Review for One Piece Collection 8
We truly are being tested by Manga Entertainment! Just how much do you like One Piece? It’s in the nature of these long running mainstream action shows that we get them in big chunks, and we can also get multiple doses of the franchise at once. I’ve had Bleach movies coinciding with Bleach boxsets, Naruto movies with Naruto TV collections... But the difference is that those TV collections had at the most 13 episodes, and we got the movies one at a time. The One Piece Collections on the other hand offer whopping great 25 episode chunks of the series, and Manga are letting the movies go three by three. That’s a whole lot of One Piece to take in at any one time, and at the moment, I have this 8th Collection of episodes to review, along with the final three-pack of movies, comprising movies 7-9. It’s a good thing then, that of all the long running action adventure anime shows that Manga peddle, One Piece might just be the most entertaining of the lot. But don’t blame me if I’m talking like a pirate for months after I finish reviewing them.
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 as well as the enigmatic and multi tasking Nico Robin.
Previously on One Piece, when Nami’s Log Pose suddenly pointed upwards, it became clear that the next destination of the Going Merry would be in the sky. A whole world exists in the sky, the world of Godland Skypiea. This is no paradise however, it’s a rule driven world, strictly enforced and tyrannically administered by God, and simply by arriving at the island they made an enemy of the brutal God Eneru. Eneru’s wrath was quickly unleashed on Luffy and his crew, but our heroes proved more durable than Eneru expected. As Luffy and the other learned more about this fantastic aerial world, and the people that suffer there under Eneru’s cruel reign, Eneru put his plans for total domination through annihilation into motion. As this eighth collection of One Piece begins, our heroes are on the back foot against God Eneru.
The next 23 episodes of One Piece are presented across 4 discs from Manga Entertainment.
183. Maxim Surfaces! Deathpiea is Activated!
184. Luffy Falls! Eneru’s Judgement and Nami’s Wish!
185. The Two Awaken! On the Front Lines of the Burning Love Rescue!
186. Capriccio for Despair! The Impending Doom of Sky Island!
187. Led By a Bell’s Sound! Tale of the Great Warrior and the Explorer!
188. Free From the Spell! The Great Warrior Sheds Tears!
189. Eternal Friends! The Vowed Bell Echoes Across the Mighty Seas!
190. Angel Island Obliterated! The Horror of the Raigo’s Advent!
191. Knock Over Giant Jack! Last Hope for Escape!
192. Miracle on Skypiea! The Love Song Heard in the Clouds!
193. The Battle Ends! Proud Fantasia Echoes Far!
194. I Made it Here! The Yarn the Poneglyphs Spin!
195. Off to the Blue Sea! A Heartfelt Finale!
196. A State of Emergency is Issued! A Notorious Pirate Ship Has Infiltrated!
197. Sanji the Cook! Proving His Merit at the Marine Dining Hall!
198. Captured Zoro! Chopper’s Emergency Operations!
199. The Marine’s Dragnet Closes In! The Second Member Captured!
200. Luffy and Sanji’s Daring Rescue Mission!
201. Enter the Hot-Blooded Special Forces! Battle on the Bridge!
202. Breaking Through the Siege! The Going Merry is Recovered!
203. The Pirate Ship Disappears! Fortress Battle, Round #2!
204. The Gold and Waver Recovery Operations!
205. The One Fell Swoop Plan! Jonathan’s Surefire Secret Tactic!
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. Compared to the first fifty or so episodes, One Piece has settled down somewhat; we’re now some 160 episodes into the show, that’s about three years worth of development in animation, and the early static and primitive feel to the show has mostly vanished and now it’s a lot more consistent and fluid in terms of quality. The occasionally, wholly digital look to the show is now a thing of the past. There are still 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 193, with ADR Director Mike McFarland, and voice actors Colleen Clinkenbeard (Luffy), and J. Michael Tatum (Eneru). Even if it is one of the usual Funimation back-slapping chucklefests, it is still pretty tolerable to listen to.
You’ll also find the textless credits on this disc, the opening the closing, although once again the subtitles are locked on the Japanese versions of the songs.
Disc 3 has an audio commentary to accompany episode 196. ADR Director Scott Sager joins Mark Stoddard (Commander Jonathan), and Bryan Massey (Lieutenant Commander Drake) for what is a very actor focussed commentary.
Disc 4 once again presents the subtitle marred but otherwise textless credits, one opening and two endings. 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.
Just one more boxset and we’ll be a full third of the way through the One Piece saga, currently at some 677 episodes in length and growing. You might think that’s an eternity away, and we’ve got plenty of wacky adventures yet to enjoy, but a more pertinent figure would be 372. That’s how far Funimation will have got in releasing the episodes by this Christmas. Another number to note is 11. That’s how many complete collections Funimation will have released by next January. They release One Piece for first run in 13 episode collections, the same way that we’ve been getting other long run shows like Naruto and Bleach, and subsequently re-release them in 4-disc, 26 odd episode boxes. The only reason we started with the complete collections is that we were so far behind, but at the rate we’re going, we’re soon going to catch up. At this point, we’re just three of those boxsets behind the US. Either Manga will start with longer hiatuses between One Piece releases, or we too will switch to the ‘half season’ releases.
As for this particular collection of episodes, shorter at ‘just’ 23, I found it to be up to the now expected standard of One Piece episodes. The Skypiea arc did seem a little too much like the Arlong arc to me in the previous collection, but it really does kick it up a gear for its conclusion here. One thing that it does is pause in the middle for a three episode mini-arc that looks at the adventures of Montblanc Noland and Shandoran Warrior Calgara. It may seem like an unwanted pause for filler, but this is no filler, rather a neat way of reminding us of the start of this arc, and of tying the whole story together. If you recall, Luffy’s crew began their trip skyward on the island of Jaya, where they encountered Montblanc Cricket, a man diving for treasure, and proof that his ancestor Noland wasn’t the liar that history made him out to be. Cricket and his simian friends seemed like comic relief, a brief hiatus before the actual arc began, but this three episode flashback fills in the gaps, refreshes the memory, and given its four hundred year old setting, serves to make the Skypiea arc feel seriously epic. It’s also useful in that it supplies story and narrative, as otherwise these concluding episodes of the arc really are all about the battle against God Eneru, as he continues to enact his plan to destroy the sky civilisation, and then wreak havoc down below. It is pretty much all action.
The Skypeia arc was solid, fulfilling entertainment, which if not quite up to the standard of the Alabasta arc, was pretty close. What’s surprising is what comes next. We have in the concluding ten episodes of this collection the G8 arc, a stretch of pure filler episodes. In Naruto that would mean a case of sighing and putting up with it. In Bleach it might mean head-desking myself into a coma to escape it, but One Piece proves with the G8 story that it does seriously good filler. This is a story arc that stands up well against any of the canon episodes, and given its shorter length, is actually refreshingly efficient in telling its story. Returning from the heavens and Skypiea, the Going Merry crashes into the ocean in the harbour of the G8 Marine base, right in the middle of the lion’s den. Before the Marines can act, Luffy’s crew choose the better part of valour and scarper, splitting up and sneaking onto the island and into the base. All the marines find is what they think at first to be a pirate ghost ship, and a hold full of treasure.
The thing about the G8 base is that it’s on Navarone island, a natural fortress with an enclosed harbour. So Luffy and his crew have to find the way out, steal back the treasure, and steal back the Going Merry which has been impounded. How this story unfolds is pure comedy, with some great action sequences thrown in. In fact a couple of the action sequences are so well designed, timed and directed, that they reminded me of the comedy action sequences that you might see in an Indiana Jones movie, and not least because of an epic confrontation atop a giant steel suspension bridge, with Luffy, Sanji, Zoro, and Usopp caught in the middle of two approaching platoons of Marines. The only complaint I have about this arc, and indeed this collection of episodes is that it finishes one episode early. To see the conclusion of the G8 arc, we have to wait until Collection 9.
What’s astounding about One Piece is its consistency. With this eighth collection, we pass the 200 episode mark, and it is yet to put a foot wrong. If only other long running action anime shows could be this strong.