- RECENT REVIEWS: SHAKUGAN NO SHANA *** FREEZING *** SHANGRI-LA *** ERGO PROXY
- STRIKE WITCHES *** KING OF THORN *** STEINS GATE *** GA-REI-ZERO *** DEADMAN WONDERLAND
- TENCHI UNIVERSE
When you’ve taken a couple hundred episodes off from watching a series, a little confusion is more than justified. However, my current state of ONE PIECE bewilderment has nothing to do with the knotted plot that comes after some 200+ episodes of consistently-silly, cartoon action. The question I feel the aching desire to ask anyone who will listen (read: you, the reader) is this: Why in the world would FUNimation start a box set just in time to catch the final two episodes of a thirteen episode arc?
(If you’re expecting a pithy answer, look elsewhere - - I honestly have no idea why they did it, but they did).
For whatever reason, this latest box set jumps straight into the action, opening with episode 218, “Full-Blast Slow-Slow Onslaught Vs. Invulnerable Luffy!” Without being too presumptuous, I imagine that viewers who have made it this far into the show will, by now, be well familiarized with the idea of a multi-episode battle, and this is one of those.
While I am not a regular ONE PIECE watcher, per se, I cut my teeth on month-long DRAGON BALL Z power charge-ups (just as many of my then-adolescent, TV-owning peers did). Apparently, things haven’t changed much since then.
Dropping his trademark straw hat in favor of a big bouncy ‘fro, Luffy stands and trades punches with Foxy the Silver Fox (head Fox of the Foxy Pirates...fox fox fox), a character who would be more than welcome in a future incarnation of Mike Tyson’s EXTRA-RIDICULOUS PIRATE PUNCH-OUT (if only that game existed). At stake is each man’s pirate crew, whose servitude have been wagered on the outcome of this match. Guess who wins. (SPOILER: It’s Luffy, and he does so, graciously).
Before I render my opinion on ONE PIECE, let's have some faux-philosophizing and presuming...
I have no idea who is in dire need of a review of twelve, seemingly-random ONE PIECE episodes which originally aired in Japan in January of ‘05. While presented in a lovely cardboard sleeve, this is a purchase best fit for a collector or seasoned fan, not a curious dabbler or anime taste-tester. While I find this series to be generally approachable and good fun for a surprisingly wide demographic, this set (Season Four, Voyage Two) is just about the most confusing place to begin that I can think of.
My confusion is actually more profound than I’ve let on.
Once Luffy has wiped the floor with Foxy, the characters move on to a short filler arc called "Ocean’s Dream." Though you’d never guess from the presentation of this particular DVD box set, the "Ocean’s Dream" arc is actually the perfect intro to ONE PIECE for new viewers.
After Luffy’s crew awakens one morning to find all of their memories erased by a maleficent sealion, they have to figure out their own story, complete with re-drawn flashbacks from classic past episodes. The fact that the set doesn’t lead with this arc, but instead hides it behind the completely disembodied conclusion of some other long-running battle, is mind-blowingly stupid.
“We do twelve episodes per DVD set. These are the next twelve episodes,” some producer must have coldly intoned.
“But boss... it would make more sense if we-”
“Twelve episodes per DVD set. These. Are. The. Next. Twelve.”
But like I said - - if you’re buying this, you probably already know the story behind the Straw Hats.
Whether you already know what’s going on or not, enough can never (ever) be said about the character designs of Eiichiro Oda and the crew who brings them to life in ONE PIECE. Some 200+ episodes in and the look of the show, as it appears in this box set, is long since fully-formed, presenting a unique visual aesthetic that leaves its former self in the dust.
As someone who spends a good deal of time staring at conventional animation with origins in both Asia and the US, ONE PIECE jumps out so immediately (and refreshingly) as to have an almost shocking effect. It’s rare that something so popular and mainstream is also so original and distinct. Not every series gets so many hundreds of episodes to refine its style, but not every series that does get that chance really takes it.
It’s been a long time since I bothered to put time into ONE PIECE. While I might not be ready to sit down for a five hundred and seventy episode marathon just yet, a dozen episodes here and there are certainly not a terrible thing. And if you’re looking to finally get into the show for the first time, this is actually a good place to start. Sort of. Just don’t worry too much about what’s happening for an hour or so - - it’ll all make (some) sense soon enough.
Alexei Bochenek is a lifelong tech nerd and film buff based in Los Angeles. He writes for various online publications and edits the Los Angeles events website LALookout.com. Follow his Twitter: @alexeigb.