WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Episode 897 of One Piece, "Save O-Tama, Straw Hat Bounding Through the Wasteland!"
One Piece, following a brief deviation off the beaten path, has returned to the Land of Wano. The conflict in this episode brings heroes, Luffy and Zoro -- parted for the entire arc up until this point -- together to fight the forces of Kaido, this arc's great adversary. Previously, audiences bore witness to Kaido's cruelty and how it affected the poor and underprivileged.
We saw O-Tama, who, in her incredible poverty following an assault on her village, is forced to drink toxic water to smother her own hunger. With Luffy trying to figure out how to help the people of Wano and O-Tama, a group of soldiers under Kaido, well aware of a missing squad of soldiers (who Luffy dispatched), fast approach...
MENDING A BROKEN GIRL
After O-Tama's poisoning, Luffy told O-Tama that her role model, Ace, died sometime before. Ace had promised years ago when he visited Wano to return and let O-Tama join his pirate crew -- once she became a "bewitching ninja" first. This left the poor girl broken, both in body and spirit.
Luffy, determined to help the girl, resolves to take her to the nearest doctor, even though that would take the two of them straight into the heart of enemy territory. But in order to help Luffy blend in, O-Tama's sole companion, Tenguyama, offers him something to wear. Tenguyama offers to pay the hospital fee, but Luffy knows his Straw Hat Crew could help with expenses. Joining Luffy on his journey to help O-Tama is her gigantic dog, Komachiyo.
Luffy tries to walk away with a samurai sword to complete his look, but Tenguyama, a swordsmith himself, balks at the idea of Luffy taking an excellent-grade sword with him. Not that Luffy listens to his concerns, of course.
Meanwhile, Zoro continues to be on the run. Zoro had previously been accused of being a murderer terrorizing Wano. He was accused by the real murderer: the city magistrate. After successfully slaying the Magistrate and all his crew, Zoro went on the run, effectively evading detection.
He survives by eating the enormous animals living in the wasteland, that is, until he finds several soldiers chasing a woman. He gives chase, and spots that the soldiers have sake, which he then takes off their lifeless bodies.
Luffy and O-Tama leave the Bamboo Forest, only to find themselves crossing a wasteland of sand and rotting flesh. The wasteland is a byproduct of the various factories Kaido built in the area, which poisoned the soil and earth until they were left a scorched, barren abyss.
Luffy is stunned by the wildlife that has managed to live in the wasteland. The life there is too wild and powerful to be hunted by normal people, but, beyond that, because the animals drink the poisoned water, they are too toxic for human consumption. Kaido and the Shogun, however, have an untarnished farm with edible food for their own consumption -- that they can then give for high prices.
In the wasteland, O-Tama's condition worsens, with her barely able to cling to life as the toxins take hold. Then, Luffy spots Zoro drinking sake. This leads to some intense hugging.
THE FIGHT BEGINS
Zoro and Luffy discuss their current situation, trading information about the poisoned water, O-Tama's illness, etc.. They both eat poisoned meat, poison that is enough to kill a normal person, but both of them just get a mild stomach ache. (For them, the poisoning is well-worth satisfying their hunger). They resolve to team up in order to bring O-tama to safety.
Suddenly, a troop of Kaido's soldiers, led by Basil Hawkins, spots the two of them. Hawkins correctly identifies Zoro and Luffy as both the slasher accused of murder and the pirate responsible for dispatching so many of Kaido's foot soldiers. He also appears to be well-informed about affairs beyond the Land of Wano since he recognizes them as members of the Straw Hat Pirates.
Hawkins immediately declares his intentions to fight them both to the death. And, despite promising not to make a scene in Wano, Luffy and Zoro seem extremely eager to fight this new adversary.