Review for One Piece Collection 14
I’m a little late getting to the review of One Piece Part 14, but this is definitely an instalment that I wanted to look at as there’s a good bit coming up. That isn’t to say that the show is comparatively devoid of good bits, as we’ve only just seen the spectacular conclusion of the Enies Lobby arc. But Part 14 is where the crew of the Thousand Sunny get to meet everyone’s favourite skeletal troubadour. Then again, that does happen after one of the longest stretches of filler in One Piece. Don’t worry, it’s ‘only’ eleven episodes if you’re having Bleach flashbacks! More importantly, this is where Manga, and indeed Madman fully board the Funimation train when it comes to releasing One Piece on DVD. No more PAL conversions, as we simply clone the US discs, and go NTSC from now on. That’s good as I’ll get to hear that Tackey and Tsubasa theme song that I love so much at the correct speed.
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, the enigmatic and multi tasking Nico Robin as well as the cola-fuelled cyborg shipwright Franky.
Previously on One Piece, the crew of the Going Merry had taken on Enies Lobby and won, rescuing Nico Robin in the process. The price was high though, and they had to say goodbye to the ship that had brought them this far along the Grand Line. But as the stakes get higher, and they approach the New World, they need a stronger, more capable ship, and to that end Franky puts his ill-gotten gains (the money he stole from the Straw Hats) to use to build them a new ship, the Thousand Sunny, and he also signs onto Luffy’s crew as shipwright. When last we saw them, they were fleeing the Navy using the new ship’s Coup de Burst ability as they left Water Seven, heading for Fishman Island. Meanwhile, elsewhere a confrontation between Luffy’s brother Ace, and his former crewmate ‘Blackbeard’ Marshall D. Teach sets in motion something ominous.
The next 24 episodes of One Piece are presented across 4 DVDs from Manga Entertainment.
325. The Most Heinous Power! Blackbeard’s Darkness Attacks Ace!
326. The Mysterious Band of Pirates! Sunny and the Dangerous Trap!
327. Sunny’s in a Pinch! Road, Secret Super-Speed Mecha!
328. The Dream Sinking in the New World! The Disillusioned Pirate, Puzzle!
329. The Assassins Attack! The Great Battle on Ice Begins!
330. The Straw Hats’ Hard Battles! A Pirate Soul Risking it All for the Flag!
331. Hot Full Throttle! The Twins’ Magnetic Power Drawing Near!
332. Mansion of Great Chaos! The Enraged Don and the Captured Crew!
333. The Return of the Phoenix! The Dream of the Pirate Flag Sworn to a Friend!
334. The Red Hot Decisive Battle! Luffy vs. The Scorching Don!
335. Waiting in the New World! Farewell to the Brave Pirates!
336. Chopperman to the Rescue! Protect the TV Station by the Shore!
337. The Mysterious Skeleton Floating Through the Fog! Venture into the Devil’s Sea!
338. The Joy of Seeing People! The Gentleman Skeleton’s True Identity!
339. One Unnatural Phenomenon After the Next! Disembarking on Thriller Bark!
340. The Man Called Genius! Hogback Makes His Appearance!
341. Nami’s in a Major Pinch! The Zombie Mansion and the Invisible Man!
342. The Zombie’s Secret! Hogback’s Nightmarish Laboratory!
343. His Name is Moria! The Great Shadow-Seizing Pirate’s Trap!
344. Feast of the Zombie Song! The Night Hunt’s Bell is the Sound of Darkness!
345. A Bunch of Animals? Perona’s Wonder Garden!
346. The Vanishing Straw Hat Crew! A Mysterious Swordsman Appears!
347. Chivalry Remains! The Traitorous Zombie Protects Nami!
248. Appearing From the Sky! That Man is the Humming Swordsman!
One Piece is presented at a 1.78:1 anamorphic ratio, and we get anime of the quality that we’ve come to expect on DVD in this high definition age. From now on it’s native NTSC encoded progressively. The image is clear throughout, and now obviously comes from an HD source, so improved is the line detail, although there is the odd moment of shimmer on the really fine detail. Colours are strong, the animation is vibrant, and there’s no more judder if you’re watching the show with progressive playback. 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.
I got to look at a retail product this time around, with four discs in an Amaray case, two hinged panels, a disc on either side of both, so you get to see the inner sleeve with ease. The episode listing is on the inner sleeve too. The episodes can now be played with Marathon Mode, stripping out the credit sequences.
The discs present their content with static menus set to the background music from the show.
Disc 1 autoplays with a trailer for Kamisama Kiss.
The sole extra here is the audio commentary on episode 326. ADR Director Mike McFarland is joined by Tyler Walker (Troff), Jarrod Greene (Sutton), and Cris George (Lago). While they may be voice actors in this episode, their usual Funimation roles are behind the engineering desk, so this commentary gets a little more techy than usual.
Disc 2 autoplays with a trailer for Galaxy Railways
The commentary on episode 335 breaks from the usual format, and sees ADR Director Joel McDonald putting fan questions to voice actors, although they have a little scripted fun in the process.
One Piece in the Booth with Luci Christian lasts 19:41, and offers a little Q & A featurette with behind the scenes sneak peeks with the Nami voice actor.
You get the Crazy Rainbow textless opening (Tackey and Tsubasa version) once more, even though it’s only on one episode in this collection.
Finally on this disc, there are trailers for Fruits Basket, Fairy Tail, Dragon Ball Z, Spice & Wolf, Eureka Seven, Shangri-La, and the Anime Classics label.
Disc 3 autoplays with a trailer for Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods
The audio commentary on episode 338 features ADR director Jerry Jewell and voice of Brook, Ian Sinclair.
Disc 4 autoplays with a trailer for One Piece: Film Z
The audio commentary this time is on episode 348 featuring ADR Director Mike McFarland, Sonny Strait (Usopp), Chris Guerrero (Moria), and Alex Moore (Lola).
One Piece in the Booth with Stephanie Young is a long one this time, 28:02 with the Nico Robin voice actor.
You get the new textless opening, Jungle P, which is nowhere near as catchy as Crazy Rainbow, and indeed I even skipped it a few times during this collection.
Finally there are further Funimation trailers for A Certain Magical Index II, A Certain Scientific Railgun S, Toriko, Fairy Tail, Baka & Test, HAL, and Steins;Gate.
I have to say this much about One Piece, even at its worst, it is compulsive viewing. Once you’re into the show, you just have to stick with it, just one episode more to see where the tide will take us next, as you know that even if you’re in the plot doldrums at the minute, there’s sure to be exciting adventure surfing the next wave. In comparison, it’s easier to drop a show like Naruto, Fairy Tail and Bleach, with the sense that you haven’t lost too much. One Piece Collection 14 is half filler, half canon, but it’s all rather average. It’s entertaining to be sure, but this will never go down as the best that the series has to offer, and in actual fact, it is rather formulaic, and unfortunately, obviously derivative of earlier arcs. The structure of the show is visible beneath the thin plot, and that’s never a good thing. Then again, this is the start of the Thriller Bark arc, the spooky one with the zombies, or as I tend to think of it, One Piece does Scooby Doo (with Usopp and Chopper as Shaggy and Scooby), and horror and zombies are never my favourite genre.
After an initial episode featuring Luffy’s brother Ace and his personal nemesis Marshall ‘Blackbeard’ Teach, setting up a future storyline, and building from some story elements established in the previous volume, it’s then headlong into a long filler arc. In it, the crew of the Thousand Sunny run into a family of pirate bounty hunters, who are particularly sneaky about how they obtain their bounties. As you might guess, given the recent upping of Luffy’s bounty, the crew are a prime target. It’s your standard One Piece storyline, with the crew getting split up to face off against various intriguing foes, before Luffy defeats the end of level boss and the pirates can continue on their sunny way once more. As usual there are some sympathetic guest characters, in this case another pirate crew who have fallen afoul of the bounty hunters, and on top of that, having failed to succeed in the New World, have returned disillusioned, their Captain having given up his dream of becoming King of the Pirates. It’s supposed to add some poignancy, some indication of the dead end that might await Luffy and his crew once they venture into the New World, but the contrivance is a little obvious here. It’s a fun, if rather pedestrian diversion, where due to its filler nature, nothing of permanence can obviously occur.
Then following a Chopperman episode (a standalone that casts the characters in a superhero show in the same way that the Shogunate era cop episodes were done) it’s on to the Thriller Bark arc, the start of which comprises the latter half of this collection. Now if there’s one thing that I’ve learned from the Skypiea, and Enies Lobby arcs, it’s that the longer these stories get, the more time gets spent on the preliminaries, and the first half of the arcs always seem rather tedious and aimless. After all, they’re about introducing the new characters, and setting the stage, and invariably, Luffy’s crew will be separated, winding up facing various foes in combat, while the end of level boss remains hidden. Usually there are a few plot points developing or unfolding that have relevance to our characters, but each arc usually pivots on one major theme. The Water Seven arc was about getting the Going Merry repaired, the Enies Lobby arc was about rescuing Nico Robin, and this Thriller Bark storyline is all about introducing and eventually adding Brook to the crew, the skeletal troubadour with a fascination for panties.
Having said that, there doesn’t seem to be much else to the Thriller Bark arc as yet beyond Brook, other than indulging in all manner of spooky antics on the ghost and zombie infested island. The animators’ imaginations can run riot with the menagerie of undead that they create, and as the crew explore the island, they wind up being captured. Brook had been wandering the fog enshrouded waves, missing his shadow, and it turns out that has something to do with the creation of zombies. The penny first drops when a zombie Samurai appears with what seems like Brook’s personality. Then after Sanji vanishes, Nami’s in a pinch, surrounded by animal zombies, when suddenly a dog penguin turns traitor, refusing to attack a girl, and defends her instead, issuing forth all manner of culinary based insults.
I am not a fan of zombies, but the Thriller Bark arc is tolerable, and on occasion even entertaining. Incidentally the 15 rating is probably deserved for a scene with Nami in the shower being tormented by the Invisible Man, there’s nothing explicit, just the sense of exploitative comedy threat. But at this point in the story, it’s really just setting up the pieces on the chessboard, introducing and having fun with the characters (a byplay with the invisible man, Absalom, and a zombie hippo named Lola is a highlight), getting the sense of this spooky island, and setting forth a few plot threads as the crew are mostly captured, leaving on something of a cliff-hanger. In an interesting move, it seems that it will fall to the cowardly trio of Usopp, Nami and Chopper to be the heroes in this situation, but that will have to wait for Part 15.