What They Say:
When Nami the Navigator is stricken by a mysterious illness, Luffy and his mates seek medical attention on a frosty island where the locals don’t take kindly to pirate trespassers. Their only hope is finding a doctor – human or animal – that can save Nami and get them back on their way to Alabasta!
Showdowns with angry assassins and a cigar-chomping marine captain loom on the horizon, but there may yet be hope for the Straw Hats. A fiery ally from the rubber-man’s past is ready to lend a hand as Luffy and company fight to restore peace to Princess Vivi’s beloved desert kingdom!
Contains episodes 79-103.
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 bit of cross coloration, though certainly less than we had on previous sets. 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 Chopper having a great look on the front where he’s in his small form with a big grin to his face that’s simply adorable. 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 practically skips about while wearing his hat. 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 Chopper with a serious look to his face as he almost looks like he’s ready to start boxing. 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)
As One Piece continues, it covers a whole lot of ground here in some significant ways as it brings in a new regular character and then shifts between two very different climates for the storyline. With the different lands that we’ve seen before, there are only so many different things they can do until they hit the really outlandish places. This set of episodes, which continues the Alabasta storyline that began in the previous set with the introduction of Vivi and Baroque Works, works through another couple of phases. The first half runs us through the land of the Drum Kingdom with all of its snow and ice before making a huge right turn to Alabasta itself, which is of course a desert kingdom. The cast handles it well and it’s actually fun to go through such a shift like this since it reminds just how varied the Grand Line can be in moving across different lands that may not be all that far from each other in the end.
The first half of the set is a whole lot of fun as the Straw Hats end up making their way to the snow island known as Drum Kingdom. This comes after meeting the pirate known as Wapol who chews things good but isn’t exactly all that much of a threat. The need to get to the island trumps all other things since Nami is sick and the gang is intent on getting her fixed up quickly since it seems quite bad. As it turns out though, the island was formerly ruled by Wapol and he abandoned it after threats from some real pirates and headed out into the seas only to get lost. To make matters worse, his style of rule prior to leaving involved him getting rid of all the doctors that wouldn’t become his personal doctors, which he felt established real control over the populace since they had to come to him for help should anything happen.
The adventure on Drum Island is a lot of fun since the populace doesn’t care for pirates, but Luffy and the Straw Hats manage to worm they way in. The need for medical attention is the driving force and there’s a rogue doctor named Doctorine that we see traveling around the island, charging exorbitant fans, that they can try and go for. The exploration of the recent history of the island is quite fun once it gets going since there’s a lot of connections that come into play but it’s also the characters themselves as Wapol is an amusing bad guy and Doctorine makes for some really cute moments as a 140 year old “young lady” doctor. And the critters involved are amusing as well, especially the polar bear sized killer rabbits.
The main thrust of the arc though is the introduction of Tony Tony Chopper, an outcast reindeer that ate a Devil Fruit that gave him the power to turn human(ish) as well as pint sized cute form. Chopper trained under Doctorine and another quack doctor that comes into play over the storyline, but it’s Chopper himself where the focus is since he’s learned a lot over the years. And with Luffy needing a doctor, it obviously eventually works out. Chopper was a real hard character for me to connect with the first time I watched the series, but over time he really grew on me and during later runs as well. He’s no different than the rest of the crew and is much like Usopp in a lot of ways, so going back to his origin here was a whole lot of fun since it shows such an earnest and innocent character who has had his fair share of troubles before setting out on adventure with the first set of true friends he’s ever had.
The shift to the Alabasta arc comes pretty quickly after everything on the Drum Kingdom is dealt with, which takes about thirteen episodes of this set. The Alabasta story is a bit more difficult to deal with since what we get here is but the beginning of events rather than a fairly complete arc. The arrival in Alabasta has everyone acclimating to the desert nature of the kingdom and the way it works, though it initially is a lot more about just getting food for the gang since they went without for a bit. Vivi starts to provide a good bit of history to the area, showing us what it was like when she was a child which in turn explores more of how she’d be as a leader some day should things turn around. It’s not hugely deep, but they cover the basics in a good way without it being an info dump.
What this arc does bring into play that, at least for a brief duration, that I really liked was the arrival of Ace D. Portgas. The surprise arrival of Luffy’s older brother shocks the rest of the Straw Hats since he’s so different from Luffy but you can see a lot of similarities as well. The two spend a good deal of time together on the journey to see Vivi’s father, but Ace is there for his own mission but enjoys spending time with Luffy. It’s really interesting coming back into this part of their relationship after watching the much later episodes of the series that did an expansive job of really working through what the two were like prior to this. Getting their origin and bonding stories told and then watching them coming back into each others lives where Ace is a big man with the Whitebeard pirates who is off searching for Blackbird brings it all full circle in a beautiful way.
During my original viewing of the series, when I didn’t write about it, it was a hard show to get into at times since it felt like it took forever to really get around to things. This second viewing has been really enjoyable after getting into the show later on and experiencing all of this again has shown me the things I missed out on the first time, making me appreciate it all the more. The Drum Kingdom story in particular worked much better this time around as I didn’t feel like Chopper was out of place in the world as I did the first time. And getting into the Alabasta storyline with the hindsight of having seen it before, I can appreciate the scale of it all the more since it is a big story with a whole lot going on in it that will come back later on in the grand scheme of things, particularly the introduction of Crocodile. One Piece lays a whole lot of foundation here that defines the series and it does it with lots of action, plenty of humor and a good bit of seriousness as well. Very recommended.
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: January 31st, 2012
Running Time: 600 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.