Very similar to the recent Naruto set, but in reverse, it starts with the finale of the main Eneru arc, before descending across the sea into some filler, but again doesn’t feel as bad or out of place in comparison…
What They Say:
Lightning bolts rain from the heavens and cloud-dwelling citizens run for their lives as Luffy and Eneru go toe to toe to determine the fate of Skypiea! The rubber-man is determined to make this exceedingly evil villain pay for his sins against the innocent, but Eneru won’t be easily defeated. With his electric ark chock full of gold, the heinous holy man sets in motion a petrifying plan to obliterate life on Angel Island! Luffy is ready to rumble, but his shipmates are falling one by one, and his punching power bottoms out after Eneru encases his hand in a giant ball of gold. Only one hope remains: Nami and Luffy must risk their lives in a desperate attempt to ring the sacred bell of Shandora – and chase away Eneru’s looming cloud of death!
Set up in both 5.1 English and 2.0 Japanese, One Piece has a superb English audio in terms of needing to actually lower my standard settings so I could hear without ruining my ears. The Japanese track is also very good, where setting it to standard settings was almost as good as a standard 5.1 track. There were no issues with sound transition or any overlapping issues with missing audio or out of place dubbing or synching with the subtitles.
Visually, the extremely colourful and unique style of One Piece follows well on a widescreen format, no picture issues with distortion (except with one point I noticed when I accidentally made it go faster and the animation did look like it wasn’t perfected on the release but on normal speed no issues) when pausing and no freezing or synching with the audio so a very quality release.
Each of the menus are the same but with a different character showcasing (on Disc 1 it is Luffy aiming a punch, on disc 2 it is the whole Going Merry crew) on a brown Wanted Poster like background, the selections are vertical on the right hand side. The choices are Play All, Episodes, Set Up and Extras. Each is easily accessible both from the main menu and from the show itself if you need to revert to the main menu with little time delay. Very basic otherwise as the menus are static so pretty much the same as all previous releases.
The extras are pretty similar to previous One Piece releases. We have the two openings and endings which are used in this set but clean, which is a standard one used in most releases nowadays.
We also have two dub commentaries – one on episode 193 with Mike McFarland (Line Producer and ADR Director), Colleen Clinkerbeard (Luffy), and J Michael Tatum (Eneru). We hear how they felt the arc was, with the surprise that this was technically Tatums first role when it was airing on Adult Swim and they were continuing the episodes after 4Kids lost the licence, which was quite interesting. He talks about playing the bad guy whilst Colleen jokingly mentioned she hated Eneru the most in terms of the frustration of the episodes as Luffy…so it did damage to her voice, but also realising how it works and the looks/sounds/reactions of the characters make them special so there were some fun points mentioned here.
The second commentary is interesting as it is in a filler arc, but the people involved actually mentioned some of their favourite moments happen in this episode, which is 196 involving Mark Stalker and Bryan Massing (Jonathan and Drake) as they mention that they picked this episode as the Straw Hats don’t appear for a while so the marines take the stage right after Skypeia, involving the actors having multiple roles for the marines and how it factors in later with the Pirates getting involved, showcasing the show from the Marines point of view at how, both the Pirates and Marines are villains but from a different point of view – which is true as technically Luffys’ group are villains and the Marines are order, but the shows is definitely not black and white and glad this was mentioned.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
My recent review of Naruto Shippuden had most of the series be filler episodes whilst the end returned to the story. One Piece has the reverse issue – the main arc finishes at the start and goes into a filler season. Naruto got around it mostly by focusing on many of the side characters and referencing their influences (usually involving Naruto or some other character). One Piece ironically, can’t go that route despite them doing so before with the Buggy Pirates, instead they focus on sending the group via a Marine base and get a sense on how the other half lives, so to speak. And surprisingly, for the most part it works, albeit it does drag on at times.
It starts off with the conclusion of the Eneru arc, with Eneru deciding to destroy all of Skypeia. One of the issues I had with Eneru is that unlike other villains who have more designs of control (Kuro, Crocodile) or are just fun to watch (Buggy), Eneru’s character is rather dull in comparison – he just wants to destroy his world because he can with his god like powers, which is why I feel this arc is a fair bit weaker than others, especially as the moment you realised his main power was electricity, it set up for him to be the latest victim of Luffy due to his rubber abilities. Granted, Eneru is more than that and does give Luffy quite a beating, but thanks to Nami and Sanji, they manage to derail his plans, and Luffy does eventually defeat him, basically banishing him to the moon.
Whilst the Eneru scenes and fight (and victory) can be a bit confusing, there are some good backstory bits referring to the previous arc when Luffy found out about Skypeia and the stories told to him were infact true, as we see it via a flashback from Wyper, where the two different tribes from the old land (Calgara) and the sea farers (Norland) met, how they became friends, and how their relationship soured much to Calgara and Norlands’ displeasure. It is told really well and makes you realise there was a plot to this arc and it reminds you that ringing the bell so it can be heard back on the Grand Line for Cricket (Nolands’ descendant) and using Wypers’ help, Eneru is defeated via sending him into the Golden Bell.
There is some potential future story with Robin deciphering some glyphs on the bell (Written by Gold Roger himself) before their ship is battered and returned to the Grand Line, and we get into filler territory with them getting inside a Marine base with the Marines thinking it was a ghost ship crashing into their territory. Here, it is quite similar to previous filler seasons as each of the Straw Hats basically does their own thing or tells their own story. For example, Sanji and Luffy encounter a kitchen, and whilst Luffy is no help apart from eating, Sanji gets into clashes with a beautiful female marine which, after Sanji goes through his usual routine, actually shows how to properly cook for the Marines, showcases no part of the meal can be wasted – teaching them a lesson which does affect them later in the arc. Chopper and Nami have to disguise themselves and help out a rookie doctor who is nervous with blood and treating injuries, which again, has interesting consequences later on. Robin and Usopp disguise themselves as an inspector visiting the Marines, with Robin doing a slightly better job than Usopp, which leads to hilarious consequences as well. And Zolo is…just lost. He actually gets thrown in jail with Usopp and the real inspector, for interesting confrontations.
The arc doesn’t finish with this set so there is more on the way, but it leads to the group eventually getting together as the Marines confiscates their gold that they ‘liberated’ from Skypeia and wanting to use the money to hire a shipwright to repair their ship. They manage to trick the Marines into getting back on their ship when the nervous doctor (and later her father) gets on their side but it isn’t that easy when the real inspector gets free. It looks set to see whose loyalties are trusted, the marine captain is definitely a good guy and sees the pirates’ views, but ultimately his hands are tied and it is his job to stop them. The head chef, doctor and father also have their minds affected by the pirates and need to decide to help them, or in the chefs’ dilemma, use Sanjis’ techniques to make better meals as it seems like she is below a pirate which she can’t stand.
The filler is surprisingly decent as it could easily be part of the main canon as you could see the Straw Hats having to take on Marine bases from time to time, and it is one of the few long series where filler can be done well considering they have to travel to various places before they reach their proper destination, and this one has some likeable characters, some strong dilemmas and some interesting planning both on the Marines and on the Pirates side. Ironically, the Straw Hats do take a back seat to many of the marines in this filler arc, which is strange because the chances of seeing these Marine characters in the future or if they are going to be plot important are probably zero. Nonetheless, they do get enough time and development to work as adequate foils and friends for the Straw Hats.
Because of this though, it suffers due to the Straw Hats not being that interesting in comparison. When Eneru is defeated, there is a lot of action and some great fighting scenes as Luffy actually showcases when it comes to battle, he does have some intelligence to counter Eneru’s mindreading, whilst Sanji and Nami also have their moments when it comes to stop Skypeia being destroyed. However, the moments after that are few and far between. Robin has a couple of moments with her deciphering of the glyphs but is then barely in the filler arc just in disguise and a ‘Oh hi Robin’ once they escape, Zolo is pretty much non-existent throughout everything bar an occasional comedy moment with Sanji, Chopper gets a couple of fun moments during when they meet a marine doctor and Nami is quite prevalent through due to being a prisoner of Eneru (and when she actually braves him it is legit badass) but these moments with the beloved cast are few and far between. Hell, Luffy is barely important in the filler arc as Sanji takes control and whilst this can be good as it is nice to focus on other cast instead of the lead.
And of course, the fact it is a filler season means whilst One Piece does it better than moment, there is a lot of silliness and a lot of head scratching as they make stories for the cast inside of the base which could have easily been cut down. Filler is necessary for longer series when you catch up with the manga but it still means you usually get weaker episodes in general, and this is no exception.
That said, it does end in a cliff-hanger and the characters (in particular the captain) are interesting enough to make this enjoyable enough until you get to the next main arc which looks like the crew want to get a new member to be a shipwright. I will admit that Eneru is one of the weaker villains and Skypeia because of that felt a bit tacked on, but it does lead to a good climax, some of the other characters get their moments and the filler sections could have been a lot worse. Not the best overall, but enough for One Piece fans to get ready for the next main arc.
One Piece continues on its merry way setting up the next arc with hints whilst finishing off the big boss of the recent arc and diving into some surprisingly decent filler. That said, it is still a hitch in the story and it could easily be passed by but there are some fun moments and seeing Eneru get his just desserts is rewarding. Don’t expect too much character development with this one and just turn your brains off and enjoy.
Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: November 3rd, 2014
Running Time: 520 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Review Equipment: Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.