What They Say:
Hoping to save their beloved boat, the Straw Hats drop anchor at the shipbuilding city of Water 7, but the prognosis for the Going Merry proves far worse than expected. The hits keep coming as Robin mysteriously vanishes, the Franky Family robs the crew blind, and Usopp goes rogue after a shocking battle with Luffy! As if things weren’t bleak enough, the gang finds themselves accused of a cold-hearted assassination attempt – and hunted by the entire city. Luffy and his remaining mates hatch a plan to prove their innocence, but a sinister gang of cutthroat killers stays one step ahead of their every move. Dark secrets and tragic pasts are revealed as Luffy and Zoro fall to a formidable foe, Chopper faces a life and death situation, and a monstrous storm threatens to sink the city once and for all!
Contains episodes 230-252.
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 2005, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The collection brings the two previous sets together into one so there are no differences in the authoring. We get four discs that gives us episodes with six per disc format that covers a range of material. 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.
The packaging for this release puts the four discs inside a standard sized clear keepcase with all the discs on the hinges inside rather than on the interior of the case itself. We’ve had a little bit of a mix of styles recently, but this installment goes with a single character image of Franky in all his buff glory standing out proud on the front cover here in a really good way. With the pirate flag logo behind him, there’s a lot of black space that works very well in drawing the eyes to the muscles and hair. It’s not a hugely detailed piece but it feels just right for him. The back cover is well laid out as well with the left side done all in black with it being about the text and logo, showing the summary for the volume and a neat logo for the episode count. The right side of it gives us a really good standing pose of Franky with a cool and intense look. The reverse side of the cover is kept simple and classy with the four discs getting the episode numbers and titles broken down so you can find everything easily.
The menu design for this release is simple but good with what it does as it uses the pirate style old wood ship kind of background as its main piece in which we get the menu selections along the right while the left side rotates various characters into it depending on the disc. The menus have never been flashy but they set the mood right, often with characters that are key to that particular disc, and have been quick and easy to utilize while also offering a marathon play feature. The menus are straightforward though they don’t use any of the players’ language presets and default to English language with sign/song subtitles.
The extras for this release are pretty good as we get the same as the standalone releases with a number of English language dub commentaries and the clean opening sequences for the relevant episodes. We also get some of the “On the Boat” sequences which provides some good one on one time with the cast talking about the show as new characters are brought on.
As One Piece continues the Water 7 arc, it’s one that I’m quickly finding myself enjoying a lot for the locale, less so for some of the character interactions that are going on among the Straw Hats. The Water 7 area is one that plays up its Venice-like aspects nicely but also goes in for the big ideas that populates the series so easily, with expansive water elevators and other fun ideas involving water that continually fascinates the crew. Even the little creatures they use that are like seahorses really bring some fun personality to it, though they’re used in different forms in other arcs, such as the camels we had for comedic effect back in the Alabasta arc. But it’s these little bits that help to really make it the fun show it is even when it turns more serious.
With the first half of the episodes in this set, the series moves through a number of things going on and it feels busier and at times more cramped than it would otherwise. With the group split in a few ways, we get the fun of Nami, Usopp and Luffy going off with all their treasure to get ti changed finally. That brings in a huge haul, more than enough to fix the Going Merry, and it also opens up a few doors for getting them into the shipbuilders area where they’re able to meet the Mayor, Iceberg, who is pretty much the glue of the whole Water 7 area due to his skill. He’s dealing with his own issues, namely some World Government officials that are pressuring him, and he also has to deal with an assassination attempt. Which, strangely enough, comes from Robin of all people.
Which is one of the weaker aspects of the show, though it makes a certain sense. With Robin disappearing at one point, coming into contact with someone from her past that’s not shown to the audience, she has an about face and essentially abandons the Straw Hats. It’s not something the group expected and the result of it causes the Straw Hats to be sought after by pretty much everyone on Water 7 because of it. Zoro actually has it right in that even though they welcomed her to the crew, and she settled in fine, she was unlike them in a few ways and they could never be quite sure she was one of them in the way that everyone else is. The poor part of it, which may make sense later, is how Robin just says that everything is done and over with between them without any explanation. It makes sense from her point of view, but it’s also something that she could have brought some closure to in a much easier way just by telling them something.
For the others, the show has a different piece factor in prior to the problem with Robin that’s also awkward. While spending time in the shipyards, all their converted currency is stolen and Usopp ends up heavily beaten over it when it was taken by the Franky Brothers, a less than reputable group on Water 7. Usopp is so shamed by the whole experience, between the loss of the money and the beatdown he suffers that it causes him to really get into a rift with Luffy later on. Discovering that the Going Merry is beyond repair means essentially scuttling her and getting a new ship and that’s something that Luffy decides upon after hard thought, but Usopp feels that it’s the wrong choice and he emotionally pushes back against. He’s unaware of certain aspects of what Luffy and the others learn, but it doesn’t stop him from exploding over it and even leaving the Straw Hats. It makes sense in the context of it all, but just like with Robin, an extra sentence or two of explanation from someone would have gone a long way towards smoothing things out without as much drama.
While the Straw Hats are in disarray, a few other factors come into play to make the whole thing chaotic. One of them is the approaching storm that has everyone evacuated to shelters and essentially closing down the Water 7 island in total. While that’s bad enough, the real threat comes from the head of the Franky group as he sees what Luffy has done to his hideout after he stole the money and used it elsewhere. That has him set for revenge and he’s on a massive chase and fight to take down the Straw Hats in a big way for what they did. Franky is a character that I know a bit from my future episodes, but he’s never been a character that I could connect with having not known his origin story. That really starts here and we get a look at his reputation, his ability as a cyborg and the way he’s intent on taking down Luffy and the others in a pretty brutal way, at least for One Piece.
With Robin having gone rogue and left the Straw Hats, things have been split up in a couple of ways. She’s got her path with the CP 9 folks that she’s now been drawn into, Usopp is brought under Franky’s heel while he tries to figure out what he’s really up to before the big storm hits while Luffy and most of the rest are attempting to break into Iceberg’s place to find out why Robin is leaving. And poor Sanji, out there in the wilds himself trying to find Robin again and seeming like he’s just lost in general. He has a few brief scenes here but he’s the one that gets the least amount of time. Even Chopper manages to get a bit more time than him here which is rather amusing. Zoro manages to get a bit more than either of them, but let’s just say it’s not some of his best moments.
With Usopp, he’s spending his time initially trying to fix the Going Merry so that he can get it properly seaworthy. His fight with Luffy has him even more intent on saving the ship since the others have written it off, but he ends up taken in by Franky and that leads to a clearer truth made about the Going Merry itself. There’s some really good things about those who sail the seas and the bond with their ships which allows Franky to be a bit more philosophical than one might think. But it also lets the show segue into his own past a bit with how he was spending part of his youth after being abandoned building his little one man battle ship boats. Franky’s youth is pretty cute and it’s something that has him as an earnest kid with his vision of how to build boats, something that factors into the other part of the tale, which is told from what Luffy is up to.
With Luffy’s attack on Iceberg’s place, we get a good deal of a reveal here as the CP 9 folks have come to get what they’re after. The masked men have a goal as part of the World Government as they want some blueprints that Iceberg supposedly has, though it may be something that has been passed on to someone else is what they learn. Iceberg’s past is similar to Franky in that he was taken in at an early age as well by Tom, one of the most gifted of shipwrights that’s existed on Water 7. Taking us back in the past by over twenty years, we see how the two of them wre polar opposites under Tom’s guidance as Iceberg was all serious and Franky approached it in a different way. There’s a lot of really interesting story to be had between the three of them as we see how the Sea Train came about and an earlier attack on the island in order to get what Tom has, which goes back to that Pluton blueprint which could be a fantastically powerful weapon.
So much of this episode is focused on the past as it goes through all of it with relation to this trio and their earlier struggles. It’s all key to the present as it connects to how Water 7 operates and the path that both Franky and Iceberg have taken with their lives and the choices they made. Both men have such a bond between them with Tom and what they all suffered through, but also how that bond was strained almost beyond repair for so long. Seeing that in the past goes a long way, but the threads of it in the present as the truth behind CP 9 is revealed with who they are and the impact it has on those that know them is pretty well done. Iceberg is weaker in the present with his role here, particularly since he’s wounded, but that’s more than made up for when it comes to what we see of him in the past.
If there’s a weak point, it’s that Luffy and the others are generally minor characters here for much of it. Usopp gets a lot of the screen time in his talks with Franky, but most of the crew spends their time with Iceberg and CP 9 where they’re just trying to understand what it is that Robin is doing with them. Luffy is his usual earnest self in trying to get to the bottom of it by demanding answers of Robin, but she plays it aloof and he ends up going against the CP 9 folks themselves as they just want to make sure that their smaller plan of framing them for Icebergs murder comes into play properly. I like what they do here with the Straw Hats, though Luffy and Zoro get stuck in a hard place a couple of times. Which is cute, but that’s the kind of role that they really have in this set.
One Piece is expanding a bit on a really interesting area of the world here with Water 7 and we get a good look at some of the various guild members and their skills. The area in general is a lot of fun to watch get explored and revealed, but it’s the character stories that are the main focus. The season definitely picks up a lot since coming to this place and there’s a good mix of humor, action and serious material here and plenty of uncertainty as well that makes it an engaging watch, even if frustrating at times. The amount of time spent twenty-three years prior and going forward from there was the big winner for me as we see Franky, Iceberg and Tom together and it all works towards making the whole place a bit more fully realized and building a relationship with the audience for them and with Franky in particular. Very enjoyable and a lot of fun.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Commentary Tracks
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: October 28th, 2014
Running Time: 640 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.