What They Say:
Get ready for a boatload of goose bumps as the Thriller Bark spookfest continues!
Luffy’s impulsive attack on Gecko Moria ends up costing the rubber-man something he can’t live without — his shadow! When Zoro and Sanji find themselves in the same boat, the three fierce fighters must find a way to recapture what was lost, or face the possibility of death by sunlight. Luckily, their skeleton friend, Brook, knows the trick to defeating Moria’s zombie army, and he’ll gladly share the secret for a small price.
Meanwhile, Nami narrowly avoids an undead trip down the aisle, and Zoro clashes with a zombie samurai in the hopes of adding a new blade to his arsenal. Armed with the secret to defeating Moria’s minions, things briefly appear to be looking up for the Straw Hats, but the onslaught of Oars, the towering terror powered by Luffy’s shadow, threatens to doom the crew.
Contains episodes 349-372.
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 2007, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The collection brings the two previous sets together into one so there are no differences in the authoring. We get four discs that give us episodes with seven/five/seven/five format that covers a range of material. 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 come 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.
The packaging for this release puts the four discs inside a standard sized clear keepcase with all the discs on the hinges inside rather than on the interior of the case itself. We’ve had a little bit of a mix of styles recently, but this installment goes with a single character image of Moria, letting the villain du jour have their time in the spotlight. It’s an interesting change since it also means they don’t use the traditional pirate skull flag background and instead just get a flowing white cloth. The back cover is well laid out as well with the left side done all in black with it being about the text and logo, showing the summary for the volume and a neat logo for the episode count. The right side of it gives us a decent image of Moria that works in showing off the crazy aspect of the character. The reverse side of the cover is kept simple and classy with the four discs getting the episode numbers and titles broken down so you can find everything easily.
The menu design for this release is simple but good with what it does as it uses the pirate style old wood ship kind of background as its main piece in which we get the menu selections along the right while the left side rotates various characters into it depending on the disc. The menus have never been flashy but they set the mood right, often with characters that are key to that particular disc, and have been quick and easy to utilize while also offering a marathon play feature. The menus are straightforward though they don’t use any of the players’ language presets and default to English language with sign/song subtitles.
The extras for this release are pretty good as we get the same as the standalone releases with a number of English language dub commentaries and the clean opening sequences for the relevant episodes. We also get some of the “On the Boat” sequences which provide some good one on one time with the cast talking about the show as new characters are brought on. With the first half, it’s time with Eric Vale. Clocking in at thirty 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. The second one is all about Chris Sabat and it likewise clocks in at about thirty minutes.
The sixth season of One Piece got off the ground in the previous set while also closing out the fifth season, so it’s definitely welcome this time around as we get more of the Thriller Bark arc here. The introduction of Brook into the series is an important one since it adds the last of the regular main crew that we’ll have for a couple hundred more episodes at the least (and in general, potentially) so seeing him in those first interactions is definitely a treat to see. With that having gotten out of the way previously and then the situation working so that Luffy and some of the others have been captured by Moria while the rest are on the outside, it’s the usual kind of chaotic mess of a start to a new arc in the One Piece universe. One that has put us in a dark and murky floating mini-city of sorts that has a real kind of creepiness about it since it’s almost perpetually murky. And for good reason.
This first batch of episodes works a couple of fairly standard plot points as one would expect for an arc like this. The first half largely revolves around the goings on with Moria with him toying with Luffy at first since he’s got him in a cage. After previously capturing Sanji and Zoro and placing their shadows into the mario’s that they have on hand, he sees great potential with Luffy by taking his shadow, which is easy for him to separate, and placing it inside of an oversized body that he has chained up in the basement that’s known simply as Oars. It’s definitely interesting to see as the shadow ends up in Oars and it retains a portion of Luffy’s personality, wanting to get out into the world a bit but also going on about wanting to be the king of the pirates. Moria, for his part, is just enjoying the show, something that others like Dr. Hogback don’t exactly like but know they have to put up with as a part of Moria’s crew.
A lot of this is used to give us a better understanding of how the shadows work and some of the silliness of it all with the variety that’s there. There’s also the fun of getting to know some of the others a bit more, like Penora and Cindrly, but the best part of the fun is in watching Kumacy, the giant stuffed animal type that works for Penora. Kumacy has been “invaded” by Nami, Usopp and Chopper in order to get information but he can’t seem to say anything about it. There’s a lot of goofy stuff with that as it plays out as they try to listen in and end up surprised by a lot of it while also trying to remain hidden. Naturally, it goes on for only so long before they make haste and bug out of there, but it’s a useful thing to provide a view of what’s going within Moria’s group and the dynamic of it all. It definitely gets you a bit more into Penora and her style a bit but also just loving the utter silliness of Kumacy and having the Straw Hats hidden inside of him.
The best part of this batch of episodes though is what starts at the early piece and carries through the middle. We get some good time with Franky and Robin questioning Brook about things since he does have information, and we get a good understanding of what he’s been going through with his journeys. Robin’s fairly understanding of it, but Franky is full of doubts in a very outgoing way, which makes sense since this is his first really big adventure with the Straw Hats and he wants to get it right. While I liked that part a good bit since all three do come off well, it’s when the story is related later on to the freed Luffy, Zoro, Sanji and the others that it takes root. What we learn is that Brook came from the crew that, decades ago, interacted with the whale Laboon that we had seen an age ago. With the knowledge of how Laboon was so connected to those pirates, and believing that Brook was a big part of that, it just reinforces Luffy’s desire to have Brook in the crew and to ensure that they do meet again with Laboon someday as promised. The only downside is that we get almost two episodes worth of flashback material going over when Luffy and the others met Laboon.
As the show moves into the back half of this set, it gets us past a lot of what the first half was with mostly simple fight sequences. There’s a lot to like in seeing Perona’s arc here as we get to see how Usopp has figured out how to defeat her, and more importantly how to deal with her real body so that it’s a pretty strong defeat that allows him to move forward and reconnect with the others. Though that often means the end of a character’s arc, Perona’s is a bit more interesting from there. When she does recover, she’s smart enough to see how bad things are getting on Thriller Bark and comes up with the smart plan of basically grabbing as much treasure as they can, throwing it on the Sunny, and getting out of there. Unfortunately for her, though, she ends up coming across the worst person possible while doing that – Kuma, one of the seven warlords. He’s come to find out what Moria is up to since there’s concern over Crocodile’s exit that Moria may be next and Kuma wants to see Luffy and the Straw Hats for himself. Unfortunately, Perona gets caught up in his schtick and finds herself “bounced” to somewhere else in the world through his power. Kuma mostly observes outside of this and his brief encounter with Moria where he tells him about Blackbeard, but it’s setting up things to come.
The fight sequence for this batch of episodes is largely focused on Oars now that he’s got Luffy’s shadow and Moria instructs him to go after the Straw Hats when he sees them, which happens fairly quickly as more and more of them connect with each other and get caught up in it. It’s a pretty solid sequence of events over the course of it, but it takes some intriguing if comical turns as well. Oars is pretty much a big powerhouse, but Luffy’s abilities don’t translate to him even if he has Luffy’s shadow in him. Moria shows us how he can do some of his stretching abilities, though, but it is a real stretch to believe it. Especially since Moria basically sets up shop in Oar’s stomach where there’s a cockpit for him to direct things while swapping out with his own shadow-side that lets him get into plenty of trouble after he initially shakes Luffy loose and returns to his main mission.
Luffy’s story here is one that initially has him dealing with Moria’s shadow side but only for a bit. Instead, he ends up elsewhere on the ship for a bit and meets a group of people who had lost their shadows. Interestingly, they’ve been acquiring shadows by eliminating the undead where they can and have found a way to insert them into others, though it’s a temporary effect. With Luffy proving himself to be a badass, the idea of stuffing a hundred or so shadows in him so he gets more powerful – and expands due to his ability – means he gains a lot of skills and abilities that will allow him to take down Oars. We don’t get much of that fight in this episode, but seeing him power up like this while getting all shadowy is fun, especially when he starts getting called Nightmare Luffy. So much of what we get here is setup, but it also makes for an entertaining ride along the way because so many things are happening and the characters are adjusting and moving forward.
The continuation of the Thriller Bark arc of the series works well here even as it moves through familiar structure points and setting up what it wants to do. Moria is getting hands on with this fight, though he falls back to letting Oars handle a lot of it as well in his oversized and goofy way. I really found myself liking Perona and Nami’s stories in this one but also the commentary we get from Book while watching Zoro fight his samurai opponent. Less appealing was the time spent on the “combining” sequences that Franky and the others did to try and boost themselves up against Oars, something that Robin said was beneath her human pride. And I agree. It was just an awful series of sequences that really made me cringe while watching it and thinking about it as it kind of took away from the show a bit for me. There’s a lot to like in this set and I’m excited to see where it goes next, especially with Kuma in town.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, One Piece in the Booth: with Christopher R. Sabat, One Piece in the Booth: with Eric Vale.
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: March 22nd, 2016
Running Time: 600 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.