What They Say:
Crocodile and his army of assassins have their sights set on conquering Alabasta, and the claw-fisted sandman won’t stop until he gets his hand on the most powerful weapon the world has ever known. Only the Straw Hats can protect Princess Vivi from her reptilian oppressor, but they won’t survive this battle without getting a little blood on their hands.
Be on the lookout as Nami unleashes the power of thunder and lightning, Zoro tests his swords against a man made of steel, and Luffy goes underground to settle the score with Crocodile once and for all!
Contains episodes 104-130.
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 Usopp standing firm with his weapon in hand while looking all serious. 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 Usopp with a big old grin on his face that practically makes him adorable. 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 works through the Alabasta arc, it definitely has a lot of ground to cover, literally and metaphorically. The show in this set covers a good number of episodes and there’s just a lot of material involved with what’s going on here. In a lot of ways it’s a bit convoluted as it tries to get there since there are so many characters, so many back stories and factions operating out of it that it can get confusing in trying to remember who is going where. Especially as events converge and everything starts to escalate in danger and death. What helps smooth it all out in the long run though is that the characters are fun and there’s just a great sense of adventure throughout the storyline that keeps it fresh and fun, even when it does get rather serious because of the situation at hand.
The first half of the set deals largely with the last round of set up before everything escalates. With the way Luffy and the others got captured by Crocodile’s forces, they’ve found themselves in a bit of an elaborate trap of his design that keeps them from using their abilities to escape. Crocodile’s displeasure about Luffy and the others not being captured before has landed Mister Three in a lot of trouble but the end result has Luffy in a bit of a panic over things as he really can’t stand Crocodile. The trap is fun since it involves giant monsters, a lot of water that will kill them all anyway and some support from the outside that gets involved. Set against the backdrop of Crocodile just tying up loose ends, it’s fun to see how frustrated all the Straw Hats get over it while he’s so confident and at ease.
His plan does take up a good part of the first half of the set as well as he details pieces of it with the overall goal while using all the things he’s brought in to handle it. Using Bon as a bit of a bait and switch by letting him take on the King’s appearance, the intention to incite the Royal Army that he’s manipulated and infused his own men into against the rebel army will let them have complete control over the country and cement his position even more. There’s a lot of variables to it, including the arrival of Captain Smoker as well since he wasn’t supposed to be there, but it turns into a mad dash that has everything coming to a head with the various forces. And Luffy and the others are doing their best to get Vivi there so she can try and stop the bloodshed. Even as there is a bit of fun to be had along the way as well.
With the second half of the set, it deals with a lot of different things as well as it continues to work through the cast as needed. While the first half was focused more on certain characters, this one deals more strongly with Nami and Zoro as they deal with their approach to the palace and encounter their array of enemies. With Zoro, he gets himself quite a good challenge with Das Bonez, an assassin whose devil fruit power has made him as hard as steel. Getting him to deal with this pushes his abilities both physically and mentally. It’s done well but doesn’t go huge, it’s more of a natural evolution. Namii is a bit more comedic as it plays out against Doublefinger as she doesn’t have any real big skills at this point and instead has to deal with a trinket that Usopp has come up with for her that is actually pretty neat, as it’s a multi-piece bo staff that can manipulate hot and cold air. She gets to stand on her own, something she’s been trying to do since dealing with Arlong.
The big focus is on that of Luffy and Vivi though as they’re dealing with the larger issue at hand in saving Alabasta itself. For Luffy, it’s something he’s pushed Vivi into thinking honestly about and that’s paying off with how she’s doing everything she can to try and stop the war that Crocodile has set up as one of the Seven Warlords of the Sea. While Vivi does have some very good moments here and it goes big yet still personal, the real fun for me involves watching Luffy and Crocodile fighting. Crocodile has played with Luffy for awhile because of his abilities but with his plans coming to fruition, he’s turned away from that in order to focus on the larger goals. But as we know, Luffy is pretty resourceful and seeing that unfold is one of the best parts of the Alabasta arc. Luffy’s intensity and perseverance has been a plus for him in how he deals with things and the fight against Crocodile means it’s a key ingredient for surviving the encounter.
The epilogue side to the set is pretty short but it’s a welcome one since it deals with the issue of Vivi and what she wants to do with her life. I admit that the first time I watched the show way back when, I was surprised that she chose not to hit the high seas with the Straw Hats. While I understood that she knew she had responsibilities, I figured she’d take a few years to see more of the world in order to be a better ruler down the line. I just wanted to see her get more of that life experience. On the plus side, we get a new addition to the crew with Robin and her arc starting in this set reveals some of the bigger picture as we understand her search for the Poneglyph that will answer mysterious questions that she has. It’s a nice long term setup that’s introduced and she adds a new element to the crew even in just the few minutes she’s with them in this set.
One Piece was a bit awkward for me when I first watched it several years ago as it felt like it was more drawn out than it should be, I definitely enjoyed watching it this time around with all the additional knowledge I have from future episodes. You can see more of the elements being setup and the little twists and turns that will come from it, especially with characters that seem like they’re done and over with here that have bigger roles down the line in a few hundred episodes. The adventure in this arc really does a lot of work to really bring the crew together and to give them hint about the wide variety of things they’re going to face out in the seas and the friends and enemies that comes with it. The Straw Hats themselves are still the big draw of course but the fleshing out of their world is just strong and enjoyable throughout.
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: March 13th, 2012
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.