What They Say:
In One Piece Heart of Gold, with the fight at Dressrosa behind them, the Straw Hats are enjoying a leisurely day at sea-that is, until the mysterious Olga boards their ship demanding a hot meal. She may seem cute on the outside, but this sharp-tongued firecracker of a girl just happens to hold the secret to an ancient lost city and a treasure rumored to be the most valuable metal in the world.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English mix gets a 5.1 bump, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The special is designed for TV so it’s not stretching itself too much in the Japanese side while the English mix bumps up the volume level a touch and adds a bit more impact in some of the scenes. Largely, this feels like most of the TV series episodes where there’s some good directionality at times and it’s giving a nod toward the theatrical level but not trying to get there due to other constraints. What we do get has a solid presentation to it with placement and depth as needed and it has a clean and clear feeling that makes it enjoyable to listen to, especially with the score and the theme songs.
Originally airing in 2016, the transfer for this TV special is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. Clocking in at about 105 minutes overall, the special plays like a theatrical film without the glitz and high quality production values, instead working something between that and the TV series proper in its design. There’s a lot to like here with some fluid animation and clean design work and the color palette has some fun moments to it with the gold. With most of what we see in the US for One Piece being standard definition outside of the films, this definitely has a lot of appeal but you know the differences in production quality when watching the One Piece Film: Gold afterward. Funimation captures the source material here very well with a very appealing look to it with solid and clean colors that ought to delight just about any fan of the franchise and this special in particular.
The packaging for this release mirrors how Funimation handles most of their properties with a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds the two discs inside against the interior walls while also including an o-card that replicates the case artwork. The front cover uses the main key visual that was produced for the special with Olga in the middle and the cast ringed around her, making for a very busy piece overall and some interesting choices with what to make bright and vibrant in terms of color. The logo is kept surprisingly small overall and to the upper left so as to let the artwork stand out more. The back cover goes for an all-black background with a small strip of shots from the show along the right, owing to the minimal amount of key visual material produced for the special. The premise is covered well in the summary and the technical grid breaks down both discs in an easy to read and very clear fashion. While there are no show related inserts included with the release we get an enlarged and expanded version of the front cover done here that adds more to the top and bottom while cuts from the sides a bit.
The menu design for this release works in familiar ways with some fun clips playing throughout the bulk of the screen space here. They’re a mix of dark and bright pieces but they flow together well and mostly set the right kind of tone for the special. The logo is kept small to the upper left similar to the cover itself while the navigation along the bottom is a basic strip that has the standard selections, though there are no extras to be had here so it feels a little more empty than usual. We do get a trailers selection but there isn’t a submenu to select which trailers, instead just an eight-minute chunk of extras to skip through.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As is the case when a new One Piece movie comes out, the TV side does what it can to try and provide some lead-in and connection to it if it can. With One Piece Film: Gold, we had a small arc within the main TV series played up the silver/gold side of it but we also had this TV special, Heart of Gold. Coming in at a bit under two hours, the special served to provide the impetus to bring our characters to the place in the film at the end while the rest of it provided a simple rollicking adventure that should delight most fans. While taking place within the larger continuity and keeping to trends at the time, what we get here is essentially a standalone piece that just has fun with things. There’s no heavy lifting here, just adventure and silliness with some decent action.
As is often the case, adventure comes to find the Straw Hats in this story. While the crew is on their journey and enjoying a bit of fishing they end up coming across a young girl named Olga riding a seahorse/kangaroo combination that can skip across the waves. She’s exhausted and hungry, but she’s also on the run from the Mad Treasure pirates that want her. The Straw Hats don’t know that at first, especially since we get Olga at first trying to take Luffy as a hostage to get what she wants – not knowing her knife won’t do any good against him – and then she regales them with the possibility of the Pure Gold treasure that she knows how to get to, and will split with them in order to get there. Since she is just a young kid, well, having some pirates (even ones she thinks are weak at first) is a better option than no pirates at all.
Such sets the adventure in motion, which has the Mad Treasure crew catching up with them and showing off some interesting abilities, especially with the spraypaint ability to make abstract copies of the Straw Hats and others. What becomes interesting, and familiar, is that the Pure Gold resides within Bonbori, a giant sea creature that they have to go into. Yes, there’s a whole world and ecosystem inside of this creature that pushes all boundaries of believability, though I did like the gastric acid beach and some of the dinosaur types that exist in there. And we do get to meet a few interesting people along the way, including a kind of nearly crazy old man that’s lived in there for an age and is just excited to have people to talk to. But, mostly, you can easily envision where the plot goes as the Pure Gold won’t be all it’s made out to be and there are twists and turns along the way.
While familiar, those twists and turns are a fair bit of fun. Mad Treasure succeeds in capturing some of the Straw Hats after Luffy gets whisked off on his own adventure, a true One Piece standard, and their attempts at getting closer to the Pure Gold is fun as they have to navigate a number of classic traps. This is a fun series of events that’s kind of background material but it clicks well in an old school kind of adventure way that the series hasn’t engaged in for some time. The other big piece that comes into it is seeing the truth about Olga toward the end and her past, which is certainly an unusual angle to take but fits into the larger One Piece narrative we’ve seen with other stories over the years. Though the character doesn’t have enough time to be truly fleshed out they did a really good job with her with the limited time they had and the various personalities that needed to be served for the story, resulting in one of the better special-specific characters we’ve had in a while.
One Piece: Heart of Gold is a flimsy connective piece to the One Piece Film: Gold that it preceded, but I knew that going into it and that’s why I didn’t bother watching the simulcast of it when it first hit, instead waiting until this release arrived. It’s a fun enough special and works well enough as a standalone piece so that it’s fairly accessible in a fun way and could draw in a few new people. Funimation put together a solid presentation here and I just love seeing some One Piece material in high definition on home video and not just streaming as there’s definitely a difference. Fans of the special will be pleased by this and the pairing of it with the film release works doubly well.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: May 2nd, 2017
Running Time: 104 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 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.