What They Say:
When the Straw Hats catch wind of trouble in the peaceful waters of the East Blue, they quickly set a course for home! But before they reach their destination, fate leads them into the deadly path of Golden Lion Shiki. This gravity-defying madman needs a navigator, and he wants Nami! Shiki scatters the Straw Hats across the far corners of a floating island filled with ferocious, genetically-mutated monsters, and issues Nami and ultimatum: join his crew – or her friends die!
Big mistake. Luffy kicks his attack mode into Third Gear and begins a brutal rampage across the beast-ridden island. It’s all hands on deck in Monkey vs. Lion. Winner gets the navigator!
The audio presentation for this release is quite good as we get the original Japanese language track with a theatrical 5.1 mix in mind and an English language dub that uses the same design in 5.1, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The film has a lot of action to it overall and it moves from place to place in a solid and energetic manner that keeps things moving and full of surprises as it goes forward. The dialogue keeps up with it well as it has a strong and defined presence across the forward soundstage and both mixes do a good job of utilizing the rear channels as well. It’s a solid theatrical design that translates well here into the home as it makes for a fun and engaging adventure for fans of both languages. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally in theaters in 2009, the transfer for this film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The feature clocks in at just under two hours and the transfer for this is very strong all around with a high bit rate, one that feels higher than a lot of FUNimation shows tend to use. The animation design for this film is very strong with a lot of detail but also a lo tof really great color design to it. It’s full of vibrant colors with a lot of pop to them that really comes across beautifully here. The details are well defined and free of problems such as noise and jitter or any form of cross coloration. The end result of what they did here with the transfer is to really bring to life the world that they’ve created here and make it fully engaging.
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case with an O-card slipcover that replicates what’s on the case artwork. It’s a good looking piece overall as we get the main crew of the Straw Hats strewn across it as they run from the various large creatures pursuing them, so we get a lot of color, action and a very busy cover that actually works really well. The logo is kept to the lower left in a small piece on a white block which is kind of unusual, but that keeps it from obscuring much overall and lets the focus reside on the characters and their fun expressions. The back cover is an all white affair that is pretty heavily focused on the text, which isn’t too bad as it has a fun tagline across the top and an utterly adorable picture of Chopper in his small form over the title of the film. The premise is pretty straightforward and they do make the nod that this film was written by the original creator. Extras are clearly listed and we get a good selection of images from the show as well. The technical information covers both formats well and the overall look is solid and clean, which is a definite plus here. The case cover artwork is reversible and it uses a great image of the Straw Hats in their gangster mode that spreads across both panels in a great if dark way.
The menu design for this release is kept to a simple nature as it’s largely just a series of blended clips from the film that shows off a few of the characters and some of the settings. It’s not hugely engaging in a way but it sets the tone and mood well enough. The logo is kept to the upper left corner and the strip along the bottom doubles as the pop-up menu, though without the extras submenu and instead brings you back to the main menu to get to it. It’s not all that themed or styled but it does have the four slashes from the logo as the cursor which is cute and fits in well.
The extras for this release are a bit limited but geared towards one particular event. With the film being the first introduction of dubbed Brook, we get a twenty minute piece that talks about the character a bit, shows off animation with the group and spends some time with the voice actors as well. Having been watching the simulcast since the early 400’s, I’m certainly familiar with the character but it was nice to see the actors involved and the fun of it all. The only other extra we get is the trailer made for the US market for the film.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
In a lot of ways, I’m still very shocked that I’m here with One Piece at this point in time. My first exposure to it was with the first FUNimation DVD release of the TV series and the whole thing was just hugely off-putting and left me cold at best. But I had kept with it and it grew on me and then I had gotten into the simulcasts back in 2009, which took me about three hundred episodes out from where I was with the DVDs. Watching the show weekly with new episodes while slowly catching up is certainly awkward, but it’s worked well and left me pretty impressed with the show and its scale. What’s disappointed me though is that while we’re plugging away at the TV show itself, we’ve only gotten one of the movies. And that was the eighth one no less. With this release, we finally get a new one after a few years and it’s the tenth one, which is actually a little different than how most movies get done for large franchise like this.
While most movies from long running shows are standalone works – and One Piece has definitely done those – this one had a few episodes that were broadcast in Japan in the weeks prior to the films release that provided some of the back story to what’s going on here. To make it matter all the more, the episodes and film was designed by the original creator, Eiichiro Oda, which plugs it directly into the continuity in a way a lot of films never feel like they do. Admittedly, it was frustrating during the simulcast because we were seeing the prologue to a film that may never have come out over here (and it did take nearly 4 years) so it was a bit anti-climactic. Thankfully, even though we’ve mostly forgotten those episodes, the film can stand on its own and even if you’ve not seen episodes with Brook, one of the Straw Hats that hasn’t been introduced yet in the TV releases here, you can engage and enjoy it fully.
The premise of the film is straightforward enough in that we’re introduced to Shiki, a Devil Fruit pirate who has been unseen for quite a few years but has just resurfaced. His abilities allow him to control the gravity of objects he touches, though it doesn’t affect anything that’s living. He’s intent on having a bit of revenge for past transgressions and is going to start by essentially eliminating the East Blue. He’s gotten together a good little series of islands that are floating in the sky and are under his control, though they have some villages on it and a lot of very large animals he intends to use as weapons of mass destruction when they cross over to the East Blue. What he needs though is a new navigator as a chance encounter with the Straw Hats and their ship early on has him realizing that the ones he has aren’t exactly equipped to handle what he needs. Hence his outright eliminating them in favor of a particular navigator on the Straw Hats ship. Poor Nami. Everyone wants her.
That goes in a predictable pattern where Nami ends up sacrificing herself for the greater good, realizing that her home in the East Blue is at risk, and signs on with Shiki. Once that’s in motion, the rest of the Straw Hats are in shock and race to rescue her, which goes through a series of adventures and fun as they learn more about the various islands in the sky here with the numerous creatures and various people. It’s not exactly the most in-depth thing, but what we get is a very streamlined Oda story that would have gone on for twenty or thirty episodes if it was done as a regular arc with the TV series. Condensing it down here, it is an engaging story (albeit predictable) because it’s just so well polished and tuned here that events move quickly. When you come from the TV series background, seeing a resolution this quick does feel a little odd, but it’s a welcome change from things. And knowing that it was at least seeded in the TV series a bit, it feels a little more connected and real than the movies that are completely standalone.
After some seriously diminishing returns over the years in terms of box office performance where the films barely cracked the $10 million mark at best, this 2009 feature brought in $54 million theatrically and reminded people that a One Piece movie can do good business and be connected to the core animated franchise. Though things haven’t gone big since then, having tooled around with a CG style film, Strong World is a solid and worthy entry in the larger One Piece world. I’ve not seen anything beyond the eighth film, but it’s hard to imagine the previous films matching this in terms of quality of animation, design and the engaging and fun storyline. Though there’s a lot going on with Shiki here, it’s really about the bonds of the Straw Hats have and how they’ll go to the ends of the earth to rescue each other. There’s some fun tension involving Luffy and Nami towards the end but it’s all about resolving the real issues between the two and giving us a very good look at the group as a whole.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, US Trailer, Introducing Brook Behind The Scenes Special
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: November 19th, 2013
Running Time: 113 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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.