What They Say:
The Straw Hats embark on a dangerous trip to the sky where their destination comes straight out of a fairytale. The island of Skypiea and its grand city of gold await among the clouds, but a clash of winged clans and a man who calls himself God won’t make things easy! Only Luffy can resist this God’s mighty power and light the mysteries of the past.
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 2018, 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 details visible throughout 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. 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 uses the key visual from the time that places Luffy in the forefront with the rest of the Straw Hats alongside him but it also provides for the villain of the arc and other supporting ones to loom large in the background. 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 a nod to the extras. 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 a range of elements, especially of the arena, 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.
I know I got spoiled with these releases because the first couple that were released had no extras and then the previous one had a 20th-anniversary hourlong retrospective. This installment doesn’t have that but we at least get three minutes of cute and amusing dub outtakes to enjoy.
As I’ve talked about before, it took me a good hundred or so episodes for me to really connect with One Piece, mostly once it really settled into the Alabasta storyline. Those early introductory episodes with the crew growing slowly, the awkward animation, humor, and then some of the initial dubbed episodes… it wasn’t the best introduction. While Alabasta got me to remain on board with watching and reviewing the series, it was at the 153 mark that I really became a fan of the anime with the Skypiea arc. The original mang portion for this ran for about 65 chapters, making up seven volumes of the manga, it was here that it felt like Oda was willing to do something radically different with his world beyond some of the characters and some of the abilities.
The storyline is a fun one that introduces us to this crazy new place as the crew ride the ship up the next level of water, which is hilarious at a 90-degree angle, and it’s just a kind of silliness that delights as they push into a wall of clouds that’s really just water. The idea of an ocean in the sky alone makes me enjoy it just for its surreal aspects and reminding us that this is not just a tale told from a different time on Earth or anything but it’s own unique world. With this taking us to the clouds above, however, we get to experience something that’s far different from the past arcs once the Straw Hats dry themselves off and catch their breath – almost literally in some cases – and see Angel Island for the first time. As much history and design work as Oda had done with Alabasta, here he’s leaning on familiar cultural elements but transplanted into something very different and building more and more of it from the ground up.
Because of how they got through the toll, they found themselves being labeled as criminals by the White Berets. Though they were unable to actually do anything to them, the whole issue has Luffy ready to move on so they don’t cause any further trouble for those that helped them. With the whole of Skypiea ahead of them, there’s a lot of potential. But before they can get started, the group is split as Conis manipulates things so that half of them are on the ship and are captured by a giant sea creature that will take them to an altar on the Upper Yard where they’ll be sacrificed to God Eneru. Robin, Zoro, Nami and Chopper are stuck on this high-speed haul while Luffy, Sanji and Usopp now have to find a ship to take them deep into the Upper Yard where there are four Priests to contend with who will create hurdles for them to overcome.
The interesting thing is that the group is even worse off than being labeled as criminals as they’re being ushered to this destination in the Upper Yard because they’re all fearful of Eneru. Luffy is pretty oblivious in general about danger so he sees it all as an adventure as the Upper Yard is unlike other Sky Islands and there’s a lot of mystery to be had there. With the two groups moving forward, you get the usual bonding time that happens. At the altar, once deposited there, Robin, Zoro, and Nami go off to see what they can find out about the place. They start to get more of an idea about what makes up the island. For Luffy, Sanji and Usopp, they have a run in with the first Priest and he has an amusing hurdle setup with various sized cloud balls that explode with dangerous weapons or creatures. It’s a good mix of comedy and danger as it plays out and you get a sense that Luffy really is enjoying it.
In the midst of this, as the two groups do eventually come back together and compare notes about all they know, there is a larger storyline at play as well. As it turns out, the God Eneru only took over as the God here six years ago after pushing out the previous one who is now playing the role of the Sky Knight. While the Skypieans are pretty reverential and fearful of Eneru, there are people on the Upper Yard who are intent on eliminating him as they see them and the sky people as taking their island from them. The Shandians have a very guerrilla like feeling to them with a touch of a Maori design as they utilize sky people technology and the like to try and go against the Priests and Eneru. There’s a deeper history that’s revealed here towards the end of this set of episodes, and it does come together well, but the earlier parts with the Shandians don’t really gel all that well. Their motivations aren’t exactly clear and the time spent with them feels like it isn’t going to go anywhere, but it does eventually fit together as Eneru watches all these sides come together in a battle that should have over eighty players to it.
The story goes sufficiently big here but a lot of what I got from it was that in order to tell this just under two hour summary of the Skypiea arc you had to cut out a lot of things. That’s the norm for these Episode Of installments but this is the one that felt like it was really noticeable because of just how much worldbuilding was done here and how much had to be sidelined to convey they key points. A lot does still shine through, however, and with it looking as great as it does in this newly animated high definition form compared to the original episodes, it makes it very much worth revisiting to just capture the highlights in a way. There’s a lot of fun moments in here and it still has some of that air of innocence about it that came before the time at Marineford where everyone began to feel the weight of living in this world..
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, One Piece – Episode of Skypiea: Outtakes
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A-
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: November 26th, 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.