A filler season which actually kind of works in terms of the One Piece universe a bit better than other shounen series, before we get involved in the Baroque Works arc, and whilst at the moment seems anticlimactic, you know there are enough hints that means the series is going to grow…
What They Say :
The Straw Hats attempt to rescue a mysterious little girl and her dragon companion from a fleet of meddling marines and a slicing, dicing, whirlwind of a bounty hunter! Should they survive, a night of drinking will be their reward, but they’d be wise to keep an eye peeled for late-night assassins and a pretty princess in need of pirate protection – not to mention the battle-tested giants, prehistoric predators, and hideous monsters of the deep! A quest like this might take the air out of some swashbucklers, but it’s all in a day’s work for pirates in search of the legendary One Piece!
Set up in both 5.1 English and 2.0 Japanese, One Piece has a superb English audio in terms of needing to actually lower my standard settings so I could hear without ruining my ears. The Japanese track is also very good, where setting it to standard settings was almost as good as a standard 5.1 track. There were no issues with sound transition or any overlapping issues with missing audio or out of place dubbing or synching with the subtitles. Visually, the extremely colourful and unique style of One Piece follows well on a widescreen format, no picture issues with distortion when pausing and no freezing or synching with the audio so a very quality release.
Each of the menus holds a picture of Luffy (whilst the sub menus have ones of Zolo and Nami) on a brown Wanted Poster like background, the selections are vertical on the right hand side. The choices are Play All, Episodes, Set Up and Extras. Each is easily accessible both from the main menu and from the show itself if you need to revert to the main menu with little time delay. Very basic otherwise as the menus are static though they actually play the Funimation dub openings for the menu which was interesting.
Throughout the four discs, there are a few extras on each one, splitting into two categories. The fact is the cleaning openings and endings throughout the release (the episodes actually go through 3 endings during this box set). Always welcome.
We also get two dub commentaries. In Episode 61, we get a commentary between Jason Grundy(Voice director), Brittney Karbowski(Apis) and Sonny Strait (Usopp). They talk about the Dragon’s Nest arc, talk about their characters (I was particular fond of Sonny’s love for Usopp as his version of Krillin from DBZ is actually by favourite dub representative of him, and that the Usopp voice is a strain for him to do due to the shouting…) – Sonny also compares Krillin to Usopp and how he transitions into less of a coward, whilst forgetting what other roles he has done half the time. There are a few jokes involved (like how there aren’t many women on the island) but actually despite the light hearted nature was actually a decent commentary about their characters, despite the filler arc.
Second commentary is one episode 67 involving Scott Saeger (One Piece director), Karen Neil (Vivi) and Stephanie Young (Miss All Sunday) – talking about the re-licence, talking that Karen originally voiced for Nami and the Baroque Works arc discussion. Word of warning: there are major spoilers in this commentary for Stephanie’s character they do discuss which isn’t revealed at all in this volume so if you want to keep yourself unspoiled you may want to avoid this if you haven’t seen the series of her character or read the manga. As I had, I was fine with it but just a major warning.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
One Piece is a simple pleasure of mine as out of all the major Shounen Jump long running series it is easily my favourite. The characters are simple, yet grow on you, do have decent back stories and whilst it does follow a standard formula, the combination of comedy, action and adventure really feels much better for a long running series. So that even in a filler arc here, because it is on the pirate seas, it actually seems easier to make sense for a story arc compared to other Shounen Jump series, so whilst it is much weaker story wise than the previous two arcs, it seems to be setting up for a big arc in the next set.
We join our crew after we see a little girl escape from the Marines and float yonder sea ways, but manages to sneak on to the Merry. A few comic hijinxs when she is discovered (and enjoys Sanji’s cooking) as Apis is obviously trying to hide why the Marines are after her. So the Straw Hat pirates are involved as the good natured lot they are, they decide to help the girl return back to her island. However, they get stuck in the Calm Belt, caught with no wind and giant monsters known as Sea Kings in their wake. A few tricks later they manage to escape and land at Battleship Island, where after a boring tale of the islands’ history, they discover that Apis is looking after a dragon named Ryuuji, a mythical beast who is a key to resurrecting Lost Island…but also has medicinal abilities which are rumoured to give immortality. Hence certain marine members are after this dragon that Apis knows about, hence why they were after her.
We get our customary villain like Marines who are greedy for this power, so the Straw Hat pirates plan an escape to get the immobile dragon off the island, as the Straw Hats want to see this Lost Island for themselves. The Marines in question, Erik, and his boss Admiral Nelson, both seek the dragon for their own needs and are typical filler villains, one wanting to betray his boss and one wanting to go further in the world, Erik also has a Devil Fruit ability which allows him to create blades, which actually leads to a sad moment when Ryuuji apparently is about to die. In a last call, he calls out to his dragon brothers and Lost Island resurrects. The story is a tad flimsy as there was no real hint that other dragons of his kind existed, and when Luffy got serious, the villains were no threat at all, but at the same time it least it makes sense, as with the sea adventures, it is much easier to incorporate filler arcs into it, and I can’t say it was bad. Apis was a likeable enough child, and there was some really fun moments (the old man telling the story making everyone fall to sleep) at times, not terrible but not particularly worth remembering in the One Piece universe.
After that, we get back into the main story of One Piece. We first get a mini arc as a giant whale interrupts the group as they approach the Grand Line. After Luffy tries to solve the problem in his usual way (punch the thing)…the Merry gets swallowed up. Whilst sailing inside the whale, they notice a door inside it…which as you probably guess is quite unusual. They ‘escape’ the whale and meet Crocus, the whale’s caretaker, who explains that the whale, Laboon, has been waiting for a group of pirates for over 50 years. But as the story is told, some poachers try to kill the whale for its meat, but are stop by Luffy, who picks a fight with the whale after, which ends in a draw, saying they will continue this fight at a future date. With my knowledge of the One Piece manga, this scene actually is important and holds a sweet place in the One Piece lore, but as that is quite a while away, won’t spoil the significance of the scene.
Instead, we get to the main arc, the beginning of the Baroque Works arc – where after getting to their first port on the Grand Line, are greeted as heroes. The townspeople booze them up, overfeed even Luffy, and let Sanji have some fun with the ladies, Usopp telling his tall tales…which of course was a trap. The whole town is Baroque Works, a group of mysterious assassins looking for high bounties such as the one Luffy has. Unfortunately for them, Nami and Zolo are quite good at holding their liquor, and are able to confront them. Zolo really shows how badass he is by taking out pretty much everybody there, including some high agents who have numbers and partners. The one in particular is Miss Wednesday, because it turns out that she is in fact an agent that has infiltrated Baroque Works as she is trying to take them down and knows the identity of the mysterious Mr. 0…and her own identity is a surprise as the princess of a kingdom known as Alabasta, her real name being Vivi Nefertari, who will become an important part of this arc to come.
With Vivi being exposed, she now becomes a target for the stronger members of Baroque Works. However, when Luffy wakes up and looks ready to help, he gets angry not knowing what the townspeople are really like and attacks Zolo for hurting the people that fed them. Zolo and Luffy actually have an intense fight for a bit (knocking out other Baroque Works members on the way!) as Nami finally causes peace and ‘negotiates’ with her so that the Straw Hat pirates can safely take her back to Alabasta. The knowledge that Mr. 0 is one of the Seven Warlords Of The Sea named Crocodile suggests a big battle…and to make things more intriguing, his partner Miss All-Sunday actually appears on the ship almost to try and bribe them…but Luffy refuses, and she just leaves. She’s barely in this arc, but you know she’s going to be a major character, the fact she seems incredibly powerful but also not completely loyal to Crocodile suggests a bit of a stepping stone…
We do get another little filler arc, reminding us of the existence of Coby from the very first episodes and how he is doing on the Marines. (Also gives us the added silliness that Helmeppo from the Morgan arc, is actually there as a cabin scrubber himself, having to actually work for his position nowadays) – the bit is basically how he is improving and getting stronger, and how he’s keeping his friendship with Luffy a secret. It feels just a bit to remind fans that Coby maybe a part of the story in the future due to his promise with Luffy, but we do fortunately continue with the Straw Hats now with the aid of a log pose to get to Alabasta, they find themselves on Little Garden, where other Baroque officers are also there, with different orders, namely the capture of two giants there who had bounties from a century ago still intact. The two giants, Broggy and Dorry, are quite jolly and friendly despite battling for over 100 years and despite Usopp and Nami fearing them (and Luffy befriending one in his usual way), it seems there is a great deal of respect for their fellow warrior, as it is pride rather than reason for a 100 years worth of draws. It actually gives a bit of character development to Usopp as he begins to maybe see how he wants to be in them.
The Baroque Works agents team up with a higher up Mr. 3, who manages to manipulate the giants with some tricks and causing Dorry to drink some explosive alcohol. This final arc revolves around the agents tricking Luffy and the others, as Mr. 3 shows his wax powers to capture Zolo, Nami and Vivi and intending to turn them into statues. Fortunately, and after a few hijinxs, Luffy is able to save everyone and rectify the situation, but not before Sanji (who was in a funny little rivalry with Zolo over getting the most meat from the island…in the form of dinosaurs…) gets a message in the bad guys hideout, where he learns of Mr. 0, a.k.a. Sir Crocodile. The last episode suggests a new arc as they head to Alabasta, as Nami gets sick, and the search for a doctor begins, and One Piece fans will know where this leads to…or rather who…
There was a lot more than I expected to write about especially considering around half of it was filler arcs. This is the beauty of One Piece in that if you are unfamiliar with the manga, the way the series sets these arcs can definitely seem part of the story much easier than say Naruto or Bleach. The Apis arc actually was enjoyable albeit pretty time consuming mainly due to the history of dragons, and the set up for the Baroque Work Arc. The characters all get moments to shine – Zolo gets to kick butt whilst we get to see a potential question being answered in ‘who would win between Zolo and Luffy’, Nami is her manipulative self, whilst Usopp whilst still a lovable coward, you can see his pride in seeing the giants battle and whilst not be a turning point immediately for his character, you can see the potential for him to break out. Sanji didn’t get as much a big role (though his arguments with Zolo are hilarious) but the interesting dynamic here is the character of Vivi. Her role is undoubtedly going to be important as the princess of Alabasta, and with her obviously going against Baroque Works and Crocodile, which means that the Straw Hat pirates are going to be in for a ride. There is plenty of mystery as well involving Crocodile and Sunday, knowing they are going to be really important characters in the near future.
The main problem with the arc is that in terms of action and characters, the story didn’t flow as well. Part of this was the filler parts where whilst it was nice to see what Coby is doing, felt like was an interruption. Of course when a series catches up with a manga this happens, and truth be told One Piece does it far better than most series. But despite its best efforts, it was still obvious there was some padding done, and it made you less interested in the characters compared to when the story pics up in Baroque Works. There, more work is done into the action scenes (Zolo vs. Baroque Works was a thing of beauty) and the story can be told quite well. Seeing the reaction of Broggy upset that his battle was over, mainly due to the tampering of the agents and trying to pin the blame on the Straw Hats, is basically heart wrenching. The villains are smug and arrogant, and whilst not really important or character driven, are all good enough for their main purpose – as warm up dummies before they face the bigger fish, which at the same time is part of the problem, as despite the tension it tries to set up, the end result is pretty obvious, and it will only get real intense when Crocodile enters the picture.
That said, One Piece is still enjoyable. It’s definitely something just to smile at, and get your action/shounen fix quite easily. You need to keep tab on all the various attacks that Zolo and Luffy have at times, and the humour is still top-notch. The weakest of the three sets by far, but by no means bad, and is setting up for a good villain battle, and also the introduction of one of my favourite characters, so this is still good for the collection.
The third set of One Piece is the first one to go to filler territory, and whilst it works better in One Piece compared to other series, it is still obvious and detracts from the enjoyment a little from the series. Combined with some less than impressive villains and obvious conclusions, the story doesn’t continue one as good as it could. However, as the action moves on, there are still some great action and comedy scenes, and the characters all get a moment or two to make you smile. And the way the series is setting up, there’s a lot more to look forward to so don’t give up on it yet.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles
Content Grade: B-
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: September 23rd, 2013
Running Time: 650 minutes
Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.