The premise for the “Impel Down Arc” sounds great. Luffy has to break into the most secure prison in the world to rescue his brother. At first, I really enjoyed it, but the arc just drags on for far too long, even with the One Pace version cutting out just over half of the run time.
The entire arc follows the same formula. Luffy runs around trying to get deeper into the prison, fights a some guards or monsters and runs around some more. It gets really repetitive, and there aren’t a lot of emotional character moments to break up the action.
Luffy is still separated from the rest of the Straw Hat crew, and instead teams up with some familiar (and flashy) faces from past arcs. I always love it when Buggy the Clown shows up, but apart from him all the other returning characters are from Baroque Works. It’s great to see the return of Mr. 2, and Luffy and Crocodile joining forces is an interesting twist, but it would have been nice to have more variety.
There are also some new characters introduced. Jinbe, one of the Seven Warlords, befriends Ace before Luffy’s arrival and joins in Luffy’s escape, but he isn’t overly interesting. Emporio Ivankov, the “Okama Queen”, is essentially a super-powered version of Dr. Frank-N-Furter from the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and provides some good comic relief. We also learn that he is a member of the Revolutionary Army led by Luffy’s father, though we aren’t given any details beyond that.
The villains in the arc are just okay. The Warden, whose body is composed of poison, is the most interesting but the multiple fights against him get boring after a while, and other enemies like the Jailer Beasts are completely generic.
The arc is also pretty anticlimactic, which Luffy never even getting a chance to see Ace, and after running and fighting down the six levels of the prison for the first half of the arc, they then just fight and run up the six levels to escape. It gets really tedious.
“Impel Down” doesn’t have a very good reputation among One Piece fans and unfortunately I have to agree. The “G-8 Arc” despite being filler handles the escape plotline in a much more interesting way, whereas “Impel Down” is just a bit of a bloated mess.
Final Rating: 2.5 out of 5