When Gol D. Roger the Pirate King was executed he made a statement that turned the world upside down on itself. Throughout the years he amassed a huge treasure and told the world before he died that it was in a location called One Piece. Pirates across the globe began scurrying for the loot and since the world has a lot of pirates you can just imagine all of the people that came out of the woodwork. That's the premise behind this manga turned anime by Eiichiro Oda. One Piece has not only proven to be popular in Japan, but it has developed a cult following here in America as well. The series is still ongoing and there are well over 200 episodes in the making.
It's kind of ironic to think that a show as celebrated as One Piece would be getting such a shabby treatment here in America though. The anime has essentially been stripped of its parts by 4Kids and what we're left with is a simplified and arguably less enjoyable rendition. Bits of the original artwork have been altered to make it more generic and kid-friendly, the opening theme has been replaced by a crappy rap song, dialogue has been altered, and whole scenes have been removed. Unless you have seen the original Japanese version you may not be able to point out all of these examples, but you still get the feeling that something is missing. Fans deserve better treatment to say the least and if an unedited version isn't released it will be a shame.
Anyways, the show focuses on the adventures of Luffy who is a goofy lanky kid who walks around wearing a straw hat. Don't let his appearances fool you though, when he was younger he ate the cursed Gum Gum fruit and his body turned to rubber. Sure it means that he can't really swim (what good is a pirate that can't swim?) but he has learned to use his powers as a tool in his quest to become king of the pirates.
He eventually meets up with more characters such as Zolo, the Pirate Hunter, and the pirate hating Nami (who we meet in this volume). One of the appealing factors of this show is the daunting cast of characters, both good and bad. They vary from cool and collected to rampaging psychopaths, but one thing is for sure; when it comes to One Piece, it's all about having a good time.
In the second volume of Viz's edited release episodes four through six are present. They each bleed together too with a flowing storyline and a lot of continuity. Things start off with Nami seemingly adrift and helpless at sea. When a nearby gang of pirates stops to see what she has to plunder, she actually winds up sailing away with their boat leaving them stranded. She makes her way to a portside town under the command of the fearsome pirate, Buggy the Clown. You may ask yourself how a clown can become a pirate captain, but since he ate the Chop Chop fruit he gained powers just like Luffy did.
Speaking of Luffy, he and Zolo are lost at sea with no food or hope of navigation. Well, that's the way things are at least until Luffy gets a little "carried away" when he sees a giant bird. As fate would have it he lands in the same portside town that Nami and Buggy are and becomes entangled in the conflict between the two of them. He is eventually outwitted and captured as Nami pulls a double-cross. After all, he's a pirate and she hates pirates; even elastic ones.
It's up to Zolo to come to the rescue but Buggy is able to put up more of a fight than he original let on. When Luffy, Zolo, and Nami escape from the evil clown's clutches they meet the mayor of the town who is really bitter about it being overrun by pirates. As Buggy continues to unleash a barrage of "Buggy Bombs" on the city things start to get ugly.
These episodes are fun enough despite having their content edited. If a younger person were watching the show they'd undoubtedly enjoy it. Then again the original Japanese version wasn't exactly intended for kids, so things do get lost in translation at times. Because the episodes are cut, their run time is roughly three minutes shorter than what you would expect. This means that the disc's play time clocks in at a whopping 66 minutes for $20. I suppose it's arguably better than 75 minutes for $30 that we sometimes see with anime, but even so it's pretty skimpy.
One Piece started airing in 1999 so the episodes that appear on this disc are a bit on the earlier side of things. The show is presented with a 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio and sports some decent image quality. There were a few points where some grain was noticeable and some of the colors were a tad faded, but for the most part the show was vibrant and clear. The animation is very slapstick with a lot of fast motion and uniquely designed characters, not to mention expressions that are greatly exaggerated. I am a dedicated reader of Eiichiro's manga (well, the English version anyway) and feel that the show captures the visual essence of the book well.
The audio for One Piece is presented with a 2.0 channel Dolby Digital track. As we saw with the Naruto release English is the only available language here, so don't be expecting to find anything Japanese. The quality was fair enough though the sound didn't offer a lot of diversity and it really came across as kind of flat. Some of the voices were pretty irritating as well with a lot of high-pitches and over exaggerated speech.
Volume 2 of One Piece includes trailers for Shonen Jumps' magazine and some DVD releases. There are also some sketches and such for a few of the characters we see in these episodes.
I am extremely torn here. I love the One Piece manga and have really enjoyed what I've seen from the Japanese version. My problem here lies with the censorship and "dumbing down" of the show to a younger American audience. I don't consider myself an anime snob, but when we are presented with a DVD that only offers English dubbing and has had content cut out of it, I get pretty annoyed. Fans of the "real" One Piece will want to skip picking these up until an uncut release is announced (like the recent one for Naruto). On the other hand, kids may get into this version because it's what they have seen on TV.
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