Review for One Piece Collection 26
Want to hear a first world COVID problem? When it came to my reviews for this site, anime and otherwise, the companies used to keep me supplied with check discs galore, so many that I hardly had any time to watch anything else, and at any one time, I’d have ten or twelve reviews marinating on my computer, ready to be posted. Then COVID came, people started working from home, and there was no one left in the offices to put discs in jiffy bags and lick stamps. People are back at work now, but someone did the maths, and very few distributors went back to stuffing discs in envelopes and sending them to reviewers. I’m still a fan of anime, and I still buy titles, intending to give them a review at some point. The thing is that when it comes to distributor check discs, I feel obligated to review them first of all, hopefully posting the review before the retail release. When it comes to my own purchases, I just put them in a to-watch pile, intending to get around to them when I feel like it.
The anime has been stacking up the past three years. I have a pile of BD cases just under a metre high that I’ve yet to watch and review. It was All the Anime’s release of One Piece Film: Red that reminded me that I had been buying One Piece series releases since the last check discs from Manga Entertainment (Collection 21), but had dropped watching and reviewing them since Collection 25 (from Funimation). Since then, I’ve bought seven Collection releases, which I have yet to get around to watching. That’s almost 200 episodes, and to think that when I watched Collection 25, I had felt the show was beginning to lose its charm. It’s time to start scaling that mountain of unwatched anime...
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, the cola-fuelled cyborg shipwright Franky, as well as the perverted skeletal troubadour Brook.
Previously on One Piece the conflict was heading to a climax on the island of Punk Hazard, as the Straw Hats uncovered the malicious experiments being conducted by mad scientist Caesar Clown on abducted children. As poison gas spreads through the facility, the Straw Hats race against time to save the children, but there are still secrets to be revealed.
27 episodes of One Piece are presented across 4 DVDs in this collection from Funimation UK.
615. Brownbeard in Grief! Luffy Lands a Furious Blow!
616. A Surprising Outcome! White Hunter vs. Vergo!
617. Caesar’s Defeat! The Powerful Grizzly Magnum!
618. Raid! An Assassin from Dressrosa!
619. Running Wild! Invincible General Franky!
620. A Critical Situation! Punk Hazard Explodes!
621. Capture Caesar! General Cannon Blasts!
622. A Touching Reunion! Momonosuke and Kin’Emon!
623. It’s Time To Say Goodbye! Leaving Punk Hazard!
624. The G-5 Wiped Out! Doflamingo’s Sudden Attack!
625. Intense! Aokiji vs. Doflamingo!
626. Caesar Goes Missing! The Pirate Alliance Makes a Sortie!
627. Luffy Dies at Sea! The Pirate Alliance Comes Apart!
628. A Major Turnaround! Luffy’s Angry Iron Fist Strikes!
629. Startling! The Big News Shakes the New World!
630. Explore! A Kingdom of Love and Passion - Dressrosa!
631. Full of Enthusiasm! The Corrida Colosseum!
632. A Dangerous Love! The Dancer Girl – Violet!
633. A Formidable Unknown Warrior! Here Comes Lucy!
634. A Pirate Noble! Cavendish!
635. The Fateful Reunion! Bellamy the Hyena!
636. A Super Rookie! Bartolomeo the Cannibal!
637. Big Names Duke it Out! The Heated Block B Battle!
638. A Deadly Blow! The Astonishing King Punch!
639. The Fighting Fish Strike! Across the Deadly Iron Bridge!
640. Explore! Fairies’ Island – Green Bit!
641. The Unknown World! The Tontatta Kingdom!
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 2.0 Stereo English and Japanese, with translated subtitles and a signs only track locked during playback. 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. There are English language text overlays burnt into the print. Any place where a new character or new location is introduced, text appears to inform us of it.
You get four discs in an Amaray style case, one on either side of two centrally hinged panels. The inner sleeve offers an episode listing.
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. The episodes get a few screens of translated English credits at the end.
Disc 1 autoplays with a trailer for Dr. Stone Season 1 Part 2.
One Piece: An Inside Look at Dubbing Punk Hazard (6:38)
Textless Opening (2:32)
Disc 3 autoplays with a trailer for Black Clover.
Disc 4 also autoplays with a trailer for Dr. Stone Season 1 Part 2.
So I went and bought seven collections of One Piece, with the intent to watch them when I get the chance... And collection 26 has turned out to be the toughest watch yet, with the show reaching max, long running shonen inertia, maximising the tropes, and at this juncture reluctant to really offer the kind of character development and exploration that drew me to the show to begin with. When I recently checked the discs to collection 32, I saw that its story did move back in that direction, with a tale about Sanji’s past, but I sincerely hope that I don’t have to wait another six collections, some 150 episodes worth before I see that kind of storytelling again.
I was not enjoying the Punk Hazard arc, but it comes to a conclusion here. The antagonist, Caesar Clown is a nasty piece of work, developing a lethal poison gas, and experimenting on children to do so, getting them addicted to drugs to keep them loyal to him, even as he warped their very bodies. He was doing all this for Don Quixote Doflamingo, a.k.a. Joker, one of the Seven Warlords. Fortunately, the Straw Hats have teamed up with another of the Warlords, Trafalgar Law to work against Doflamingo. It’s something of a strange climax to this arc though. Sure, saving the kids from Caesar’s laboratory is a given, but it turns out that the lethal ultimate weapon he unleashes on the Straw Hats and the Navy isn’t as lethal as it seems. It turns out to be a happy ending with few casualties, expected in a kids’ TV show like One Piece, but atonal given how dark the Punk Hazard arc got at points.
It’s not a clean victory though, as Doflamingo shows up to sow some havoc. But once again, table are turned, and Trafalgar Law manages to pile the pressure on Doflamingo, or so it seems. Now the plan is to go the next story arc. The destination is Dressrosa, Doflamingo’s domain, where he has a factory churning out Caesar Clown’s poison gas. The plan is to ‘ransom’ Caesar to Doflamingo, and while he’s distracted, find and destroy the factory. Of course no plan survives contact with the enemy, and not before the show throws in a couple of filler episodes where Caesar Clown is kidnapped, and Luffy and Law have to get him back.
Like every new arc in One Piece, it begins with plenty of episodes where the crew explore their new environs, and the show introduces the new characters that will drive the story arc. Notorious as they are now, the crew have to go to Dressrosa in disguise, which mostly means fake beards and moustaches. Luffy in particular dons face-fur that makes him look like Master Roshi from Dragon Ball Z. It’s somewhat appropriate then that he gets distracted by a fighting tournament, where the grand prize is the Flame-Flame Devil Fruit that gave his late brother Ace his powers. Luffy decides to enter and win the tournament to prevent that power falling into the wrong hands. The second half of this collection has plenty of interludes set in the coliseum, as Luffy tries keeping his identity secret.
You can see why the crew are in disguise when you see the happy citizens of Dressrosa, who obviously like their leader Doflamingo. Naturally sentiments to the contrary would be best kept secret. It’s an odd society, populated by people, and animated toys, and other oddities besides. As well as Trafalgar Law, the Straw Hats also have with them the Samurai Kin’emon, and his son Momonosuke that they rescued from Punk Hazard, and they are looking for a samurai friend on Dressrosa. Sanji gets distracted by a woman, of course, and quickly forgets his part in the mission to follow her around, googly-eyed. It turns out that Violet is keeping a secret.
Zoro’s distracted from his mission when someone steals one of his beloved swords, ostensibly a ghost. For many of these episodes, Zoro’s chasing a bundle of loot, topped by his sword, bouncing through the streets, ignored by everyone else. Meanwhile, Trafalgar Law’s group stay on mission for the most part, escorting Caesar Clown to the rendezvous with Doflamingo, only when they get to the location, it isn’t what they expect, and ties into the thief that Zoro is chasing. Green Bit Island is an island of Fairies... or rather a tribe of diminutive people.
Punk Hazard has been my least favourite arc of One Piece to date, and given that the Dressrosa arc is so strongly tied to that story, I don’t have much hope for this new direction. As it is, we leave this collection with One Piece going through the same motions that it does at the start of each new arc; setting the stage, introducing the new characters that will play a part in this story, and exploring the world. It’s like the opening moves of a chess game, tentative and slow. It will be a few episodes before we see just how good it can get. It’s 118 episodes long, and we’ve just had the first twelve. I really hope that One Piece will find the magic that initially drew me to it. At this point I have some £150 worth of One Piece to look forward to, and I hope it doesn’t all feel like this, going through the motions...
One Piece Collection 26 is available from Anime on Line, United Publications, Anime Limited, and mainstream retailers.