A thousand kudos and much exultation to mega-mod FoxxFireArt for suggesting this…
What is one to do when ONE PIECE takes a break? Just how can one cope with such deprivation? Well, those questions are somewhat silly, since Hulu apparently has every single episode of the show available for streaming (meaning you could actually re-watch the show over 195 straight hours if you so choose). Me, I’m less interested in picking up another random episode in a lengthy arc that I likely won’t ever see the beginning nor conclusion of. So watching a self-contained two-parter sounds perfectly manageable. ==TEASER ==
Foxx has also let me know that this is actually a non-canonical “side story” that transplants the Straw Hats into Edo-era Japan for what’s more-or-less the story equivalent of Hawaiian Shirt Friday at the office. Again, I’m greatly amused by how certain…“supplementary” stories like this arise whenever any long-running serial eventually aggregates enough lore. Sitting somewhere between a Marvel Comics WHAT IF…? and a SIMPSONS TREEHOUSE OF HORROR special, this offers a simple rearrangement of characters, at the least, and a tidy distillation of an overwhelming mythos, at the most.
Regarding the former - - I find it pretty amusing that the show goes out of its way to clarify this as a pseudo-historical setting; since ONE PIECE’s regular playground is already pretty timeless on its own. If you’ve got swordsmen and pirates running around, then the only way you’re going to make it any more historical is by throwing a kimono on everybody who wasn’t already wearing one.
Regarding the later - - I’m sure there are oodles of in-jokes and references I’m missing, and I can sense that a lot of the appeal here hinges on just seeing Chopper as a doctor or Brook as a cop. However, much like some DC Comics Elseworlds mini-series, it’s the “offbeat” take on the franchise that winds up being surprisingly more accessible to newcomers than the mainline story. While my enjoyment of current episodes has continually been tempered by my ignorance of where they fit into the larger ONE PIECE tapestry, this two-parter takes everything I like about the show and fits it into a much tidier package.
You’ve got your good guys preparing to compete in a race. You’ve got your bad guys who’ll stop at nothing to cheat a win - - both on and off the course. Then, you’ve got your mysterious former bad guy who finds redemption and acceptance after falling in with the good guys for the big game. Ladle in some genuine messages about friendship into the ingredients before you bake, slather a delightful parade of creativity on top after you pull it out of the oven, and you’ve got yourself a wonderful, bite-sized treat.
I was smiling a lot whilst watching this. That smile might’ve been a little ironic , at first, when I was being treated to one super-long intro set to the peppy soul of what I’m guessing is Japan’s answer to N’Sync. However, the smile quickly turned sincere as this neat and tight adventure got rolling. Out of the whole crew, Franky seemed to excel the most at this recasting. From his unashamed (and somewhat aggressive) nudist streak to his usage of (even more anachronistic) super cola during critical moments at the race, he was definitely the one getting the most chortles out of me.
Brook is maybe MVP #2 here, offering up plenty of black humor to underscore the wall-to-wall sunshine. I especially enjoyed the slightly horrorific undertones to his first meet cute with Usopp and his subsequent torture at the hands of his bad old crew. It’s macabre moments like that that really brought TREEHOUSE OF HORROR to mind, pleasingly.
I know Oda did something similar for the crossovers with DBZ and TORIKO, but are there any other “side stories” like this in the ONE PIECE catalog? Unlike, say, the BAKA & TEST OVA, these are supplemental tales that’d really be excellent to introduce new viewers to the show through. I know I’d just eat ‘em all up like so many rice balls in Edo-Nami's diner.