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One Piece Movie Collection 3 UK Anime DVD Review

63 min read

One Piece Movie Collection 3 UKBrace yourself, people. The first review, from a new-time reviewer, and we’re reviewing three movies in one go. A warning from the outset: May contain pop-cultural references, nerdy references, wrestling references, and otherwise awkward attempts at humour.

What They Say:
“One Piece Movie 7: Mega Mecha Soldier of Karakuri Castle
The Straw Hats visit an island known as Mecha Island and once again, they are on the hunt for treasure. But it is not any ordinary treasure! For what they seek is the legendary Golden Crown.
One Piece Movie 8: Episode of Alabasta: The Pirates and the Princess of the Desert
The island kingdom of Alabasta is about to erupt in civil war – a war engineered by Crocodile, one of the Seven Warlords of the Sea, and his criminal organization Baroque Works. Monkey D. Luffy, his Straw Hat pirates, and Princess Vivi race to the island, where the strongest warriors of Baroque Works wait to stop them. Can Vivi and her friends stop an entire war? And how can Luffy fight Crocodile, when Crocodile can turn into sand?
One Piece Movie 9: Episode of Chopper + The Miracle Winter Cherry Blossom”

The Review:
Audio:
First in the trio of movies, we have the seventh One Piece movie, The Giant Mecha Soldier of Karakuri Castle, or Mega Mecha Soldier of Karakuri Castle as the official translation for this release by Manga Entertainment has it. The audio here is fine, with no problems that I could see with quality. There isn’t any issue of audio going out of synch. It’s not so quiet as to be straining to hear what’s going on, with your speakers on at full volume, and is generally at a volume level you can expect from Manga releases.

As with all the movies in these Manga released One Piece Movie Collection sets (barring one, but we’ll get to that in a minute), there is not an English dub, as Funimation has not licensed these movies yet, and thus hasn’t done any dubbing for it. If you are used to the English dub, as found on the main series releases, or on the Strong World movie release, then you may be put out by this. I myself am well acquainted with the Japanese cast, being a One Piece fan for about ten years and having watched it in various forms: uncut, edited, dubbed, subbed, raw, you name it, and so I had no problem following along with who is who in the cast, but those who are much more familiar with the English voices may have to learn quickly who sounds like what to keep up with the action. On a side note, those who are familiar with the Japanese cast, at the time of recording the movie, Chopper’s actress, Ootani Ikue, was not available, as she was on maternity leave, and so her replacement at the time, Ikura Kazue, fills in for her in this movie, as well as her stint as Chopper in the main series from episode 254 to episode 263. You can tell fairly easily it’s not Ootani, in Chopper’s Heavy Point form, as Ikura affects a deeper voice to match Chopper’s hulking stature, whereas Ootani keeps her voice the same as Chopper’s regular Brain Point form.

Whether the audio is 2.0 stereo or what-not, I’m afraid I cannot tell you, as there is no indication given on what the audio is on the DVD itself, and since I am reviewing a test copy, I don’t have the packaging to look at and find out. Nevertheless, it is certainly fine enough and I found no complaints in the audio quality here.

What I do need to complain about, sadly, is the subtitling. For a basic, Japanese audio, sub only release with precious little else going for it, subtitles are everything, and sadly there are hiccoughs on this disc that really took me out of the moment. A lot of this may be down to my own knowledge of Japanese and knowledge of One Piece, but I found the subtitles inconsistent not only throughout this release, but on this disc alone.

For instance, whoever did the translations for these subtitles didn’t seem to commit to their own translating conventions. The word “turtle” is a huge part of this movie, being a plot point and generally a running theme throughout the movie, be it the island, the connection the island has to turtles, the Log Pose that features a turtle that points you in the right direction, and yet in some cases, the translator would translate the word “kame” to “turtle”, but leave it untranslated in other areas, such as “Kame Pose”, when “Turtle Pose” would have made more sense.

Another inconsistency is that the translator sometimes translates honorifics to appropriate English phrases. For instance, the antagonist of the movie, Ratchet, is referred to as “Ratchet-sama” in Japanese, which the subtitles put as “Sir Ratchet”, or for another instance, Ratchet calls his mother “Hahaue” when trying to sound grown-up and formal, or “Okaa-chan”, a more affectionate, kiddy way of referring to your mother, particularly with the use of the “–chan” suffix. The translator uses “Mother” for “Hahaue” and “Mommy” for “Okaa-chan”, both appropriate translations. However, in other instances, the translator neglects to provide an appropriate phrase to translate honorifics given elsewhere. For example, long-time fans will know that Sanji calls Nami and Robin “Nami-s(w)an” and “Robin-ch(w)an” respectively. On the main series releases (both Region 1 and 2, as they use the same subtitles from the same translator), this is shown by simply leaving the “Nami-san” and “Robin-chan” untranslated, but here on the movie discs, “Nami-san” and “Robin-chan” are simply left as “Nami” and “Robin”, no sign of the honorifics having been translated or left as-is.

What’s baffling about this is that the translator then translates Robin’s quirk of referring to the crewmembers by titles, accompanied by an honorific, i.e. calling Nami “Koukaishi-san” and Usopp “Naga Hana-kun” (“Koukaishi” being “Navigator”, “Naga hana” being “Long nose”, “-san” being equivalent to Mr or Miss, and “-kun” being a term used for males on the same level as you or younger). Here, the subtitles have Robin calling Nami and Usopp “Miss Navigator” and “Mr Long Nose”, which are both appropriate translations and get across how Robin speaks. It’s here, though, that the inconsistencies come in again, as Robin refers to everyone in the crew like this, and yet the subtitles neglect to translate this verbal tic over, when Robin talks to Luffy or Chopper, leaving the “Senchou-san” or “Sen’i-san” as just “Captain” and “Doctor”. Similarly, in the translation, they neglect to translate “O-nee-sama”, something that Nami calls Robin a couple of times, as a sign of her deep respect for her (albeit based off what Robin can do for her). While it is a tricky term of affection to translate into English, without sounding a little forced or odd, like “Big Sister Robin” or “Lady/Mistress Robin”, as I might put it, it’s quite distracting to see the translator just not bother with some of the words in a sentence.

Finally, there are a few mistranslations from this disc, the main one that stood out being an error in one of Sanji’s attacks. Those in the know will recognise that Sanji tends to use French words in his attack names, and one of his trademark moves is the Mouton Shot, or Mutton Shot. On this disc, it is rendered “Mountain Shot”. Putting aside that the way the two words are pronounced in Japanese are quite different (“muuton” vs “maunten”), this highlights what is probably my main problem with the person providing the translation. They seem to know certain points about One Piece, to be able to translate certain points of dialogue in a way faithful to the characters, or to know what’s an attack name, etc. and yet in other moments, they make mistranslations that seem to hint that they haven’t researched the show at all. For instance, the aforementioned “Mountain Shot” error is made less understandable, when later on, Sanji uses his “Armee de L’Air” move and this is rendered correctly.

My other personal issue with the translations found in the subtitles is that this movie in particular (and indeed, One Piece in general) is heavily reliant on puns, homophones and other forms of wordplay. In fact, in this movie, puns with words sounding like one thing but actually being another are plot points. The crew are trying to found a treasure, following the riddle-like lyrics of an island folk song, the Swaying Song (another case where the translator left the word alone, leaving it as “Yurari Song”). Multiple times, the gang are stumped by the lyrics, only to find that the real answer is based off a pun. For instance, one line is “Futatsu no tsuki”, which they at first believe to mean “two moons”, and it’s only through dumb luck and Luffy mucking about, that they realise that it’s not “two moons” but “two strikes”. The word “tsuki” isn’t “moon” here, but rather “tsuki” coming from the verb “tsuku”, to strike, punch, hit, etc. Similarly, they find a part where they think the lyrics (“aoki mizugame nomihosu toki”) are “when the blue jug is drunk dry”, (or “the moment the blue jug is drained dry”) when in fact the word “toki” meaning “when/the moment when” is actually “toki”, the word for a crested ibis, making the line “a ibis [sic] that drinks up the blue jug” (or “the ibis that drains the blue jug dry”). There are also puns with the names of the henchman, Maji and Honki. “Maji” and “Honki” can both mean “serious/seriously”, as in “Seriously? You have to go to the toilet again? You can’t just hold it?” or “Is he serious about knocking the door down”, respectively. One of the jokes in the movie is that Ratchet says “Honki ka?” or “Is he serious?”, and the character Honki thinks Ratchet is talking to him.

My point is that in all these cases, where there is a pun going on, the subtitles don’t make any reference to it at all, nor do they explain the joke. My issue with this is that while I personally can follow along and recognise the jokes, from my own knowledge of Japanese – being a translator in my spare time – the audience may not know this, and so they could very well miss all the jokes and miss why in fact the Straw Hats are having trouble with the riddles and so on. The translator could have remedied this by adapting the lines to come across easier in English (say, for instance, having Honki and Maji be called “Serious” and “Kidding” or something like that, and so the line of “Is he serious” can mean the character Honki is thinking Ratchet is saying “Is he Serious (the character)?”. Or those in charge of putting the subtitles onto the subtitle track could have provided extra subtitles, with mini explanations at the top of the screen or something, like “The word ‘tsuki’ can mean both ‘moon’ or ‘strike’ depending on how it’s written”. That way, the audience can tell what’s going on, and not have to have prior knowledge of Japanese to get the jokes on their own,

Now, all of these issues with the subtitles and translation, I will freely admit, are nitpicks on my part. There is, however, one problem that I found with the subtitles on the Movie 7 disc, a problem that is entirely objective, and is in fact a quality error. At the end of the movie, while the credits roll and the ending song plays, we see more scenes from the movie wrapping up the story in the background. There is no spoken dialogue here and instead there are dialogue boxes like those you might see in an RPG, with a picture of the person talking. This also resembles the way Oda sometimes draws the speech bubbles for a conversation with many characters involved. It’s at this point the subtitles start going out of sync and/or just not appearing at all when something is being said. It appears the major issue is that two separate dialogue boxes, from two different characters, are put together in one set of subtitles and then carry on, so when the subtitles come up, it appears to be showing the line that will come next, until the last few dialogue boxes, which simply aren’t given subtitles at all.

As a side note, there are no subtitles for the ending credit song, “Garden Peas/Sayaendou”. I checked ahead on the other discs, and there are subtitles for the lyrics to both Movie 8 and Movie 9’s ending songs, so it’s not a case of them just not translating the songs, nor is it that they just used the subtitles from Funimation’s release for the ending song in Movie 8 (that being the only one to have had a Funimation release of the three), as Movie 9 is as of yet not dubbed and we only have this release for the English subtitles.

Moving onto Movie 8, after what I fear has become an essay delivered from a soapbox, we have a retelling of One Piece’s Alabasta arc, in “One Piece: The Desert Princess and the Pirates – Adventures in Alabasta”, otherwise known as “Episode of Alabasta: The Desert Princess and the Pirates”. For some indiscernible reason, whoever was in charge decided to arbitrarily swap the words around, making the title “The Pirates and the Princess of the Desert”. Why? Hell if I know. Perhaps they wanted to just make it look like they were actually putting some work into it by making tiny differences to what is being said on screen, because hoo, boy, it sure as hell doesn’t show with the quality of subtitles on this disc…

But before I get onto another tirade about the subtitling for these movies, I’ll quickly go over the English dub as this is the only movie we’ve had released as part of these Movie Collection sets that actually has been dubbed by Funimation already, the only other One Piece movie we’ve had with an English dub released here in the UK being Strong World. In 2008, Funimation released a bilingual DVD of this movie, it having both the Japanese audio track at 2.0 stereo quality and the English dub, this having both a 2.0 stereo and 5.1 track. But ladies and gentlemen? I’m afraid I’ve got some baaad news! With our UK release, we have only the 2.0 stereo Japanese track and 2.0 stereo English track, no 5.1. Another thing we’re missing is an English rendition of the ending credits song, but this is in fact a problem the American release also had, as this also defaulted to the Japanese ending song.

Now, as for the sound quality of the audio, both the Japanese and English are perfectly listenable. Again, you may need to have your volume turned up a bit, depending on your personal set-up, but otherwise, the audio is nice and clean. The English track is slightly quieter than the Japanese track, which seems to happen a fair bit with dual language releases, I find. The dub holds up well, considering this was one of the earlier Funimation works when it came to One Piece, so actors are possibly still finding their feet with their characters, and the translation and script adaptation does feel a little less up to their usual standards. Again, this is likely just a case of it being an earlier work, and the writers still finding their groove. Nevertheless, the dub is still quite faithful, which is a good thing since-… Well, there’s no way around it. I have to rag on the subtitles for this disc, like with the previous movie.

Frankly, the subtitles on this disc feel really slipshod, and I’m not just talking about nitpicky “This wasn’t translated well” stuff that no-one but translator types like me or super hardcore fans would care about – although there are still some cases of that in these subtitles. No, the level of consistency in spelling, grammar, translation, capitalisation and whatever else is just subpar for this disc. The only thing I can see that can go without criticism about the subtitles for this movie is that they’re timed well. And even then, you’d hope that would be the case, as a huge amount of the subtitles feel like they’re just copied from the dub dialogue.

Yes, there is an astonishingly large amount of times that the subtitles feel like dubtitles. It feels like whoever was charge of the translation and/or subtitles for this release was just feeling lazy and decided to use the dub dialogue to do most of the work, with the occasional divergence from what the English cast are saying to make it look less blatant. I watched this movie in dub form, and then went through scenes of it again in Japanese to compare and contrast, translating some of the dialogue as I went along. There are lines that differ from the English dub, but are simply subtitled using the dub dialogue. Even someone who’s not up on their Japanese would be able to tell that a guard saying “Vivi-sama!” is not the same as a guard saying “The princess!” as they did in the dub, or that when Crocodile says the English words “Mister Cobra” in the Japanese version and the subtitles don’t show this because they’re simply parroting the English dub script, then something is terribly wrong.

Outside of the overreliance on the English dub’s translations to provide the subtitles, there are spelling errors (“Aulbarna” instead of “Alubarna”, “Barhan” instead of “Barján” or “Barchan”), many grammatical errors (“they’re all talk big [sic]”, “not sure if it exist [sic]”), the most prevalent grammatical error being commas are either missed out or placed in sentences they shouldn’t. A few examples being “Princess you can’t be serious”, “Hear me Chopper!”, “They’re all yours Chopper”, and bafflingly, “clean-up, hitter” when only a few seconds ago, they had it as “clean-up hitter”. This last one leads me to my next complaint regarding the subtitles’ inconsistencies, within the same movie.

Countless times, the subtitles don’t capitalise parts of attack names or titles, only to do so for other attack names or titles, and most frustratingly of all, sometimes, an attack name or title will have come up all lower case earlier, and then appear again, this time actually capitalised after all. The most significant example of this was the translation of “Kaizoku Ou”, or “Pirate King/King of the Pirates”. I counted two or three times that the title of Pirate King was mentioned, only for it to be left as “pirate king”, all lowercase, only for it to show up at least one more time, correctly punctuated as “Pirate King”. The kicker? Not only do we see “pirate king” go by without capital letters, but we then see the word “pirate” used in sentences where it is randomly capitalised. “Luffy is not dead. I know he’ll be the pirate king [sic] someday!!” “You’ve resolved to challenge me even after you’ve seen hell. I reward you. As a Pirate [sic].” “A duel between Pirates [sic] can truly never be anything more than a battle for survival.”

Outside of this, we see attack names like “Joue Shoot” be capitalised, immediately after attacks like “Crossdresser Chop” and “Memoir of That Summer Day” be written as “Cross-dresser chop” and “Memoir of that summer day”. Not only does this inconsistency happen between attacks from separate characters, but this can even happen from the same person’s techniques. Miss Doublefinger, for example, goes from “Stinger Step” (written as “Stinger step”) to “Sea Urchin Stinger” being properly capitalised. It really feels like that there is no rhyme or reason behind what is capitalised and what isn’t. And then there’s Luffy…

This one is probably the most infuriating, as not only does it fly in the face of the subtitles used on Movie 7’s disc, but they even have the English dub to copy from (as they have been throughout). I think even the newest little newbie to One Piece will know that all of Luffy’s attacks are preceded by “Gum Gum” (“Gomu Gomu no” in Japanese), i.e. Gum Gum Pistol, Gum Gum Bazooka (Gomu Gomu no Pistol, Gomu Gomu no Bazooka), and so on. The general consensus for English translations of One Piece is that Luffy’s attacks all begin with “Gum Gum”, and yet with these subtitles, Luffy’s attacks are all “GOMU GOMU NO [INSERT NAME ALL IN CAPS LOCK HERE]”. This one just bamboozles me, as they have the English track that they clearly have been parroting and yet they decide to use the Japanese names? This is the sort of thing I expect to see from a fansub, not an officially released translation.

All these issues, along with the translation issues I went on about in great detail when discussing Movie 7 (again, “-san” is sometimes translated and other times isn’t, for example, “-sama” likewise) made watching this movie very difficult. Call me a nitpicker if you will, but if you’re going to watch something subtitled and in Japanese, then I imagine you’d want the subtitles to not be so flawed that you’re constantly wondering if they were even edited or proofread. Multiple times, I was taken out of the moment by bad subtitles, to such a high frequency that by the end I was not so much watching a movie and more doing an impression of WWE’s The Miz, constantly asking “Really? Really? Really!” (For the older wrestler fans that are stuck in the Attitude Era days and won’t accept references to anything later than that, you can swap this out for “… and more following every subtitle error with a Stone Cold ‘What?’”)

Now, at this juncture, I would be remiss to not mention that the discs I am reviewing are not store bought. I am reviewing from test discs, review copies, and so all these subtitle issues and what-not may very well have been fixed on the retail release, the release for the general public. But I was informed that while the discs I would receive for reviewing purposes would be test discs, I should take note of these sorts of errors, as these discs are basically the final draft. If that’s the case, and these issues are actually on the final retail release, then I am definitely not impressed.

And now, as we all come from our toilet break, after my second subtitles diatribe, we move onto Movie 9, “Episode of Chopper + (Plus): The Miracle Winter Cherry Blossom” (as Manga’s release translates it), or “Episode of Chopper + (Plus): In Winter They Bloom, the Miraculous Cherry Blossom”, to go with a slightly more accurate translation. First off, may I say that the + (or Plus) is an adorable little pun, what with the movie being both a “bigger and better” version of Chopper’s introductory story arc, hence the “Plus”, but also using the + symbol, which calls to mind the medical cross, a symbol so very important to this story and Chopper’s character in general.

To start things off with this movie, I’ll go through the pros. There’s the sound quality. Again, it’s (presumably) a 2.0 stereo track, and it’s perfectly listenable. Again, you may have to have your volume up at full blast, depending on your set-up. The voice cast are in good form. Special mentions go to Ootani Ikue as Chopper and Nozawa Masako as Dr. Krähe (or Kureha, if you prefer), who will be a familiar voice to those of you who listen to Japanese Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z. Yes, she’s the voice of Son Gokuu (and pretty much the rest of the males in the Son family), and as much as I hate to be that guy, a role like Krähe is a lot better a one for her than Gokuu is nowadays. There’s no way of getting around it; she’s getting on in years and the character of Krähe is a much better fit for her nowadays. I can still hear hints of her Gokuu voice in Krähe, but it works a lot more with this character, as a cantankerous, but energetic and quirky old lady, who can still hang with the young ‘uns. She just feels more at home in this role, and there’s a lot less dissonance with this voice than, say, for Gokuu, her undeniable acting skill aside (and this is including even when she was in her prime as Gokuu). I await all your angry flames, hardcore elitist Dragon Ball fans, telling me that I don’t know what I’m talking about, and that I’m just some dumb Funimation fanboy or something.

Now, then… Umm… Further pros… Uhh… Well… The music’s nice? Okay, I can’t stall any longer. I’M AFRAID I’VE GOT SOME BAD NEWS![/Bad News Barrett] Once again, there are a lot of flaws that let this movie down, particularly the way the translation and subtitles have been handled.

First, let’s deal with an audio problem that even the translators can’t really do anything about: the dialogue. It’s very clear in the dialogue at the start of the movie that the scriptwriters were trying to make sure that even newcomers to One Piece would know what’s going on, as there is some very forced dialogue (yes, even in the Japanese language, not just the translation). In the opening scene with the Straw Hats (after the brief cameo scene of Chopper at the very start, showing that, yes, as the title very plainly tells us, this is all about Chopper, and after the introduction by the narrator), we get line after line from various members of the Straw Hats that are just cringeworthy in how expository they are. References to what role they have on the ship are just crowbarred into the dialogue.

One Piece Versus The Mega SoldierFor instance, the first line that isn’t from the narrator’s preamble is Zoro saying that daily rigorous training is the quickest way to becoming a great swordmaster. Not too bad, so far, as this is fairly typical of Zoro, with his rather one-track mind. But when Franky makes it a point to refer to Luffy as “Captain”, when he usually falls back on calling him “Straw Hat” or “Luffy”, and then unambiguously says that above else, he is the shipwright after all, only for Luffy to say “Franky!”, you know the scriptwriters are being dogged about making sure you know who’s who. This is followed by Usopp specifically referring to himself as the great Usopp the man and sniper, though at least with Usopp, it’s said braggingly, so it makes sense he might say it like that. It’s a lot less seamless when Sanji prefaces a sentence with “Kono fune no cook no na ni kakete”, or “With my title as cook of this ship on the line”, or when Usopp is talking aloud to himself and the other crewmembers, and yet explicitly calls Nami “Koukaishi no Nami”, or “Our navigator Nami”. You half expect the characters to turn to the camera, break the fourth wall, wink and say “Did ya catch that audience?” My personal favourite would be Robin saying “Koukogaku nara to mo kaku, igaku wa senmongai”, or “Archaeology is one thing, but medical science is outside my field of expertise”, which the subtitles render as “I’m an archaeologist, not a doctor”. Nice try, whoever translated this, but you might as well have gone the whole hog and had Robin start that with “Damn it, Jim!” Yes, I just made this a Star Trek reference. I’m not even sorry.

However, the time has come once again for me to have to rag on the subtitles, yet again. As there were countless moments that made me facepalm, I’ll just give a quick round-up of problems, to save us all time. Warning, this may get nasty. First off, there is inconsistency throughout the movie about whether the translator wants to actually do their job or not, particularly when it comes to the names of the Devil Fruit. In this movie, we have four of these fruit named. Luffy’s Gum Gum Fruit (Gomu Gomu no Mi), naturally; Chopper’s Human Human, or Person Person Fruit (Hito Hito no Mi); the villain Wapol’s Munch Munch or Chomp Chomp Fruit (Baku Baku no Mi); and his brother, Musshoor’s (Musshuru’s) Shroom Shroom Fruit (Noko Noko no Mi). Yet again, there is inconsistency with how the translator wants to translate these terms. First, we get no attempts at translating the onomatopoeia “Baku baku”, which could easily be remedied by using the official terms used elsewhere. Surely, it can’t take that long to just Google it, when you’re being paid to translate properly? But, fine, we can forgive a non-translation of “baku baku”, and have it as just the “Baku Baku Fruit”. It’s annoying, but at least the others are easier to work with. … And then the translator just stopped trying, when they left Chopper’s fruit as the “Hito Hito Fruit”, only to then compound the issue later on by not even bothering to translate the “no Mi” into “Fruit”, with subsequent references being “the Hito Hito no Mi” and “the Noko Noko no Mi”, as well as yet again having Luffy’s attacks be “GOMU GOMU NO [INSERT HERE]”.

Coming from the perspective of a translator, myself, I know that some of these terms are hard to make good approximations for, and yes, sometimes you have to be liberal and change certain things to match the feel of a sentence or match the context, or to be true to a character’s way of speech. It can all be very hard. But when, one, you have prior material that have translated it for you, and two, you’re being paid to do your job as an official translator, there simply isn’t an excuse to have “translations” inconsistent with both prior releases (i.e. Funimation’s releases through Manga) and even worse, inconsistent with your own work, halfway through the movie. It’s almost like the translator was just rushing it and sent off the first draft, without proofreading to check that they translated multiple instances of a term the same way, or that they’d spelt everything correctly or used proper grammar. I’m not getting paid to write this review – rather, I’m doing it voluntarily – but I’m still taking time out to proofread it before I send it off to be published. If you’re being paid as a translator, you need to do your job and you need to make sure you’re doing it correctly.

This all comes off as yet more overly passionate fanboy nitpicking, I know, but at the heart of these rants, my concern is for the paying customer. As mentioned before, I got these discs for free, because these are check discs, test discs meant for the purposes of reviewing, but I was sent these discs to check that nothing was wrong with them, as these were essentially meant to be what would go out to the general public. If I had to pay up to £29.99 for these movies, and I got such a slipshod, phoned-in set of subtitles and translations for what is primarily a release that relies on subtitles with the only language available being Japanese, then I would quite rightly feel ripped off. This is what quality control is meant to be about, and whoever was in charge of making sure all these errors were dealt with simply wasn’t doing their job.

Let’s take the case of the rather notorious mishaps with Anime Limited’s Gurren Lagann Ultimate Edition digipacks. If you paid out all this money and you got a product that obviously wasn’t as good as it could be, you would be angry, and so people were, and Anime Limited were very attentive when it came to these problems. They were distraught by the blunder made by the printing offices, as they wanted to make sure this release was the best it could be. The same rules should apply here: The manufacturers should be making this the best release it could be, but no… This clearly was done as a rush-job and it shows. Now, once again, I will take the time to play Devil’s advocate and mention that these are test discs, so therefore they may have had these issues fixed since then. If that’s the case, I’ll happily withdraw my complaints and apologise for making such a fuss, but if these errors are in fact on the retail discs that you or I could buy from Amazon or wherever, then I stand firm and ascertain that this simply isn’t acceptable.

I’ll finish off with this last round-up of translation issues, as while they may seem nitpicky, I found that these errors constantly took me out of the movie, and that’s what counts. You shouldn’t have issues that will constantly take you out of the action, and make it so you’re not immersed and no longer enjoying yourself.

First, we have the translation of how Wapol refers to his big brother, Musshoor, and how Musshoor would rather Wapol call him. Wapol calls Musshoor “An-chan”, a rather informal and somewhat childish way of referring to your big brother, whereas Musshoor keeps telling Wapol to call him “O-nii-tama”, which while seemingly more formal, sounding like “O-nii-sama”, also is actually quite kiddy in tone, showing how immature the both of them are. Not that you’d be able to tell the difference, with the subtitles, which have “An-chan” as “brother” and “O-nii-tama” as “big brother”. This could have been remedied by having Wapol’s “An-chan” be something like “Big bro”, and Musshoor’s “O-nii-tama” as “Brother, dear/my dear big brother”.

Again, there is inconsistency as to who gets the privilege of the honorific affixed to their name being translated. Yet again, Sanji’s “Nami-s(w)an” and “Robin-ch(w)an” are completely ignored, except one infuriating case where the translator decides to translate it after all, with “Robin, my sweet”, which would have been absolutely fine to use throughout, but outside of that one concession, Sanji simply calls them “Robin” and “Nami”, whereas “Dalton-san” is translated as “Mr. Dalton”, and for some reason, Luffy adding “-san” to the name of his snowman gets to be translated, with a “Mr”… Nice to know that the translator has their priorities straight on what gets special treatment.

There’ll be significant words mistranslated or not translated at all, with Usopp’s forced line where he specifically mentions Nami as “Navigator Nami” actually not even having any mention of the term “navigator” in the subtitles at all, and part of Dr. Chirurg’s (Hiriluk) speech on when a person dies having “Shinzou wo pistol ni uchinukareta toki?” (“When one is shot through the heart by a pistol?”) as “When a bullet pierces his heart?”, when the word “pistol” is clearly used.

Yet again, some terms will be translated one way, for a character, and then used differently by another character, only for the original character to also use the new term, such as with Sanji and Wapol both calling Dr. Krähe “baba”, a less than desirable way of referring to a… Shall we say “mature woman”, lest the good Doctorine come after us as well, whilst brandishing knives? Anyway, when Sanji uses the term, the subtitles have him say “old woman”, which while technically a fine enough translation, is a bit too formal and politically correct for someone who is quite crude with his language, like Sanji, who will quite happily call someone “kuso yarou” (or “crap head” as the subtitles felt fine with having him say). Wapol, meanwhile, uses the more fitting “hag” when he says “baba”, which makes sense as Wapol’s hardly going to be considerate of Krähe’s feelings. But then, with no rhyme or reason, Sanji suddenly is saying “hag” instead of “old woman” later on. Oh, and again, there are terms that should have capital letters that are left entirely in lower case like attack names. Again, no rhyme or reason behind it.

Finally, the most baffling thing of all, with this movie, is that there are subtitles given to translate some of the credits, “some” being the operative word here. After the first few shots, with Chopper, the credits start to roll. And then, after some other credits appear on screen, we get some subtitles translating some of the big name credits, i.e. the producer, who does the music, etc. And never does this happen again. We just inexplicably get these subtitles, translating these few credits on the screen, and then any other credits are left alone.

All in all, whilst the audio itself on these releases are nothing to complain about (except maybe the quietness of the English dub, on Movie 8), the sheer… “Quality” of the subtitles and translations really let the release down, and that’s not a good thing, when two of the movies are reliant on subtitles, being sub-only…

Video:

First, Movie 7. Okay, I need to address the elephant in the room here. Hello, Nellie! Right, now that that’s out of the way… Yes. This is the movie where Nami and Robin have huge tits, with a plastic sheen to them, and which happily bounce about if you so much as look at them funny. Gainax themselves would be proud. I swear, that seems to be the first thing I would always hear about this movie. Weirdly, Sanji’s skin has also had this plastic sheen in the movie, from time to time, which raises a few questions about the level of care he takes with his skin… It’s around this point in the One Piece media (both the week to week anime series and the movies) that the fanservicey aspects start to creep in a bit more; for example, Nami’s breasts start to increase in size and prominence, she starts wearing more midriff-baring outfits, and in general, women in One Piece become a bit more sexualized. This correlates to Oda’s art style in the manga, where around this point, he does start to bring in more sexualised fanservice.

But the summary point here is that if you don’t care for T&A style fanservice, if you’re not the sort to like blatant ecchi, Ikkitousen, in-your-face style fanservice, you might find this movie a little distracting, as it does get pretty damn blatant. For instance, some of the choices of camera angles are set pretty much just to show off the autonomous breasts jiggling around, such as a bird’s eye view shot of the crew, which seems to have no other reason to be except to look down Nami’s shirt, see her cleavage, and watch as her bust sways back and forth.

If, however, you can take the sprinkling of fanservice on the chin (because while it can be blatant when it happens, it really is just here and there, and it doesn’t take away from the movie), then this movie has quite a nice look to it. The art style is evolving from the classic One Piece art, and they’re trying out CGI. It does sometimes fall into Conspicuous CGI territory, in a couple of places, but its use in this movie is intended here, to make the giant turtle that appears later on stand out. In comparison to movie 6, this is a much lighter, brighter and colourful outing, and the characters are the usual over-the-top animated characters you can expect from One Piece.

Next, we have Movie 8. Being a retelling of one of One Piece’s classic arcs, it would have been very easy for them just to trot out the animation used in the anime episodes and just make a One Piece Kai, if you will; trimming out the filler and making it short enough to work as a feature length movie. But instead, they go the whole way and animated it all again from scratch. This actually makes sense from an editing standpoint, as it would be much easier to just reanimate the scenes and rerecord the dialogue, than it would be to edit around various scenes, cutting lines and ruining the cadence of performances, whilst having to remove continuity issues, such as characters who were in filler episodes but still show up in canon scenes (see: Gregory the cricket, from Dragon Ball, who was in too many scenes of Dragon Ball Z that were canon and plot relevant to allow the scenes to be cut, and would have been too money and time-consuming to painstakingly remove him from all the scenes by editing).

The animation and art here are in essence a something of an evolution from that in Movie 7. Again, the art is not quite classic One Piece and instead is moving more towards the art as seen from the Water 7 through Enies Lobby to Thriller Bark kind of art, with the characters’ extremities slimmed down as opposed to the more rounded out and realistically fleshed out arms and legs, et cetera, from earlier in the series. Females, on the other hand, no longer have the erstwhile more realistic figures they used to have, and instead their waists have been thinned out (sometimes to worrying twig-like levels, as has been seen with Nami in the main series, as well as in the movies: see Skypiea arc, Davy Back Fight arc and onwards) and breasts have been accentuated, with form fitting, often midriff baring outfits.

This however can be attributed to the movie taking cues from Oda’s own evolving art style, as around the time of the movie’s making (circa 2007, going by its release in March 2007, so around the time of the Thriller Bark arc), Oda’s art had changed over time and some of these attributes of anatomy were cropping up. Just compare how Chopper looks during his introductory arc with how he looks nowadays from around Enies Lobby/Thriller Bark onwards, or how Nami looks from the start of the series to around this same time, Enies Lobby and Thriller Bark, if not earlier. This change in art style also incorporated fanservice and more sexualised female designs, so blame can’t be put entirely on the creators of Movie 8 for their appearances here. What can be said is that the fanservice has been toned down considerably from Movie 7 with no more fully autonomous breasts and forced camera angles to emphasise them. Any fanservice in this movie is as was already seen in the original series, be it manga or anime, if only just amped up the tiniest bit.

What is more blatant this time around is the CGI. Whereas it was noticeable in Movie 7, it was used for things such as the mystical Island Turtle, where it provided the turtle with an unnatural, unique feel. Here, the same effect is lessened, as while it is used for the moving sand as part of Crocodile’s Sand Sand powers, and thus helps the Devil Fruit powers look unnatural and unique, the CGI (which, this time, does head into Conspicuous CGI territory) is also used constantly for buildings to be able to perform fast sweeping shots, and little things like falling debris and other small but noticeable things that otherwise would have been animated normally. The most barefaced use of CGI, however, is for crowd scenes. Be it the crowds of Alabasta listening to a speech or innumerable soldiers charging to war, they’re all very much computerised and it does stand out, and not in a good way. It does help animate vast quantities of people in shots where they’d be quite small (panning shots, overhead shots, etc) but they really do look off, contrasting badly with the more traditionally animated backgrounds or characters.

In terms of video quality, with the DVD itself, I did notice a slight problem when rewinding to check some subtitle issues. When rewinding, whilst playing the movie on Windows Media Player (yes, I tend to use WMP as a default on my laptop – I await your scoffs, hipsters and elitists), there would be judders across the screen, snippets of scenes elsewhere in the movie flickering up onto the screen, as opposed to a clean rewinding motion. In the interest of fairness and comparison, I also tried rewinding through the movie on VLC and PowerDVD, and there weren’t such problems. However, it must be noted that both VLC and PowerDVD rewind differently. Again, this could just be an issue from the testing discs, but with some of the other issues arising from these DVDs, I thought it best to mention.

Finally, in this movie collection, we have Movie 9. The animation in this movie is definitely much higher quality than one usually expects from One Piece. This definitely had the benefit of an animation bump. However, I find that in cases like this, the increase in fluidity of the animation (and the animation in this movie is very fluid) brings with it a deficit in the art style. This, of course, is just my opinion. You may personally love how this movie looks, and I wouldn’t blame you. It can look beautiful. It’s just I prefer the animation to not be as loose. I find that with this style of animation, the price is often that the characters look somewhat off. A point of reference could be Naruto Shippuuden, with the fight between Pain and Naruto, and the rather notorious… “Quality” that came about from it, most particularly if you happen to pause in between movements. Characters start to become a lot less solid, to the point that you worry about their physical properties. This can result in some very unfortunate screenshots, where characters’ bodies are distorting into shapes that simply shouldn’t be, all for the sake of the animation looking more fluid. I spotted this a fair few times throughout this movie. Now, with someone like Luffy, whose body is composed of rubber, this actually does work. But when normal humans, like Usopp, are also gaining the ability to stretch into awkward contortions, as they move, the effect is lost. Again, you may love this style of animation and how people look when they move in this style, but for me, personally, it’s just a bit too distracting, especially in contrast to the more usual animation where there is more compromise between the fluidity of animation and the solidity of people.

Throughout the reviews, I’ve mentioned that CGI has been an increasing factor in the One Piece movies, and it’s definitely noticeable here. There’s been something of an incremental increase in the reliance on CGI through these three movies, and Movie 9 is the apex of this. First, the positives. The Devil Fruit, as shown in the narrator’s prelude, are given a new texture that we don’t normally see in the main series, given a more 3D feel, and given actual texture, so you can see the swirly designs on the fruit. The CGI also helps the falling snow look just wonderful.

However, the overreliance on it does dull these effects, making certain effects less unique. To that end, the aforementioned Devil Fruit segment, while making the fruit look more 3D, also has the drawback of nearly all the fruit having the same texture, making most of the Devil Fruit look like pineapples, unless they are notably different in shape, like the banana style fruit or such. And while the falling snow looks great, the avalanche scene is far too obviously CGI, what with the panning shots similar to those in Movie 8, with trees and what-have-you standing out (in the wrong way), and because they rely on the CGI for the moving snow in the avalanche, they have to use the CGI on people, too. This leads to some of the most egregious shots in the movie, where Luffy and Sanji are CGI as well, and given 3D computer generated models. And I’m not talking in-between shots where you’d have to be looking for them to see them, like the awkward animation shots you can find of Bob Hoskins in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”. There is a shot where Sanji is sent flying into the air, and is the centre of attention on the screen, and he is conspicuous in how obviously computer animated he is. Again, this took me right out of the movie, and I even had to have a pause to laugh at how blatant it was.

These flaws of the animation tend to show up most in the action sequences, such as the avalanche segment mentioned above, and basically any of the fight scenes. Again, one conspicuous in its awkward looking animation was Zoro vs Wapol’s men. The problem in this scene does sometimes occur with Zoro himself, but mainly Wapol’s men are affected. A huge problem with this animation style, particularly in fight scenes, outside of the general facial distortions and contortions of the body, is that smaller details tend to go the wayside, especially in the face. Wapol’s men constantly have no defined teeth (and instead just a block of white, as though they’re all foaming at the mouth) and miniscule pupils in their eyes, if they even have any pupils at all, all because they’re too busy with all that supposedly gorgeous movement in the animation. Wapol, you fiend! Because you’ve been keeping all of the kingdom’s doctors for your own personal medical attention, your men have become victims to an outbreak of Youngblood’s Disease! Damn you, Wapol, damn yoooou!

Ahem… So, as we can see, the visuals on these movies can sometimes be an acquired taste, particularly in the case of Movie 9. If you like this animation style, great. If you don’t, then you might want to brace yourself as this movie really does exemplify what can go wrong with the style.

One Piece Princess of the DesertPackaging:

For this release, I cannot comment on the packaging, as I received just the test discs, which contain no artwork on the discs or cases and such. All I can say is that if you have bought the other Movie Collections, then you will be receiving much the same as what the previous two have had. The front cover has the movie posters of the three corresponding movies, taking a quarter of the cover up each, with a One Piece logo and scroll of paper stating which collection it is taking up the final quarter.

Menu:

Across the board, the menus are pretty much the same. All three discs start with an animated transition into the main menu, which on all three discs is a wooden board background, a shot of characters imposed onto it (mainly just Luffy himself, though Movie 8 actually uses an ensemble shot of the Straw Hat Pirates, Vivi, Carue and Lashes the camel in a stare-down with the top agents of Baroque Works, this shot being based off the covers of manga volumes 21 and 22), with the One Piece logo and title of the film, and a scroll of paper unfurling with the menu options, “Play Film”, “Scenes” and “Subtitles” (“Set-Up” for Movie 8, what with having an extra audio track). Ironically, considering these are rather bare-bones releases, of just the movies with subtitles, the disc menus actually have one thing over the menus of the main series releases. They have a window cut out of the background, in which we see animated clips of the movie. Each of the discs’ menus have a snippet of the ending credits song playing over it (“Garden Peas”/“Sayaendou” for Movie 7, “Compass” for Movie 8 and “Later!”/”Mata ne” for Movie 9), much like how the main series release has the relevant opening song or ending song of the corresponding episodes (e.g. “Towards the Light”/”Hikari e” for the DVDs focusing on the post Alabasta and Jaya episodes, or “Believe” for the Alabasta arc). Another slight bonus is that there is an animated transition between menus, with a little musical sting.

Those familiar with the main series releases will recognize the layout of unfurled paper for the audio set-up menus, with a couple of characters to the side, e.g. for Movie 9’s disc, we have Chopper and Nami. For Movie 7 and 9, the options under “Subtitles” are simply to turn English subtitles on or off, while Movie 8 has this and the extra option of Japanese 2.0 stereo audio or English 2.0 stereo audio, what with it having an extra track for the dub.

Whereas the main series releases have an episode select option, the movie discs have the “Scenes” option in the menu, instead. These too are basic, like the main series. Again, unfurled paper, as is the motif of the One Piece collections, with screenshots from the appropriate tracks of the movie, so you have a rough idea whereabouts in the movie you’re about to select. No music accompanies these menus or the subtitle/audio set-up menus, so if you want to stop hearing the song clips over and over in a loop, going to these would be your best bet.

Extras:

These releases are the definition of bare-bones, as I mentioned earlier. Brook himself would feel sorry for how little meat there is on these bones. Yohohoho! Skull Joke! One Piece, in the Region 2 releases by Manga, has always been somewhat sparse when it comes to extras. Whereas the Region 1 releases of the main series have an option to run “Marathon Mode”, i.e. watching the episodes without the opening and ending credits or next episode previews, our local Region 2 releases did away with this feature, leaving just the episode commentaries on select episodes, or if there was no episode with commentary on that disc, then just the clean opening and ending credits. On this release, not even this is an option. There are no extras at all to speak of on these movie collections, or at the very least, not on this collection.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)

Starting with Movie 7, we have a very welcome, light-hearted adventure, following on the heels of the deceptively light and fluffy Movie 6, Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island; AKA One Piece goes grim-dark; AKA Hosoda Mamoru pulls an Anno Hideaki and purges his inner demons via an anime movie, to the horror of the audience. Instead of a horrifying plant abomination that would be at home in a Lovecraft story (not surprising, considering it was Hosoda directing, and he seems to have a thing about Lovecraftian horror, if his episodes in Digimon are anything to go by), we have villains more in line with One Piece, with a spoilt young lord, his two henchmen and the young master’s various mechanical toys.

The characters are given a good amount of time to show their personalities, with the only complaint in that respect being that certain characters are given less screen time or things to do except react, the main character suffering from this being Usopp. Even Nami, Robin and Chopper, who don’t get to take part in any fights, get their own little something to do, and get to show their skills and what they bring to the Straw Hat crew. Nevertheless, we get to see all the little running jokes that we love about the Straw Hat pirates, such as Usopp’s cowardice, Luffy’s childish but pure-hearted sensibilities, Nami’s greed for treasure and manipulative tendencies all in aid of literally coming out of a situation all the richer, Zoro’s snarkiness and his total lack of direction, Sanji’s lovestruck dopiness and his rivalry with Zoro, Chopper’s general sweetness and worrying about the injured to the extent that he’ll forget he’s the doctor, and Robin’s straight man aloofness, just willing to watch the wackiness around her unfold.

This is all summed up rather tidily and succinctly in the first scene of the movie, in which the crew find a treasure chest. Nami is practically salivating at the prospect of riches, Sanji is practically salivating over Nami, Zoro is unimpressed with Sanji’s idiocy, Usopp is scared it might be something scary, Chopper joins him in panic, Robin calms them down and Luffy is excitable to the point of clumsiness, getting them into trouble.

Once the gang make it out of danger, they open the treasure chest, only to find that instead of vast riches, there’s a little old woman inside with hair that is a testament to rollers. Nami is naturally less than impressed, and so the old woman tries to save her neck by telling the crew that if they take her back home, safe and sound, she’ll tell them of a new treasure they can find, the golden crown. Nami is sceptical, but Luffy, bounder of adventure that he is, is all ears and demands that they set sail to this island, Meka/Mecha Island, despite Nami’s insistence that they only have the old lady’s word for it. They find that they can’t make the journey, via the Log Pose, and so the old woman reveals that she has a Turtle Pose, essentially an Eternal Pose with a tiny turtle replacing the Log Pose needles, the Turtle Pose always pointing in the direction of the island. It’s here that we see our first sign of the ongoing turtle theme in this movie, along with the fact that the island name, “Meka”, backwards in Japanese comes out as “Kame”… Hmm…

On arrival, they hear a song on the air, the Swaying Song, with cryptic lyrics mentioning amongst a constant refrain about a king of the sea and a golden crown. This intrigues Luffy, naturally, as he equates this with being along the lines of King of the Pirates. Nami however is not happy (possibly because in this shot, as mentioned earlier, there is a bird’s eye view camera angle, designed specifically to see down Nami’s top), as it seems this old folk song is the only kind of “evidence” that the old lady had that this treasure exists. Robin’s curiosity is also piqued, by the puzzling nature of the lyrics and takes note of them.

On the island, the locals notice that the Jolly Roger on the Going Merry and realise a pirate ship is coming, and that a Sir Ratchet should know of this. We then see a large simian fellow with an afro running up a spiral staircase, calling for this Sir Ratchet. It’s here that we meet our antagonist, Ratchet, as he receives the news from the simian man, Captain Honki, that pirates have arrived. Ratchet is unconcerned, as he finds that this will be a perfect time to test his defence system. In the meantime, the Straw Hats are looking for a place to dock. As the old lady tells them to dock at a nearby beach, Usopp and Luffy spot that there are mechanical devices all over the beach, which the old lady explains are the work of her son, a man obsessed with machinery. The machines on the beach are his defence system…

An army of little mechanical toy soldiers armed with bow and arrows aimed right at the Going Merry, and it’s at this point we realise that these little guys aren’t here to welcome the gang to Duloc. A crude voice comes over the tannoy and we meet General Maji, the other of Rachet’s two henchmen. Dressed in stereotypical punk gear, complete with Mohawk, Maji is a particularly coarse and vulgar character in speech, to Ratchet’s annoyance, and we see from his actions throughout the story that he serves as the overly cocky, hyperactive, always-running-his-mouth type of henchman, in balance to Honki’s typical dumb muscle, both of them the brawn subservient to Ratchet’s brains. Both Maji and Ratchet (being taken to the scene by Honki) spot that the old lady is with the Straw Hats, and you’ve probably added two and two together now, to realise that she is Ratchet’s mother, a fact that Ratchet himself completely confirms by flying to her rescue in a plane of his own creation – something that Luffy, Usopp and Chopper are all enchanted by.

One battle with Ratchet’s forces, later, and the Merry is somewhat the worse for wear, unable to go ashore, and having to rely on its rear sail to find somewhere else to dock. As Nami tries to tell Luffy that the treasure they were looking for was just part of an old fairy tale, Robin steps in and remarks that it’s likely the treasure does in fact exist, but that the islanders simply don’t know where it is, and that if there are any hints to its whereabouts, they’re in the Swaying Song. Chopper meanwhile seems to think there’s something up with the island, and that he’s hearing a voice…

Later that night, Robin reveals she wrote down the lyrics to the song (pulling the piece of paper she wrote it down on from her cleavage, no less – because how else would we get the chance to see Robin’s breasts bounce from merely taking a piece of paper out of her Victoria’s Secret Compartment?) Through sheer dumb Luffy luck, the crew find that one of the clues is staring them in the face: a white snake. However, the lyrics of the song prove to be a frustrating riddle, as the lines are actually puns that are only solved through Luffy’s horsing around. Nevertheless, they’ve solved the first part of the riddle, which Ratchet has been working long and hard to figure out, and Ratchet is now intrigued by this news. His plan is starting to come together.

This is the sort of plot that I actually quite like, being a fan of red herring-filled mysteries, as well as generally liking wordplay. Ratchet, while not exactly the most intimidating villain, is actually quite fun, being a straight man to the Straw Hats and his own men, and yet also being funny with little touches such as windscreen wipers on his spectacles for when he gets so angry he steams them up, and the way he gets rid of his mother when she gets in the way of his negotiations. His style will be popular with fans of steampunk, most specifically fans of clockpunk, as cogs, gears, clockwork and what-have-you are a huge part of his motif, abounding in both his castle and his inventions. Similarly, we also see more of the turtle theme, all of which provide a very interesting piece of food for thought about what is really going on and what Ratchet’s ulterior motive is.

Ratchet recruits the Straw Hat crew to assist him in his solving of the riddle of the Swaying Song (complete with a banquet at his castle, with shameless Robin and Nami fanservice, Robin wearing a dress that even Jennifer Lopez would think is a bit much). Luffy, being naturally naïve about the more suspicious points of Ratchet’s character, immediately agrees. What follows is a nice piece of classic One Piece quest action that one tends to see at the start of the crew’s adventures on a new island, with Ratchet’s men and the Straw Hats playing off each other well. But as they solve more and more of the riddle’s infuriating pun-based puzzles, eventually solving the entire thing, Ratchet reveals his true designs, and it’s up to the Straw Hats to stop him from his plot to… Yes, really, we’re going there… He wants to take over the world. (Of course!) No, really… Even the Straw Hats find this idea to be lame, but with Ratchet’s machinations and machines now in motion, that’s the last thing that should be on their minds…

Movie 7 is a typical piece of filler material for One Piece, in that we go to an island and the events are very much self-contained, as you would expect from a movie. As a result of being self-contained in a 90 minute feature length movie, you won’t get the huge fight scenes you can expect from the anime and manga, and so you may find the end a little anticlimactic with the fights rushed, if you’re looking for epic. But as a piece of anime filler and a standalone movie, you could certainly do worse, and it even tries to add a few things here and there to help it fit into the canon of One Piece a little more easily, such as implications of how Luffy came across the ability to go into Gear 2 or mentions of needing to fix up the Merry (albeit this could simply be a reference to fixing Merry up from the incidents of the movie, but it’s an idea). Admittedly, it’s rather hard to place a movie of a long-running and ongoing shounen series into the canon of its anime and/or manga, but if you want to try and place where this movie is, it’d have to be after Skypiea at the earliest as Dials are mentioned, and before Water 7 at the latest, as Gear 2 is not quite a thing yet, a bit like how Super Saiyan wasn’t a thing yet in Dragon Ball Z Movie 4, but hinted at. If I were to place it anywhere, it would have to be directly after the Davy Back Fight arc, specifically after the encounter with Aokiji/Blue Pheasant, for it is this encounter that catalyses Luffy’s desire to get stronger so he can continue to protect his friends. Even this is problematic though, as Robin would not be as happy as she is in the movie, considering how she fares with Aokiji, and Gear 2 is stated by Luffy to be something he came up with upon seeing the techniques of CP9 (to be seen later). All in all, it’s best not to worry about things like continuity with the movies, and just think of the movies as standalone spin-off pieces, and Movie 7 certainly fits that role.

Next, we have Movie 8. And it’s here that I have to address another elephant in the room… Hello, Dumbo! And now that that’s out of the way, yes, the remaining two movies in this collection are in fact retellings of arcs we’ve already seen, and have already been released in the main series DVDs. However, as mentioned before, the advantage of this is that in making the Alabasta arc a feature length movie, the action is a lot more streamlined. As a result, I won’t be using this section to recount a synopsis of the movie, as it’s already The pace of the manga material is quicker than it was in the anime the first time around, as they don’t need to worry about padding things out to ensure they’re not catching up with the manga too quickly. Furthermore, this means we don’t have to endure the Alabasta filler material, meaning no desert pirates and no fake rebels, and less wandering around the desert doing things of little importance.

But, and this is a big but, there is a downside to the quicker pacing and cutting material to fit the story into feature movie length. Yes, we lose all the superfluous filler material mentioned in the last paragraph, but we also lose sweeping amounts of manga material, most particularly the fight scenes between each of the Straw Hat crewmembers and the top agents of Baroque Works, which are near decimated (well, not perhaps decimated, if you wanna go with the definition of reducing something by 10%… More like tertiated, considering we’re talking at least one third of each fight is taken away, if not two thirds).

This takes away a lot of the drama and/or comedy of the fights, dependent on what fight it is, as we don’t get to see certain plot points. For example, Zoro’s fight with Mr. 1 hinges on the idea that Zoro is not yet able to cut steel (some filler plot-holes aside), steel being the material that constitutes Mr. 1’s body, as a result of his Devil Fruit. Throughout the fight, Zoro must try and fight Mr. 1 whilst trying to figure out the meanings behind his swordplay teacher’s words about the ability to cut anything and yet nothing, with the same blade, and being able to feel the “breath”, the “rhythm” of every kind of material, so as to cut it, and thus how he can challenge stronger and stronger opponents. As you will have gathered by now, all this material is excised from the movie, with the material that remains essentially boiling down to just an abridged version of the fight’s climax, where Zoro has an epiphany when on the brink of death and figures out how to read the “rhythm” of his surroundings and thus learns how he can finally cut steel. But without the preceding parts of the fight, which explain why Zoro has trouble cutting steel and without the set-up to Zoro’s epiphany, as well as the epiphany itself, Zoro’s line of how he can now hear the “breath” of Mr. 1’s steel comes out of nowhere and without context, consequently making very little sense.

Another example would be Nami’s fight against Miss Doublefinger, which loses all the material of Nami having trouble with her new weapon, the Clima Takt (both the comedic scenes of the weapon attacks being nothing but party tricks, and the drama of Nami realising she’s actually going to die), and all the context of why this fight is important to Nami. Nami had started to feel guilty about not being able to fight with the others, wanting to be of use to Vivi (with whom she has become close friends, over the course of adventures that took place outside of the movie’s timeline), and so she enlisted the help of Usopp, who created a weapon for her to use, one that could take advantage of her meteorological know-how. Again, the fight in the movie is heavily abridged, with Nami knowing how to use her weapon until the end of the fight, where another one of Usopp’s seemingly joke attack comes out instead (explaining Nami’s look of despondency, as she thought she’d finally managed to get through the goofy joke attacks, only for this last one to come out and look likely to be her doom). So, again, without much of the fight’s context, a lot is taken away from the action in this movie. I could go on about stuff that was cut from characters’ fights, such as the entirety of Luffy vs Crocodile Round 2 getting the snip treatment, so instead, I’ll focus on another aspect where the film gets rid of things seen in the manga: Characters.

As well as scenes of context, entire characters ended up on the chopping room floor with this movie. In this aspect, the movie actually did relatively well in abridging and excising the plot, with certain characters being able to be cut from the film if push came to shove. While, for example it might have been nice to see Ace and his time with the Straw Hats, however brief, he ultimately doesn’t add anything to the plot of Alabasta’s storyline, if you take the Alabasta plotline purely on its own. Ace isn’t part of the battle for the country, and is purely incidental. He happens to show up in a scene of foreshadowing in the Drum Kingdom story, i.e. finding Chopper, shows up in Alabasta, saving Luffy from Smoker and hanging out with the crew for a little while, and then leaves, giving Luffy a parting gift of a piece of paper.

One Piece The Miracle Winter Cherry BlossomNow, this is all huge, huge stuff in the grand scheme of things, with what the paper actually is, and what happens with Ace. It’s actually a game-changer in One Piece and its important cannot be emphasised enough. But in regards to what the film is concerned with, i.e. Straw Hats vs Baroque Works, to stop the Alabastan war? It provides nothing. It’s merely set-up for events far removed from the Alabasta story, and so it’s not hard to see that Ace was a necessary sacrifice. If we had Ace in the story, we’d lose even more material from the Alabasta storyline, and as I noted a few paragraphs back, there’s a helluva lot of material MIA to begin with.

For the sake of brevity, other characters who were in the original manga and anime storyline but are notable in their absence here are the Marines (i.e. Smoker, Tashigi, et al), who again whilst important in the long run, are admittedly able to cut from this movie with little editing needed to be done to compensate for their part in the plot; Igaram, who gets a particularly raw deal as not only does he not appear in the movie at all, despite being quite important to the Alabasta setting, but his wife, shockingly, does appear in two scenes, one of which she’s actually taking the place of Igaram himself; Mr. 3, who reappears from his stint in the Little Garden arc, but in a part of the story that was also cut for time. There are more, of course, but this last one, Mr. 3, brings me to the next part of the culling done for the sake of time in this movie: Actual story elements.

Mr. 3, as a character, returned to Alabasta, for the meeting of the Baroque Work elite agents, the Officer Agents, with Crocodile, held at the casino, Rain Dinners (this, as it happens, was changed as well – The Officer Agents meeting was held instead out in the open, in the desert, at night). For his failure on Little Garden, Mr. 3 was summarily disposed of and dropped into the basement below, where Crocodile’s Bananagators are kept. All very much at home in a Bond film, which isn’t surprising as Baroque Works’ naming scheme of numbers is much like SPECTRE’s. Later on, Crocodile manages to trip the Straw Hats (all apart from Sanji and Chopper) in the basement of Rain Dinners and starts to fill the place up with water whilst allowing Vivi to fight against the Bananagators in an attempt to find the key to the Straw Hats’ cage. (Again, how very Bond.) When all seems lost, Sanji tricks Crocodile again – I say again, as he had also done so on Little Garden, by pretending to be Mr. 3, which is what caused Mr. 3’s failure and caused Crocodile to be angry at him, for Crocodile had been led to believe that Mr. 3 had dealt with the Straw Hats after all, having heard the news from “Mr. 3” himself – and Crocodile is lured away by Sanji’s cunning manoeuvring, under the guise of Mr. Prince. Sanji then goes to the Rain Dinners basement and frees the Straw Hat, when Mr. 3, of all people, emerges from one of the Bananagators’ mouths and is beaten up until he gives them a replacement key, uh, asked very nicely if he could make them a new key.

Now, this is all great stuff, and helped Sanji develop a new facet to his character, being something of a secret agent and a master of covert operations from behind the scenes, but again, in the long run, if one were to focus solely on the plot of stopping Baroque Works from their evil plans, this plot thread could be severed and not much would be missed.

Similarly, we also lose the underlying coup d’état storyline, in which Crocodile masterfully manipulates both the Alabastan army of discontented rebels and the Alabastan royal army to be at odds with one another, with Baroque Works agents infiltrating both sides and causing further unrest, Mr. 2 using his shapeshifting abilities to become the King and frame him for actions, and generally sabotaging any chances that either side have to make peace. We still see hints of it, but it is heavily, heavily abridged and is but a shadow of its former self, with the only signs of it still being in there being blink-and-you’ll-miss-it shots, here-and-there, of rogue members of both armies having the Baroque Works insignia tattooed on their arms, and talk of the Rain Dance Powder very early on. Even then, this is given in a small piece of exposition with Nami and Vivi, though admittedly, these two (if anyone) would be the best candidates to talk about it, Vivi having firsthand knowledge of Alabasta’s troubles and the powder, and Nami being both generally knowledgeable about things the rest of the crew might not (see: Nami knowing about scurvy, all the way back in the Baratie arc, when Luffy, Usopp and Zoro did not), as well as being the master of meteorological savoir-faire (pardon my French).

All in all, this truncated version of the Alabasta arc does work, if you’re looking for just that, a highly truncated version of the story, that you can digest easily, as opposed to the whole story in all its detail, but if you’re more used to the original, in all its glory, then this movie may leave you wanting.

Finally, there is Movie 9. Movie 9 is an interesting beast. It’s quite obviously a retelling of the Drum Kingdom story arc, or Chopper’s introduction arc, so contents wise, you’d think there’d not be really anything new. Well… This is where I have to address another elephant in the room. Hello, elephant that pushed Henry the Green Engine out of a tunnel and then “hoosh”ed him! … What? I ran out of elephant names.

Anyway, the major thing that this movie has going for it, that makes it more than just a redo of the Chopper introduction arc, is that there are characters that weren’t in the original telling of the story. Case in point, the crew no longer are travelling on the Going Merry, and instead are travelling on the Thousand Sunny, which of course means we also have Franky and Robin in the crew. Of course, people who know One Piece well know that not even Robin was part of the crew yet when they were at Drum Kingdom, let alone Franky or the Sunny. The film itself highlights this, though, as the beginning shots of the movie are Chopper on his own, and followed by a screen simply saying “…if?” So, yes, this is a what-if story, this apparently including “What if characters from future storylines were part of the crew now?” Naturally, this doesn’t help canon at all, as there is no way to make the story fit into continuity.

Of course, the other part of this issue is that characters who are not meant to be part of the crew around this time of the story provide massive spoilers for those who are following the One Piece story through the collection sets of the TV anime as released by Manga (i.e. Collection 1 to 8, as of now). However, this is something that Manga tends to do with the long-running shounen series, releasing movies that are further along in the story than the series themselves are, such as Bleach or Naruto. Consequently, getting spoilers about future characters is something that fans of these series will be used to. Indeed, with One Piece, fans who were only keeping with the One Piece series collections were spoiled to Franky’s existence and his joining the crew, along with Brook (who was also a new arrival and a spoiler for the unaware in America, too).

Outside of the addition of new characters (both with the newer Straw Hat members, and the addition of an older brother for Wapol, Musshoor), the plot of Movie 9 does still follow the general plot of the Drum Kingdom arc, with some changes to accommodate the new characters. However, this mostly in terms of Musshoor; Franky and Robin’s addition to the story are hardly worth it. Robin could be counted as needed, as she essentially replaces Vivi’s part in the original story, in finding out about Nami being sick and her interactions with Usopp, but outside of the initial starting off the plot by finding Nami collapsed on the floor with her fever, Robin is quite inconsequential. Franky, meanwhile, is entirely replaceable in this movie, as he only serves to be an added element to Zoro’s fights with Wapol’s men, and then after that, Zoro and Franky are basically out of the action until the very end, when the scriptwriters remember “Oh, right, those two are still out there”, and Franky uses his Fresh Fire to burn some of Musshoor’s supposedly deadly spores that are destroyed by fire, as mentioned in a Chekov’s Gun set-up earlier on. Franky could have been taken out of the movie entirely, and nothing really would have changed, except that for some reason, they have the Thousand Sunny, instead of the Going Merry. Usopp could easily have done the fire thing, with his slingshot.

No, the real addition to the plot is Musshoor, who provides a second boss to fight, and even then, he doesn’t add that much to the plot, as they resolve his issues fairly quickly, and he ends up fused with his brother, meaning the fight continues as it would have, if only Wapol was in this story.

In essence, this is simply a new take on the Drum Kingdom storyline, with characters added in so all the cast members for all of the current Straw Hats at the time of the movie’s making could have a role. It’s still very much enjoyable, story-wise, and serves as a nice little abridged version of the Drum storyline, but it’s really not much you haven’t seen before. The Chopper story plays out as normal, just with Chopper introduced a little earlier, some characters replaced with others, some little bits here and there snipped out, and with a slight plot detour with the threat of Musshoor releasing deadly poisonous spores, before the double threat of Wapol and Musshoor are merged together into one character, so Luffy can beat him in one blow, paralleling the original defeat of Wapol.

So, while the new take on the story is enjoyable enough, nothing is really added to it, and if anything, there are actually points that take away from the story. For instance, Chopper’s character development in the story is meant to be based around how he feels he’s a monster and how people would always treat him like a monster. You really do feel for the little guy, but it’s around the end, when Luffy is trying to recruit Chopper to join his crew, that a plothole appears and there are actually some potential new scenes that get squandered. Chopper is hesitant to join Luffy and the crew at first, because he feels he’s too weird and too much of a monster. Now, this made perfect sense in the original manga and anime storyline, as at this time, Luffy was the only one in the Straw Hat crew who could be considered majorly abnormal, who could be considered a freak. The rest of the crew were all humans, with Devil Fruit powers or anything like that, the crew consisting of Zoro, Nami, Usopp, Sanji and (at the time) Vivi, all of whom were, for the most part, ordinary humans. But with this retelling, the whole worry of Chopper being the lone freak makes no sense, as he’s about to join a crew that has a guy whose body is made entirely of rubber; a woman in her near 30s, hanging around young people in their teens and early twenties at most, who can grow multiple body parts on any surface, often having tens upon tens of limbs at any time; and most flagrant of all, a man in his mid-thirties, who runs around wearing nothing but a Hawaiian shirt and a speedo, looking like a cross between Popeye and Ace Ventura, and just so happens to be a fire-breathing cyborg with an arsenal of weaponry built him and who runs solely on cola. … Yeah, a cute little talking reindeer isn’t exactly much, in comparison…

In Summary:

In summary, this collection is a bit difficult when it comes to ascertaining who this is for. If you’re already a fan of One Piece, it’d probably be a no-brainer but if you’re a fan of One Piece, you’ll likely already know about the movies from both your own research prior and the previous movie collections. Therefore, as it stands, your mind will likely already be made up and whatever I say is not likely to change your mind.

Movie 7 is a simple piece of fun, a little microcosm of what makes One Piece fun, but nothing necessarily that will hook someone who is unsure about One Piece. It’s just a nice thing to watch, if you wanna spend some time and don’t feel up for anything too heavy. It could be used as a good standalone segment of One Piece to show a newcomer, for them to get a feel for the zanier aspects of One Piece.

Movie 8 is as said in great length earlier, an abridged account of the Alabasta arc (look, Ma! Alliteration!). This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it can be enjoyed on its own merits if you just want to watch the gist of the story in a feature length movie amount of time, but if you want all the trimmings from the original, this movie probably won’t do much for you. In essence, you should think of this as the difference between an abridged audiobook and an unabridged one. The abridged audiobook can be a necessity, if time is against you and you don’t want to tackle something too tasking, too dauntingly large. But if you want the full experience, and don’t want to be constantly picking holes, asking yourself why this was left out, or that was left out, you should stick with the unabridged version and enjoy that instead.

Movie 9 is much like Movie 8. If you’ve already watched the Drum Kingdom arc, you’re really not getting much in the way of a new story. As mentioned, the characters that are added are relatively pointless and anything new they could add to the plot is either not looked at, or is used only for the plot threads to be hastily tied back into the original storyline, meaning hardly anything changed. Again, if you’ve already watched the Drum Kingdom arc, and love it, stick with that. It’s better paced and makes better use of its characters. If you wanna see what it’d be like if Franky and Robin were added to the mix, then this is for you; just… Don’t get your hopes up too much.

If you want all new content, then these DVDs aren’t the best place to look. Movie 7 offers you a self-contained story where status quo is always retained by story’s end, as is standard fare for movies based on long-running and ongoing shows. Movies 8 and 9 are however not anything you haven’t seen before, barring the extra additions to Movie 9 with new characters and spoilerific future characters for people who haven’t yet met the crewmembers who come later in the series. All in all, some new sprinkled in there, but mostly this is more a case of One Piece being compressed into an easy to manage morsel. Not necessarily a bad thing. By all means, quite the opposite. Very enjoyable, but not your first port of call if you’re itching to continue with entirely unseen stories. You could use these movies as possible gateways to get erstwhile unaware people interested in One Piece, but by the same token, you could probably do what many other One Piece fans have done over the years and pick one of the staple One Piece arcs from the manga or the anime series, such as the Arlong Park arc, to help hook your prey.

My thoughts in general: This was a tricky release to both critique and to ascertain the audience for. It’s not the best thing to use for introducing new potential fans to One Piece, with all the heavy spoilers of future characters, and many of the flaws with abridging entire story arcs into 90 – 120 minute chunks, but is nonetheless still a valid option. I myself got into One Piece late – well, comparatively, not all that late, in the long run – having started looking into it at around the time of Water 7, manga wise, and post-Skypiea, anime wise, with a heavy emphasis on the Alabasta arc as the thing I sunk my teeth into. Consequently, it’s not impossible for a totally virginal fan to watch these movies and use them as their platform into going back through all the material and catching up; it’s just perhaps not the best way.

As for veteran fans (the category of which I am rather shocked to find I now fall into), these films are more a little snack to remind you why you love One Piece, albeit with some areas that you’ll find yourself criticising despite yourself, but it’s only because of your undoubted love for the series. Hence my review. I know that I come off as quite harsh with this release’s flaws, such as the laziness in the subtitles and the questionable translations, but I do it because I love One Piece. It’s been a huge part of my growing up as an anime nerd, and I want it to receive the care and love I know it deserves, and when a release comes off as make-do as this does, it hurts the cause. One Piece has already braved the 4Kids dub, which already tarred its reputation, and so it needs all the help it gets. If this review only does one thing, then I hope it’s to give Manga Entertainment a reminder that they’ve got one of the biggest anime franchises in their hands, and it needs to be treated with respect. You can’t just cobble together slipshod releases, as it does both the series and its fans a great disservice.

Finally, to close out this review, (oh, how I’m sure many of you have been waiting to read that), I wish to thank-you for reading, and for sticking it out with me so long, whilst I rant and rave. This is my first review, and I’m sure it shows. It just so happens that I gave myself a baptism of fire by taking on a collection of three movies, all worthy of separate reviews, to do an entire single review. Thus, I’m aware that this review will be very likely of low quality and seem like just a rambling mess. I’m aware that it would have taken a lot of concentration and a lot of your time to read what amounts to 15 pages, give or take, worth of review. I can only do two things: One, promise that I’ll do my best to continue with my work, honing my skills and making much more palatable reading, and two, thank you again, from the bottom of my heart, for taking the time to read this.

Features:
Japanese Language, English Language (Film 8 Only, English Subtitles

Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: C-
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: C+
Extras Grade: N/A

Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: November 3rd, 2014
MSRP: £29.99
Running Time:
Movie 7: 91 minutes approx.
Movie 8: 87 minutes approx.
Movie 9: 109 minutes approx.
Total: 287 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:

”Shizuko” AKA Dell Inspiron 1545 laptop, Celeron Dual-Core CPU processor T3000 at 1.80GHz, IDT High Definition Audio CODEC, 1366 by 768 pixels monitor resolution; FREECOM DVD+/-RW20J6 USB DVD RW drive ; PLEXTOR BD-ROM PX-B120U USB Blu-Ray drive ; Philips SHS390/10 neckband headphones (when applicable)

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