Review for One Piece Movie Collection 1
This is quite a coup. One Piece is a veritable anime phenomenon, a multi-media franchise that has developed from the biggest manga, into the biggest anime series, and with spin-off movies and games and more to boot. It’s epically huge in Japan, and it has similarly exploded across the world, both in English and non-English speaking territories. We in the UK are a little late to the party when it comes to the anime, only last year starting with the series, and just last month getting the first of the two One Piece movies to be released in the West. We’re years behind the US and Australia, but we’re catching up fast, and next month’s 7th series boxset release will take us tantalisingly close to episode 200 (out of some 700 episodes broadcast to date). But this month we’re actually getting one step ahead of the rest of the English speaking world. So far only two movies out of some 12 have been released in the US and Australia (they’ll be getting Movie Z in September). We’ve just had the tenth movie, Strong World in the UK, and that leaves nine movies that have never had an English language release.
Manga Entertainment are now rectifying that oversight, and we will be the first English speaking territory in the world to get movies 1-7 and 9 in English. That’s because European territories have already had these movies dubbed into their local languages and released on DVD (by Kazé in Germany and France). While they have had Japanese domestic releases on DVD and Blu-ray, it’s a lot easier for Manga Entertainment to source those European transfers, remove all but the Japanese audio, and add English subtitles. No English dubs exist for these films, so they will (with the exception of movie 8) be released as subtitle only. For the sake of convenience, and because they are short movies, Manga are also releasing them as three triple packs, although once again, movie 8 will also get a separate release, and a Blu-ray release because of its dub. But for now this is the first of the One Piece movie triple packs containing the first three movies. Let’s see if this will make our US and Australian cousins green with envy...
Introduction: One Piece The Movie
In the East Blue, there is the legend of the Great Gold Pirate Woonan, a man who literally stole a mountain of gold. But then a few years ago, the legend faded, and all that’s left is rumours of an island where Woonan’s gold is buried. That, and a solitary treasure map that points the way. And where there’s treasure, there are treasure hunters, most notably the dread pirate El Drago, possessor of the power of the Goe Goe fruit, and relentless in his search for the riches. Naturally the crew of the Going Merry wind up crossing paths with him and in the process rescue a little boy named Tobio, who has dreams of finding Woonan and joining his crew. But a burst of El Drago’s powers separate Luffy, Zoro, Nami and Usopp. They’ll have to reunite if they’re to beat El Drago to Woonan’s treasure.
Picture: One Piece The Movie
I sense that there’s going to be a fair bit of cut and paste as we work our way through the movies. The first movie gets what eyeballs out to around 1.75:1 anamorphic, thin black lines either side, an NTSC-PAL standards conversion, very obviously of tape quality, with faded colours, low in clarity, suffering from compression and a little aliasing too. You can forget all those complaints as the most obvious complaint is that the movie is cropped from the original 4:3 ratio, 7 boxsets of Dragon Ball Z have trained me to spot the cramped framing that results from such truncation. It isn’t ideal, but it is watchable, and it’s not as if you have a lot of alternatives here.
Sound: One Piece The Movie
The sound comes in DD 2.0 Stereo Japanese form. It’s a little muddy and washed out, but the dialogue is clear, the music drives the story well, and you get the full impact of the action. A little too much impact if you ask me, as the effects really do overpower the music and the dialogue, and explosions and gunshots can be a little startling. The subtitles are accurately timed and free of error, but suffer from a lack of consistency in comparison to Funimation’s series release. I kept rolling my eyes every time Luffy said ‘Gum Gum’ and the subtitles read ‘Rubber Rubber’.
Extras: One Piece The Movie
Just animated menus...
Conclusion: One Piece The Movie
This movie comes pretty early in the One Piece run; set somewhere between episodes 17 and 20 in the canon, before Luffy and his crew first met Sanji. The movie really plays out like an extended episode, or a three episode mini-arc, without any of the grand visuals, or more complex plot of something like the more recent Strong World movie, a film that was very obviously made for theatrical release from the off. I get the feeling that the first One Piece movie was made for television and then converted for theatrical release.
But it is short, it’s sweet and it’s fun. You get the usual antics from the regular cast, Luffy eager lust for food, and his deadpan refusal to submit to adversity, Usopp’s self aggrandizing mendacity coupled with his trademark cowardice, Zoro’s laconic coolness to the point of somnolence, and Nami’s lust for treasure, and commonsense world-weariness at the idiocy of her crewmates. The villain El Drago is a suitable challenge for our heroes, and has the kind of villainy that deserves a knock-down drag-out ultimate battle with which to conclude the film. The guest protagonists are likeable too, with Tobio a mini-Luffy in waiting with his grand dreams of treasure and of Woonan the pirate, while his grandfather Ganzo, who runs a sea-going restaurant, has a predictable enigmatic quality. The reveal doesn’t come as too much of a surprise, but it’s nothing to be let down by either. The first One Piece movie is fast paced and it’s entertaining, and it delivers more of what the series has been doing to this point.
Introduction: One Piece Movie 2 – Adventures on Clockwork Island
It’s a nice restful day at the beach, Usopp’s hanging out, Zoro’s working out, Nami’s sunbathing, Sanji’s doting on Nami, and Luffy’s fishing, playing with a clockwork toy, and watching as the Going Merry sails off into the distance... Someone’s stolen the Going Merry! One week later, they’re chasing after on a pedalo, when they run into a couple of sibling thieves, Borod and Akees, although their skills at theft haven’t garnered them a lot of success. What do you expect when they target the crammed in crew of a pedalo for riches. But they did see where the Going Merry went. It’s been stolen by the Card Brothers, a band of pirates whose leader the Bear King has dreams of being King of the Pirates. He’s not going about it in as nice a way as Luffy though, especially when they turn up and kidnap Nami, intending for her to be the Bear King’s bride. Now Luffy and the others have to get Nami back and the Going Merry. Borod and Akees are happy to guide them to Clockwork Island and Card Castle; in fact they’re a little suspiciously eager to help...
Picture: One Piece Movie 2 – Adventures on Clockwork Island
This time the aspect ratio is closer to 1.78:1 anamorphic, but it’s still that faded NTSC-PAL conversion, tape quality video, and very obviously cropped, given the cramped compositions, and bits missing from top and bottom. Incidentally none of these movies is all that forgiving to televisions with overscan. I was missing essential information on both sides when I watched it on my CRT television. The downside is that none of these films scale up all that well to flat panel displays. It’s advisable to watch the films on as small a screen as is reasonable.
Sound: One Piece Movie 2 – Adventures on Clockwork Island
It’s the same treatment as before, a slightly worn DD 2.0 Stereo Japanese track, where the effects overpower all other elements of the sound design. The subtitles are accurately timed and free of typos, but once again they have little consistency with the Funimation releases of the television series. The unit of currency in the One Piece verse is the Berry, not the Beli.
Extras: One Piece Movie 2 – Adventures on Clockwork Island
Once again with the animated menus, although the main menu on this disc calls the film Adventure of Spiral Island, no doubt a legacy of the Kazé release.
Conclusion: One Piece Movie 2 – Adventures on Clockwork Island
Didn’t we just watch this movie? Nami kidnapped by a powerful pirate enamoured of her, and our heroes setting out to rescue her, having to explore a wholly illogical and fantastical island taken over by the pirates, and in the process rescuing the inhabitants (and wrecking the island too). It is the plot of One Piece Strong World writ shorter. Just like the first film, this plays like an extended episode, or a three episode arc, but unlike the first film, there really is a more cinematic, and imaginative approach to its visuals and its story. The Clockwork Island is a fantastic creation, an island in the sky (albeit one perched atop a spiral staircase rather than floating), and with all manner of fantastic mechanisms driven by clockwork. The budget even stretches to some basic CGI to realise the grander cogs and gears driving the island, and there is a greater sense of production values apparent.
Our heroes stay true to their goofy selves, there’s plenty of comedy to appreciate, while the villains also impress in their diversity and comic value, all with Devil Fruit powers to test our heroes. The Bear King is a bear of a man, of similar stature to El Drago, but with an iron skin that is impervious to Luffy’s attacks. Boo Jack is a spiky ball who’s a challenge for Sanji’s kicking skills, Pin Joker has a Biff Tannen approach to word play and a grudge against Zoro, Honey Queen can turn herself into a liquid, but not her clothes, while Skunk One single-arsedly supplies this film’s quota of toilet humour. And then there is the guest cast, the brothers Borod and Akees, who themselves have something to fight for, and in Akees’ case some personal growth to attain, and they serve as added impetus, not that it’s needed, for Luffy to face The Bear King. The second One Piece movie is even more entertaining, accomplished, and funny than the first.
Introduction: One Piece The Movie 3 - Chopper's Kingdom in the Strange Animal Island
Everyone’s excited about the prospect of treasure on Crown Island, the next destination of the Going Merry, everyone that is except Chopper, who’s still coming to terms with his new role as a pirate. But Crown Island is difficult to get to indeed, and when an underwater volcano launches the ship into the air over the island, Chopper gets separated from the rest of the crew. He crash lands in the middle of a strange menagerie, a mix of wild animals that’ve created their own civilisation, and following the death of their previous king, have been expecting a successor to come from the heavens. Cue Chopper, whose facility with human language doesn’t go unnoticed. Wrapped in a cape, he already looks regal, and his medical skills impress the sole human among the animals, a boy named Mobambi. It isn’t long before he wants Chopper to stay as their king, but the problem is that Mobambi hates pirates, and has done ever since he witnessed one kill his father. But this paradise is under threat. A biologist named Baron Butler is abroad, seeking ultimate power in the horns of a unique animal. With a herd of horn eaters under his control, he’s taste testing all the horns of all the animals on the island one by one, and the kingdom has in its new king, the timid Chopper. Actually they might be in even bigger danger. Luffy and his crew have landed on the island, and Luffy is hungry... for meat!
Picture: One Piece The Movie 3 - Chopper's Kingdom in the Strange Animal Island
It’s three for three. The third movie also gets a NTSC-PAL standards converted, tape quality transfer, once again apparently cropped down to 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. It’s not pleasant to look at, but I have to say that the framing isn’t as compromised by the cropping as much as in the first two films.
Sound: One Piece The Movie 3 - Chopper's Kingdom in the Strange Animal Island
You have DD 2.0 Stereo Japanese again, with English subtitles that once again lack consistency with the Funimation subtitling. And once again, the effects dominate the dialogue and the music.
Extras: One Piece The Movie 3 - Chopper's Kingdom in the Strange Animal Island
For the third time, all you get is the animated menu.
Conclusion: One Piece The Movie 3 - Chopper's Kingdom in the Strange Animal Island
Tony Tony Chopper is the cutest anime character ever created. This movie is all about Tony Tony Chopper. It’s no surprise then that this is my favourite of the three movies. Once again, while it may just as well be a short arc in the series, or an extended episode, the third movie really does show with its production values when it comes to the greater imagination and energy in the animation. You have a whole menagerie of animals here (An island full of curious animals? I getting Strong World flashbacks again), you have interesting villains, and you have a likeable guest character in Mobambi. The story is simple of course, and it plays like every shonen anime movie adaptation in existence. You have the bad guys terrorising the locals, you have a guest character who has to grow and find inner strength, and who in turn inspires our heroes to stand up for them against the villains, and you have some serious butt kicking action sequences to appreciate. As per usual for a One Piece movie, this means Luffy will get to deliver a smackdown on the bad guy after looking like he’s almost lost.
There’s a bit of a twist in the fight sequences, as Sanji gets to fight against a sword wielder, while Zoro has to fight a martial artist who prefers using his feet. But it’s all pretty much par for the course, and wholly predictable. The good thing in this case, is that with such a simple story, the film doesn’t outstay its welcome at just under an hour long. Where it surpasses the first two films in my opinion is in its pacing, its more cohesive narrative, and in my opinion it’s even funnier. And as I said, it features my favourite character in One Piece, Chopper.
These are placeholder discs. The movies are short, sweet and great fun, especially if you’re a fan of One Piece, and fans will simply have to have them in their collections. But technically they’re just not good enough. I don’t know at which point the image was cropped, whether it was by the European distributor, or as I suspect because of the pre-film logos, they were actually cropped for theatrical release in Japan, but it seems likely that full-frame versions of these films probably do exist for television broadcast purposes. Regardless of the aspect ratio, the image quality is substandard, and the audio is problematically balanced.
The first film I bought on DVD was my favourite, Blade Runner. It took a few more purchases before I realised that it was a pretty poor release. But I kept that disc, watched it regularly, in full anticipation of when Warner would release a Special Edition worthy of the name. I only had to wait 8 years. You’d be crazy to think that Funimation will neglect any aspect of a title as popular as One Piece. These films have had Blu-ray releases in Japan, and I fully expect that Funimation will one day license, dub, and release these films in a lot better quality than this. But you’re going to have a hell of a wait, as I suspect that they’ll deal with the series first, and the later movies. You’ll be able to get full value from watching these Manga discs in the interim, but give it half a decade or so, and you’ll be double dipping on these. Just don’t miss out on the fun by waiting.