OK folks, I’ve been trying to hold this in for a while now, but I really need to get this off my chest. I hate Pudding. Not the food — that’s delicious. I hate the character from the One Piece #manga and #anime franchise. I hate her so much. I hate that face-heel-face turn thing she has going on. For those of you not familiar with the term heel and face, it’s a wrestling term that’s actually pretty useful lingo for describing the way protagonists and antagonists can change and interact. A heel-face turn is a villain turning into a hero. So why does Pudding’s sudden change bug me so much?
A Problem With Pudding
Pudding goes from the most saccharine-sweet love interest to Snidely Whiplash levels of mustache-twirling evil. I can get behind that. It makes for a compelling character, and it’s something we haven’t seen since Usopp’s backstory when Kuro, the previously stern but loyal butler, turned out to be evil. That level of secret evil is something we haven’t seen in awhile, so I was ready to get on that evil Pudding train and ride it to character development town as the Sanji finally learned a valuable lesson.
Part of why I was so willing to go with Pudding’s heel-face turn was because of how well-supported it was after the fact. Her inner dialogue, her behavior, and her evil monologuing whenever she was alone really sold the sudden change. And then we got to Chapter 862. One compliment undoes everything. Suddenly she’s not an evil monster, but an emotionally injured woobie who secretly just wanted to be loved. Sure, she tried to kill Sanji, but all the real venom just flushed right out of her with one compliment. And we’re supposed to feel sorry for her.
No. I refuse. She stabbed a child. That she was a child herself does not make me sympathize with her, especially not when she's standing next to a character who had his ass beat by his family every day and is locked in a cell for being a failure — and he didn’t stab anyone! Regardless of the head artist Eiichiro Oda’s intent, I don’t buy it.
How To Earn A Heel-Face Turn
You know how you run a good heel-face turn arc? Nico Robin in "Alabasta Saga." Robin's working for the Big Bad! But wait, she's offering the protagonists an eternal log pose! She just killed Vivi! Wait, no she didn't! Vivi's fine! Crocodile just stabbed Luffy. Why is she saving him? We are constantly in doubt about her motivations and true personality.
Pudding went from moe waifu to mustache-twirling sociopath to — Yandere or something? I don't care what happens in the next bunch of chapters. Or even word of God from Oda himself. I don't trust Pudding because she's unstable. This is what a mentally unbalanced person looks like. Who knows? Maybe that's Oda's point. Maybe she'll have an Azula-style emotional meltdown. But I'm gonna be furious if it turns out she was just a goody-two-shoes all along and only needed someone to tell her that her third eye was pretty.
Also, on the subject of the eye, what the hell? #OnePiece has animal people, fish people, giants, and people who are just plain weird. Nobody batted an eye. Nobody questioned Foxy, either. Oh, and there’s Señor Pink. Señor Pink has fangirls. At this point it's a bit strange that people would laugh at someone with an extra eye, especially Big Mom. Wasn't her creepy, weird schtick all about one big united family? She had to know Pudding would have a third eye. I mean, wasn't that kinda the point? Oda was just reaching for something to redeem an irredeemable character, and he was grasping at straws.
But all that isn’t really why I hate Pudding so much. I guess what I'm really annoyed about is that in all likelihood, this means Sanji is going to be cheated out of any character growth, and the same goes for the series as a whole. We were supposed to have the Year of Sanji. I always assumed that would mean more than just having Sanji featured in a story arc. That kind of declaration usually means maybe some changes to the character as they interact with said story arc.
It was a slim chance, but I really wanted Oda to cap off this whole thing with Sanji kicking Pudding in the face. One Piece is a great series, but it has a lot of the same problems so many Shonen series have. The women are never quite on the same level as the men and it’s something I’d really like to see change.
I can’t think of anywhere in the series where that kind of old-school attitude regarding how to treat a woman is more apparent than with the character Sanji. I love Sanji, but I want him to get with the times and acknowledge that women aren’t magical, delicate flowers that always need to be protected, because sometimes they’re evil and need to be stopped just like dudes.
An Unearned Double Standard
If Pudding were a guy, I’m sure he’d get punched at some point. Just swap the genders for a second and imagine a mustache-twirling monster who was working with his cannibal mother to perform a Red Wedding-style murder spree — and also has the ability to mind rape people. Oh yeah, I haven’t brought that up yet.
Pudding can and does go in and edit people’s memories at will. That goes beyond most One Piece-level evil villainy and straight into psychological terror. At least her mother is openly evil. Pudding shoots Reiju and then goes in and twists her memory so that Reiju doesn’t even remember it. That’s horrifying. She has the supernatural ability to gaslight people.
But if we ever manage to straighten out the mess that is Pudding, I’m pretty sure we just steamrolled past any chance at evolving Sanji as a character. And that’s disappointing, considering how much more we learned about his background in the "Totland" arc. I hope Oda doesn’t give her a redemption. In the last few chapters we see her shooting at Sanji while he dodges her bullets, but if she really does go on to redeem herself just because Sanji said her third eye was beautiful, it’ll be an unearned return to the status quo.
Do you agree with my take, or do you have a completely different opinion on Pudding’s heel-face turn and think it was completely justified? Let us know in the comments below.
[Main image credit: Melonciutus via DeviantArt]