What They Say:
The Straw Hats attempti to rescue a mysterious little girl and her dragon companion from a fleet of meddling marines and a slicing, dicing, whirlwind of a bounty hunter! Should they survive, a night of drinking will be their reward, but they’d be wise to keep an eye peeled for late-night assassins and a pretty princess in need of pirate protection – not to mention the battle-tested giants, prehistoric predators, and hideous monsters of the deep! A quest like this might take the air out of some swashbucklers, but it’s all in a day’s work for pirates in search of the legendary One Piece!
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/six/six 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 another member of the Straw Hats with Nami giving off that knowing look like she could take you down in a heartbeat with a smile. 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 a really good standing pose of Nami with a big smile 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)
After well over a year of adventures in the East Blue that has built up the cast, the gang of the Going Merry finally makes their way to the Grand Line. And while it does have its suitably big moments, it’s actually a bit tame when you get down to it and especially considering the wild variety of what’s to come in the hundreds of episodes that are still on the way. But before the gang gets there, they still have at least one more adventure to go and a few amusing setups that hopefully get dealt again with one day. But more importantly, when the Grand Line adventures really get underway here, it’s the start of a very big arc that involves the country of Alabasta and some interesting new characters that will populate the show for quite some time to come.
The final pre-Grand Line adventure is rather cute as it involves the gang inadvertently rescuing a young girl named Apis who is doing her best to find a particular Lost Island. Apis has managed to earn herself the attention of several Navy men, including one Devil Fruit powered gentleman, because they think she knows something about a material called Dragonite that’s hugely valuable. What’s really going on though is that she’s protecting a senile old dragon that’s on its last legs and wants to go home to this Lost Island that they’ve obviously lost track of. So the crew ends up helping Apis and it leads to some good natured fun and a good look at the kinds of things that live near the Grand Line and the mysterious and strange Calm Belt.
The trip into the Grand Line is rather strange with the way it’s a particular path upwards that tosses them in there, and it has its element of danger to it that the guys just love, but once they’re there, things are rather calm. At least until they get absorbed by a giant whale, and Island Whale, named Laboon. It’s rather comical but it’s the first real hint as to what the Grand Line is like when it comes to the scale. It also goes to show just how unusual they can as Laboon has a connection to a group of pirates that came through there years and years ago that he’s still waiting on to come back as he befriended them. It’s a good chance for Luffy to really show that he can survive here by connecting with the animal world, something that he’s done pretty well back in the East Blue, and it’s admittedly cute and just plain fun.
The big fun though, which pretty much dominates the second half of this set, is getting into the meat of the first real significant Grand Line arc. What the crew finds when they really get out into things is an island where new arrivals are very welcome, but it’s because it’s filled with pirates that subdue new arrivals and then takes care of them. It’s a pretty good idea when you get down to it, but there’s larger things at work here as a good part of it is managed by a well known but mysterious group known as Baroque Works. This pirate organization has some fun tricks to it with how ti’s designed and structured, but it serves to introduce us to weekday named characters and their numbered counterparts. And some of these have quite a life ahead of them.
But what it also introduces is a couple of members of Baroque Works that aren’t truly members but were spying in order to find out information. Princess Vivi of the country of Alabasta is being manipulated by Baroque Works and its mysterious leader and they’ve worked hard to ferret out the information. But now that things have gone to hell in a handbasket because of Luffy and the gang and what they did, she’s thrown her lot in with them to try and get back to Alabasta to save her father and her kingdom. Vivi is a fun addition to the crew here since she can’t believe the things that the gang does. Their nature drives her nuts at first, but it’s more that she’s just continually astounded by what they do. So when they start to face off against several of the Baroque Works members, especially Mr. 3 who has the ability to create and manipulate wax in a really neat way.
One Piece covers a lot of ground with this set but it’s not really until the second half that it really shows what it’s capable of. We’ve had a lot of arcs in the show during the first sixty-odd episodes in the East Blue as it built the cast up, but once it moves into the full storyline regarding Alabasta and all the characters involved, the scale just goes off the map. The introduction of a new large group, a whole country that needs saving and all the strangeness of the Grand Line is exciting. The introduction of Vivi works well here too as we get to see the group that has come together and worked together for awhile through her eyes and the way they sort of roll with the things that Luffy does and gets them into. It’s good fun and left me smiling throughout a lot of it, especially when you know where some of these characters will go in years to come.
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: November 29th, 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.