What They Say:
The latest adventure kicks off with a battle between Fire Fist Ace and the dastardly Blackbeard. Flames collide with the crushing power of darkness as these heavyweights lay waste to an entire island. When the dust settles on their showdown, the scene shifts back to the Straw Hats who find themselves trapped in frigid waters – and hunted by a family of bounty hunters.
After their icy adversaries steal the Straw Hats’ flag, it’s all hands on deck to recover the precious symbol of their pirate pride! Chopper unleashes a Rumble Ball on a hockey hooligan, Franky unveils his Shark Sub in a clash with some pesky penguins, and Luffy goes toe-to-toe with a foe that’s too hot to handle! Side by side they’ll fight to the death – because a pirate without a flag is no pirate at all!
Contains episodes 325-336.
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 in 2007, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. This collection has thirteen episodes to it spread across two discs with seven on the first and five on the second. The series in its widescreen form has a very good look where it takes what we had in full screen and just gives it a new life. The placement, framing and general look of the series comes across as brighter, cleaner and better choreographed both in fight sequences and general humor. The transfer brings through the detail of the animation much better and it just feels like the source material is in better shape as well. Colors are bright, appealing and problem free with only a mild smattering of noise in some of the backgrounds that never really detracts. This set doesn’t hold up quite as well in a different area though as the line noise is pretty glaring in a number of scenes, particularly with the various ships, and it gets somewhat distracting at times.
One Piece goes bright with its thin slipcover packaging as it has a white background with some colorful black and yellow framing to tie it together. The artwork is kept to the center under the same logo as used before and it stands out well here, even when it’s dark since it’s also colorful and playful in a way that draws you in. The cover for this release gives us a pretty good piece of artwork here, even if it’s a tiny part of the set overall, with Ace and Blackbeard going at it with flames and darkness framing them. The front cover also lists the episodes so you know what you’re getting. The back cover goes for the same framing and is pretty light and inviting with the artwork as it uses the blue skies and clouds while also focusing on various serious scenes from the episodes. The left has a small summary of what to expect that hits some key points but keeps it simple. The discs features and what it contains is accurate, though it omits the clean openings that are included.
Inside the case we get a pair of clear thinpak cases that hold the two discs. Both covers are done the same in that they have the Straw Hat logo across it with the simple text logo as well which is all done in an old leathery volume kind of way. It has a good look but I almost wish we had more artwork here instead of this to go with the colorful slipcover that we have that holds the cases. The back covers are a bit traditional in that we get a wood deck feeling with the main colorful logo here as well as a breakdown of episodes by title and number. The reverse side has more of the wood feeling with the logo but no additional artwork or anything. No show related inserts are included.
The menu design for this release is quite fun and simple as it goes for a white background where part of the upper half is cut out in waves. White dominates it outside of the Straw Hats pirate logo along the left whereas the right has the season listing and the navigation in black and red, making for an easy read. The top portion brings in a bit of character animation artwork from the show that adds some splash of color that’s really nice to see. With a bit of mild instrumental music attached to it that doesn’t dominate, it sets the mood well and hits all the right notes. Submenus load quickly and easily and there were no problems moving around. I do wish they had kept to the menu designs for consistencies sake, but I like what was done here.
The extras for this release are pretty good as we get two new English language commentary for a couple of episodes. The second disc also brings us a new “On the Boat” segment, this time with Colleen Clinkenbeard that clocks in at twenty minutes. There’s a lot of fun as she goes through the recording process and talks about the character and the whole performance process itself.
One Piece brings to a close their ninth season with this show as these episodes went up through the end of 2007 during its original broadcast. The series has had a lot of fun with its recent arcs and a general light tone for a lot of it as we got the crew the Sunny after the loss of the Merry and the experiences that comes with a new ship. And we also got to know Franky a bit more which helped to make him a little more engaging and fun to watch. I’m still not sold completely on the character – even after watching the later simulcast episodes with him – but each little bit of background helps to make me like him a little more. The recent lightness in the story has definitely been welcome though considering the heavier material that came in through the Enies Lobby arc and all that happened there with the Straw Hats. Getting them to be friends again and working towards their goal of the New World just felt like it was nicely smoothed out here.
Before we can get to more of that in this set though as their journey continues on, we get a good bit of background building going on for other future events. This takes us to a place where we get to see Ace once again, someone we haven’t seen in quite some time, who is about to face his own challenge. Considering his allegiances in the past and where he’s been and who he’s been involved with, it’s not a surprise that when Blackbeard shows up and starts talking about his own larger goals to win over the New World, he intends to have Ace either a part of it or out of the picture. The two have a pretty fun dynamic between them and even though it leads to an expected fight between them that takes up the bulk of the episode, it works because we get a good understanding of their powers and what’s going on. With Ace’s fire ability what it is, seeing how he’s capable of using it against Blackbeard and his newly acquired darkness powers makes it clear that both are formidable opponents.
While that does start the set off well, I was a bit less enamored with the rest of what’s here, though I understand the approach taken. With it being the end of the ninth season, what we get isn’t exactly filler per se, but the closure of certain events with some minor nods towards what’s to come without any truly serious connections to the New World. With the crew having gotten underway in good order recently with the Sunny, they’re following the Log Pose as closely as they can to their next destination. But there are always distractions in the world of One Piece and with Luffy in particular. When they come across a seemingly abandoned ship with no sails and a lot of damage, it’s easy to see them just sailing right by it. But when they see some people on it that look pretty bad off, they’ll take the chance to try and help because it’s the right thing to do. And it reinforces that these are not your traditional pirates once again since most would not “help” anyone else when there’s plunder ahoy. The whole encounter is amusing since the fisherman on the derelict ship are surprised to be helped by pirates, but we get some good bits of humor across it and as Chopper helps them with medical issues, including spending time below decks on their ship with the captain that’s been unconscious. It’s here that we learn that these aren’t fisherman though but rather pirates themselves that got in a big bit of trouble when they braved the New World themselves.
That this group are being used themselves makes sense as they’re basically a lure and trap to draw in other pirate groups for the Acchi family that will then capture them and acquire the bounty for them. That doesn’t go over so well with the Straw Hats of course and it’s amusing to see this pretty low quality group – in terms of strength and cunning – thinking they can get one over on the Straw Hats without them noticing. But the whole thing really does play out nicely as the Straw Hats end up helping these Phoenix Pirates in their own way, particularly since their captain, upon being healed by Chopper, really is a nice guy but is struggling with the feeling of being so overpowered when they went to the New World. That helps to reinforce the kind of dangers that are out there and the way that Luffy is just so confident that he’ll be the King of Pirates some day that it’s a kind of amusing disconnect. The Phoenix Pirates are struggling with being bested and then subservient to this bounty hunter family and that factors in nicely as a subplot along the way.
The material involving the Phoenix Pirates is pretty well spread across the set – since the arc does conclude with the final episode here – and while I didn’t really connect with any of them in a significant way, there’s a lot to like with the balance between them and the Straw Hats. Where the real challenge of the arc comes in is when the gang ends up getting involved in dealing with the Acchi family and their powers and abilities since they’re found ways to corner ships using them and the natural surroundings and creatures – including some pretty difficult to deal with penguins. This part of the arc works well enough as we get the Papa figure who has come up with a pretty good trap to lure pirates in and collect the bounties on them and he’s reinforced it as a family job so that the kids are pretty eager to curry favor. The Straw Hats get it doubly bad since they get caught up in it during Papa’s birthday and the kids are trying to bring some great gifts to him in the form of big bounties, which the gang certainly has.
This takes up most of the action in the show as it really gets underway and with a variety of opponents, from figure skaters to a pair of identical twin brothers and those penguins as well, everyone gets their opponent to deal with. For Luffy, he gets to face off against the Papa figure who can turn his body incredibly hot, which is surprisingly useful on the ice plateaus they fight across, but the rest have a really fun mission themselves. The youngest of daughters for the Acchi family uses a bird to swipe the Sunny’s Jolly Roger, something they can’t let Luffy find out about so they go after it pretty intently. But it also brings a good bit of comedy along the way in a physical sense since it’s more slapstick as it runs in parallel to Luffy going up against Papa. Neither fight arc is bad per se, but they are mostly predictable at this point with the expected highs and lows that ends with everyone where you’d think they would end up from the start of the arc. But it is fun in that kind of light way.
While One Piece offers up a mostly light story here, it’s one that has its fun moments and definitely works the characters personalities in a good way rather that coming across as out of character for it. There’s a kind of buffer feeling going on here where the self contained eleven episode arc hits some good notes but without any kind of real challenge to it. We get Luffy to deal with a new kind of powered up person, but not one that would in any way constitute a real threat, which deflates it to some degree. But we also get a comical side plot involving the bulk of the crew going after their stolen Jolly Roger, which is fun and mildly convoluted if only because they have to face off against most of Papa’s kids and their quirky abilities. It’s not deep or thought provoking nor does it feel like a really challenge for this group – especially after what they did at Enies Lobby. But it does keep things moving and feels like the kind of side adventure that the Straw Hats would get into during their larger journey. What provides the most meat here is the first episode with the fight between Ace and Blackbeard since both are good scenery chewing characters in their own way and it hints at some of what’s to come in the next hundred or so episodes. Which is just plain weird to say.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Ending, Commentary Tracks, On The Boat
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: March 4th, 2014
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic 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.