What They Say:
Luffy turns a mermaid auction into a pirate-style brawl when he knocks the snot out of a celestial dragon. The punch heard ’round the island may have saved Camie, but it lands the Straw Hats squarely in the sights of an entire fleet of marines! A little help from fellow pirates Trafalgar Law and Eustass Captain Kid buys the crew some breathing room, but the situation goes from bad to worse when an army of Kuma-clone Pacifistas make their presence felt. Throw in some Light Speed Kicks from Admiral Kizaru and Senfomaru’s battle axe, and things couldn’t get much worse for the Straw Hats.
Or could they? Luffy is forced to watch in horror as the real deal Bartholomew Kuma makes his beloved friends vanish one by one until the rubberman ends up a lonely castaway on the island of Amazon Lily!
Contains episodes 397-409.
The audio presentation for One Piece is a solid work though the favoring goes to the English language track. The series comes with its original Japanese mix in stereo which is good and has a solid feeling throughout it, though it never really extends itself all that much as it uses the forward soundstage. The English mix gets the 5.1 bump to it and that adds with the volume being louder in general and some occasional bigger moments thrown to the rear channels. It’s a decent mix to be sure, but it’s working with simple source material so it can only go so far. It makes up for it by being a bit brasher and outgoing. Both mixes work well and are free of problems like dropouts and distortions, leaving us with a pair of clean and clear mixes
Originally airing in 2009, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. This collection has twelve episodes to it spread across two discs with seven on the first and five on the second. The series in its widescreen form has a very good look where it takes what we had in full screen and just gives it a new life. The placement, framing and general look of the series comes across as brighter, cleaner and better choreographed both in fight sequences and general humor. The transfer brings through the detail of the animation much better and it just feels like the source material is in better shape as well. Colors are bright, appealing and problem free with only a mild smattering of noise in some of the backgrounds that never really detracts. This set doesn’t hold up quite as well in a different area though as the line noise is pretty glaring in a number of scenes, particularly with the various ships, and it gets somewhat distracting at times.
One Piece goes bright with its thin slipcase packaging as it has a white background with some colorful black and yellow framing to tie it together. The artwork is kept to the center under the same logo as used before and it stands out well here, even when it’s dark since it’s also colorful and playful in a way that draws you in. The cover for this release gives us an intense piece with the crew pretty much in rough shape, particularly Luffy with his expression, all while Kuma looms large in the background. It sets the tone perfectly. The front cover also lists the episodes so you know what you’re getting. The back cover goes for the same framing and is pretty light and inviting with the artwork as it’s focusing on various serious scenes from the episodes. The left has a small summary of what to expect that hits some key points but keeps it simple. The discs features and what it contains is accurate, though it omits the clean openings that are included.
Inside the case we get a pair of clear thinpak cases that hold the two discs. Both covers are done the same in that they have the Straw Hat logo across it with the simple text logo as well which is all done in an old leathery volume kind of way. It has a good look but I almost wish we had more artwork here instead of this to go with the colorful slipcover that we have that holds the cases. The back covers are a bit traditional in that we get a wood deck feeling with the main colorful logo here as well as a breakdown of episodes by title and number. The reverse side has more of the wood feeling with the logo but no additional artwork or anything. No show related inserts are included.
The menu design for this release is quite fun and simple as it goes for a white background where part of the upper half is cut out in waves. White dominates it outside of the Straw Hats pirate logo along the left whereas the right has the season listing and the navigation in black and red, making for an easy read. With a bit of mild instrumental music attached to it that doesn’t dominate, it sets the mood well and hits all the right notes. Submenus load quickly and easily and there were no problems moving around. I do wish they had kept to the menu designs for consistencies sake, but I like what was done here.
The extras for this release are pretty good as we get two new English language commentary for a couple of episodes and a clean opening sequence. The big extra again here is the in the booth session, which this time spends its time with Sonny Strait. Clocking in at just under twenty minutes, it does a pretty good job of going through what goes into a performance, the performance trial and error side itself and some dialogue from the production team as well about what they put into it.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Having been out of touch with the One Piece DVDs for a bit, having last seen the sixth season/third voyage as my last, it’s still easy enough to get into the world of One Piece. Particularly coming into it by being familiar with the simulcasts as that fills in the gaps from time to time. This set is one that’s fairly critical to the change in the series that happens for a couple of years worth of episodes when you get down to it as it separates up the cast after they’ve been together for so long. It opens up a world of solo adventures, flashback material, and some of the best material out there for me with what Luffy gets to go through on his own. But that’s all to come. What we get here is how all of that gets underway and it’s pretty exciting to watch unfold.
The opening piece of this set actually brings the main part of the arc to a close as we get Luffy and the others going through the final motions to free Camie from the auction house. It has some good moments to it with what it wants to do, but once Camie is freed we essentially never see her again within this arc. What it wants to focus on is the arrival of the Navy men that are intent on stopping all the pirates that are here. Which are pretty considerable overall, though not by Admiral or Warlord status, as we get Eustas, Luffy and Trafalgar Law. It’s a good combination of people in terms of personality and powers and they’re also backed up by their respective crews that are there. Having them making a stand of sorts coming out of the auction house certainly sets the right tone of confidence, but since they’re so close to two very powerful places – and they’ve screwed with the Celestials, well, they’ve got huge targets painted on their backs, fronts and sides.
While there is a sizable action component to this set, what gets me early on is that as it kicks off elsewhere we end up getting some down time with Luffy and the Straw Hats as they talk with Rayleigh, who had served with Rodger back in the day. This provides some additional context to that story that we get as the lead in about the great pirate age that exists, but it also ties into a few other characters like Buggy and Shanks in neat ways. Rayleigh offers the wisdom and experience of the previous age and what was done there while realizing that Luffy and his crew represent where it’s going now. There’s a good sense of pride that comes from him as well as encouragement, but also some neat moments as he teases with real answers to some of their burning questions. But they’re answers that they have to experience themselves in due time through the journey, something that Luffy is (rightly) emphatic about. It’s a great little pause amid all the events going on, especially considering the end result of this set.
While the big action component starts off with Law and the other pirates, the dominant aspect of it in this set is with the Straw Hats. When they end up getting caught in the sights of Kuma, it turns into a pretty strong session overall. While Zoro has experience with Kuma from the Thriller Bark era, there’s a difference here because there’s more than one Kuma and some pretty interesting potential with that as a series of killers that are put together to deal with troublemakers. Admittedly, a lot of it feels like they’re running out the clock here in a way as there’s a lot of back and forth, but what we get out of it is a really solid attempt by the Straw Hats in different ways to survive before realizing that their only option is escape. There are some really good movements throughout it, especially as Kizuna ends up coming into play along the way to raise the stakes, and Rayleigh makes an appearance as well that reinforces his own overall position in the world. All of it serves to up the importance of the Straw Hats in a way as well through these connections.
But what I really like coming away from all of these episodes is that we get a lot of sequences where the bulk of the group really shows some fear. Not playing at it, but real fear about what Kuma represents. This is heightened even more so when they see Kuma essentially erasing some of the opponents out there. The trick of it, of course, is that when the real Kuma shows up it’s all part of his ability to essentially boot people to other places some distance away. But not knowing that, we get to see the Straw Hats in a real panic and dealing with some wounded players along the way. Luffy’s going into the next gear helps to reinforce just what’s going on as well as getting a moment where he really starts acting like a captain and looks out for the safety of his friends.
Amid this strong section of episodes we get another two-parter of filler dealing with the feudal era One Piece storyline. I hate this storyline. With a passion. It simply does not click for me no matter how many times I see these pieces. I get why it’s done in order to smooth out the production overall, but for me it’s just an utter drag on the show.
The final pieces to the set shifts us into the next storyline, one that gets to be spread among various cast members to show how they deal with it, but for this set we get to just see Luffy as he ends up on the Amazon Lily island. This is going to segue into some important material with a new introduction, but for the moment it’s all about getting us a look at the island, the people, and their first experience with a man on it. There is a lot to like with the silliness here after the seriousness of Sabaody, though some of it was just really weirdly funny since the amazons are quite curious about Luffy and his crown jewels. I can see it being pretty awkward in a lot of ways and in some aspects it’s surprising in a show like this, but there’s been similar humor over the years from time to time so it’s not out of place. It definitely takes you out of all the recent seriousness, which certainly helps.
One Piece is a good thirteen episodes away from where I started watching and writing up the simulcast every week so it’s great to finally fill in some of the blanks that I’d seen in flashbacks and talked about. Though the opening piece of the story is over quick, we get some good character pieces with Rayleigh and the crew before shifting to some heart rending action material that sends the crew off to parts unknown. There’s a lot to like with it here as it touches on so many different areas and a lot of it sets the stage for various events to come. For me, I just loved all the material with the Kuma-types that are out there as well as the interactions with the higher powered characters whose dialogue feels cryptic in a way. This is a great set of episodes overall, barring the feudal era awfulness, and it left me grinning from ear to ear for a lot of it with how well it’s played out.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode Commentary, One Piece in the Booth, Textless Opening.
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: September 1st, 2015
Running Time: 320 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.