Review for One Piece Collection 6
There was a time that I never would have thought it possible to look forward to shonen anime. After all, this is the middle of the road, sold to the masses genre, which eschews the aesthetic, the creative, and the imaginative fringes of the anime industry where my particular fandom tends to dwell. But middle of the road, mass media genre mainstays are popular for a reason, and why shouldn’t I partake of the mainstream as well as the niche? Where we are right now with the shonen anime being released by Manga Entertainment is a very nice place indeed. Naruto Shippuden has never been better, Fairy Tail is back to its best, while having recently watched the first instalment of the original Dragon Ball, I can see myself buying into that series where its sequels left me cold. Then there is One Piece, which may just be the best of them all. I was rubbing my hands with anticipation at the advent of One Piece Part 6.
Monkey D. Luffy wants to be a pirate. No he wants to be the best pirate of them all, sail the Grand Line, find the legendary One Piece treasure left behind by Gold Roger, and become the Pirate King. He’s inspired in this by his mentor, Red-Haired Shanks, who saved his life when he was a child. He also ate the Gum-Gum fruit, a devil fruit which has given him stretchy rubber limbed abilities, although at the cost of his ability to swim. You’d think this would be a fatal handicap in a pirate, but Luffy has set sail nevertheless, looking to gather the best crew on the high seas, and venture forth onto the Grand Line. The first candidates for his crew include the mighty pirate-hunter swordsman, Roronoa Zoro, the skilled, pirate-hating thief Nami, the world’s greatest liar, Usopp, and the toughest chef around, Sanji. He’s later joined by the world’s first and only blue-nosed reindeer doctor, in the form of the fatally cute Tony Tony Chopper.
Previously on One Piece, the crew of the Going Merry had made it through their Alabasta adventure, defeated the nefarious plans of the malicious Crocodile, and saved Princess Vivi’s kingdom. And on the way, they’d picked up their newest crew member, Nico Robin. She was formerly Miss All Sunday of Crocodile’s Baroque Works, and as we start this new collection of One Piece episodes, Luffy’s crew isn’t yet quite comfortable with their new recruit.
The next episodes of One Piece are presented across 4 discs from Manga Entertainment.
131. The First Patient! The Untold Story of the Rumble Ball!
132. Uprising of the Navigator! For the Unyielding Dream!
133. A Recipe Handed Down! Sanji, the Iron Man of Curry!
134. I Will Make It Bloom! Usopp, the Man, and the Eight-Foot Shell!
135. The Fabled Pirate Hunter! Zoro, The Wandering Swordsman!
136. Zenny of the Island of Goats and the Pirate Ship in the Mountains!
137. How’s Tricks? The Designs of Zenny the Moneylender!
138. Whereabouts of the Island Treasure! Attack of the Zenny Pirates!
139. Legend of the Rainbow Mist! Old Man Henzo of Luluka Island
140. Residents of the Land of Eternity! The Pumpkin Pirates
141. Thoughts of Home! The Pirate Graveyard of No Escape!
142. An Inevitable Melee! Wetton’s Scheme’s and the Rainbow Tower
143. And so, the Legend Begins! To the Other Side of the Rainbow!
144. Caught Log! The King of Salvagers, Masira!
145. Monsters Appear! Don’t Mess With the White Beard Pirates
146. Quit Dreaming! Mock Town, the Town of Ridicule!
147. Distinguished Pirates! A Man Who Talks of Dreams and the King of Undersea Search
148. Legendary Family! Noland the Liar!
149. Steer for the Clouds! Capture the South Bird!
150. Dreams Don’t Come True?! Bellamy Versus the Saruyama Alliance!
151. 100 Million Man! World’s Greatest Power and Pirate Black Beard!
152. Take to the Sky! Ride the Knockup Stream!
153. Sail the White Sea! The Sky Knight and the Gate in the Clouds
154. Godland Skypeia! Angels on a Beach of Clouds!
155. The Forbidden Sacred Ground! The Island Where God Lives and Heaven’s Judgement!
156. Already Criminals?! Skypiea’s Upholder of the Law!
Manga Entertainment and Toei logos precede the content on the disc, which dating from 1999 is presented in 4:3 regular format. The show gets a native PAL transfer with 4% speed-up. The image that is clear and sharp throughout, but there’s no getting away from the vintage and the budget of the show. There is a bit of rainbowing around fine detail, but by and large the biggest problem with the transfer is the compression artefacts around fast motion, bursts of mosquito noise that on occasion are distractingly obvious. Also on a rare occasion, the quality of a scene will suddenly drop, aliasing will increase and the image will take on a static feel, as if it’s just a placeholder for an animation that was never completed.
One Piece looks like an early digipaint show, an anime accomplished wholly in the innards of a computer, and the stability of the image, absence of flicker and print damage tends to support that. There are moments where the show can look a little too static and obviously digital, but on the other hand, there are moments where the animation really takes a walk on the wild side, bringing to mind the wackiness of Tex Avery cartoons and the like. This is a show where surprise can make people’s eyeballs bug out of their sockets, and their jaws drop to the floor.
You have the choice of DD 5.1 Surround English, and DD 2.0 Stereo Japanese, with optional translated subtitles and a signs only track. As usual, I watched the series through in Japanese with subtitles, and found a fairly standard shonen anime dub, with enthusiastic and over the top performances that suit the tone of the show well. The stereo does a good job in conveying the show’s ambience and action sequences. Where One Piece really impresses is in its music score. Far from the comparatively weedy synth efforts afforded to the usual anime shows, One Piece apparently gets a full on orchestral score, at times giving the show an epic and grand soundscape that by far belies its comic book origins. The subtitles are free of error and are accurately timed.
The discs present their content with static menus set to the English version of the theme song, with jacket pictures to look at when the discs are at rest in compatible players.
The extras begin on disc 2, with an audio commentary on episode 140, with ADR director Jason Grundy, and voice actors Colleen Clinkenbeard (Luffy) and Vic Mignoga (Mayor Wetton, Young Wetton, Lake). This is a nice interesting commentary to listen to, but it does have spoilers for the arc.
You’ll also find a set of textless credits on this disc, although once again the subtitles are locked on the Japanese versions of the songs.
Disc 3 has an audio commentary to accompany episode 144. ADR Director Mike McFarland joins Colleen Clinkenbeard (Luffy), and Brina Palencia (Chopper) to talk about a landmark episode for Funimation, the first episode of One Piece they actually dubbed, as they started on the series out of sequence. It’s a jolly commentary, but interesting nevertheless.
Disc 4 once again presents the subtitle marred but otherwise textless credits. Of course if you want to see the textless opening on this disc, just watch the start of an episode and turn the subtitles off there, as for some reason all of the episodes start with the textless opening instead of one with credits.
The previous collection of One Piece episodes went out on a spectacular high, with the conclusion of the brilliant Alabasta arc. That’s a tough act to follow, and an even tougher one to top. This sixth collection of One Piece begins with 13 episodes of filler material before easing the viewers gently in the next major arc of canon material. With something like Naruto, that would mean 13 episodes of mediocrity at best before resuming the good stuff. With Bleach, it would mean hitting a new nadir that the show would fail to climb back from. With One Piece, it really is all good stuff!
It’s because the creators have a handle on their characters, and they have a handle on the world which they inhabit. It means that they can approximate the style of the writing, and create stories that you believe would take place in this universe. It may just be a lucky batch of episodes, maybe in the future you might get a whole episode of Luffy having a toilet emergency, but it certainly doesn’t happen here, and I enjoyed the first thirteen episodes as much as any of the other One Piece that I have seen thus far.
It also helps following the dramatic conclusion of the Alabasta arc, and the hasty addition of Nico Robin to the crew, to have something of a breather, a handful of episodes that ease the character into the anime, rather than plunging headlong into the next arc and hope that you can keep up on the fly. That’s the nature of anime of course. You can take the manga at whatever pace you choose, but here you’re beholden to the pace of the anime writers. And I find that getting to know Robin, even through the medium of filler, makes this new format of the crew a little more comfortable.
The first five episodes are all stand-alones, which I find really interesting as they tell stories regarding some of the main characters, either of their pasts, or set in the present. There’s a look at one of the landmark moments in Chopper’s journey into becoming a doctor, along with some nice bonding between him and Robin. Nami reflects on her past with Bellemere and how it shaped her career in becoming a navigator, Sanji helps a trainee navy cook make the perfect curry, Usopp helps a young girl with a fireworks display, and there’s a look at how Zoro’s reputation as a pirate hunter spread. In another long running shonen show, these might be throwaway episodes, but I found that they captured the essence of these characters so well, that they might as well have been part of the canon.
There then follow a couple of multi-episode arcs which again, while filler, still feel right at home in this universe and with these characters, and I found wholly enjoyable. The Goat Island Arc is a nice bit of silliness, as the crew of the Going Merry meet an unlikely old character that’s stranded on an island, with only goats for company. Chopper diagnoses him as close to death, but he has one of those comedic aversions to dying that keep on wrong-footing Luffy and his friends, who decide to make his last few days comfortable. Zenny was a moneylender whose trade left him with few friends, and stranded on that island, but the one thing he really wanted was to be a pirate. The one thing that a Marine Sergeant, ostensibly pursuing the Straw Hat Pirates really wants is Zenny’s squirreled away treasure, and so confrontation is inevitable.
The science fiction fan in me really loves the Luluka Island arc that follows on from this, which introduces an island governed by a tax loving mayor, where an old man uses that tax to investigate a mysterious phenomenon out in the sea. Enter a Final Countdown-like time slip. As a boy, the scientist Henzo and his friends escaped towards this time slip from pirate marauders that attacked the island. His friends vanished into the vortex, and he was left behind, and he’s spent the last fifty years trying to find a way of getting them back. When he does finally figure out how, it brings the past back to life in an unexpected way. And Luffy and his friends get caught right in the middle.
This leads to the final thirteen episodes, and the next major arc. As with the start of the Alabasta Arc way back when, and as you would expect with a saga that will run some 60 episodes, we don’t rush headlong into it. Instead, what we have here is a comparatively slow build as the situation is introduced, and new characters are added. It all begins when Nami’s Log Pose, the device that helps them navigate on the Grand Line start pointing straight upwards. Logically that’s a patent impossibility, but logic doesn’t hold sway in the world of One Piece. Their next destination really does lie straight upwards, made all the more clear when a massive 200 year old galleon falls out of the sky, narrowly missing their ship. Salvaging that galleon (encountering some bizarre simian pirates on the way) offers proof of an island in the sky, but trying to learn more at the nearby island of Jaya reveals little but ridicule and derisive comments. Jaya is an island of pirates who shun dreams of greatness and ambition, preferring to settle for the easy score, and that is something that riles Luffy, the grandest dreamer of them all. It’s when they do manage to track down the island’s one dreamer, a descendant of a liar that would give Usopp a run for his money that they learn of a possible, insane way to ascend to the heavens.
The final five episodes of this collection sees the crew of the Going Merry actually make it to the heavens, revealing a whole other world to play in, a world where both the oceans and the land are comprised of cloud, where a whole other race of beings live and where they get into more trouble than ever before. A Sky Knight on a shape-shifting bird rescues them from a cloud-skating masked guerrilla, but trying to get to the island of Skypiea required paying a toll, money they don’t have, and going to the island anyway is only the first of several crimes they inadvertently commit. When the White Beret police force of Godland Skypiea shows up to collect the fine, they wind up advertently committing some more. At the same time, Nami breaks a taboo by heading to Upper Yard, the island where God lives, so by the end of this collection of episodes, they have more and tougher enemies than ever before.
One Piece manages all this narrative while still holding onto that irreverent style and wacky comedy. It certainly isn’t as good as the end of the Alabasta arc, but that would be an unrealistic expectation at this point. The filler material is entertaining, while the next canon arc gets off to a slow but steady start. One Piece continues on an even keel, and that is really what you want from a long running shonen anime.