What They Say:
Lightning bolts rain from the heavens and cloud-dwelling citizens run for their lives as Luffy and Eneru go toe to toe to determine the fate of Skypiea! The rubber-man is determined to make this exceedingly evil villain pay for his sins against the innocent, but Eneru won’t be easily defeated. With his electric ark chock full of gold, the heinous holy man sets in motion a petrifying plan to obliterate life on Angel Island!
Luffy is ready to rumble, but his shipmates are falling one by one, and his punching power bottoms out after Eneru encases his hand in a giant ball of gold. Only one hope remains: Nami and Luffy must risk their lives in a desperate attempt to ring the sacred bell of Shandora – and chase away Eneru’s looming cloud of death!
Contains episodes 183-205.
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/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. While the previous volumes have focused on the individual characters, this one gives us the full cast together with a forward approach and plenty of smiles that works graet. With the pirate flag logo behind then, there’s a lot of black space that works very well in drawing the eyes to the group. 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 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)
The Skypiea arc comes to a close with this set of episodes and it does a decent job of taking things to the next level with how it plays out. Skypiea has been a bit of a difficult arc at times to enjoy because it’s gone in a way that hasn’t felt entirely natural at times and just a bit too dragged out for my tastes. The separation of the cast, which while a common idea, really hasn’t worked to keep me completely engaged with each of their stories. Especially as some of them have been knocked out for awhile like Sanji and Usopp. The one area that has worked well is that of Robin. With her being a recent addition to the cast, she manages to spend some time shining with her explorations of the islands and her understanding of what’s really going on with some key parts of it.
With the final set of episodes that deal with the fight against Eneru, about half of this batch of episodes is given over to dealing with it. It’s actually an amusing fight at first because Eneru’s lightning abilities don’t work well against Luffy since he’s the rubber man, but Eneru doesn’t quite get that. The back and forth on board Eneru’s ship show him having a bit more of a challenge than he’s had for some time, but Luffy’s barely holding his own overall and it goes even worse when he gets stuck with a rather sizable and heavy gold ball that covers up one of his hands. It changes his dynamic in the fight rather drastically, but some basic science does manage to still apply to One Piece as he does his best to take down Eneru.
Eneru’s war against Skypiea does have some rather strong moments to it. His anger has become apparent when he gets his Ark Maxim out and starts doling out destruction, enough so that entire islands disappear and the general population is ready to flee to the Blue Sea because of how bad everything is going. Luffy and the others are providing the push back against, but considering the chaos that has been going on with Eneru for awhile and then everything that cropped up since Luffy got there, it’s understandable that they want out of there as quickly as possible. Luffy’s fight with Eneru when it gets down to the nuts and bolts of it doesn’t feel like it comes together well though. There’s a feeling of being incomplete and even over too quickly once they get to it. The lead-up takes several episodes, built upon what happened in the last batch, and when they get truly seriosu here it feels like it finishes off too quickly.
Two other events are important within this set of episodes. The first is that a couple of episodes are given over to an extended background story that shows what happened four hundred years prior when the island first came up to Skypiea and what was happening before that. The shift of the island up to Skypiea is what brings it closure, so getting to see Montblanc Noland and his discovery of the island and its city of gold, spreading the tale of it later only to be called a liar, brings everything full circle from how this entire arc started and why Luffy decided to try and find Skypiea to begin with. It’s an interesting enough story to get dealt with considering what it caused to happen, but it feels like it’s just a touch too long. Not by like a whole episode, but if felt like it could be tightened up a fair bit. It’s good to see Montblanc’s fate in the past and how events in the present bring closure to everything from then through now.
The second event is that with the Skypiea piece wrapped up, the group has to make some discoveries and head back to the Blue Sea. Robin has a really intriguing discovery here that goes back to what she as after in Alabasta which in turn is something that could be the big overriding storyline of the series in general as it’s now tied to Gol D. Roger. It’s very amusing watching Luffy and the others sneaking a whole lot of gold out of Skypiea before they’re caught when other surprises are in store and the misunderstandings adds to the way the Straw Hat crew can get things so right yet so wrong at the same time. The end of the Skypiea arc has a good deal of fun to it as it wraps up a lot of the subplots from the arc as a whole and it brings in the humor and silliness that makes these characters so much fun. And it forces them to deal with the really problematic return trip to the Blue Sea, which isn’t going to be easy considering how bad the trip up was.
While I had enjoyed several parts of the Skypiea arc as it played out, it left me feeling a bit disappointed overall as it was a bit more drawn out than I cared for and lacked a compelling villain for it. With the second half of this set, we get a drop in episodes down to ten but it’s a lot of fun as it plays in the normal world, generally keeps the gang together and lets the fun with the marines dominate. The story is pretty basic but what sells it is the same as always, the characters themselves. Whether they are alone, or in pairs and back together as a group, they get into a lot of weird situations and a good deal of fun that’s all grounded in familiar settings.
Because of the events at the end of the Skypiea arc, the Straw Hats and the Going Merry has finished its long and treacherous fall from the skies and has hit the water. Unfortunately for the gang, they’ve landed smack dab in the middle of a marine base called Navarone. It’s a curious little island base with an inner lake that has its own island within that which has a good sized little mountain in it. The marine base there is one of the better ones with over a thousand soldiers there, a solid amount of discipline and nothing weird. No devil fruit marine captains or ships of strange crews. Just a normal marine base but one that has some real structure to it that feels like it sets them apart.
Luckily, when the Straw Hats arrive, its at night and they’re able to sneak away separately as the waves roll out from their landing and they go to all corners of the island base. The first half of these ten episodes focuses on them going along either singly or in pairs as they deal with the varied situations. Nami makes it out on her own and she does her best to figure out where they are and how they can find the ship again so they can get out. Chopper is in the same situation but he gets caught up in a medical subplot after he gets chased by some marines and ends up trying to look like a doctor enough so he can help out some very wounded marines that get brought in. The two end up coming across each other at some point which is definitely a fun pairing and one that leads to one of Chopper’s best scenes when he gets really angry and Zoro sees it. His little hand clapping and smile at that point is priceless.
Zoro for his part has a minor role here as he wanders through the base trying to find out where he’s supposed to be and just lucks out by not coming across others for a bit until he’s caught and thrown in a cell. Robin has a minor role throughout this arc as well as she strolls around and gathers information. The main fun for me was watching Sanji and Luffy together as they end up pretending to be a pair of top flight cooks that have just arrived on the island. Sanji really takes to the kitchen and shows the talented cooks a few tricks, including the head chef of Jessica. Being a woman, you know Sanji’s doing it all to impress her, but the fun is in watching him show off and how he handles all the cooking itself, showing them tricks that he’s picked up over the years.
The bulk of this batch of episodes is all about the cat and mouse games with a fair bit of variety to it. The commanding officers aren’t all that memorable here but they do give it some direction without all the brashness and obnoxiousness that others have been like. The back and forth that happens as each of the minor subplots are explored with the pairings that occurs are fun and then when it shifts to them actually escaping, they find the reason to make it worth while to come back again. There’s some very good attention paid to the fact that the Going Merry has been pretty heavily abused since Luffy acquired it and it leads to some good decisive moments on his part about what to do with it. There’s a lot of fun here on both sides of the escape, but largely it’s just great to have everyone back together again going through simple yet fun adventures.
While I liked the Skypiea arc overall there are things that didn’t work well. I loved the design of the place and the people there, as well as the overall back story that we got to support all of it. There’s a sense of something biy and mysterious here that gives it the right kind of air. On the downside, the storyline as a whole didn’t feel like it was too clearly defined for awhile which lead to it having a sense of meandering at times. Splitting up the cast, again, really didn’t endear me to it even if it did make sense to some degree in the end. Robin makes out rather well here and she feels like she’s really becoming a part of the group now because of events that unfold here. With the close of the arc, Skypiea definitely has the feeling of a place that’s certainly unique in a rather varied and intriguing world called One Piece and that it was given a proper mythos overall with a lot more to explore. One Piece provides a lot of what I like about the show when it comes to the Straw Hats overall as they have a really great series of combinations and styles when they pair up, working by themselves or as a group. You never know how it’s going to go and they’re always growing and changing and learning more about each other. While some are less used than others, the gang as a whole shines here and left me smiling 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: B-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: August September 25th, 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.