What They Say:
When Luffy and his mates drop anchor at the bizarre island of Long Ring Long Land, they’re challenged to a Davy Back Fight by the fast-talking Foxy Pirates! The Straw Hats are no strangers to squabbles, but the sacred code of pirates decrees that this contest could cost Luffy his crew! Next on the horizon for the Hats, it’s a case of missing memories as everyone but Robin forgets they ever knew each other. Usopp is quick to claim the title of captain, and Zoro does the unthinkable by attacking Luffy! Can Robin recover the crew’s lost recollections before disaster strikes!? She’d better work fast because far greater foes lie ahead, and the Straw Hats will need all hands on deck if they hope to survive the return of Captain Foxy – and the icy arrival of Admiral Aokiji!
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.
Set on a 16:9 – 1.78:1 ratio, visually, the extremely colourful and unique style of One Piece follows well on a widescreen format, no picture issues with distortion when pausing and no freezing or synching with the audio so a very quality release.
Each of the menus are the same but with a different character showcasing; here we focus on Disc 1 which has Foxy on the cover with a smug look and trademark smile 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.
Extras are pretty much what you come to expect with the Funimation One Piece releases, but still more than welcome. The new openings and endings are there in the clean format as per standard, but the main extras are the dub commentaries.
We get four on this set (one on each disc) starting with episode 211, featuring Mike McFarland (Line Producer) Ian St Clair (Itamizu), Eric Vale (Sanji) and Chris Sabat(Zoro/Zolo)– at this point in the dub there was a hiatus on Toonami and this is where they got back into the series in the US release which may be confusing to UK viewers but they explain enough (I still had to research a little) and how it feels coming back into the show –they talk about how the roles/voices were disruptive due to how comic they were, making the lines seems fresh, contacting the Japanese in approving the dub, was it easy to jump back into and how popular the show is in Japan amongst other things, so it is more of a general review of One Piece and how returning to their roles affects them.
Episode 215 is the next one, Mike returns this time with Tia Bullard(Porche) and Colleen Clinkerbeard(Luffy), where it is mentioned that Tia has played a lot of background/small roles in One Piece and this was her first real named character whilst Colleen talks mostly how she enjoys playing the dumb characters and her love for Luffy, Tia’s opinion of Porche, comparing to other shows and how it is their favourite of the longer shows(most of the commentaries talk about how One Piece is now one of the crews favourite shows).
Then we have one for episode 218, whilst Mike returns with Colleen, we now add Jonathan Brooks(Foxy) – Colleen talks about enjoying Foxy as a favourite villain despite him being in just a short arc whilst Jonathan talks about the accent and verbal tics he uses for Foxy (some influence via Prussia from Hetalia) and Colleen talks how Luffy is way off her natural voice so it is more about how they change their voices so it is distinct from other characters they have voiced before and not close to their natural voices.
Finally, we have one on episode 229, the final episode of the set and the set up for the next big arc, so along with Mike we have two of the characters about to be quite important to that arc, Sonny Strait (Usopp) and Stephanie Young (Robin) – they barely touch about the next arc because they have dubbed about 10 episodes and don’t want to spoil it but they do hint about some big things happening and changing to get everyone interested, in general Sonny talks about how his voice now consists of more screaming now, and how the long breaks due to the Toonami problems affected the two as the hints of Robins’ past are preparing Stephanie for a change in her character. Whilst there are fun moments like the others joking about Sonnys’ art and on his comic book work, this one actually does a good job getting people interested in the next main arc.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
One Piece, for me, is the strongest of the Shounen Jump big three (One Piece, Naruto and Bleach) – mainly due to a very well rounded and likeable cast, the fact they are travelling to find something mysterious means plenty of legit reasons to find new adventures, where because of this, even the filler parts seem to work with the story. Unfortunately, this also has the opposite problem, when you can’t tell the filler from the main story – in this set, we have a story that is part of the original manga, yet the way it is told and an actual filler follow up very shortly after in the same set, it doesn’t feel as strong as most of the sets up to date…though it does set up one of the best arcs in the manga so there is still some stuff to tell…
There is one episode concluding the Jonathan Marine filler arc which in truth, seemed to actually be a more likely candidate for a canon story than the canon story that followed it (mainly due to a likeable marine leader who showcases the fact that the marines are technically the good guys, just the Straw Hats are so damn likeable we forget they are pirates, yet most of the Marines have not been the most likeable so it is nice to showcase the other side of the story here) – the actual story arc is the Foxy Pirates arc, where the anime not only extends it compared to the manga, but even gives Foxy a mini filler arc later in the same set!
Now to be fair, Foxy is at least, pretty entertaining – he seems like a comic relief villain but he is surprisingly calculating and skillful with his slow-slow powers despite many times the Straw Hats both intentionally and unintentionally insults him. The story is the Straw Hats come across a tidal wave and are knocked into an unusual island with strange animals, and a man named Tonjit who they rescue after being stuck on stilts 30 feet in the air (it’s One Piece, I don’t question the stories any more…) We come across the Foxy Pirates, who have made a habit of challenging pirate crews to what is known as a Davy Back Fight – where each crew fights in some sort of battle, and the winners can take a member of the other pirates crew. Luffy, being Luffy, has no idea what it is and accepts a battle to the others distress, so in a carnival atmosphere (the Foxy Pirates are quite silly), they start a round of battles.
The first round is a boat race, where due to the nature of the boats and some sneaky cheating by Foxy, the Straw Hats lose, and the group choose Chopper to take…because he is adorable and not for his doctor abilities (Porsche, the main female pirate of the Foxy Pirates, is the other highlight of the Pirates as she is very over the top and hilarious) but in the second round, Sanji and Zolo face three giants in a ball game where the ref is blatantly cheating….fortunately thanks to a few tricks from Nami and the two arch-rivals eventually learning some teamwork, they win the second game but surprisingly don’t take Chopper back and take instead Tonjits’ horse that the pirates took – this was different to the manga, and they extended the games more as well (a roller blading race and a climb – Foxy Pirates also take Robin during one of the matches, again a bit different) before ending with a fight between Foxy and Luffy.
Foxy and Luffys’ fight is pretty entertaining, due to the fact Luffy is being Luffy and doesn’t realize all the traps and pretty poor disguises Foxy has on – however despite this and Luffy winning, they don’t take anybody from their team which despite me knowing this was from the original manga, it really felt like this arc was unnecessary, and was more of a pit stop on their way to getting a shipwright, which is ironic because after this, there is a filler arc so for a lot of it, the story does feel pointless, yet is also necessary as I’m sure most people who are aware of long running series needing filler to not overtake the manga. This happened in the Skypeia arc as well, stretching out the stories further to take more episodes, and granted, if you are not familiar with the manga you may not realise that. Plus Foxy at least was entertaining so it certainly wasn’t a total loss.
Then comes an original arc with all the crew bar Robin losing their memories, and the crew reverting to their original personas (Zolo being a pirate hunter and Nami hating pirates for example) – Robin has to try and bring the Straw Hats together to remember who they are, as they realize that a mysterious boy with a flute seems to be the key. It does have a fun ending when the Straw Hats save a village whose memories have also gone…and as pirates they are suspected as the memory stealers, however it is a story that has both merit and is still filler. The merit though is setting up Robin’s character more, as she has still got an air of mystery, yet with what happens shortly combined with the upcoming arc, this was smart to give her more character as we prepare to dive into her psyche a hell of a lot more soon.
Surprisingly, Foxy returns for a mini filler arc when another crew has taken his crew via the games, so Luffy actually helps him out and gets them back…and Foxy then turns on the Straw Hats. It doesn’t last long though and is an obvious stretch but it does set up getting back to the story to actually introduce one of the potential big bad characters, Aokiji.
One of the Marine High Admiral, Aokiji is the first bad guy since Crocodile that completely dominates the Straw Hats including Luffy. Unlike Crocodile though, Aokiji is definitely very non-villainous in his demeanor. He is very lazy, but also very helpful – hell, he doesn’t care about the Straw Hats at first simply because he is off duty. His devil fruit ability of freezing things helps an abandoned group of people deserted off the island by freezing the sea, so he seems to actually be quite likable. However, he seems to know about Robins’ past, and the calm Robin is utterly terrified of this guy, hence the set up for the next arc. He freezes Robin as the rest of the group get away to try and thaw her whilst Luffy fights Aokiji however he is frozen by him. However, he knows Luffys’ grandfather and he feels the Marines owe the Straw Hats after the Crocodile incident so he spares his life. Whilst the crew continues as normal, he definitely has the look and power of someone who is going to be important later on in the story, and the fact he defeated the crew so easily also does a rare defeat for Luffy, setting up most likely Luffy want to become stronger.
The final episode sets up the next arc as we are introduced to Kokoro and Chimney, a grandmother/granddaughter combination who are on a sea train, and tell them about Water Seven where there are a number of shipwrights there. So the crew set sail there….as the set ends, ready to set up the next major story of looking for a shipwright.
This is a strange box set to review. It is partly filler, partly main story which seems like filler, partly extended story which continues to seem like filler, and an excellent set up in getting ready to look more into Robins’ character, heading into a most likely looking for a new crew member arc, and the introduction of a legit badass who is surprisingly likable at times and you get the feeling there will be more of him to come in Aokiji. The Foxy Pirates were actually quite entertaining but despite being part of the main story, it didn’t feel like it was. Combined with some quick filler and stretching out the story (forgive the pun), this feels simply like a story that didn’t need to be part of it, but was still necessary.
That said, this is still an arc and set One Pieces fans should own, simply because of the cliff-hanger, the set up, and the fact that our shounen protagonist isn’t invincible. There wasn’t much character development per say (bar Robin) but each of the Straw Hats got their moments. Sanji and Zolo cracked me up during their ball game, and in one of the filler episodes, let’s just say they are pandering to the yaoi fandom these two seem to have a bit…Chopper was adorable yet steadfast after a talk from Zolo when he looked like he was going to be taken by the Foxy Pirates, Nami had some great moments (the bit with the ref was hilarious), Usopp during the filler battle on roller-skates was also hilarious and of course Robin we are ready to delve more into her story. Luffy himself had his moments during his afro boxing battle with Foxy, and his usual idiot self set up a lot of the story, but also the fact the team still likes him as their captain and it is very well emphasized in this box set.
Normally an arc like this I could say could be skipped, as it is mostly filler, and even the parts where it isn’t (the Foxy Pirates) could have been removed as well. However, the key last two episodes may just be worth it to purchase it to get ready for a shift in the story, plus there is still plenty of entertainment in the Foxy Pirates arc and with the characters in general. Still a lot of fun, just not the most story driven of the sets.
Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: April 13th, 2015
Running Time: 575 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.