Review for One Piece Collection 5
Perfect timing brings this 5th collection of One Piece to the UK. Manga Entertainment have licensed the next four parts, after releasing the first four in 2013, and the gap between part 4 and part 5 has been short enough for the story to remain fresh in my memory. I didn’t even need to go back and read my last review to jog any errant brain cells. One Piece is one of those shows that you can categorise as disposable fun. It’s a show you can happily watch, enjoy and forget. As such, I don’t particularly look forward to each new release, but when they do arrive for review, I certainly don’t see watching the show as a chore. Sometimes, disposable fun is just what the anime doctor ordered, and One Piece has lived up to that prescription with its first four parts. Let’s hope the next batch of episodes can keep the Straw Hat flag flying high!
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, Luffy’s crew had finally made it to Alabasta, Vivi’s homeland, and discovered a parched nation where rain hadn’t fallen in years. The people are suffering, and in their need to place blame, have turned on Vivi’s father, the king. A rebel movement has arisen to overthrow him, led by Vivi’s childhood friend Koza. Behind it all is Baroque Works, the criminal group led by the pirate Crocodile, who have been carefully instigating this insurrection so that they can pick up the pieces afterwards, and have a country of their own. As this collection begins, Luffy’s crew and Vivi have been on a wild goose chase, trying to find the rebels and talk some sense into them. But Crocodile’s plans are about to go into effect...
The next 27 episodes of One Piece are presented across 4 discs from Manga Entertainment.
104. Luffy vs. Vivi! The Tearful Vow to Put Friends on the Line!
105. The Battlefront of Alabasta! Rainbase, the City of Dreams!
106. The Trap of Certain Defeat! Storming Raindinners!
107. Operation Utopia Commences! The Swell of Rebellion Stirs!
108. The Terrifying Banana Gators and Mr. Prince!
109. The Key to a Great Comeback Escape! The Wax-Wax Ball!
110. Merciless Mortal Combat! Luffy vs. Crocodile!
111. Dash For a Miracle! Alabasta Animal Land!
112. Rebel Army vs. Royal Army! Showdown at Alubarna!
113. Alubarna Grieves! The Fierce Captain Karoo!
114. Sworn on a Friend’s Dream! The Battle of Molehill, Block 4!
115. Big Opening Day Today! The Copy-Copy Montage!
116. Transformed into Nami! Bon Clay’s Rapid Fire Kenpo!
117. Nami’s Cyclone Advisory! Clima Takt Burst!
118. Secret Passed Down in the Royal Family! The Ancient Weapon Pluton!
119. Secret of Powerful Swordplay! Ability to Cut Steel and the Rhythm Things Have!
120. The Battle is Over! Koze Raises the White Flag!
121. Where Vivi’s Voice Get’s Heard! The Hero Descends!
122. Sand Croc and Water Luffy! The Second Round of the Duel!
123. That Looks Croc-ish! Luffy, Run to the Royal Tomb!
124. The Nightmare Draws Near! This is the Sand-Sand Clan’s Secret Base!
125. Magnificent Wings! My Name is Pell, Guardian Deity of the Country!
126. I Will Surpass You! Rain Falls in Alabasta!
127. A Farewell to Arms! Pirates and Different Ideas of Justice!
128. The Pirates Banquet and Operation Escape from Alabasta!
129. It All Started On That Day! Vivi Tells the Story of Her Adventure!
130. Scent of Danger! The Seventh Member is Nico Robin!
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 114, with ADR director Jason Grundy, and voice actors Sonny Strait (Usopp) and Wendy Powell (Miss Merry Christmas). It’s another goofy commentary from Funimation, but one that is enjoyable to listen to, and with a little bit of info, and the odd spoiler for later in the series.
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 119. In it, ADR director Scott Sager is joined by Chris Sabat (Zoro), and Brett Weaver (Mister One), for a fairly mellow and useful commentary about the dub process.
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.
If I find out who’s scheduled Manga’s releases for the end of February, I’m going to Getsugatensho them into a Kamehameha, slap them with a Gum Gum Gatling, give them a moist Rasengan and then go all Dragon Slayer on their behinds. In case you miss the implication, it’s gone all shonen action for the end of the month, a perfect storm (not that we need any more), of action aimed at the teen male, more testosterone than in an Olympic Sprinter’s urine sample. That kind of single minded intensity of anime is liable to melt the brain, and as circumstances would have it, I wound up reviewing three of these things simultaneously. Dragon Ball GT had me wishing that I was dead for each twenty minute chunk that it delivered, while it was a chore to work my way through the latest Bleach instalment. But when it came to One Piece, I was up for each episode, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, eager to partake of whatever new fantastic revelations each new episode was about to deliver.
One Piece Part 5 is the collection that justifies your faith in collecting this series. This is where the show gets good, no, more than that, this is where the show gets fantastic. Only Naruto Shippuden has made me this jazzed for a long running shonen series, and that went through a whole lot of missteps and troughs, pitfalls and stretches of utter crap-ness before it got good. One Piece has been on a pretty steady climb since it started its run, any missteps have been minor, filler has been mostly absent, and even the less impressive episodes have contributed to the build up to where we are now. And where we are is one of the best examples of long running shonen I have yet seen.
It’s just great storytelling. It’s the simple things that impress the most, and the Alabasta arc in One Piece is utterly gripping, and grows ever more emotionally arresting as the story unfolds. You just wind up one-episode more-ing your way through the set, and before you know it, ten hours have just flown by. Alabasta is in the middle of a three-year long drought, the people blame the royal family, and the country is on the verge of a civil war, with a million-strong rebel army poised to attack the capital Alubarna. The country’s princess Vivi suspected foul forces behind the plot, and infiltrated the Baroque Works criminal group to find out who was responsible. It turns out that the man behind the plot, the hidden leader of Baroque Works, is one of the Seven Warlords of the Sea, and hero to Alabasta, Crocodile. It’s when she encounters Luffy and his crew of pirates that she gets the chance to escape from Baroque Works, and head back to Alabasta, and hopefully with the aid of her new friends, stop the war before it begins.
That’s where we start this collection of episodes, with Luffy and his crew helping Vivi get the truth of Crocodile’s schemes out into the open. But Crocodile has anticipated Vivi, and somehow manages to thwart her at every turn. His true powers are revealed when they first head to the gambling city of Rainbase and his casino Raindinners to just stop him directly, and he turns out to have the Devil Fruit Power of the Sand-Sand Fruit, making him impossible to hit, as he can become as intangible and deadly as a sandstorm.
Time begins to run out for the country, as the two sides spiral towards war, with Crocodile eager to pick up the pieces and gain a country of his own to rule. The only option is to race to Alubarna, and somehow stop the royal army from engaging with the rebels, but all of Baroque Works also stand in the way of Luffy’s crew and Vivi. The crew find themselves tested, when they have to fight the various Numbers, all of them charged with Devil Fruit Powers of their own, and they all have to find new reserves of strength and skill to overcome. We get to see Sanji in a high kicking fight with Bon Clay, Usopp and Chopper have a battle of wits and strategy against Miss Merry Christmas, a mole woman, and her baseball bat wielding cohort Mr 4, Nami gets to strut her stuff against Miss Doublefinger, and Zoro powers up his sword skills against Mr 1.
But then the stakes are raised again when the reality behind Crocodile’s plot is revealed, as well as the lengths to which he will go to win. It becomes a pulse-pounding race against time, as the sands of time run out for Alabasta, and you edge closer to the verge of your seat, hoping that the good guys will win. And of course you get the shonen action virtues of friendship, bravery, sacrifice and sheer stubborn refusal to admit defeat espoused by all the characters. Thrilling action, and lip-quivering emotion is what One Piece does best, and this collection takes it all to a new level. There’s also a bit of politics too, as Captain Smoker, Lt. Tashigi and the marines show up to hunt Luffy, and wind up tacitly helping him instead, while a seed of disquiet is sown in Smoker when he sees that the Navy refuses to acknowledge the good that Luffy does.
One Piece Collection 5 is great stuff, and if you’ve been riding the One Piece pirate ship somewhat tentatively so far, waiting for it to deliver, then this collection will justify your faith and investment in the show so far. It’s the best One Piece yet. There’s only one misstep in the entire collection, the debut of a new opening sequence at episode 116 which serves as a big spoiler for episode 130. But then again given the title of episode 130 it’s not the only spoiler. And let’s face it, I’m not an avid One Piece fan, but even I knew that Nico Robin would wind up as one of the crew of the Going Merry. If you’ve missed out on One Piece so far, this is the point where you buy collection 5, and go back and buy the first four collections too. It’s that good.