What They Say:
Fresh off their adventure in Alabasta, The Straw Hats prepare to sail straight into the sky! After a death-defying adventure in the dire and dangerous Rainbow Mist, Luffy and his crew dock at Mock Town in search of directions, but instead they’re brutally bullied by pirates who’ve forgotten how to dream. Fortunately for the sake of adventure, Nico Robin catches wind of a legendary liar whose monkey minions can equip any ship for a deadly ascent on the Knockup Stream. Hold on to your hats because the Straw Hats are about to find out if the Going Merry flies as well as she floats!
Contains episodes 131-156.
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 Sanji takes the main piece here as he’s in his usual outfit, sans jacket, looking as cool and confident as he always does as he strikes a pose. 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 Sanji with his jacket on as well with a cool and relaxed smile. 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 dealing with all the fun of the Alabasta storyline, One Piece needed some down time before getting into the next main arc of the series, Skypiea. In order to do that, we got a series of smaller stories that do add to the show and characters overall, but can certainly be a challenge to watch at times if you’re not in the right mindset. And especially if you just wanted to get on with things. While these episodes frustrated me a lot the first time around, I do have to admit that I appreciate them a bit more now in re-watching them after a couple of years and seeing how a lot of things do tie together, and getting to know these characters more.
The opening story in particular does this as it has Robin and Chopper spending time together, something that Chopper is completely against since he doesn’t trust her in the slightest. And rightly so based on his experiences, but Robin is a character at this point that’s starting to truly live her life thanks to Luffy and the crew she’s with now. We see a few touches of that throughout these standalone episodes, but here with the two together, Chopper reveals more of his past to her and becomes more comfortable around her. It doesn’t delve into her past, but she has these small pieces about her that are drawn into the larger part of the show. Such as when we see a book she’s reading early on called The Rainbow Mist. Easy to dismiss, even if it comes up in conversation once, but it becomes something else towards the end of the first half here.
There are a bunch of small stories here, some worth ignore, some that shouldn’t be two episodes like the old Zenny guy, but the bulk of the second disc focuses on a story that takes the crew to an island where taxes are heavy on just about everything and they get caught up in the weird Wetton family that seemingly controls the island. It’s a bit of a wonky start, but it introduces us to a neat element that ties back to the book as the Rainbow Mist that’s described in that silly adventure book is actually real and the Wetton’s are trying to capture and use it for their own purposes. Discovering that it’s like a hole in time where things move much slower, it just goes all over the place with a bunch of kids introduced, wackiness on the outside and Luffy flinging himself through time portals that’s hilarious and childish in a great way. It takes a few episodes here and helps to show the crew working together more, but it’s a bit light overall. It’s the kind of smaller arc needed before going into the next big one.
Thankfully, One Piece gets back to the big story ideas here as the crew moves along in the Grand Line. Their journey takes an odd turn when the Log Pose that Nami has suddenly starts pointing upward to the sky where there’s obviously no islands for it to lock into. Though they they some fanciful ideas about islands in the sky, there is a sense of reality among them that no such thing could exist. At least until ship wreckage begins to fall from the sky and Luffy ends up in possession of a map for a place called Skypiea, a land far above where islands really do exist. Over several episodes, Luffy and the Straw Hats work towards finding information about the sky islands from a nearby island placed called Mock Town. Of course, sky islands are so fanciful that nobody would take them seriously and it leads to a couple of fights with a local tough guy pirate named Bellamy.
The gang does strike a bit of luck with a trio of guys that they encounter over time who has some knowledge of the sky islands through legend and offers up a way for them to get there. It’s a pretty risky venture called the Knock-Up Stream where heated water essentially throws ships upward into the sky where they eventually can reach Heaven’s Gate, the entry way to the sky island world in the clouds. There’s a lot of fun to be had in the workup towards getting there, as it covers about half of this batch of episodes, as you see the Straw Hat’s ship reworked to sustain such a journey as well as time spent getting to know some of the locals while finding the things they need to really make the trip. In particular, it was fun seeing how Robin is slowly becoming a part of the crew as she and Nami bond a bit, though mostly it’s just Nami feeling better about her since Robin tends to praise her in various ways.
As much fun as the journey there is, once we get to the sky islands we get to see some real creativity. One Piece has had a free run with that pretty well so far by doing a wide range of things related to the sea, various creature and devil fruit abilities. With the sky islands though, they get to take it somewhere different and really have fun with it. While we get a few obvious cheap changes by putting the word sky in front of things, we also get some nice touches such as Luffy still unable to swim in them, some intriguing craft to get around in and some fun when it comes to the whole heaven aspect that’s built into it with the naming of the gate they first cross through and some of the mild religious angles brought into it. Luffy and the crew get a fairly pleasant welcome overall, at least until they learn that they’re being hunted down by the White Berets for a toll not paid, and we get a decent introduction to the world of the sky islands overall. There are a lot of hints of big things to come, starting off with a mysterious island that’s forbidden, something that instantly attracts Luffy, but it’s still early yet to discern what the real storyline here will be.
While the majority of the Skypiea episodes deals with Luffy and the Straw Hats, we do get some of the larger background storyline playing into the series as well. Luffy’s reputation is growing and there’s a brief meeting we see with the world governments setting up some time with a couple of the Warlords in order to make sure that their plans and governance isn’t threatened. These background bits, which I believe figure more importantly later in the series, are the kind of hints that I love in a show like this since it speaks to the epic storyline that’s running in parallel to Luffy’s storyline. The Skypiea arc gets off in a good way here after the mild drag we had post-Alabasta arc as the energy returns and there’s a lot to like with the core cast, the new characters and the new locale. Hopefully it can build upon what they’ve started here.
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: June 12th, 2012
Running Time: 625 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.