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! Spoken Languages: English, Japanese, English subtitles.
Set in English Dolby Surround Sound and Japanese 5.1 as well, this was what you expect from one of the big SJ movies being released on DVD – as quality as you could to as close to on the big screen. The audio is superb in both languages, the effects and music come through separately throughout your screen and no sound is not heard – everything is played together and can differentiate everything. No issues with the audio synching with the subtitles and/or lip flaps, overall a very quality release.
Similar with the video, set in widescreen format with a 16:9 – 1.78:1 aspect ratio, the screen is filled with colour and clarity as the show zooms in as Luffy tries to escape from many giant hybrid animals. No issues with pausing and the animation looking cut, it is very flowing with again, no out of timing with the subtitles and audio, the work onto this in comparison to the series (which is still pretty good don’t forget especially for a long runner) is obvious so it is very well done and a showcase for the fans.
A 1 disc release, the menu is very basic – set up with Luffy and Usopp on the right running from some of the creatures, the selections in the centre middle of Play Feature, Set Up and Extras. No issues with selection from the main menu or returning to it from the movie, but nothing really outstanding, especially considering the people behind the movie itself.
There were a couple of extras involved – the small one being an English Language Trailer for the movie.
The big one was a section called ‘Introducing Brook’. This was the first time Brook had been dubbed into English as the US release hadn’t got to the Thriller Bark section by the time they hadn’t licensed the movie (the UK has it worse but more on that in the review) – so we get to see the English voice actor Ian St Clair along with Mike McFarland the ADR director talk about how his character had to work in English, whilst following a number of cosplayers at a convention including many Brook ones.
A lot of focus on his history, his singing, trademark laugh, whilst a number of the cosplayers talk about Brooks’ back-story in the manga – Ian showcases how he got the role with his singing and his preparation for the audition. It is an interesting piece with a lot of fun entangled with clips from the movie in comparison.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
One Piece: Strong World, has a real unique stigma in terms of the One Piece movies, and indeed shounen jump movies in general, in terms that the mangaka Eichirou Oda himself got involved with this movie in terms of the story. As such, it is considered a rare canon film that isn’t part of the original manga – and you can see why considering the story, the characterisation and relationship of Nami with the crew, and just the battle sequences and conclusion in general. To me, this is a near perfect movie…with just one major niggle which is only really specific to the UK and people who aren’t reading the manga, but will get to that in a second.
It does have a typical anime movie plot – in terms of a one shot villain being the focus of the movie which leads into conflict with the Straw Hat pirates. It starts with the man in question, a Devil Fruit user named Shiki whose ability allows him to make anything he touches float. With the Marines unable to get in close, we cut to Luffy who has been separated from his crew and instead is being chased by hybrid giant animals who all want to eat him instead of the other way round. The other members of the group are also separated (Sanji/Usopp, Zolo/Chopper, Robin/Franky/Brook) and we get some unique moments with them also having to deal with some of the problems, but we get a flashback on how they got to the situation, with them helping out Shiki thanks to Nami noticing a storm come ahead that even their dials and tech can’t. Which of course explains why Nami isn’t there…Shiki in fact kidnaps her and sends all the remaining pirates floating away in this unusual island, as he tries to convince her to become his navigator.
The first real plus of this story is that it is really Nami’s movie, and the fact she had indeed changed being around the Straw Hats – a number of instances showcase this but her complete distrust of them and the care for her comrades lives are so clear here compared to what she was like pre-Arlong arc. This theme continues throughout until the very last line of the film and her genuine care and compassion in general, when the character Billy appears, a bird that can produce electricity that is rejected as a weapon for Shiki but grows attached to Nami and vice versa. Whilst that is going on, the Straw Hat Pirates get into their own adventures, with the main one in that Zoro and Chopper rescue a little girl named Xiao, where there are poisonous plants around their village…the same poison which can be cured by a plant on Shiki’s ship which he is using for his animal experiments tying in everything together.
Nami eventually does escape, and the rest of the Straw Hats do also meet up together in this village, with the exception of Robin’s group who do some further investigation as Shiki is bringing in other pirates to help release the animals into the world, starting with East Blue…which is of course where most of the Straw Hats are from. Unfortunately, it isn’t long before Shiki finds out Nami is missing and thanks to some sneakiness, is able to reclaim her again and defeats the Straw Hat Pirates on his own with his powers, showcasing he is a credible villain for Luffy to fight. (Also leading to the moment when Nami records a message for Luffy before she leaves, which isn’t revealed until the very last line of the movie but confirms Nami’s totally loyal character and her trust and care for Luffy)
This leads to the final part, to properly rescue Nami and defeat Shiki. Nami herself fakes being loyal whilst trying to destroy his poisonous plant protection, but is eventually caught and poisoned herself. In a truly awesome moment, the Straw Hats infiltrate Shiki’s base with guns and cannons and totally wreck it in a beautifully animated sequence, and Nami’s care for Billy pays dividends when he was the one who continued to destroy the plants with his electricity that Shiki ironically thought was a failure. We see Sanji and Zolo take care of the number two men, Chopper finding the plants to help and then heal Nami, and of course, the final battle between Shiki and Luffy.
We get a call back to why Shiki wanted Nami as her navigator as her skills are what cause Shiki to eventually be defeated as his crew flees, Luffy showcases his best skills in combination with the elements and it leaves for the Marines to do clean up and a sweet finale with Nami’s true thoughts on Luffy and the gang come through. It definitely feels like a performance throughout as Nami’s development from the brains, to damsel in distress, to badass damsel, to confidant, to needing to know to trust her friends – is all showcased in the movie. In retrospect, the Straw Hats bar her don’t actually that much screen time in terms of development, but they all get to showcase their skills during the finale or in the opening sequences, with Luffy hell-bent as he always is to get his navigator and more importantly, friend back.
The animation is superb, the battle sequences are incredible (especially the initial shoot out) – there is even some good comedy involving Shiki and his two sidekicks Indigo and Scarlet with their screw ups. But there is plenty of darkness as well – the town suffering due to the poison, their strong men and young women all forced to work for Shiki, plus Shiki’s devil fruit power practically allows him to move islands, mountains and oceans with his floating ability to crush anyone who opposes him. Shiki is a very credible villain with a history that makes him seem unbeatable as even the senior Marines are worried about him. It seems to be a perfect stand out movie for casual One Piece fans…except for one major problem.
You have to be aware of the manga otherwise if you are following the UK Releases there may be an issue. Not only with Brook being involved, but Franky also hasn’t debuted in the UK Release (hell, Robin is only a recent addition) because it is quite a well behind the US release and of course the Japanese release that their respective arcs haven’t been released yet in the UK. For a new One Piece fan going by the UK DVDs only, these can be easily seen as both major spoilers and ‘who the hell are these guys’ moments. If you are familiar with them via the manga, US release, etc – then not so much an issue, but it is a bit of a niggle as we get this movie way before we get the Galley-ra and Thriller Bark arcs Franky and Brook appear in. Also many of Luffy’s attacks in his Gear 2/3 modes are basically from when Franky appears so people wondering ‘how the hell did he do that?’ would again be a bit spoiled on just how powerful Luffy does become.
It is a niggle yes, but one that you have to be aware of if you are only going via the UK release. Otherwise, this is one, if not the best Shounen Jump movie spin-off simply because of the focus on friendship and how tight the Straws Hats are with one of their own. Luffy himself has a role of simply being the leader, and the one to make sure all his crew are safe, even against near impossible odds. Everyone gets their moment of course, but it is Nami’s movie, and it is nice to see her true thoughts on the Pirates and that she truly does care about them.
One Piece: Strong World may have come a bit too soon for UK followers of the anime who aren’t familiar with the manga or how far the US dub is, but otherwise this is a great one-shot movie. Fantastic action, a credible villain, deep relationship establishments, a bit of comedy, actual plot and a super finale, you may wanna give it a shot even with the risk of being spoiled by the newer moves and characters – the fact Oda got involved gives it more depth and story than other SJ movies, and is the cream of the crop of the One Piece films.
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK/KAZE
Release Date: June 30th, 2014
Running Time: 113 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Review Equipment: Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.