Two key arcs combine as the addition of one of my favourite characters to the team with the trip to Alabasta merges as whilst some minor filler moments, it totals up to some real intrigue, comedy and backstory making One Piece still the finest of the shounen series in my opinion.
What They Say :
Climbing a mountain to save Nami! With Nami on the verge of death, Luffy’s crew abandons its voyage to Alabasta and goes looking for help. Their search leads them to frosty Drum Island, where the locals don’t roll out the red carpet for pirates, and the only doctor in town lives atop a treacherous, snow-covered mountain. In order to save their friend, Luffy and Sanji must survive an avalanche, duke it out with a man-eating herd of abominable rabbits, and defeat a foe that devours anything he can get his mouth on. Danger lurks around every corner on this treacherous mission, but the Straw Hats have more at stake than ever before.
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 Chopper (whilst the sub menus have ones of Luffy and Vivi) 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 so pretty much the same as all previous releases.
Discs 2 and 4 are where the extras are – we have the clean opening and the two clean endings of the current arcs which are always welcome.
The main extras are two commentaries – one on episode 90 featuring voice director Scott Segar, Brina Palencia (Chopper) and Sonny Strait (Usopp). There isn’t much depth to the commentary in terms of the episode outside of what happens, it’s pretty much a love fest about Chopper and Brina’s adorable performance of Chopper. And it is very adorable. So yeah, basically a director and two voice actors gushing over a cartoon talking reindeer. And that alone is enough for entertainment.
The second commentary is on disc 4, and episode 103, involving Scott again, this time with Barry Yandell (Mr 2/Bon Clay) and Leah Clark (Paula/Miss Double Finger) – focusing on the Baroque Works coming together, it’s another character love fest but in a different way about just how fun and unique Bon Clay is and how Barry actually got the role as originally director Mike McFarland was going to play him. They also talk about how they worked on the movie before they worked on this episode where some of the characters were in it (when Funimation acquired the licence from 4Kids, they were well into the series and these episodes were dubbed later when they released it on DVD) and how it takes them into developing them. A bit more intellectual…but they still have to be quiet and enjoy Bon Clay and his entourage dancing. Because it’s Bon Clay. So a combination of background information and some fun stuff makes the commentaries definitely worth listening to for different reasons.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
One Piece has always been one of the few long running shounen style series I can get behind, and never know exactly the reason. Maybe it’s because the spacing seems to work a lot better in this series than in others despite the occasional filler. Maybe because the action scenes I enjoy far better. Maybe because the characters are incredibly engaging, both heroes and villains. And all of this in incorporated into this release.
We start off where we left off, which if you recall was Nami getting sick and the team desperately looking for a doctor before they go to Alabasta. Immediately we get a call back to previous characters showcasing similar to the Buggy/Alvida returns previously that no one is forgot about, in this case, my favourite of the Marines Captain Smoker managed to tap a signal and realizes the Straw Hats are on the way to Alabasta. He obviously notices there is something about Luffy and his gang which intrigues him more than any other pirates, but at the same time he still wishes to do his job and as their reputation increases, so would his in capturing them. However, in the meantime, the crew do stumble upon an island after a skirmish with some apparently weak pirates…who shortly become a bit more of a thorn in their side…
The island apparently has no doctors except for a witch who lives in the mountains. Luffy takes Nami risking the cold outside, as he and Sanji go to try and help her. Vivi and Usopp however find out that the pirates who earlier attacked them (and literally took a bite out of their ship) was the former king in this island, a tyrant named Wapol. And unfortunately he has decided to return to this island after taking the islands’ doctors for himself and generally being quite the rotten dictator. And with Luffy and Sanji having problems with facing up against giant man eating rabbits (O.K, that was silly even for this show…if it wasn’t the fact these things were legit dangerous!), Luffy manages to drag himself, Nami and Sanji up the mountain with his insane strength and determination before collapsing. It is where the witch is residing along with her little friend…
It is here we get one of the most well known characters of the franchise, and easily one of my favourites in Tony Tony Chopper, a reindeer who ate the Human-Human Fruit so he is able to walk on two legs and talk. And whilst it is obvious that he is going to be the next member of the crew due to the fact he is a doctor apprentice (and a ridiculously adorable mascot character) the fact the series doesn’t go straight there is interesting. One of the things One Piece does well is telling backstory of all the pirates that eventually join – everyone on the crew so far has had their story told so well and Chopper is no exception. We get his backstory via the witch Dr. Kureha about his history with a quack doctor named Hiruluk and his goal which showcases Wapol’s cruelty, whilst a touching friendship between an outcast doctor and an outcast reindeer as he basically helps teach him about medicine, but the tragedy of the end of the story is what causes Kureha to basically let him apprentice under her. You know after it Chopper is going to be the next member of the Straw Hats, but you enjoy how it gets to it…especially as only Nami sees him as a doctor, as Luffy just loves the fact he’s a talking reindeer…and Sanji has him as venison.
Wapol tries to take his castle back (Kureha overtook it) and we get the inevitable fight sequence. Chopper showcases his devil fruit abilities with ‘Rumble Balls’ which allow him to form his body in different forms depending on the scenario – to jump, to grow, to defend, to run, and to focus an attack. He’s able to defeat Wapol’s minions, whilst Wapol whose devil fruit powers allows him to eat anything (including himself!) to increase his powers, is overall no match for Luffy, and later Chopper indeed does join the Straw Hats as the ship’s doctor and gullible victim for Usopp’s tall tales along with Luffy.
Who is more than a match for Luffy though are Baroque Works, who seem to be focused in Alabasta, under the sinister Mr. 0, a.k.a. Crocodile. The Straw Hats actually meet Mr 2 during the trip….and quite possibly my favourite ‘villain’ so far in Bon Clay – who is definitely very intriguing. A cross-dressing ballet dancing martial artist (with his own entourage), he is saved by the Straw Hats out on the saw, and showcases his own Devil Fruit abilities in able to transform his face and body to anyone he touches to the amusement of the crew. However, Vivi is able to recognize one of the faces as her father, which after a farewell, she reveals that he is a member of Baroque Works, which allows the group to formulate a plan…
Another new character we come across is Luffy’s older brother Ace – a guy who is a lot more sensible and calmer than his brother but also still a bit silly – he meets with Luffy in Alabasta after Luffy separates from the group and holds off Smoker who has arrived there. He is looking for a traitorous pirate named Blackbeard, as he is a vice admiral of the Whitebeard Pirates, but tags along with the group to help them out for a bit. His powers of fire cause much help to the Straw Hats and whilst he does leave, it’s obvious he will be back considering the message he gave Luffy, but the focus now is on Vivi, and the rest of the higher members of Baroque Works. Travelling through the desert, the group meets some old friends of Vivi’s past as they search for one of Vivi’s friends Kohza, the head of a rebel alliance. We learn that the city has not had water for years, though thanks to an old man Luffy found, they may have the secret to sort that out. Problem is, Crocodile has a high approval with the citizens due to his immense power in dealing with petty squabbles, not knowing what is going on behind the scenes – the part ends with the members of Baroque Works (including Bon Clay) preparing for something…
This release is all about setting up the scene, as we wonder what Crocodile is planning and how Vivi and the Straw Hats are going to get involved. The introduction with Bon Clay gives him a slight edge as Zolo points out, and whilst there is some filler in the release (one involving Vivi and some old rivals, and one involving a bounty hunter who apparently fought Blackbeard) it is mostly advancing the story. We start off by acquiring a new member for the Straw Hats, and Chopper is a more than welcome addition to the crew – he is obviously the mascot member, but he definitely has a role as the doctor, combined with the fact he is more than useful in combat as well. It’s one of those roles where the voice in both English and Japanese really works as well, just making him even more lovable – when he giggles whilst insulting you trying not to be happy people are complimenting his work, it just makes you smile as well. The fact he can talk to animals as well is proving useful as they get help in the desert several times thanks to him, so the fact he is definitely a crew member and not the team’s pet is definitely something which is appreciated and that he is treated as an equal, albeit childish.
I liked the fact he got some family relations as well with Ace involved. Whilst he has his quirks, he is definitely more level headed than Luffy, and this will be interesting to see how he gets involved later in the series, as it is definitely set up to be that way. The story basically told us two things to set up – Luffy getting a new member, and preparations to fight Crocodile. And in terms of that it was told well.
There were a few problems though. First of all, unless you were Luffy, Chopper and Vivi, you were actually not in the show that much. This arc has very little of Zolo, Usopp, Nami and Sanji so the focus was not on them in the slightest, therefore if you are a fan of any of them (or some/all of them) it may be a bit disappointing. The other issue I had was that the villain’s plotting whilst starting to get there, seems to drag. It isn’t completely obvious yet what Crocodile’s plan is outside of generic taking over Alabasta (which he is already in charge anyway) – the fact Smoker is in Alabasta is an interesting wrench though so hopefully that doesn’t get messed about. The minor filler was unnecessary and whilst I liked Chopper’s backstory, it seemed a bit more rushed compared to the other characters so far. That said, it was still told well and the sad ending between himself and Hiruluk was as sad as Zolo’s and Nami’s backstory.
The battles were not as much either – the fight with Wapol wasn’t like he was a well told villain – he was just a horrible person who after fleeing his country, wanted to return and rule again. He wasn’t ever a threat to Luffy and just served as a way for the gang to meet Chopper. Whilst the kingdom’s story was told well, it was all just a pre-requisite to lead into Chopper’s story in the end. However, with Baroque Works strongest agents all prepared for battle that is almost certain to change in the next release…
Overall, a mixed bag. The audio is still great in both dub and sub (whilst I prefer the sub, the dub track is pretty good), Luffy is still one of the most fun protagonists despite his stupidity, and I approve Chopper as a new member of the crew, though sadly at the cost of almost everyone else of the Straw Hats being put to the side. However, whilst the story was a bit dragging on, it is the perfect set up for the Alabasta arc, where the battles are almost certainly going to showcase why I like One Piece so much.
One Piece continues to sail along its journey, this time with purpose as we get another crew member who is a welcome addition, combined with some fun characters (Bon Clay, Ace) and preparation for a big arc. Whilst the mini-arc had some good backstory, it also felt a bit unnecessary to have outside of setting up Chopper on the Straw Hats, and the preparation for Alabasta don’t tell enough (yet) what the villains are up to. That said, it’s ready for the next release and it is still fun enough to enjoy the silly moments of the crew combined with the story you know is about to explode, so still definitely recommended.
Content Grade: B
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: November 11th, 2013
Running Time: 650 minutes
Review Equipment: Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.