Part filler, part main story – One Piece has a natural advantage with the pirate motif in terms of filler can work because of the travelling – some being decent backstory and some…not that entertaining, but we get set up for the next arc as well as lightning will strike more than twice…
What They Say :
Fresh off their adventure in Alabasta, The Straw Hats prepare to sail straight into the sky! After a death-defying adventure in the dire and dangerous Rainbow Mist, Luffy and his crew dock at Mock Town in search of directions, but instead they’re brutally bullied by pirates who’ve forgotten how to dream. Fortunately for the sake of adventure, Nico Robin catches wind of a legendary liar whose monkey minions can equip any ship for a deadly ascent on the Knockup Stream. Hold on to your hats because the Straw Hats are about to find out if the Going Merry flies as well as she floats.
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 are the same but with a different character showcasing (the focus seems to be Sanji for this release along with Luffy) 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.
We get a couple of dub commentaries as seems to be the standard for the One Piece collections – first of all we get one on episode 11 of this release on a surprisingly fun filler episode where along with the ADR director Jason Grundy we get two of the most well known VAs over the last decade in Colleen Clinkerbeard (Luffy) and Vic Mignogna (the Whetton family). Both of them are well known in the voice actor and dub fan community, so was odd to hear that they came in for a filler episode, but it was fun none the less – they mostly talk about the funny moments whether it was Colleen doing Luffy on Helium at a convention or Vic talking about roles which harmed their chords (Broly)– Collen mentions she likes the random one offs and One Piece is a rarity in enjoying filler arcs, so was quite interesting to hear her thoughts as whilst a bit silly, showed a unique look into how actors see these sort of things.
The other commentary was on episode 14 of this collection, which is the prelude to the Skypeia arc, here involved are Mike McFarland (line producer, ADR Director), Brina Palencia (Chopper), and Colleen again, this time discussion how they started when they acquired the dub and started with the Chopper episodes (and the fact Chopper is the casts’ favourite character), but then returning to earlier episodes (as they fought on who to direct the Chopper episodes) They talk about how they approached the episodes once more info on characters was available as they started when a number of the crew had been established, and then used what they did to focus when they redubbed the earlier episodes. A bit more informative…but still silly due to the gushing on Chopper.
Also the clean opening and endings on this disc are also on the extras.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
One Piece is an oddball for me in terms of the shounen jump animations – whilst the story sections of say Naruto I really do enjoy, the filler arcs really drop it down quite a notch. This is inevitable with long running series because they can’t overtake the manga and I understand. One Piece however seems to be an exception as not only do the filler arcs actually seem OK, but some even incorporate the story quite well, whether it is a flashback episode or it is linked with some beloved characters we met earlier in the series. Either way, One Piece filler arcs seem to be the best of the worst, but it does help that half of this collection returns back to the story, some real kick butt moments with Luffy, and sets up for one of the most famous arcs in the series.
It does start off with filler but again, it works better due to the nature of the show and the travelling across the seas. First one for example they need to restock on food, and newcomer Robin catches Chopper talking to himself and his mentor Dr. Kureha, and she seems genuinely interested in the little fella’s story. Chopper basically whilst not trusting her can’t ignore her compliments, and it leads to a story of how he saved her, and she was his first patient. The next one as well, reminds us that Nami actually does have a dream herself in her navigation and making a map of the whole world, whilst also having to deal with the antics of the rest of the crew. The next one involves Sanji helping out a young trainee chef where despite being enemies with who he works for (i.e. the Marines) it does showcase Sanji’s love of cooking and how underneath that façade, he can be quite the nice guy as he gives the kid Tajiyo a lot of little hints here and there (whilst Luffy tries hard not to get caught on the fog encrusted ship…good luck…because it’s Luffy). Usopp gets the next one as at another island where he hopes to get gunpowder, he helps an old man and his granddaughter with a firework festival that was in honour of the granddaughters’ parents. Lastly, we get a flashback episode on Zoro, where he met the two guys from the previous arcs that were with him in Johnny and Yosaku, as he follows the bounty hunters code after he takes out a bandit but not officially one, and helps save the two of them leading to them joining him for the time being until he came across Luffy.
This is what I called good filler because it reminds you of our character’s past, what they are good at, and what their dreams are, so it focuses on them in a good way remembering what they are about, and reminding the audience of their true characterization. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work that way, as we get a mini-arc which is more of the not-so-good filler.
The Straw Hats get to an island inhabited by an old man named Zenny and his pet goats. He seems to be near death according to Chopper, so the Straw Hats, unconditionally good guys as they seem to be, stay with him until his death. This including building a pirate ship which Zenny intends to use as a coffin – hijinks do ensue and we learn of his past as a moneylender, which leads to him wanting to be a pirate, which Luffy inspires him to when the Marines lure the Straw Hats into a trap, and Zenny decides to help them out. It leads to Zenny’s life being extended, and the Straw Hats move on – and whilst some of the back story was interested, the conclusion of why the goats are his ‘treasure’ and the fact it felt all unnecessary (unsure if Chopper’s diagnosis was right or wrong) made this one feel a bit weaker to say the least. The next mini-arc also doesn’t help, where a mystical ‘Rainbow Mist’ occurs in a town where high taxes are used to fund the research to stop this mist, as it appears to be within the mouth of a ghost ship. This one lasts 5 episodes and is easily the most uninteresting ‘arc’ of One Piece in the six collections I’ve watched. The story doesn’t go anywhere, the characters of the abandoned men is never established on, the Pumpkin Pirates are basically a poor attempt of the Usopp pirates from before, and none of the history really works until the final part when the story seems to be rushed together. It was the only arc where I had to admit I was watching the timer for it to go faster and being the longest of the filler arcs it really did get grating.
However, it does lead into ready for the Bellamy Pirates and Skypeia arcs which raise the bar back up. (We also do get a nice one off episode of Buggy being ‘invaded’ by Ace, as we get a hint of Ace’s boss Whitebeard to be one to be feared…) This is as much as just how much stronger the Straw Hats have gotten as much as setting up for the next main arc. With most of the arcs, we get a boss character that Luffy has to take time and figure out how to defeat – guys like Kuro, Arlong and especially Crocodile. Bellamy seems set up to be the next one, very cocky, has a devil fruit power, makes fun of the dreams of the Straw Hat crew and their intentions to go to this make believe island in the sky, yet Zolo and Luffy show that they can fight back without needing to get violent. But when they encounter a man named Cricket who explains there is a way to get to Skypeia, and after him and his crew help out the Straw Hats with their ship…they get robbed by Bellamy. With only hours to go before the currents are strong enough to lift their ship into the sky, Luffy promises to get what they robbed off him back. Just as he arrives, we ominously see that Luffy’s bounty has risen (and Zolo also getting a 60 million bounty) whilst Bellamy laughed at Luffy’s original bounty because his was higher doesn’t believe it as Luffy challenges him.
Bellamy gets taken out with ONE PUNCH. Just that moment showcases this is a different type of shounen style anime and was just an awesome moment. It was a side track of course but one that showcases how much stronger and badass Luffy has become since beating Crocodile.
It ends with them having a very rocky trip to Skypeia, and it appears there is a god named Eneru somehow watching all their moves. With money apparently owed to them and using various guards to do so (and add to the Straw Hats tab) and despite making some friends there in the Knight Of The Sky and a cute young lady named Conis, there definitely seems to be something eerie and unusual about this Eneru as Nami seems to have found out, and this island may have much more mystery than even the Straw Hats may have expected…
There are lots of potential moments in this arc now just as a prelude to the bigger picture, but the fact other characters have been showcased that could easily figure. We are still for example not sure of Robin’s thoughts as she enters the crew, the one episode showcases of Buggy and Ace is reminders that they exist which suggests they will be used in the future, plus a pirate named Blackbeard that was impressed with Luffy along with trying to get his bounty whilst travelling to Skypeia (and a side note in potentially replacing Crocodile as a Warlord) – even the filler episodes for the most part were mostly enjoyable – a lot of specific episodes focusing on most of the Straw Hats crew outside of Luffy who gets to shine most of the episodes anyway, none so much as during the mini Bellamy arc – just one of those moments where despite him being an idiot (I had to facepalm when it was clear he wanted to go to a forbidden area that was incredibly dangerous as the others went ‘NOOOO’) but he is a capable captain, fighter and friend to those he likes and trusts. It is almost a real subtle well of him and the others ‘leveling up’ so to speak both as fighters and as characters.
Whilst a number of the mini filler arcs were weak, they still at least make sense in this world better than most other long running shows because of the nature of sailing the seven seas. The set up for the next big arc leaves on a cliffhanger as Eneru hasn’t shown yet, and we have no idea what set up aside from the money issues is going to be used here. However, the element of mystery makes this arc work and sets you up so you want to see what happens. Outside of the filler issues, the only major negative is the fact that the characters weren’t well balanced in terms of screen time. Robin in particular, which was unusual because she is the newest member of the crew, yet she was the only one without a focus filler episode, and outside of her chess exploits she was barely involved. Chopper got his moments with his mini episode and helping Zenny, and everyone else got in the spotlight for a bit, but it is hard to remember anything specific anyone did outside of their episodes, because Luffy’s one hit KO on Bellamy just outshone everything.
Not a bad thing though because at least most of the crew got a bit of development, there is still a ton of episodes and arcs to come, and One Piece for a long running series, is actually keeping me interested even with filler arcs, which is a rarity in terms of the series I watch, so this is easily the one long runner I can recommend.
Whilst the first half is mostly filler and the second half is a set up for the big arc, this collection is still not bad. The focus episodes whilst filler are still enjoyable for character development, some unique fun moments, and the Bellamy arc got us some new characters potentially involved and showcasing how far the Straw Hats have come. The Skypeia arc has just begun and has a lot of mystery involved, but the show does enough to keep you interested to see what happens next without resorting to a huge cliffhanger. Intriguing and one to collect.
Content Grade: B
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: May 19th, 2014
Running Time: 650 minutes
Review Equipment: Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.