What They Say:
Haunted by the tragic loss at Marineford, Luffy continues his two-year training session under Rayleigh’s tough tutelage. His Haki powers are hardly developed when the escaped convict, Byrnndi World, wreaks havoc on the high seas and kidnaps Boa Hancock’s sisters! Determined to save them, Luffy teams with Hancock for a bold rescue operation that tests his will to get stronger.
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 2014, this TV special is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. Being a single special, it only uses the one Blu-ray disc (and one DVD as well) with the same general team behind the TV series from Toei Animation. We don’t get a lot of One Piece in HD on home video so it’s definitely welcome to see this TV material done up in this way as the colors are strong, there’s a lot of detail to it, and a good sense of design that gives it some nice pop. The show has some very fluid sequence where the animation is ramped up a bit but it is, for the most part, the usual TV animation, though some of it was reanimated material from the past in order to get it all on the same page visually. It’s pretty good looking and makes me wish more of the series was available in this form.
The packaging is pretty solid as we get a standard sized Blu-ray case with an o-card that replicates the case artwork itself. The front cover gives us the good visual of Luffy in the foreground while including Hancock and Rayleigh alongside him all under the watchful eye of Ace in the shadowed background. It’s a good look for Luffy with his intensity and the o-card gives the color a really good bit of vibrancy. It also ties together well with the red stripe along the top that highlights the BD/DVD of it all. The back cover goes for a white background approach with the summary being short and large of font size along the left. There are some oversized visuals to the right and all done since there’s nothing to the release beyond the show itself. The technical grid does break down both formats cleanly and accurately. No show related inserts are included with the release but we do get a tall version of the front cover that spaces things a little differently and with more visible.
The menu design for this release is a nice change of pace with a bit of animation to it as we get clips from the special playing with the ominous music going on along with it. It features mostly ship-based elements but it has a good feeling with a lot of blue that ties well to the navigation strip along the bottom that is a bright blue with choppy waves along the top. The selections are standard as there’s nothing here to this release beyond the special and some trailers so it’s quick and easy to work with both as the main menu and as the pop-up menu during playback. The main thing is that the logo covers a lot of space simply because of how lengthy it is with the full title but that’s easy to ignore since there’s so much activity to it and it all looks pretty colorful and fun.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I was a bit of a late convert into the world of One Piece as the TV series took more than fifty episodes before I started to “get” it. I did end up skipping a few hundred episodes to watch the simulcast when that started being legal, though I didn’t get into it until the Impel Down arc with Luffy being brought there. So I had spent my time thoroughly enjoying that arc which then shifted to the great padding, which provided a two-year piece in which some stories could be told, flashbacks be had, in order to give original creator Eiichiro Oda time to get ahead in the story so that the animators didn’t catch up so quickly. I’m in favor of such things but I dislike that we mostly just get drawn out stories instead of good character arc stories that are shorter and more spread out. Especially since some characters at that time weren’t used for a few years, which really made me miss them.
This TV special landed in the summer 2014 season and dug into the two year period Luffy asked for in order to train, get better, and refresh properly for the larger adventures he was ready to have. The first quarter of the special is mostly recap of events from Impel Down with the death of Ace and how it broke Luffy, which is nice to revisit but doesn’t carry the emotional weight of the actual event itself, which was interesting to see. But it did shift us nicely over the course of it with Luffy’s recovery, those who took care of him, and setting the stage for this away time. It’s welcome to see him reconnect with Rayleigh for what he needs to do, which involves using Haki across some pretty difficult islands and terrain to survive. Luffy had come a long way prior to this – Impel Down alone makes him one of the more dangerous people out there – but even with that he lacks the long view of experience many other pirates have.
What sets everything in motion is the arrival of news that Hancock’s sisters with Marigold and Sandersonia, have been taken hostage by a newly created pirate called Byrnndi World. He was also in Impel Down, the sixth level I believe, and was one that escaped. His intention is pretty simple in that kidnapping the sisters in order to force Hanock against the World Government. It’s all pretty threadbare when you get down to it but it provides the energy to the engine to get things moving. Because of the relationship between Hancock and Luffy he’s not able to avoid getting involved but that wouldn’t be his style anyway. It’s a chance for him to test some of what he’s learned so far and then come back and work harder (which is what the special does, advancing us toward the reconnect point at the end). I’ve really enjoyed the use of Hancock in the series as her role in the Impel Down storyline, or more accurately in the Marineford part of the arc, was one of my favorite things.
What we get is an extended run over the bulk of the episode with Luffy and Hanock going after Brynndi and his group. It’s interesting to watch in terms of execution because part of me felt like it was watching a couple dozen episodes worth of material scrunched into about three or maybe four episodes worth of time. While we get a lot of running around and drawn out sequences in most episodes, everything is frenetic here as we get to the fights quickly, they go big quickly, and it’s just as creative and varied. It’s something where you feel like this with the original movies as well. It’s such a different structure from the TV series that everything feels more intense and densely packed than normal and it’s almost unnerving when you get down to it. Brynndi is a decent enough villain du jour but there’s also the reality in that it was made for this special so there’s little to no call back to him in the series as it goes on, at least to my memory, so it’s what you expect – a busy and very fun filler episode.
For me, seeing this almost five years after it came out, it’s like a little nostalgic trip back in time to take in. We’ve been focused on the latest and greatest with the show but I’ve always had Impel Down in the back of my mind as my favorite arc. Getting a little taste of that here and explore more of the two-year period that Luffy had with its training is welcome since most of what we had before was the flashback to his childhood with Ace and Sabo. I really enjoyed having Hancock back in the picture as well as Rayleigh and just getting so much action here even if the story was fairly standard. They did a nice job with Brynndi for what he is but the real focus is on Luffy and it’s just fun to watch the back and forth that unfolds. Funimation’s release is solid and I loved getting some high definition time with Luffy on the TV side of things with a good dub. Sadly, there are no extras but I think we’re used to that when it comes to specials like this.
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: January 22nd, 2019
Running Time: 107 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.