Review for One Piece Collection 15
We normally have to wait a quarter of a year between One Piece releases or thereabouts, as we tend to get around four releases in a 12 month period. That’s not too bad when you think about it. After all, we are talking about around one hundred episodes of content. You could conceivably pace that out at a couple of episodes a week, but the average anime fan will tend to splurge, and binge-watch. Normally that means a couple of months gap between One Pieces, but as I got to Collection 14 later than usual, this time I pretty much segue from one volume to the next. Normally that is a good thing, as I wouldn’t be in immediate need of a recap episode, but this time I’m less sanguine about it. After all, we’re in the middle of the Thriller Bark arc, when One Piece goes spooky, and unleashes the zombies. I hate zombies, and not in the ‘ooh, what a scary monster’ kind of way. Still, the latter half of Collection 14 didn’t put me to sleep, so maybe there’s hope for the Thriller Bark arc yet.
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 Thousand Sunny and the Straw Hat pirates ventured into a fogbound area of the Grand Line, where they encountered the singing skeleton Brook, who himself had been wandering the misty seas for years. They also picked the wrong barrel out of the sea, and got themselves ‘invited’ to the mysterious Thriller Bark Island. Skeletons are spooky enough, but Brook’s circumstances are somewhat unique. He ate the Revive-Revive Fruit in life, which guaranteed a second shot at life after death. However, his soul took too long in returning, which is why he was reanimated as a skeleton. That doesn’t explain his missing shadow though. That was taken from him on Thriller Bark, and until he gets it back, he’ll never be able to walk under the sun again. And Thriller Bark is where Luffy’s crew wind up.
Chopper’s excited to learn that the famous Dr. Hogback resides there, but that excitement doesn’t make up for all the zombies. It turns out that Thriller Bark is the home of one of the seven warlords of the sea, Gecko Moria, and he’s creating an army of zombies in his quest to be King of the Pirates. And to create zombies, the corpses have to be instilled with the shadows of the living. As this collection begins, Gecko Moria has just got his hand on Luffy’s shadow, and he’s about to revive the most powerful pirate of them all, a behemoth named Oars that terrorised the seas 500 years previously. Oh, and the Invisible Man wants to marry Nami.
24 more episodes of One Piece are presented across 4 discs from Manga Entertainment.
349. Luffy’s Emergency Situation! The Ultimate Shadow’s Destination!
350. The Warrior Known as the “Devil”!! The Moment of Oars’ Revival
351. Awakening After 500 Years!! Oars Opens His Eyes
352. A Belief Worth Begging to Live For!! Brook Defends His Afro
353. A Man’s Promise Never Dies!! To The Friend Waiting Under the Distant Sky
354. I Swear to Go See Him!! Brook and the Cape of Promise
355. Food, Nami and Shadows!! Luffy’s Enraged Counterattack
356. Usopp’s the Strongest? Leave Anything Negative to Him
357. The General Zombies are Down in a Flash!! Oars Feels Like an Adventure
358. Blazing Knight Sanji!! Kick Down the Fake Wedding
359. A Clear-Clear History? Sanji’s Stolen Dream
360. Save Me, Hero!! My Enemy is the Immortal Princess
361. Perona is Terrified!! Usopp and Untruthful Share the Same “U”
362. Slashes Dancing on the Rooftop!! Showdown: Zoro vs. Ryuma
363. Chopper is Furious!! Hogback’s Evil Medical Practices
364. Oars Roars! Come Out, Straw Hat Crew
365. Luffy is the Enemy! The Ultimate Zombie vs. The Straw Hat Crew
366. You’re Going Down Absalom!! Nami’s Lightning Attack of Friendship!!
367. Knock Him Down!! Special Attack: Straw Hat Docking?
368. The Silent Assault!! The Mysterious Visitor “Tyrant” Kuma
369. Oars + Moria! The Most Heinous Combination of Brains and Brawn
370. The Secret Plan to Turn the Tables. Nightmare Luffy Makes His Appearance
371. The Straw Hat Crew Gets Wiped Out. The Shadow-Shadow’s Powers in Full Swing
372. The Incredible Battle Starts! Luffy vs. Luffy
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. It is 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.
The discs present their content with static menus set to the background music from the show. The episodes can be played with Marathon Mode, stripping out the credit sequences.
Disc 1’s sole extra is the audio commentary on episode 352, featuring ADR Director Mike McFarland alongside Colleen Clinkenbeard (Luffy/Oars), and Ian Sinclair (Brook/Ryuma). As you might guess, double roles are on the commentary menu.
Disc 2 has a commentary on episode 356, with Mike McFarland this time joined by Sonny Strait (Usopp), Felecia Angelle (Perona), and Marcus D. Stimac (Hogback).
You also get the One Piece In The Booth featurette, focussing on Christopher Sabat, as he discusses his character Zoro. This lasts 33:00
Finally on disc 2 is the textless opening song, “Jungle P” which lasts 2:31.
On disc 3, the sole extra is an audio commentary on episode 361, which sees episode ADR Director Joel McDonald prompting cast members to tell their spookiest stories.
Disc 4’s commentary on episode 368 continues on from the previous commentary, with Joel McDonald introducing more cast members with creepy tales.
The One Piece In The Booth featurette returns with Eric Vale, the voice of Sanji. This lasts for 28:10.
Once more you get the “Jungle P” opening credits sequences, sans text.
“Don’t ever ask me to dock with you again!” I never thought such an innocuous line could have me in fits of hysterics, but One Piece Collection 15 delivers and then some when it comes to its trademark humour. This set of episodes takes us towards the climax of the Thriller Bark arc, although the fat lady hasn’t quite finished her song by the end of this collection. In typical One Piece fashion, the battles continue, first one on one as the Straw Hat Pirates face their particular zombie bugbears, and then the big team battle against the ‘end of level’ boss. Comedy, action, the odd moment of heart-warming drama all ensues, and it’s as much fun as you have every right to expect from an above average One Piece arc. Given that this particular genre, the spookiness and the zombies isn’t one that would readily appeal to me, the Thriller Bark arc must have worn me down over its run time to have me appreciating it so.
Unlike the previous collection, there’s no filler to slow things down, and it’s straight to the action. One of the Seven Warlords of the Sea, Gecko Moria has established Thriller Bark, which looks like an island but is actually a giant ship, as his base of operations. He’s creating a loyal army of zombies, by stealing the shadows of unsuspecting sailors, and instilling them in corpses, using his Shadow-Shadow Devil Fruit Powers to bring the zombies to unlife. With a group like the Straw Hat Pirates, and especially Luffy, he’ll have shadows that will create the strongest zombies yet. In the previous collection, he’d taken the shadows from Zoro and Sanji, while when we met Brook, his shadow had already been taken. He’d been wandering the fog enshrouded waters for five years, looking for Thriller Bark, as anyone who lacks his shadow turns to dust in the sunlight, and Brook wants his shadow back.
At the start of this collection, Luffy’s shadow gets taken, and it’s installed in the most powerful zombie of them all, the gargantuan Oars. For a while Oars takes on Luffy’s personality and rampages around the island looking for food, and generally finding things nifty, before Moria’s programming kicks in and he becomes wholly obedient to his new master. In his rampage, he changes the course of Thriller Bark to a heading outside the fog, which instantly imposes a deadline on the Straw Hats, as the fog dissipates, they’ll only have until dawn to get their shadows back.
And so the individual challenges commence, with Brook finally finding the zombie that has his shadow. Ryuma is a samurai with a lethal sword, and with Brook’s shadow has added the pirate’s swordsmanship to his own. Brook’s in over his head, especially as he’s handicapped by wanting to keep his afro attached, but fortunately, where there’s a samurai zombie, there’s Zoro relishing a challenge, and Zoro gets the chance to replace the sword he lost at Enies Lobby. Usopp has his hands full dealing with one of Moria’s Lieutenants, Perona, whose Negative Ghosts sap the vitality of all whom they touch. The thing is that Usopp is naturally so negative, that he’s immune. He’s not immune to the menagerie of animal zombies that Perona keeps though, but it still comes down to a battle of wits between them.
The invisible man, Absalom became enamoured of Nami once he spied her in the shower, and he’s decided to marry her. To make things easy, she’s unconscious, but as you might expect, that’s something Sanji won’t countenance. And while Luffy goes after Gecko Moria, with the expectation that defeating him directly will be a shortcut to liberating their shadows, Chopper and Robin have deal with the sneaky Dr. Hogback. But these are all the small bouts on the card, the title fight is the Straw Hats Crew versus Oars, a giant, 500 year-old pirate zombie powered by Luffy’s shadow. His stupidity is hard enough for the Straw Hats to handle, but it’s when Oars’ strength combines with Moria’s brains that they look to be in real trouble. But then, with the help of the surviving, shadow-stripped pirates on Thriller Bark, Luffy learns a new trick, and in his nightmare form, proves to be an equal match. The fight isn’t quite over as this collection ends, and things look to be getting even more complicated with the arrival of another Warlord, Bartholomew Kuma. Will the Straw Hats get their shadows back? Stay tuned for Part 16...
I had expected to feel deflated by the Thriller Bark storyline; after all, it plays in my least favourite genre. But you can’t get away from the usual One Piece zaniness and energy, and the comedy actually works better in this arc, perhaps because of the spooky storyline. And that pithy line from Robin that I quoted above still makes me laugh, even three days after watching that episode.