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!
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. (The subtitles can also be selected manually if you want to put them on with the English dub without any difficulty)
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 packaging for this test release.
The menu seems to have changed as it is much more basic as we don’t even get any characters on the menu, it is just the Straw Hat Pirate Logo just below the One Piece logo, with the menu much smaller below it with the selections, Play All, Marathon Feature (basically Play All but no openings and endings after the very beginning), Setup, Episodes 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.
Extras are sporadic around the 4 discs, with some standard ones we now expect from One Piece releases. We get some dub commentaries, first for episode 377 involving everyones favourite bickering couple in the show, Christopher Sabat (Zoro) and Eric Vale (Sanji) – it’s very casual, almost a mock-umentary in fact, such as forgetting the name of the show, eating, pretending not to know what the episode is about, very comic but also complimentary to each other (in a mocking way) and having moments with fellow workers Ian Sinclair and Mike McFarland, work in other movies – overacting vs. under acting, Sabat being ‘cocky’, the previous dub, weird questions (where do you most bleed from?), Sabat a millionaire apparently, switching to podcast mode, baby to be named after OP characters…pretty standard stuff obviously.
The rest are much more ‘normal’ commentaries – episode 384 has Colleen Clinkenbeard (Luffy) and Stephanie Young (Robin) join for commentary – the two being good friends in real life and at the time of the recording, both of them haven’t been back at work for long because they had just given birth (congrats!) and considering both are veterans it is their first commentary together – they talk about their children and the convention experience, Collen enjoying the Thriller Bark arc (and voicing Oars), how recording whilst they were pregnant and returning to work felt, Stephanie’s singing work, character development, the comedy, this is both a more informative commentary and one you don’t get to experience due to the situation.
Two other commentaries are for episode 387, involving Joel McDonald (ADR Director) and Hunter Scott (Macro) – the main talking point it being Hunter’s first main role working at Funimation and the experiences throughout, and one for episode 393 with Ian Sinclair (Brook) and Megan Shipan (Cammie) who like a lot of VAs don’t interact much as it is solo in the booths so they have met for the first time and a lot of random conversations with Ian almost like an interviewer, from mermaid talk, skeleton, their schools, Megan only being there for about a year and of course, how to scream properly…^^
Other extras including a segment called ‘In The Galley With The Straw Hats’ which is a live action interview with Brina Palencia (Chopper), Joel McDonald (ADR Director/Kuma), Stephanie Young (Robin), Eric Vale (Sanji) and Ian Sinclair (Brook) – it is a mostly comic interview with subjects of their favourite foods (very comic), has the longevity of One Piece helped the cast become friends despite recording separately, which OP character would they want with them if they were stuck on a deserted island, what is the most annoying thing about the character played by the person in front or behind them ^^ Which origin story is most heartbreaking, what makes OP so loved across the world, which of the Straw Hats could take on Luffy, if they could make out with any of the OP characters who it would be, what conventions are like from a Vas POV and advice for fans on how to approach them, shared convention experiences – it is about 27 minutes long and quite fun and informative.
A similar segment though a more behind the scenes style interview is the ‘Villains And Fishmen – Behind The Curtain’ segment which involves Hunter Scott (Macro), David Vincent (Duval) and Joel McDonald (Kuma/ADR Director), which talks about the newest arc – how the Duval story works (sympathies with the villain) – some behind the scenes work, playing villains (evil but silly) and a lot of behind the scenes work with the cast listening to the Japanese and then working their way into English.
Lastly, we have both clean openings (the 10 Year Anniversary of OP/We Are is on two discs)
One Piece continues to be the one long running SJ series I enjoy the most – it doesn’t suffer as much from filler curses combined with a big range of characters which are likeable and memorable, combined with the whole ‘who is the true villain’ mentality with the Marines more corrupt than some of the pirates in this show. This is even showcased right at the end of this collection with the new arc, but we’ll get to that as it leaves with a cliffhanger and one of the most satisfying moments in the show (and there has been a lot of them)…
Before the new arc begins though, another arc ends and this one being the long running Thriller Bark arc. The main and obvious conclusion is of course leading up to Brook joining the Straw Hats, but first Nightmare Luffy has to defeat not just Oars but Gekko Moria before the sun rises otherwise they lose their shadows, and effectively turn to ash. Moria is being a douche as always and refuses to give them back their shadows and instead inherits all of them to become this giant boss like character. Luffy does what Luffy usually does, and begins to punch him but with reason as this does release shadows, but at the cost of his health as he has to use 2nd AND 3rd Gear (remembering in previous arcs that it can shorten his lifespan you wonder if this is going to bite him in the butt further down the line) – fortunately it works in the nick of time as just before members of the crew (Luffy included) get vaporized, they get their shadows back as do the entire remaining crew (and even ones far away too). However, even after all that there is another problem as Nami remembers seeing one of the Warlords, Kuma also watching the battle and lo and behold, he shows up with an unconscious Luffy in his wake and his mission is to kill the Straw Hats…
Seeing Kuma’s abilities shows that he is one of those guys in a whole another league as he can repel attacks and pretty much teleport despite his huge size – on top of that, his body seems to be cybernetic making certain attacks like Sanji’s kicks useless. Kuma nearly blows up the area but Zoro manages to stop him from killing Luffy and in one of the best moments in the series (again saying something), both Zoro and Sanji offer their life in exchange for Luffy’s…yet Zoro knocks out Sanji in a selfless act. Also awesome is Kuma actually seems to want to let them life and offer a compromise – he absorbs all of Luffy’s pain from his battles and says Zoro can take it all instead, and he will leave. Even a fragment of it put Zoro in incredible pain (on top of all his previous words) so absorbing all of it suggests he will die. He still goes through with it and Luffy seems O.K, leading to one of the most telling shots with Sanji regaining consciousness, about to show at Zoro…and seeing his completely broken and blood body, still standing, still stoic – just a great image.
A lot of info comes out (the big one about Blackbeard defeating Ace and looks set to replace Moria as a Warlord) and leads to a flashback of Brook’s past as a member of a Rumbar Pirate, and also continues to show why One Piece is so good as things from 200+ episodes ago are still remembered as what seemed like a throw-away adventure back then actually has significance to Brook as he was friends with the whale Laboon – yes, that Laboon from way back – and with his Devil Fruit allows him to live again – 50 years ago they met a baby Laboon, and with the Pirates all dying Brook is the only one left, but now there are people around, and he asks to join the Straw Hats. Of course Luffy says yes (because it’s a walking, talking, musical skeleton – who wouldn’t?) but as they leave, a couple of other facts come out including Nami been given a Vivre card which points to Lola’s mother – this itself could be a plot point but it is also the same item Ace gave Luffy, and he shows it them…
…and it is burning – signifying Ace’s life is in danger…and keeping in mind we know Blackbeard has now defeated Ace…Luffy seems worried but goes with the idea that he can handle himself but again, future plot point…
There are a few filler like episodes, one bringing back fan favourites the Foxy Pirates, and one where Nico gives Brook a talk about worrying about fitting in which are nice (as I said, filler eps in One Piece tend to be better just simply because it could be part of the story simply them sailing into another location) with the Marines trying to hide Luffy’s heroics and the defeat of Gekko Moria under the rug (though grandfather Garp seems amused) and with Fishman Island now on the agenda, they come across (well, rescue as she tends to be kidnapped a lot) Camie, a friendly mermaid (immediately making Sanji swoon) and her companion Pappagu, a talking starfish asking to see if their friend can be rescued. However they are attacks by a scavenging group called the Flying Fish Riders, headed by someone named Duval who seems to have a rage for one of the Straw Hats…
…which leads to a brilliant sequence when you realise who Duval is…or rather what he looks like. Won’t spoil this as it is too hilarious but once again, Oda never forgets the past and a running joke involving the wanted lists actually brings in a plot point…
Anyway, the other big thing is that they learn that the fish friend they are rescuing is in fact an old enemy of theirs from again, back in the day (Oda never forgets) of the Arlong crew, a.k.a. Hatchan, the octopus guy that Zoro fought. At first, they refuse (due to what they did to Nami) but when Camie gets caught again they decide to help and do defeat the Riders (and Duval’s problem is rectified by one of the Straw Hats, leading to a new running gag of Duval just thinking everyone sees he is handsome) but they now with Hatchan and Camie’s help (Hatchan seemingly very gracious and wanting to help out, especially towards Nami) but with the big story of that the island Sabaody they now need to get to (as it is where they can get their ship coated to get to Fishman Island) not only despises fish-people, but there are World Nobles there known as Celestial Dragons who wear masks so not to inhale the air of the common folk and if any of them come to harm, they bring in the big guns. And to add to that, many famous pirates and villainy also frequent there, including a lot of new generation pirates with similar bounties to Luffy and Zoro…
With these Celestial Dragons basically doing what they want, practically being assholes and racist towards the fish-folk, it is remarked by the pirate with the highest bounty that you don’t know who is the true scum anymore, one thing that comes about is slave-trading, and mermaids are considered the most valuable. And with an easily capturable mermaid around you know this is not going to end well. However, they do discover the man who can coat their ship is a man named Raleigh…who turns out a) to be among a slave to be auctioned off and b) was the right hand man of GOLD ROGER.
Who is capable of using a Haki to floor people weak enough with a single glance as he demonstrates whilst hiding among the captured slaves – the Marines reason he is doing this to get out of some gambling debts but Rayleigh is only in it a little, so this sets up back for the next collection…
Anyway, as expected, Cammie is captured leading the Straw Hats and Hatchan to separate to try and save her – some of them (Chopper, Nami, Franky) do narrow it down to the auction house and Nami in a great gesture (showcasing her own character development) intends to buy her back with 200 million berries from the treasure they have collected. Sanji calls in the Fish Pirates (Duval eternally grateful for what they did to his face) to collect Zoro and Luffy – just as news descends that Ace is going to be executed which could start a war with Whitebeard.
And what else could trigger a war? A Celestial Dragon getting hurt. And when a certain pirate who cares for his friends sees Hatchan get shot by a particular obnoxious one, the final scene we see is Luffy’s fist connecting with his jaw…
One Piece continues to surprise me by despite its insane length each arc always gives us memorable characters, whether heroic, villains or comic, it always seems to get the right balance of action, comedy, character development and tearjerker all in one. The fact so many little things either in the past (in this case Laboon and Hatchan) or the present into the future (Ace’s paper burning) means there are so many stories intertwined and this arc gives us even more. I didn’t mention all the new pirates in Sabody, but the 11 Supernovas of young pirates with a bounty of 100 million berries or more (Luffy and Zoro included) suggest even more interest – the female one Bonney who has a huge appetite but can transform into a kid seems to be an obvious match up in some form for Sanji (she actually saves Zoro from attacking the aforementioned Dragon though Luffy does so anyway), but the two that catch the eye are Kid and Law, who seem to have a keen interest in the way the Straw Hats do things (Kid having a bigger bounty than Luffy who seems to be a lot more bloodthirsty but he at least admits it compared to the Marines/Dragons, and Law just seems to be biding his time wanting to cause trouble, and now Luffy has caused it…) so I suspect they will get more airtime, though the designs of all the other pirates (one literally modelled and named after Al Capone for example) means One Piece’s huge cast is increasing further…and unlike other long running shows, you will probably still remember them…
Brook also is a big part as his arc comes to the end, but learning properly of his past, his friendship with the CUTEST BABY WHALE IN THE UNIVERSE (seriously, Laboon as a baby was soooo cute!!!) and said whale still is waiting for him 50 years later, I actually did cry when initially they were leaving him, and even more so when the Rumbar pirates were slowly poisoned as Brook says ‘a quartet…now a trio….now a duet……now…a solo…’ as he is playing the piano – I’ve teared up so many time on this show it is ridiculous as you wouldn’t expect it – and I fear the tears will continue as well…Brook is a different type of swordsman to Zoro and of course being a rather rude skeleton makes him quite unique, but still lovable as he is very fun – you wonder if the bone jokes will get old but it makes him who he is, and whilst goofy can be dangerous as well, another good member for the Straw Hats in a group full of unique yet badass characters.
Perhaps the overlooked part of this arc is how the Marines are showcased and how they get involved – up until now, the only Marines we generally get a good showing of in terms of not being corrupt are ones like Smoker, Cody and Garp – here we get an interesting one in Kuma, a Warlord working on part of the Marines sent to kill the Straw Hats, yet he does spare them – for what reasons is unsure at this point, but you get the feeling there is a ton more to him – and it does give us one of the best images of the entire series when Zoro takes the pain of Luffy, just iconic.
I guess the only minor negative is of course some characters are going to be left out in comparison – Chopper and Franky don’t get that many moments, and whilst Nami and Robin get some good moments (Nami with Lola and her character development when wanting to rescue Cammie, Robin in her help with beating Oars, overhearing how Zoro got his injuries and her heart to heart with Brook) they seem out in the background compared to everyone else – that said, they aren’t forgotten, just Sanji has his fights with Duval, Zoro gets that badass moment, Luffy has a ton of course, Brook is the new member, etc. That said, there was little filler (even that was good with the return of the Foxy pirates and the Robin flashback) and the story flowed on, Hatchan returning and being redeemed, Cammie is a character whilst damsel in distress is lampshaded, plus her facial expressions are hilarious, and the mysterious Raleigh I can guarantee will be involved in the next collection…
The cliffhanger at the end was just perfect. You waited for someone to snap as the Dragons are represented as worse than the pirates (refusing to breathe the same air as commoners, kicking a near dying one off a stretcher, just grab a girl they like because they can, and then shoot said girl’s fiancé) that moment when Luffy punches him, you know things are about to get real, and that final moment means you need to see what happens next, because the Marines are gonna go to war, and you have Luffy and his crew, plus 10 other super pirates on the island and the right hand man of Gold Roger there, you know stuff is about to go down.
And I can’t wait.
One Piece is one of those rare long running series where it doesn’t seem to feel long, old or repetitive – expanding stories, linking with the past, suggestions of the future, new characters, old ones returning, combined with that great mix of action and badassery makes it easily the best of said long runners. Luffy, Zoro, Brook and Sanji all get some great moments and the conclusion of this set is just screaming that you have to get the next set. Even the tiny bit of filler was excellent hence why this is a rare A grade for a Shonen Jump arc and I really hope the next collection continues the trend. Love it to bits.
Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles, Dub commentaries, In The Galley With The Straw Hats, Villains And Fishmen – Behind The Curtain’ Clean Openings
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: March 27th, 2017
Running Time: 520 minutes
Video Encoding: PAL
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Playstation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.