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 syncing with the audio so a very quality release.
There was no packing for this test release.
Each of the menus are the same but with a different character showcasing; ranging from Luffy to Franky, 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.
Of all the big Shonen Jump releases, One Piece (my favourite of them) is the one that does give the effort when it comes to extras (got that Naruto Shippuden?) – we have on the first disc a commentary on episode 300, featuring Mike McFarland (ADR Director) , Chris Sabat (Zoro) and Alex Orgon (Kaku) – a common fact that they do repeat is that the voice actors don’t really meet in the booth so the commentaries are often the first time people meet especially with fairly new actors like Alex with veterans like Chris, but it gives way to all the giraffe jokes, Kaku’s development compared to Zoro’s normally being predictable with his fights and not expecting to fight Kaku, how the arc is dark despite the comedy elements, what is the true evil between pirates and corrupt government, as well as other things (as is Alex’ first commentary he talks about what he has done before, if Chris had been doing that it would have taken the entire commentary time…)
Immediately after we get another commentary for episode 301 – this time featuring Mike again, but with Stephanie Young (Robin) and Christopher Smith (Spandem) – again, a first as this is Chris’ first OP commentary, comparison of OP to other roles and how deluded he is, other roles, Spandem close to the Joker (Chris voicing Lego Batman Joker as comparison which was a nice touch)how the emotional material affected Stephanie and how satisfying the second half of the episode was for her as is one of the darker arcs of the show and seeing Robin finally be an accepted member of the crew and finding a place she belongs in is one of the tear jerker moments of this arc (one of quite a few…)
Disc 2 has the first of the two openings we get in this arc textless, and also the first of two Inside The Booth commentaries which is basically Mike and an actor/actress having an interview with behind the scenes footage of them recording, in disc 2 we get Brina Palencia (Chopper) who basically is on full squee mode after being told about a full episode of Chopperman J We learn that One Piece has been worked on for 6-7 years already, how Chopper has grown, we see her listening to Japanese whilst working out the flaps for the dub, her range of voices, various questions (Brina’s musical background was something wasn’t familiar with her), seeing how many takes it can do to get a line perfect, the dramatic shift in One Piece (both art and story wise) – there is a fair bit that goes on these 21 minutes.
Disc 3 has what I call the filler commentaries as we get two commentaries on filler episodes, or what they call more comic relief after the heavy stuff. The first one is on episode 317, involving Jerry Jewell (ADR Director of ep 317, Bluefin) and Apphiya Yu (Abi) – facts and chatting involve how Apphiya’s mother a fan of the show, how Colleen’s energy sets the scene for the roles, Jerry being more familiar via direction (neither are in the story much as not main characters, mention one off stories) – comical moments (the Yagara living on caffeine and sugar due to their giant eyes) and how the episode changes as about a dead pet or a story of youth wanting to let go so surprisingly deep for a filler episode.
The other commentary is on episode 319, involving: Jerry Jewell again and Charlie Campbell (The Old Cook) – Jerry jokes that Charlie is known as the clean up man as he’s always ready as an emergency for minor characters and extra foley, Charlie mentions he has done VAing since 1995,as they compare accents in Texas (Jerry originally from Oklahoma) and how the voice acting has developed over the years, but this one is more of a silly commentary which Charlie gets to use his range and have fun with it.
The last disc has the second textless opening, and the second Inside The Booth segment, this time featuring Mike and Colleen Clinkenbeard (Luffy), again we get what goes on in the booth process, what is in front of the actors, how the director leads the actors (find what inspires the actor the most), and how Colleen’s routine is quite different with Luffy due to the nature of the character compared to other characters she does. She also goes through the audition process in between shots of Colleen doing lines as we find out Colleen not initially wanting to do Luffy but had done boy voices before and was asked to try out for him, and the rest, as they say, is history.
One Piece has definitely kept up waiting with this arc – Rob Lucci and his gang have done their damage but finally the crew are keeping up – with lots of reveals about Robin’s past, Usopp becoming Sogeking and wondering if he can return and Luffy revealing new powers with his gear modes. With this set, everything gets concluded – with the odd filler episode or two – and trust me when I say it doesn’t disappoint – I’ve mentioned before One Piece is easily the best of the long running Shonen Jump style series (Assassination Classroom being my favourite but that is 52 episodes compared to over 500 episodes for One Piece, Naruto, etc) and this finale is a good example – managing to hit the quota with reveals, action, comedy and even a few tears here and there…
We are down to basically the two most powerful members of CP9, who are polar opposites with Kaku and Rob Lucci. Whilst Lucci’s fight with Luffy continues for a bit longer, Kaku vs. Zoro concluded here with a combination of a bit goofy but deadly giraffe attacks from Kaku’s new found devil fruit powers combined with riling Zoro up as he tends to be now upset at his insults over Robin, Zoro powers up and defeats Kaku with a new technique, whilst Robin seems to finally be making her decision to find a place to belong and that is with the Straw Hats. With Luffy activating Second Gear, it is up to Franky to try and save Robin. With Spandem being an arrogant so-and-so (combined with some reveals which royally screw Robin’s psyche for a bit), it is SO gratifying to see Usopp/Sogeking shut him up for a bit, Robin make a break for it, and Franky protecting her and freeing her, as they try and figure out how to escape…
Meanwhile, Luffy is fighting Rob Lucci as it is revealed his 2nd gear form actually damages his health (mentioned it could reduce his life span) – combined with Spandem’s Buster Call coming through to basically annihilate everything and Lucci flooding an area to make sure the rest of the Straw Hats can’t escape from Enies Lobby, which leads to all the other Straw Hats meeting with each other and trying to escape (and leading to a great way that Kokoro, the train lady saves them…but to hilarious effect especially to Sanji). The fight continues with Luffy forced to use a new technique – GEAR THIRD. Here, he inflates his arm like a giants and smashes Lucci with it, but it doesn’t defeat him completely and the side effect is that it deflates Luffy into a chibi state, as he has to try and recover back to normal before Lucci can finish him off…
Everything though does come together – you get the Franky Family, the members of Galley-La, the remaining Straw Hats, Franky and Robin all come together to try and avoid the Buster Call (Franky thinks his crew have been killed), and with them trying to help out with Luffy seemingly out of it, it is Usopp who bravely confronts him – and this is Usopp, not Sogeking (running gag that Luffy doesn’t seem to realise they are one and the same) screaming to Luffy in tears, as Lucci prepares to finish off the rest of the Straw Hats. Usopp’s words manage to get to Luffy, and he throws one last effort in 2nd gear, and finally defeats Lucci. Whilst predictable, this was very rough (a flashback shows how ruthless Lucci was in his youth even before his work in CP9) and the hints of everything for escape was hinted at (Kokoro’s true form for example had been hinted at), but the big thing of Robin fighting back finally cements her place on the Straw Hats, which is further explored by some hidden smiles, and even a visit from an old enemy…or maybe old friend might be better…
However, the Marines still are wanting to take out the Straw Hats, and it looks like without a ship they are doomed. And this is where the tears start to show. Now granted, the way it happened is very ridiculous even for this type of show – so I’m going to ask how or why, (it is slightly explained a little later but not really fully) it is clearly a deus ex machina, but seeing the Merry come from the deep to save them after Usopp hears a voice from it, and then the others do. They even mention they don’t know how the Merry could have risen from so it is almost lampshaded this is clearly a bit of a stretch, but thanks to some smart planning from before (Sanji disappeared for a little bit during the fight, here we learn why and even Zoro might have to thank him for it) they finally manage to escape the Marines, and now get to return with their beloved ship and surely Iceberg and the other shipwrights can fix it now as Kaku was obviously lying right?
And thus, the only time I’ve shed a tear for what is technically an inanimate object as Luffy and the crew say goodbye to the ship, with Usopp donning the Sogeking mask…because he is crying as much as the audience to hide the tears.
So after you convince yourself that One Piece is a show that should not make you cry, we get some light hearted moments (with a few filler episodes) as Franky spent the money he stole from Usopp on a particular wood…which he now wishes to pay back the Straw Hats by building a ship with it – the Franky family also return their items and leads to a bit later when it is obvious that Franky is going to be the next member of the Straw Hats as their shipwright. But before then, we get an amusing sequence when the marines drop in…but it isn’t to cause trouble. It is just a friendly visit from Luffy’s grandfather…who is also the vice-Admiral to the marines.
Needless to say the two don’t get along for their respective careers but still care for each other in their own way, and the real point aside of this is to reintroduce Coby to the show who has definitely changed since way back then (along with Helmeppo Captain Morgan’s son, and of course the cast have forgotten him ^^) both in looks and skill. Whilst no match for Luffy, they are still friends though they know they may have to face each other out on the sea at some point – it is also the first time we get some indication of Luffy’s father who may have been the one who bailed Luffy out when he nearly got decapitated by Buggy…and is also one of the world’s most wanted criminals.
Three other major things happen – the first is obviously Franky joining the crew, as he gets a bounty alongside everyone else now (Sanji is not amused about the drawing of his face whilst poor Chopper has a tiny bounty as he’s just assumed to be the ship’s pet) – which leads to an amusing sequence in how he comes about. The second which is more on the tearjerking side, is Usopp wanting to return to the ship, but Zoro and Luffy both agree he can’t go back on unless he apologises, despite Luffy wanting him to return. It leads to a tearful moment as it looks like they will leave without him until Usopp tearfully does apologise, and Luffy just as tearfully brings him back. And last, but not least, there is a meeting between Red Haired Shanks and the most feared pirate out there Whitebeard, with mentions about Whitebeard’s second in command, Ace trying to find a former crewmate of theirs, Blackbeard….
Hints are obviously setting up the next arc, as whilst no clear direction the episode with Shanks suggests that there are gonna be clashes and you know with Ace being Luffy’s brother that he will somehow be linked, but for now it is basically recovery time – because the mix of emotions from this arc was huge.
First, Robin really has broken off her cool demeanour and realises she finally has a place she belongs. It hopefully means smooth sailing with her relationship with the Straw Hats, especially when she chats with Aokiji and you learn their relationship – Aokiji has always seemed like he is a much nicer guy than he lets on, and considering he basically lets her go, this wonders if this has any reputations’ with the Marines, but considering how well it does bringing stuff from the past back (Coby a great example in this arc alone) there is certainly going to be some backlash I’m sure.
Second, Usopp’s character seems to have finally come full circle – he was probably my least favourite of the Straw Hats, but he seems to have grown up (letting go of his beloved Merry and his apology in particular) and you wonder how he is going to be now, and am hoping considering his skill in sharp shooting as Sogeking if this will be a big thing (interestingly Sogeking has a bounty but Usopp doesn’t…)
Thirdly, Franky joining the Straw Hats whilst not a surprise, is going to add basically just one more person needed if you remember way back when Luffy wanted a crew (just a musician now remains) – Franky was a lot of comedy but also a good fighter and with him building the ship (this arc we don’t see what it is fully capable of yet but hopefully will do soon) and of course the way he left was just perfect – very silly but the gallery know it was his calling.
Lastly, the show just hit the nose everywhere. The action scenes were great (Lucci vs. Luffy in partic though it felt to the cliché of new moves/powering up), the comedy was spot on (the last episode is seeing all of the gang’s family and friends seeing the new bounties – Nami and Sanji’s being the funniest), everyone got their moments – whilst I’d say Chopper and maybe Nami was a bit back peddling they still got their lines and moments in – and little things like the Kokoro reveal and where Sanji was when everyone was fighting shows there is a lot of thinking going on throughout. One Piece also seems to suffer the least when it comes to filler episodes – there was one smack in the middle of the arc which I can only say had to be maybe because of a New Year holiday (with the very strange one episode return of Foxy) as felt very out of place, the other ones are actually decent (comedy with Zoro being a baby-sitter and Sanji meeting an old chef friend of his mentor, and a surprisingly sad one with Luffy and a child named Abi looking for her lost yagara) and whilst some are a little out of place, seem to work better than most long running shows.
So One Piece – like most Shonen Jump shows is good when it comes to the actual plot, but One Piece seems to take it a step further and become great. This arc has everything and whilst it took a while to get there, it was worth it. A new crew member, two returning ones, fists, tears, comedy and conclusion, one of the most heart wrenching arcs delivers and I just hope there are future arcs than can rival this one.
One Piece finishes off this Robin arc big time as tears were shed (by the characters and the audience), the Merry saying it’s final goodbye, a great mix of action, drama, story and comedy, tons of fun little moments (Garp is one I didn’t mention much but yeah, he’s Luffy’s granddad alright) and things for the past and future to clutch onto, easily makes One Piece the most looked forward to of the long series in my review list.
Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles, In the Booth With Colleen Clinkenbeard and Brina Palencia, English dub commentaries, Clean Openings/Endings
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A-
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: October 3rd, 2016
Running Time: 520 minutes
Video Encoding: PAL
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 – 1.78:1
Playstation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.