What They Say:
It is the era of adventure as countless souls are lured along the Grand Line in pursuit of dreams far greater than any they’ve ever dared to imagine. Wealth, fame, power… it’s all available for the taking to the lucky soul who can find it: the legendary One Piece. Among those on the high seas is a youth on a quest to be king of them all – Luffy, the Straw Hat Pirate! But first he must find a ship, a crew, and some supplies. Determined to recruit those at first unwilling to his cause, the young captain remains undaunted!
Contains episodes 1-26.
The audio presentation for One Piece is a solid work though the favoring goes to the English language track. The series comes with its original Japanese mix in stereo which is good and has a solid feeling throughout it, though it never really extends itself all that much as it uses the forward soundstage. The English mix gets the 5.1 bump to it and that adds with the volume being louder in general and some occasional bigger moments thrown to the rear channels. It’s a decent mix to be sure, but it’s working with simple source material so it can only go so far. It makes up for it by being a bit brasher and outgoing. Both mixes work well and are free of problems like dropouts and distortions, leaving us with a pair of clean and clear mixes.
Originally airing throughout 2001, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The collection brings the two previous sets together into one so there are no differences in the authoring. We get four discs that gives us episodes in a seven/six/seven/seven format that covers a range of material. The transfer has the same problems as before in that it has a fair amount of detail and a certain sketchy nature to it that lets it look raw and unpolished, as the show should, but it also comes across with a lot of cross coloration. That and the general line noise you get in various panning sequences gives the show a look that isn’t that great, but is fairly reflective of the material itself and the time in which it was released.
The packaging for this release puts the four discs inside a standard sized clear keepcase with all the discs on the hinges inside rather than on the interior of the case itself. The front cover is given over to the one who gets it all going as we get Luffy in the middle of an attack with a serious look to his face that we often don’t see much of at this stage of the series. With the pirate flag logo behind him, there’s a lot of black space that works very well in drawing the eyes to the character as he hauls out two of his swords while the third is in its scabbard. It’s not a hugely detailed piece but it feels just right for him. The back cover is well laid out as well with the left side done all in black with it being about the text and logo, showing the summary for the volume and a neat logo for the episode count. The right side of it gives us another pose for Luffy set against the Going Merry. The reverse side of the cover is kept simple and classy with the four discs getting the episode numbers and titles broken down so you can find everything easily.
The menu design for this release is simple but good with what it does as it uses the pirate style old wood ship kind of background as its main piece in which we get the menu selections along the right while the left side rotates various characters into it depending on the disc. The menus have never been flashy but they set the mood right, often with characters that are key to that particular disc, and have been quick and easy to utilize while also offering a marathon play feature. The menus are straightforward though they don’t use any of the players’ language presets and default to English language with sign/song subtitles.
The extras are pretty meager here unless you’re a dub fan and want to listen to the cast, in which case you have to hunt through the episode selection menus to find the commentaries that were made at the time. Beyond that, we get the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Back when One Piece first started coming out from FUNimation, I was pretty excited by it as a potentially big series I could get my kids into since it was previously airing on TV in butchered form. They were interested from what they had seen of it before and I liked the idea of having something long running to get them into. At the age they were at though, it had to be the dub which was pretty much set for the 13+ age set. While the subtitles had some mild coarseness to it, the dub took it a bit further and it soured my feelings on the show and I had someone else take on the review duties for it. I kept watching though and eventually started in on the simulcast when it was around episode 420 or so. Watching that and watching the early material was definitely an interesting contrast, especially as what felt like a long arc here is pretty small compared to where it does eventually go.
With the first twenty-six episodes here, One Piece gets its foundations underway. We’re introduced to Monkey D. Luffy, a young man with a straw hat that has a dream of being the king of the pirates after he goes into the Grand Line, the most difficult and uncharted of areas of the world where the supposed One Piece exists that was once held by the last king of the pirates, Gold Roger. Luffy has a connection to him and at a young age he determined that he would be a pirate, which came from growing up with them all around and spending a lot of formative time from a very good natured pirate known as Shanks, though he also showed that once you get into a fight, you go at it with the intent to win no matter what. It’s a solid upbringing and it highlights why Luffy has a happy go lucky attitude about him but is also quite serious when the moment hits as he intends to carry through on promises made.
His journey in the East Blue, the area of the world he’s in before he can get to the Red Line and from there journey to the Grand Line, is comical at first since he has just a tiny boat. But that’s the first step of the journey that introduces him to the swordsman known as Zoro, a man with the goal of being the best in the world as he wields three swords at once. Through him we get our first exposure to the cruelty of the Navy of the World Government and what kind of people they put in charge. And we also get introduced to Nami, a young woman who is a skilled navigator that Luffy latches onto and wants to bring on board his crew that starts with Zoro. She has her own mystery but it’s not touched upon in this set, instead relegated to the second set.
But Luffy doesn’t stop there either as we have the first lengthy arc that made me question the series during my first exposure as he meets a lying man named Usopp who isn’t the easiest to take. It runs a fair number of episodes and introduces us to more pirates. We also get introduced to a pirate names Jango who is a hypnotist that walks like Michael Jackson. And even worse is a pirate named Captain Buggy who looks like a clown, but like Luffy he ate a devil fruit and has extra powers. While the fruit turned Luffy into a rubber man, Buggy can split his body into multiple parts. Buggy’s appearance is an unwelcome part of the show, but I will admit that, much to my huge surprise, he becomes a fantastic character four hundred episodes from number. That boggles my mind, but when you realize the show has a large story to tell, you have to compartmentalize things and start to look at the scale of it and understand the small parts.
And that’s why these early episodes are both key and difficult. While some shows have the whole crew together either at the start or over the first few episodes, the core crew isn’t fully together in htis set, though most of the pieces are there. After Usopp, we get to meet the cook name Sanji who is also quite the kicker with his own dream. That arc starts up here but doesn’t finish, but it does serve as a way of giving us more of an idea of what the Grand Line is like and the dangers there. Every episode brings in a new little nugget and when you step back and look at all the foundation that’s laid here, it really does become impressive to see how much went into it. The core personalities of the characters are clear, and while they do grow over the series, you know who they are at this stage. What’s to come is how they interact together as it goes on. Luffy and Zoro bond the most here and seeing how that plays gives a big clue to the kind of camaraderie that will exist here, while just hinting at the scale of the stories to come in the Grand Line.
I was very resistant to One Piece when I first ended up watching it for a few reasons and it wasn’t until at least a hundred episodes in that I really came to start appreciating it. And a lot of that came from what I was seeing at the same time in the four hundred episode range as that’s where the show actually impressed me. Going back to these early episodes after all of that, and all the flashback material that covers what happened before these episodes, definitely changes my view of it and I could enjoy it on a different level than I was able to before. They’re good episodes, not stellar, and are definitely what the show had to do in order to put all the pieces into place. It’s a series that requires a commitment, but there are few that I can think of that ultimately pull off such a large scale story like they do here – and that’s still going on. While it’s a long haul ahead, if you get into it, the payoff is immense.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Commentary Tracks
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: C+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: July 26th, 2011
Running Time: 650 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.