Long running series + shounen jump = I should really not care too much about it…but there really is something about One Piece which makes it easily the most enjoyable of those types of shows…
What They Say :
The deadliest master chef joins the crew! Luffy’s encounter with the scallywag pirate commander Don Krieg reaches an explosive climax, and master chef Sanji joins the Straw Hats with dreams of exotic seafood spurring him onward. As the gang sets sail, they soon encounter underwater oddities that won’t end up on a plate without a devil of a scuffle. Ferocious on land and downright deadly in the water, fish man Arlong is a ruthless money-grubber if ever there was one. His cruel betrayal of Nami prompts a spirited attack by Luffy, but the fishy pirate quickly has the rubber man headed for Davy Jones’ Locker!
The DVD release has a 5.1 Dolby Surround track along with a standard 2.0 Japanese stereo track. The English track is extremely high quality as it was a rare release that I had to reduce the volume from my standard settings with the Japanese sound track also being very strong – and fortunately as this is the Funimation dub and not the infamous 4kids one, then we at least can’t say a waste of skill. There were no issues regarding sound editing or in sync with subtitles, whilst video wise it was a very clear and colourful release – set in wide screen format, there was no issues regarding visual aid being slowed down during pausing or in general, and feels like a great pirate experience.
The menus are very similar in each disc, on a map like scroll with one of the main characters on the left (Luffy, Nami, Zolo and Sanji) whilst the menu selections are on the right vertically with the choices on each disc being Play All, Episodes, Set Up and Extras. No problems with connecting and selecting from both menus and from the show, but nothing really fancy in terms of the menu presentation as is very standard.
We have a few extras on the set release – we have the two clean openings and endings as they change half way through this set. The two big extras are two dub commentaries on episode 30 and ep 44.
The first commentary involves Mike McFarland (line director) and Eric Vale (head writer and voice of Sanji) where it is more on the technical side, talking about the audition process, how they started from around 300 episodes onwards, taking over from the 4kids dub, etc. It’s more of the background commentary discussion though there are some fun moments.
The second commentary involves Mike McFarland, Luci Christian (voice of Nami) and Jason Grundy (ADR Director) – they talk more about the episode, about Arlong (referring same voice as Hercule from DBZ was fun) and how much energy they have in the show and how much of a long runner it is. Neither commentary really delves too deep into the show or characters, but are still entertaining watches.
One Piece is the latest in the big shounen jump series to make it to the UK and whilst the first set was fun and great in setting up a lot of the main characters, this set we officially get our core group together as they set sail for the Grand Line, get into one of my favourite arcs and even do something rare by adding filler which actually connects with the real story – which in turn makes One Piece not just one of the better if not best of the long running shows, but really connects with some deep story as whilst we heard good stuff from Zolo, Sanji and Luffy, here we get Nami’s story and everything all connects as one.
We conclude the Sanji arc, as obviously he was going to join the group anyway, but it was done quite well – basically Don Krieg’s right hand man Ghin has a fight of conscience between his loyalty to Don Krieg and his gratefulness to Sanji for feeding them – he fights an injured Sanji but despite his reputation of being ruthless, he refuses to kill him which angers Krieg, who then tries to poison the crew, telling Ghin to not put on a mask. Luffy tries to save Ghin and Sanji but forgets his own mask – so Ghin actually uses his to save Luffy, choosing to die as a traitor for the Krieg pirates. This leads to a trademark Luffy/Big Boss battle scene which whilst predictable, is still fun as it leads to some real violence and also you know at some point Luffy in the series Luffy will lose, so it’s great seeing him evolve his fighting style depending who he is up against – whilst Luffy is dumb as a box of nails, as a fighter he is an evolving genius, and this continues to be the case. With the inevitable battle in Luffy’s favour (with a nice wrap up, if slightly tragic courtesy of Ghin), it leads to Sanji’s decision of whether he goes or stays at the restaurant, which actually is a real tearful moment when it is clear what the fellow chefs really think about Sanji both as a chef and as a person, and it is obvious they want the best for him. Sanji himself is great as he reflects on his dreams, both when rejecting Luffy at first but then accepting him after overhearing a conversation between Luffy and the chefs, it really sets up nicely for Sanji to become the chef of Luffy’s crew.
That wraps up the Sanji arc in about the first 4 episodes of the set before we continue with a plot which had been started during the arc, Nami’s betrayal. Nami left the pirates to head back what apparently is her home. Nami, up until this part, has probably been the most mysterious character because she acts basically as a damsel in distress before tricking the people she’s conning into stealing from them, including Luffy’s crew. And whilst she clearly has a soft spot for the crew, she is clearly motivated by greed. Up until this point though compared to all the other main characters, we never got her back-story and why she is obsessed with wealth if it was simply for greed purposes. This is where we get the back-story and one of the reasons this is a rare shounen jump show which hooked me from the start.
Nami returns home to apparently who she works for, a fish man named Arlong – a huge shark like man and apparently Nami is the map maker for him. It all seems like she is seen as a betrayer to her village and home for joining the fish men so initially again, we are not sure of her motives. But little things suddenly become clear – for example, when the Luffy pirates get there, Usopp is caught by them and Nami has to deliver the killing blow, yet she manages to make it look like she killed him whilst he manages to escape. From this, Usopp finds Nami’s sister Nojiko, who tells him the true story.
Nami’s back-story is really tragic and I was surprised watching this I was getting really teary eyed. Nami is an orphan who got adopted by a former Navy officer named Bellemere – who was a tough pirate like girl with discipline but at the same time loved her little girls even not related by blood, and despite a lack of wealth, they were happy. Unfortunately, the Arlong Pirates attacked the village, basically holding it to ransom and if you didn’t pay up, you got killed. Bellemere could have faked it and said she was on her own as it was never reported that she adopted the girls, but her happiness for admitting they were her family very sadly led to her demise. Nami’s skill as a navigator and map creator came from her youth, and Arlong saw that and kidnapped Nami to make her do maps for him. However, he also promised if she made 100 million berries, he would release his hold over her village and they would be free from his reign. Here, it now becomes clear over 10 years she has been making maps, and stealing from pirates as her own form of revenge ready to get the village back, which is a 180 from her character we’ve seen her to be up until this point.
Arlong himself seems like a villain who does at least keep his promises when money is involved, but he ups his evil by using a corrupt Marine guy to search for all the money Nami has hoarded over the years and confiscates it – forcing Nami to start from scratch. This is where the straw pirates finally get the whole picture, and there is a really good scene where Nami stabs her Arlong tattoo for all the hate she has felt over the years, as Luffy gives her his hat (which is a moment in itself considering how much he treasures it) and goes strutting along into battle along Zolo, Sanji and Usopp – another surprisingly deep moment which hits hard to the viewer.
The battle sequence is similar to what you expect – Luffy against the big boss and the others against the minions. Here, it’s a bit more interested because the Fishmen have the advantage in terms of water and when Luffy gets trapped underwater quickly, Sanji has to try and save him but avoiding the fishmen’s speed in water. The villagers get involved to help as well, as Nami’s sister is the eventual catalyst using Luffy’s stretching abilities so that they can get his head above water and try and help him. Zolo’s wounds from his battle with Mihawk as well rear their head as he hasn’t fully healed which causes problems in his battle, but again, the evolution of their skills continues. Even Usopp gets a badass moment as he starts to realize he no longer wants to be a coward so despite managing to trick a fish man to thinking he’s dead, he actually calls out to him to fight him and actually smartly manages to defeat him – Usopp is probably my least favourite of the main characters but even I had to admit this got me rooting for him and it was actually an intelligent and well thought out battle.
Arlong’s eventual defeat means the village is free, the marine is beat up and now Luffy has a high bounty on his head. This leads to a rare filler which actually brings us back to two of Luffy’s old rivals, Buggy and Alveda. This wasn’t in the manga however it actually works in well to the next arc because the two team up as they want their own type of vengeance of Luffy (Alveda in particular is very interested in Luffy…made more so the fact her grotesque body of before has been replaced by a more gorgeous body courtesy of a new Devil Fruit) – Luffy’s pirates now head for Loguetown for supplies and in Luffy’s case, to see where the legendary pirate Gold Roger was killed. Again, there is a bit of filler involved with one off episodes involving Usopp meeting a bounty hunter who was only defeated in a gun battle by Usopp’s father, and Sanji facing off an old chef rival of the past in an Iron Chef Style battle. However, we get to see Buggy and Alveda challenge Luffy and even very nearly kill him until some sort of lucky escape (thanks to a mysterious benefactor), and we get another rumble with the Marines, only this time they actually seem to be interesting – namely Captain Smoker, a legit badass of a marine who has a Devil Fruit which allows him to use smoke as a weapon, and his second in command Tashigi, a sword expert who looks like an older version of Zolo’s old friend Kuina, which freaks him out completely. The set ends as they try to escape as Smoker’s abilities actually seem to be superior to Luffy’s as his attacks have no effect on his smoke, until what saved Luffy from the chop appears…
The series has a lot to get through. Like most shounen series, there are quite a few clichés and obvious weaknesses in it. The battles, whilst engaging, are mostly predictable early on (though the fight with Smoker may change things round) – and whilst I enjoyed the Buggy filler episodes because they did eventually have a point, the couple of other episodes weren’t really needed and not that fun. Investment with the characters however this is a really good arc – whilst fans of Zolo, Usopp and surprisingly to a lesser extent Luffy may be disappointed at how uninvolved they are bar in the battle sequences, this is really Nami’s release with a conclusion to Sanji’s arc to boot. Seeing the little parts where Nami truly cares for her pirate friends but at the same time needs to continue obeying Arlong and being a thief, seeing her heart crumble both as a child and in that stabbing scene as an adult, Nami’s story is so far the strongest part of One Piece from an emotional point of view, and raised her character by a thousand. The villain Arlong, is sinister, intelligent and powerful, and whilst again he is set up for defeat, before then his plans were just as diabolical as Kuro’s, but more on a threatening scale mentally throughout a decade as much as physically against Luffy. The ending to the Sanji arc as well was also quite touching and whilst Sanji’s comic womanizing ways can be hit or miss, I love his rivalry with Zolo which is showcasing a bit, and he definitely has good potential to be another good Straw Pirate.
Seeing how surprisingly tear jerky this is, I really hope One Piece continues with its good combination of story, characters, comedy and action. It really has a good mix of everything and it is definitely my fave of the big three shounen series between this, Naruto and Bleach. It’s not quite A territory yet because it falls into a lot of usual traps most similar series does, but what it does, it does better than most, if not all of them.
One Piece’s unique art style and characters combine with some real swashbuckling action scenes whilst predictable, are still fun to watch. Minor fillers aside, the set overall progresses two arcs and concludes well whilst setting up a new one – the characters continue to be fun but the Nami arc sells it as a good release as her story is revealed and we see what character she is behind the fun loving thief side. The excellent Funimation dub helps those who wanted to get away from the 4kids and the Japanese is excellent, everything wraps up into a neat little pirate package. Very recommended.
Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles, Clean Op 1 + 2, Clean Ed 1 + 2, Episode Commentaries
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: 1st July 2013
Running Time: 636 minutes
Review Equipment: Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.