since 946 and what can I say except that he gave his absolute best for the big climactic battle of the Oden backstory everyone was wating for. I'm in awe.
Tu's animation supervision elevated this episode to unimaginable heights thanks to his amazing character art and bold line-art. I know that I almost sound like a broken record by now, but it bears repeating, he's by far the best current regular animation director on the series.
Since Tate and Ishizuka stopped doing animation supervision on the show, we never really had an AD who was a true specialist in action animation. Maybe Hirotaka Ito and Kazuya Hisada if I'm being generous. But now Tu Yong-ce is definitely satisfying me in that regard.
Many times you had big action episodes on One Piece with very talented key animators on them, but then the AD wasn't particularely strong in terms of action animation and there was a lack of a commanding force leading the pack.
Episode 915 comes to mind where there was tons of exemplary animation from very talented key animators but the AD on that episode wasn't able to keep up to pace and didn't blend in with the rest of the animators, aka stood out like a sore thumb, which is very unfortunate.
Now with Tu Yong-ce, this completely changes.
Speaking of key animators, this episode featured a lot of fantastic guest animators, many of which come from a powerful network of chinese animators he brought along to lend their talent for this episode.
This lengthy scene comes from an incredibly talented animator named Juangsheng Shi. He gifted us this brief but very well choreographed scene between Denjiro and King and complemented this sequence with some neat and modern fire effects.
He's also responsible for the first 15 seconds of this Jujutsu Kaisen animation sequence. I suggest to check out some of his impressive loose animation sequences because they truly showcase this powerful animator's skill.
sakugabooru.com/post/show/1336…
Next we have a more familiar name in form of effects animation specialist Junwen Tan, who I think has provided us with his best fx work on the show yet for very apparent reasons.
Those explosion effects remind me of the legendary animator Kou Yoshinari, who is famous for painting over his animation drawings and makes his sequences look like animated paintings. I love how Junwen Tan has brought this approach to One Piece.
Seeing this in One Piece feels so weird (in a positive way) because I'm so used to seeing these type of work on high end anime series/films and it just shows once again how far the anime has come and how dedicated the people behind it are to make it the best it can be.
We'll deviate away for a bit from some of the chinese folks to talk about the efforts of the very exciting freelance animators Vercreek and Jakisuaki. Vercreek's recognizable unique timing is on full display as Oden is fighting dragon form Kaido in close-combat style.
Vercreek is one of the most brilliant emerging young talents in the animation industry and his appearance on this episode really took me by surprise. It was so lovely to see him on One Piece after working on shows such as AoT s4 and Wonder Egg Priority.
sakugabooru.com/post?tags=verc…
Last cut I suppose is animated by Jaki and I love the momentum as Kaido flies back after he got hit by Oden in the teeth. I love to see him on the show since he's been also a part of the One Piece sakuga community since a long time. He's repping us folks! 👏
How could i have forgotten to mention those amazing impact frames from Junwen Tan. I'm ashamed of myself.
Back to another chinese artist, this time we're greeted to Xhongli Xie for the first time on the series as well and he brought us this neatly animated sequence of Oden charging at Kaido. I especially love those dynamic poses on Oden when he yells at Kaido.
But by far the highlight of the fight scene comes from someone who's been appearing quite a bit on the One Piece anime since the start of the Wano Kuni arc, and that is animation industry veteran Takashi Kojima.
I'll just let this sequence speak for itself.
Kojima's art mmmmmmmmh. I just cannot. 🥵💦
"Togen Totsuka"
Hmm, this gives me some sort of deja-vu. Ah yes!
Kazunori Ozawa, another industry veteran, animated the follow up of the attack with Kaido falling to the ground. This episode legit summoned the entire animation industry lol.

Very nice debris animation right there btw.
We'll end the fight portion with american animator Henry Thurlow, who works at the american-lead animation studio in Tokyo, D'Art Shtajio.
Thurlow is no stranger to the One Piece anime, as this entry on the is his fourth and best one. His detailed and idiosyncratic style is easily recognizable.
The background animation as Oden's being flung in a bunch of boulders is the icing on the cake.
First cut with Oden getting squished together by Kaido comes from fellow D'Art animator Yuko Furstos.
Another freelance animator who goes by the nickname of "Beast" delivered to us one of the most underrated forms of animation within the broader anime community. Character acting.
The emotional and the much calmer 2nd half of this episode is packed to its core with subtle character animation sequences like this one below, courtesy of Tang Zhongqi.
Another element which made this episode so special, was the storyboarding and direction.
Former co-series director Aya Komaki storyboaded this episode and it's safe to say that she brought out her A-game for this crucial moment in the flashback. Symbolism, as seen by the butterfly being traped in the spider web, is trademark Komaki storyboarding.
The episode director for this episode however is young apprentice Ryosuke Tanaka and my god did he absolutely outdo himself with this episode. The direction in some key places looked absolutely stunning!
The experimental nature of the direction in this particular bit legit shocked me.
Tu mentioned that him and Tanaka have exchanged fun ideas between themselves and I wouldn't be surprised if that above is the result of their creativity.
Now I'm convinced that Ryosuke Tanaka is one of the most exciting young directors on the show and I can also say with even more confidence to keep an eye on him. Some parts looked like they were directed by Komaki herself. I'm definitely looking forward to his storyboard debut.
Oh and the setting looked absolutely incredible in this episode. Huge shout outs go out to the fantastic art direction too!
Some people maybe expected more from an action persprective but keep in mind that this episode still gave us much more than what we had in the manga and it satisfied me in so many other areas.
We've got 2 interesting cameos right here. 🐼👹😏
To wrap this long discussion up, this episode is the baby of animation director Tu Yong-ce and is on the whole a love letter to the series from many talented animators from all across the animation industry.

Rating:10/10

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