What They Say:
Nami, despite her desperate dash, arrives at the station too late to stop the Sea Train, but she’s relieved to learn that Sanji has stowed away on board the vessel and will stop at nothing to rescue Robin! With the storm of all storms bearing down upon them, Nami and Chopper risk their lives to save Luffy and Zoro from the rapidly rising waters. Back aboard the train, Sanji is aided in his battle against the CP9 goons by the arrival of the mysterious Soge King, a wandering warrior from the Island of Snipers! As the scattered Straw Hats fight to reunite, fate draws them ever nearer the foreboding fortress of Enies Lobby. Will our heroes live to face the hour of reckoning?!
Set up in both 5.1 English and 2.0 Japanese, One Piece continues to have 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 standard 16:9 – 1.78:1 ratio over 4 discs which is the standard for most UK releases, 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; ranging from Luffy to Rob Lucci, with the usual set up on a brown Wanted Poster like background remains. 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.
As tends to be the usual for the One Piece releases, we have a fair few extras; most of them revolving around dub commentaries.
Disc 1 has a commentary on episode 255 – all the commentaries feature the ADR Director Mike McFarland, but have a couple of newcomers to the commentary booth in Julie Erikson (Kokoro) and Doug Goodrich (Zambai) – the main thing coming out is that this is in fact Doug’s first role which is interesting, and there is a lot of mixed talk about both themselves and the show, whether it is referencing how Japan is so far ahead and the story only half way through at this point, talking about how Funi took the show in 2007, Julie talks about her film roles, Doug talks about his moves from Dallas to New York – Julie compares her work in LA with Hanna Barbara to new anime roles and just fun things how Julie’s grandchild and Doug’s nephew find their work cool – a good mix of informative and fun.
Disc 2 has a commentary on episode 263, joining Mike is more of a behind the scenes group, with Kenneth Thomson (ADR Engineer), Adrian Cook (Mix Engineer) and Josh Kocurek (Marketing Brand Manager) – they explain what they do in their roles, ranging from capturing the booth performances (good takes, volume, flaps, clean up – challenges on working on One Piece), different set ups with microphones, how mixing for the dub works over the original Japanese mix, 5.1 environment from the stereo version in Japanese, promotion of the show as well as other projects they’ve worked on and how challenging they can be (Beck amused them as it was so long to do because of the songs).
Disc 3 has a commentary on episode 265, with Mike we have Colleen Clinkenbeard (Luffy) , Phil Parsons (Jabura) and Alexis Tipton (Fukuro) – here they admit the arc is dragging along as it is similar to the manga so it is more small moments in the show they like, such as the transponder snails, though they also mention the challenges in working for a long-running show like One Piece…in particular the yelling for poor Colleen.
Lastly on disc 4 we have a commentary on episode 273, which has Eric Vale (Sanji) and Brina Palencia (Chopper) join Mike – this one is definitely more comic and fun with both VAs having a blast in the booth with some stories and mock moments with each other, they do talk about the series, and how Chopper is pretty much the favourite of all the cast, talk about his favourite form, and some stories about voice actors looking in the dealers rooms at conventions for their own merchandise so to speak.
Throughout the discs, we get the clean openings and endings which do change half way through, but also a couple more behind the scenes sections as well, with Christopher R. Sabat (Zolo), Colleen, Sonny Strait (Usopp) and Patrick Seitz (Franky). Each of them are done very similarly and with similar questions – Mike asks them questions about their audition processes, their favourite Straw Hats and villains, but each of them has something unique in their talks. For example, Sonny talks about his own nerdy hobbies and his past with comic books and Tokyopop, Patrick talking more about his characters back-story and owning some Franky merchandise, how Colleen is never bored with her character, and Chris talking about the split from the original episodes and where the 4Kids dub left off. So a lot of variety, information and fun throughout these extras.
One Piece continues to be, in my opinion, the strongest of the big Shounen Jump series – and despite this arc seemingly going on forever, the set up is there, and after Franky’s back-story revealed we are setting up now finally for Robin’s past to be finally explained which gives us something to look forward to at the end of this set. Combined with Usopp returning to the group under Sniper King (which nobody but Chopper and Luffy buy of course) and the start of some trademark action, there is still lots to like in this set.
The initial part is the fact that Robin, Usopp and Franky have been taken away and the Aqua Laguna is in place so no one can catch up to them. Well, turns out Sanji managed to stow away on the train, so there is some hope as we see him fight through a number of people to try and save his friends. And then we get Kokoro who has been watching from afar, impressed with the Straw Hats spirit, with the help of Iceburg, lend them another sea train called the Rocket Man (insert relevant Elton John song joke here) which is more unreliable but is their best option. It does feel like a deus ex machina to make sure the group manage to follow Robin, but at the same time you knew they were going to go after her anyway so this is as good a way to do so.
We get Paulie and the Franky Family also joining the Straw Hats so the group, all with reasons to go after Lucci, form an alliance, and through some Luffy/Zolo teamwork, and a lot of luck, they manage to get through the huge tidal waves whilst Sanji finds Usopp and Franky. This is where the evolution of the Usopp character now hits the peak, as he has clearly been upset after leaving the group due to his love for the Merry, fighting a battle he knew he couldn’t win, and still feels he is too much of a coward. So he literally transforms himself…well, puts on a goofy mask…and become the Sniper King – a disguise so obvious that almost all the Straw Hats know it is him, but fortunately Luffy doesn’t so he gets away with it. Here, he acts more confident even though he is scared, and is a way for him to help the Straw Hats without feeling awkward as Usopp. His influence is also felt when it is revealed before he left he made an upgrade to Nami’s weapon which you know will play a part in the inevitable battle sequences that will happen soon.
We indeed get some fight sequences involving Sanji and Franky as CP9 worry what is going on, Sniper King actually does rescue Robin but again she refuses to be saved by the Straw Hats because of her deal with CP9. It is indeed confusing Robin’s mental state at this point but fortunately it looks like we’ll see a change by the end of the set. In the meantime, we get another relevant setback called the Buster Call, which, if activated, calls forth pretty much the mother load of the marines as a serious issue, indicating the Straw Hats will be public enemy number one if it happens, giving some set up to something that may happen later. Unfortunately, both Franky and Robin are recaptured but Usopp/Sniper King separates with Sanji, and with the rest of the Straw Hats and others on the way, we get to Enis Lobby. Whilst Paulie sets up a plan to infiltrate and attack the main wave of marines before the Straw Hats can face CP9, Luffy being Luffy, ignores it, and stretches straight into the heart of battle, eager to save Robin. The set up is good, especially as things you wouldn’t expect to be important (like the giants on the marines’ side) actually become more interesting a bit later. Luffy also seems to have got some interesting power as well which isn’t explained but when 10,000 men are afraid of you…
CP9 do return though and we meet the other members, (with Kaku and Kaliffa eating Devil Fruits – especially interesting for Kaku considering he was the second strongest after Lucci WITHOUT a devil fruit so…) whilst the marines employ everything at the group as the plan and tactics slowly falter on the Straw Hats side. Fortunately thanks to Paulie and the rest of the Galley-ya and the Franky Family, they manage to hold the fort so the Straw Hats can infiltrate. It leads to Luffy taking on Blueno, Chopper and Usopps’ interactions with some of the marines (the giants as mentioned are actually slaves because they say their bosses were captured – in fact the bosses were Dorry and Broggy from an earlier arc who Usopp confirms they are life, cue change of allegiance)and a lot of mixed battling with everyone – and Luffy revealing his new ability, Gear – which allows him to use his bloody inside his rubber body to increase his power…with some side effects. But right at the end, Franky manages to escape with Robin and asks her why she wants to die…cue the flashback which starts off Robin’s back-story – where she was treated as a freak because of her powers but was training to be an archaeologist, however even when she passes (at age 8) to be in the guild of her home town, they still refuse her to help because of her age. This leads her to meeting a former vice-admiral giant named Saulo, the two becomes friends…and it stops there.
Whilst there is no filler, the arc does feel a bit more dragging compared to the previous set, which is a shame because it is still a very good set, and leads into Robins’ past, and the inevitable fights with the remainder of CP9. The things with the Rocket Man, and the sub bosses on the train that Sanji and Franky had to fight seemed to not be needed, and the only major thing it brought upon was the introduction of Sniper King. This was in the original manga so it was just as much an issue in that as well, but it felt even more dragging in animated form. A lot of the characters don’t even factor in that much I can’t remember much of anything Chopper, Nami or even Zolo did in this set, and even the parts with Franky, Sanji and Sniper King were on and off because of the very filler like nature of the battles despite them being part of the main arc.
The set up though looks set to pay off. The idea of the Straw Hats trying to plan with the aid of the Franky Family and Galley-ra, the fact Luffy as usual goes ahead without listening but still succeeds in his own way and showcasing some hinted at techniques knowing he lost to Lucci before, Usopp returning as Sniper King (Chopper whilst not used much at least had some real cute moments not knowing he is Usopp and thinking he is a real super hero) and the standoff when all the remaining Straw Pirates and Franky are ready to save Robin just before we get into her flashback.
Also it was a real tease that the final episode finally showcases what Robin’s past is about. Pretty all the Straw Hats plus Franky have had great back stories yet Robin despite being in the group for a fair bit has been very mysterious – like how she ended with Crocodile, how she knows all about runes and archaeology, what is she truly seeking, and why does she have such a high bounty? I get the feeling all of this will be explained but we have to wait until the next set which because now everyone is at Enis Lobby, is most likely going to be much more focused.
CP9 themselves have some good set ups with Kaku and Kaliffa eating Devil Fruits but we don’t know what they do. The main villain outside of Lucci, Spandam, is a strange antagonist because unlike pretty much the rest of the villains Luffy has had to face, is a snivelling behind the desk like character, but that makes him much easier to hate compared to CP9 as they all had their moments in the earlier episodes before they revealed. Kaliffa is still quite comical and insulting for example, and Kaku really hasn’t showed any villain vibes outside of the fact he is working for CP9 so these guys will get the good battles with the Straw Hats, and we hope that Spandam just gets destroyed in one punch. The cast of villains is always a good part of One Piece, and whilst Lucci is obviously the big boss that Luffy will fight, everyone else is fair game and should be interesting.
The real main thing that comes out of this set is Usopp’s new character, which really is a way to try and hide his fears behind the mask as most of the Straw Hats humour him in being Sniper King. His theme song is hilarious and he acts like a classic sentai hero so Luffy and Chopper of course go nuts for him. However, it also showcases the change in Usopp and his mentality. He wants the lies to be true, and this is how he is going to make them come true, as a different persona. He showcases being smarter, stealthy, and skilled, etc, whilst still being Usopp. The moment where he talks to the giants who have attacked is big as he was the one who remembers the previous giants the most because they inspired him to be stronger which was an Usopp trait, yet he is saying it as Sniper King. As Sniper King, he gets them to change sides, but it was from something he remembered as Usopp. Usopp has grown on me so much that at one point he was my least favourite of the Straw Hats but now, he is probably my second favourite. I am surprised how much development there has been for him and granted a lot of episodes have gone by, but it still gradually catches up and impressed me.
The arc is dragging, that is for sure, but the set up, both for Robin’s past and the inevitable battle with the CP9 (plus the most likely conclusions of Sniper King and Franky being with the Straw Hats), this arc still makes you look forward to the next set so for that, it is still very watchable.
One Piece continues on its merry way, albeit a bit slower than normal. A strange set in the fact it is part of the main story but still feels a bit like filler at times, with various things that could have easily been cut. However, it does set up a lot of potential payoff and mystery – Robin’s past, the new devil fruit powers, the introduction of Usopp’s new persona, Luffy’s powers, it does enough to keep you interested with a bit of action, comedy and drama in the mix as well. Bring on the next set.
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A-
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: August 10th, 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.