One Piece has a slightly different relationship with filler than other long-running shows like Naruto and Bleach, in that there ultimately isn’t that much, and when there is, it’s fairly short. One Piece prefers to just slow down the manga content rather than spend a lot of time with lower quality stories, but considering how close the anime is to catching up to the manga, it’s better safe than sorry. The show’s been feeling a little extra stretched lately, so I’m counting on this break to benefit the upcoming canon arc for the best.
Enter the “Marine Rookies” arc. On their way to Whole Cake Island, the Straw Hats find themselves starved of food and vulnerable to the harsh world around them. This is mostly Luffy’s fault, since he insisted on doing the cooking in Sanji’s absence and then promptly destroyed the majority of their ingredients. The only pitstop they can find is a small island between Zou and Whole Cake (teased in a recent episode) that also happens to be a Navy base. Our heroes have been in this predicament before, as the de facto Best Filler Arc Ever, G-8, was also about the Straw Hats infiltrating a Navy base.
The focal point of this arc appears to be on select Marines who inhabit this base, a trio of young up-and-comers who served in a unit under former admiral Aokiji. I was impressed that they went ahead and included that detail, since Aokiji is such a significant and mysterious character in the big picture. This sits in the sweet spot of filler being able to flesh out the world without stepping on whatever toes Eiichiro Oda might intend to draw in the future. It also doesn’t hurt that these kids have a lot of personality, and their interactions with other Marines are pretty interesting since they are, earned or otherwise, being treated as rambunctious wunderkinds.
Furthering the comparisons to the G-8 arc, this is a story where the Straw Hats don disguises in an attempt to sneak in and out of the base. However, unlike G-8, they’re recognized within the episode and mayhem explodes pretty much immediately. It’s nice to know that their growing infamy affects how easily they’re able to get away with stuff like that. Specifically, their plan is tarnished at the hand of Zappa, one of the titular Marine rookies who has had the hots for Nami’s wanted poster.
This filler probably won’t last more than three or four episodes (they rarely do these days), so thankfully it won’t keep us away from Whole Cake Island for too long. While we’re here, however, I’m pleasantly surprised to see that all the pieces are in place for this to be a fairly strong one. The central characters seem pretty likable and well-defined, and they exist in an interesting place within the One Piece world. There’s also nothing that strikes me as “off” or noticeably weird/perverse, which recent filler arcs almost always include. (BDSM control collars, a lady giant shrinking and growing inside Luffy and, oh geez, One Piece filler freakin’ weird, you guys.) Fingers are crossed that it’s smooth sailing until Whole Cake Island.