What They Say:
The harrowing Thriller Bark arc reaches its brutal end with a superhuman slugfest! Luffy, battered beyond belief, pushes his body past the breaking point as he seeks to save his friends and deliver the decisive blow against Gecko Moria. When the dust clears, only Zoro and Sanji are left standing to protect their fallen captain from the brutish Bartholomew Kuma. Should one of them somehow withstand a savage beating from this behemoth, the crew just might survive long enough for Sanji to meet his dream girl—a beautiful mermaid in distress named Camie! After taking her on board, the Straw Hats drop anchor at an island bursting with bubbles in the hopes of equipping their ship for underwater travel. But when Camie is kidnapped, job number one becomes saving their newest friend from the cruel clutches of the Celestial Dragons!
One Piece Collection 16 contains episodes 373-396.
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 2008, 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 gives 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 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.
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 Kuma with his bible in hand that’s definitely nicely done as it has a sense of power and oddness about it. It’s an interesting change similar to the previous colume 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 provides some good one on one time with the cast talking about the show as new characters are brought on.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the sixteenth collection of One Piece that brings us episodes 376 through 393, we finished off the sixth season of the series and enter the seventh season as big changes are looming for the Straw Hat crew. The show continues to be interesting to watch in this way as this is still part of the large batch of episodes I didn’t see in simulcast form while now watching the latest episodes and seeing some of the connections to the past. Knowing where things go and seeing how they got there is definitely fun, though I wish I had been able to just watch it straight through without the foreknowledge as well. A good part of the fun of any show is the discovery of what’s to come, though that’s hard when dealing with a show based on the manga since big moments invariably get spoiled if you’re only watching the anime.
The Thriller Bark arc of the sixth season is one that does, for all intents and purposes, come to a close fairly quickly here. With Moira having been defeated in the last set with Oars being taken out and the floating island in a good bit of shambles, it really does come down to Moira just giving up. Of course, like any bad villain, he refuses to do so and goes down fighting by drawing in a thousand shadows from across the island in order to power himself up. The timing is nice as the sun is about to rise and everyone is freaking out as they try to find places to hide while getting singed by the sunlight. With Luffy in small-form here and depowered after the fight with Oars, it’s a good sequence overall just to watch the frantic nature of everyone while Moira himself ends up losing control since he’s so overstuffed with shadows and power. It’s not a surprising downfall for him when you get down to it.
What makes the Thriller Bark arc exciting for me is the endgame here after Moira is dealt with as we get the Navy calling in their big guns to deal with the problems of what’s been revealed here. A lot of it really does just stem from Moira being taken down because it would mean a second Warlord defeated and that would send a very bad message around the world. So they send in Kuma to bring Moira back before he gets killed or discovered and assign Kuma the mission of eliminating all the witnesses. Considering the number of survivors here, it’s a pretty dire situation made worse by Luffy being completely out of it after the fight with Moira. Kuma’s a character that I find intriguing from his visuals and the way he’s presented with his personality and what we get here is definitely exciting because he makes interesting choices about how to proceed even as it makes things more difficult at Navy headquarters.
But it’s his time with Zoro that really works the best because we see some really neat abilities coming from him with the way he absorbs all of Luffy’s pain and damage and puts it into an air bubble that Zoro accepts in order to keep everyone alive. Zoro’s not a hard character to write for but giving him compelling material as a character that shows who he is can be. Most of the time it’s just a matter of seeing him train or fight that shows what he can do and who he is, but for me it’s moments like this or interactions with other characters off the battlefield that sets him apart. He’s been here since the start and has always protected others, so seeing how far he goes here to help Luffy and everyone else really resonates well and makes an impact. While I would have liked to have seen some longer impact with it, it is something that he gets to deal with for a few episodes in a lighter way so it’s not one and done deal. It’s definitely revelatory for his character though.
The end of the sixth season in the first half of this set after all the time with Moira and Kuma isn’t bad but it falls into some of the usual padding traps. We get some light and frustrating material with Brook as he’s doing his best to fit in with the crew and be helpful, made more important to him after reading the logbook and seeing all that this group has done, but it’s just a lot of over the top silliness. I do like that we get some time looking back at his time with his previous crew and Laboon, but it also starts to feel like it’s just dragging out more than it should be. I like the tie with Laboon, however, so it’s a nice reminder and reconnection to there for everyone now that the whole crew is back together. We also get a really fun if empty episode focusing on a specialty resort that exists out this way with lots of slides, hot springs, lazy rivers, and more that the gang gets to deal with. It has its own self contained story with new characters introduced and it’s not bad but it’s just not memorable either other than seeing the gang cutting loose and simply having some fun.
The second half of this set shifts us into seven season proper and that means some changes as it segues into the next arc. Part of this at the start is just the fun of the gang making it past the Red Line on their journey, which means it’s time for some reflection. When you have a few here that have been around since the start, well, there’s going to be some fun reminiscing and there’s a good sense of the progress that they’ve made as a whole in moving forward on their journey. The goals of the core group are still the same and I liked having them repeat them here, though I would have liked the expanded crew to be a bit more involved as well. But as a nod to those that started all of this with Luffy it was a very good moment at a time when the show is shifting into some bigger directions as they get further into the Grand Line. It’s an important milestone that they’ve hit here on their grand journey.
The other side of the Red Line brings us into some good stuff right from the start as the crew end up connecting with Camie and Hatchin who will be able to help them get to their destination of Fishman island. Camie as a mermaid is certainly fun as she has some of the crew doing their best to forget the previous mermaid that they met back at Water Seven. The more interesting aspect for me is that Hatchin from Fishman Island actually goes back a ways as a pirate that Nami had to deal with ages ago and he’s doing his best to swim on the right side of things and is intent on helping them in a big way on their overall journey. Right now, though, that help comes in the form of getting the Thousand Sunny coated with a special material that will allow it to head deep underway to Fishman Island. That requires the help of a man named Rayleigh that’s on the nearby island of Sabaody.
Like any new arc, there’s a good bit of exploration of what Sabaody is like and all about, which means a mix of fun and horror when you get down to it. Sabaody has some neat things to it with the various groves and the kinds of shops it has, and in particular the bubbles that you can float on and use as vehicles, and just seeing Luffy’s excitement over it is infectious and fun even if there is a bit of a gimmick to it. The downsides are many, however, as the island has some pretty infamous slavery auctions going on and real control over a number of pirates and other types that bounty hunters are going after. It’s also close to a Navy base which means if things go south here quickly, the Navy shows up with a lot of troops fast to squelch it. The reason for that is that there are a lot of Celestial Dragons that reside here and with them being the descendents of those that created the World Government 800 years prior, they pretty much have free reign here. You can see how quickly things will go bad for the Straw Hats as they discover more of this, and as Camie herself gets captured along the way as mermaids are rare and highly valuable. There’s some fun that we get as Hatchin and the others hook up with Shakky, a former pirate that will help them find Rayleigh, and I love the starfish pet/mentor that Camie has with Pappagu. The setup is easy enough here and we get a lot of things brought in but the story itself is kept simple even as it expands what we know of the World Government and the world at large.
One Piece does a lot in this set as it closes out one season and begins the next. Wrapping up some subplots and bringing Brook on in full as the latest addition to the crew was a long time in coming but fully worth it. Thriller Bark delivered some great action and some silly if forgettable post-arc material before it gets underway with the Sabaody storyline. While the Kuma material was pretty much my favorite part of the set I’m also excited to revisit the Sabaody material since that’s a dynamic shifter for the crew as it gets underway with the next couple of sets. One Piece has a lot of things in motion as always and it continues to draw from the past in fun and surprising ways while also staying fully engaged in the future and what it entails. A very good set overall even with the quieter chunks and the less than thriller flashback material for Brook.
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: June 28th, 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.