Review for One Piece Collection 16
As I write this, Naruto Shippuden has ended. It has aired its final episode, which they somehow conveniently contrived to make it episode 500. It’s all over for the bright orange ninja, not counting the forthcoming Boruto spin-off centred on his son. Meanwhile One Piece is happily ticking along at episode 781. Last I heard, Eichiiro Oda had almost finished with his prologue, and is ready to start telling the main One Piece story. I made that last bit up before you faint. But this collection of episodes will almost take us to the halfway point of One Piece, and if you’re keeping track of releases, we’ve almost caught up to Funimation in the US, who are two months away from releasing Collection 19, taking them up to episode 468. Note that Funimation release 12 episode sets first before consolidating them, and in that respect, they are up Season 9, First Voyage, episode 528.
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 Straw Hats had been drawn to the Thriller Bark Island, home of one of the Seven Warlords, Gecko Moria. Moria’s plans to create an unbeatable army involved raising zombies, imbuing them with the power of shadows stolen from hapless victims; those victims thereafter unable to face sunlight less they burn up and turn to ash. Some of the Straw Hats fell to Moria’s scheme, particularly Luffy, whose shadow was installed in the strongest of Moria’s force, a titan by the name of Oars. At the start of this collection, as the sun begins to rise, the Straw Hat pirates are in a desperate battle against Moria and Oars for their very existence, and even if they manage to defeat them, worse is yet to come, as there is another implacable foe on the island, Bartholomew Kuma...
24 more episodes of One Piece are presented across 4 discs from Manga Entertainment.
373. The End of the Battle is Nigh! Pound in the Finishing Move
374. Our Bodies Vanish! The Morning Sun Shines on the Nightmarish Island
375. Not Out of Danger Yet! Orders to Annihilate the Straw Hat Crew
376. It Repels Everything! Kuma’s Paw-Paw Power
377. The Pain of My Crewmates is My Pain! Zoro’s Desperate Fight
378. The Promise From a Distant Day! The Pirate’s Song and a Small Whale
379. Brook’s Past! A Sad Farewell with His Cheerful Comrade
380. Bink’s Brew! The Song that Connects the Past with the Present
381. A New Crewmate! The Musician, Humming Brook
382. The Slow-Slow Menace! “Silver Fox” Foxy Returns
383. The Great Scramble for Treasure! Collapse! Spa Island
384. Brook’s Great Struggle! Is the Path to Becoming a True Comrade Rigorous?
385. Halfway Across the Grand Line! Arrival at the Red Line!
386. He Hates the Straw Hat Crew! Iron-Masked Duval Makes His Appearance
387. The Fated Reunion! Save the Captive Fishman
388. Tragedy! The Truth Hidden Under Duval’s Mask
389. Explosion! Sunny’s Super-Secret Weapon, Gaon Cannon
390. Disembarking with Sights Set on Fish-Man Island! The Sabaody Archipelago
391. Tyranny! The Rulers of Sabaody, The Celestial Dragons
392. New Rivals Gather! The 11 Supernovas
393. The Target is Camie!! The Looming Clutches of a Professional Kidnapper
394. Rescue Camie! The Archipelago’s Lingering Dark History
395. Time Limit! The Human Auction Begins
396. The Fist Explodes! Destroy the Auction
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.
A couple of issues with this release, disc 2 has a poorly placed layer change, and in an odd throwback to 1990s VHS anime, we get English language text overlays burnt into the print. Any place where a new character or new location is introduced, some really ugly text appears to inform us of it. Given that One Piece has a signs only track as well as subtitles, I’m not sure why this was done.
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 377 with Christopher Sabat (Zoro), and Eric Vale (Sanji).
Disc 2 gets an audio commentary with episode 384, featuring Colleen Clinkenbeard (Luffy), and Stephanie Young (Robin).
In The Galley with the Straw Hats, sees Eric Vale (Sanji), Ian Sinclair (Brook), Brina Palencia (Chopper), and Stephanie Young join ADR Director Joel McDonald for a little Q & A session. This video extra lasts 27:17.
Finally on disc 2, you’ll find the textless credit sequence at this point in the series, the 10th Anniversary remix of “We Are”.
On disc 3 there is an audio commentary on episode 387 with ADR Director Joel McDonald, and Hunter Scott (Macro).
Disc 4 has an audio commentary on episode 393 with Ian Sinclair (Brook), and Megan Shipman (Camie).
There is a featurette called Villains and Fishmen: A Peek Behind the Curtain, which features interviews with David Vincent (Duval), Hunter Scott (Macro), and ADR Director Joel McDonald.
Finally on this disc, you get two textless openings.
We’re at the transition point in One Piece once more, where one arc ends and another commences. Depending on where you are in the arc, it could just be a mopping up exercise, an anticlimax given that the really good stuff might have happened in the previous set of episodes. That is the case here, where we’re at the end of the Thriller Bark arc of episodes, practically everyone else has been defeated, and all that’s left is for Luffy to put the finishing move on Gecko Moria and Oars, at least that’s what you might think. Then there will subsequently be a respite from the action, a period of reflection, celebration, and comedy, before we get to the next arc proper, but this collection of episodes does things a little differently, before it starts the Sabaody arc. The last time this happened, just after the Enies Lobby arc, I reviewed a collection of episodes that just seemed to drift along aimlessly; there was little to grab the attention. But this collection of episodes maintains the energy and pace, even though it quite necessarily slows things down a bit, to let the audience have a breather.
The battle against Gecko Moria takes just a couple of episodes to finish up, and you might be in the wind-down phase already, expecting a party as usual, Luffy’s prolific consumption of food and drink, Chopper dancing with chopsticks up the nostrils, Captain Usopp relating his latest adventures, so it comes as a bit of a shock to see that the battle isn’t actually over, that the Navy Admiral Bartholomew Kuma is still on the island, with orders to eliminate all witnesses to the demise of one of the Seven Warlords of the Sea, and that includes the Straw Hat Pirates. What immediately becomes clear is that having fought to the brink against Moria, the Straw Hats are in no shape to continue the fight against Kuma, especially with Luffy’s typically prolonged unconsciousness following the defeat of a big-bad. It’s only on a technicality that Kuma postpones the fight and leaves, although Zoro once again gets a reminder of just how much stronger he needs to be.
It’s a whole three episodes before we get to the traditional party and wind down for the Straw Hats and their new friends, the survivors on Thriller Bark, but once again, we get something a little different. With most of the new crew members with the Straw Hats, we wind up learning about their pasts through the adventures they have. We learned about Nami when we encountered the Arlong pirates, with Sanji it was at the Baratie restaurant, Chopper’s past was revealed when we met him, and most recently we learned of Robin’s past during the Enies Lobby arc after a hundred or so episodes of quiet enigma. But with the newest member of the crew a skeleton having been dead for 50 years, Brook’s past has to be handled in different way, so while the Straw Hats and their friends party, with Brook tinkling the ivories for accompaniment, he relates his story over a few episodes of flashback.
After three, typically unimpressive episodes of filler, it’s back to the main storyline, and onward to their next destination, which is still Fishman Island, where they’ve been heading ever since Skypiea. This time they get to the halfway point, the Red Line, the globe circling mountain range which they originally had to navigate to enter the Grand Line. They’ll have to pass it again to make it to the New World, and it’s here they learn that there’s either the Navy way, or the Pirate way, through Fishman Island, which lies underwater, close to an underwater passage through the mountains. To go underwater, the Thousand Sunny will need a special coating, and that they can get at the Sabaody Archipelago.
Sanji finally meets the kind of mermaid he’s always dreamed of, when a sea monster spits out Camie and her starfish friend Pappagu. Camie needs help saving her friend Hachi from a group of kidnappers, only the head of these kidnappers has been laying a trap for the Straw Hats, and Duval holds a personal grudge against Sanji. I certainly wasn’t expecting the reason why, and it might just be the funniest moment in this collection of episodes.
Then it’s on to Sabaody, a mangrove archipelago, settlements in giant trees, with the weird attribute of giant bubbles oozing out of the ground, which stay whole in the vicinity of the mangrove. The entire location literally runs on a bubble economy. Coated bubbles become buildings, attach a motor to a bubble and you have a flying mode of transport, it’s weird, imaginative, and visually quite engrossing. At first glance Sabaody looks like a lot of fun, but gradually a dark underbelly is revealed as the arc unfolds. Sabaody is the abode of the Celestial Dragons, those descended from the people who set up the World Government. As so often happens, the power has corrupted their descendants completely, and they rule the place with an iron fist, looking down on commoners, and looking even further down on Fishmen and Mermaids. They also have a deal with the Navy and the Government which ensures they have absolute protection, so no one may dare lift a finger against them. The rescued Fishman Hachi and the mermaid Camie are their guides in Sabaody, after disguising their nature, as they search for Rayleigh, the man who can coat their ship to take them to Fishman Island. The Straw Hats are advised not to rebel and react, no matter what they see on Sabaody.
That’s a justifiable warning when Sabaody’s dark secret is revealed. The Celestial Dragons encourage the slave trade to flourish on the island, and Luffy has to be restrained the first time they see how the slaves are treated. But the inevitable happens, and Camie is captured to be put on the auction block; a long desired genuine mermaid. As this collection comes to its conclusion, Luffy and the Straw Hats once again thumb their noses at authority, picking a fight with the Celestial Dragons and the World government at the same time, and this time there is an audience of all the other notorious up and coming pirates to observe, as all the big hitters when it comes to wanted posters have contrived to visit Sabaody at the same time.
Going by past experience, this collection of episodes might have seen the Straw Hats hit the doldrums for the duration, but the pace of the story actually picks up a bit here, there’s a nice blend of action and comedy, and given how emotive a topic slavery is, the drama really goes up a notch as these episodes race to their cliff-hanger. This is another top collection of One Piece episodes, and makes you want to see Collection 17 as soon as possible.