To reiterate a post I made in the spoiler thread, I honestly was not expecting things to take a turn for the worse at this point. I thought a clean getaway was in the cards, with the Germa and Sun Pirates covering the Sunny's escape.
I think it's fairly obvious that Big Mom's in her food-coma happy-place for the near future, so for all the twisted imagery of her dancing and singing as her crew goes to work, I doubt she'll personally be doing much else unless something truly drastic happens to break her out of it - something on the level of a massive attack by another Yonkou or the Marines, I would think. It's her crew/family itself that has been impressing me of late.
The Strawhats caused all kinds of chaos through out the first half of the arc, but I think it's important to remember that Big Mom et al. were a) basically inviting Luffy & co. in so they could trap them, b) underestimating the sheer level of havoc the Strawhats are capable of, and c) deliberately glossing over fairly major issues in an effort to keep BM in a good mood. However, ever since the Wedding literally blew up in their faces, the BMP have have shown themselves to be a relentless, increasingly competent, and legitimately threatening force, which I attribute largely to their shift from a "business-as-usual"/party atmosphere to a proper war footing. Before, it was almost too easy to slip into the mindset that, assuming the Strawhats could "deal" with Big Mom in Totland, the simple fact that the alliance against Kaidou has so many more players compared to the Sanji Rescue Team would imply that she, while remaining a nigh unstoppable Yonkou, could be considered as "weaker" in some way. Now, for all their individual failings, I think this truly drives home the fact that Big Mom and her crew are a major threat on par with Kaidou.
Now, obviously the Strawhats will escape and, for all the damage it's taken, I have a hard time thinking they'll lose the Thousand Sunny - the keel, at the very least, should make it back with them, whatever happens. I was initially wondering about Jinbe/Aladdin making use of some sort of quick-coating tricks to let the Sunny make a submersible maneuver a la the Moby Dick and I think the angle of Nami using a mirage to mask their escape with the image of one of the other burning ships in the area is real possibility. I also think Zeus could play a part, presuming he's been sufficiently cowed or bribed into Nami's service - carrying Big Mom while flying isn't quite as large a load as carrying the Sunny (or what's left of it), but not by that much I would say (especially for a world where people can lift buildings and throw them). And we shouldn't forget that Secret Agent Stussy is on the loose at the moment, so no telling what she might be doing to take advantage of the chaos. By contrast, I highly doubt the theory that it's all part of BM's hallucination - I have no doubt that she's entirely in her own little world right now, but I don't think that has any bearing on what's happening with her crew and the Strawhats. Same with the Pudding Memory Manipulation angle - I can't believe that she's capable of rewriting the memories of everyone on or near Cacao Island at once, and she would pretty much have to be in order to help the Strawhats escape from under the nose of so many. All in all, while I've no doubt they'll make it out of this, I'm largely at a loss as to how at this point…
Since Luffy & co. were more or less invited into Big Mom's inner sanctum, managed to capture Brulee multiple times and usurp her Mirror World for their own use, had Jinbe and the Sun Pirates working to their benefit from the inside, teamed up with Bege and Caesar, had a chef capable of making an enormous cake on very short order capable of diverting a raging Yonkou's personal attention away from them, managed to get both Pekoms and Pudding on their side, took down two of the Sweet Commanders, got cover for their escape from both the Germa and the Sun Pirates, and are presumably still only just going to make it out of there by the skin of their teeth, I think it's now safe to say that an alliance on the scale of the Pirate-Samurai-Mink team aiming for Kaidou is probably the bare minimum needed to fight a Yonkou head on.
Very curious what's going to happen to those left behind… Pudding seems like she's going to be cast as a hero, more or less, so my earlier fears that she might not be safe in Totland anymore have been largely assuaged. I still think there are enough inconsistencies to her actions that she may be outed as having helped the Strawhats sometime later, when someone starts looking closely at the chain of events, but for the immediate future it seems she'll be alright. I think the Sun Pirates will make it out as well - Oven's abilities are sure to have a maximum range, so I imagine they could follow Wadatsumi's example and go deep to escape the heat - but Pekoms is likely to be taken prisoner. I doubt a good word or two from
Tamago Niwatori will be enough to forgive his open defiance in front of Oven. And unless something drastic changes, it's looking like the Germa may well be captured too, and if that happens I can't see why they wouldn't be simply butchered as that's what BM had planned all along. Even if they do escape somehow, I wouldn't be surprised if they had to leave behind some of their facilities/ships, meaning Big Mom may get her hands on their cloning tech anyway.
All in all, a surprisingly grim chapter. Well played, Oda.
Last but not least, I think this may be the official end of the Totland arc. I wouldn't be surprised if Oda deliberately let us hanging in regards to everyone's fates for a while, perhaps even having Big Mom spread the news that Strawhat Luffy was dead only for him and the crew to reappear at Zou several chapters later, in a manner similar to what happened after Jack tried to "rescue" Doflamingo from the Marine prisoner convoy, albeit less menacing.
Anyone know whether the Reverie is supposed to take place before we start Wano or after? I haven't been up to date on SBS questions and outside interviews, so I'm a bit out of the loop.
On any unrelated note: That colorspread is adorable! Go for it, Chopper!