The Background of One Piece:
One Piece first began as a serialized manga series in 1997. It debuted in Weekly Shonen Jump in August 1997. The Japanese pop-culture phenomenon was created by the author and illustrator Eiichiro Oda. The manga has sold more copies than any other manga series ever with over 250 million copies having been sold since initial publication. The manga has yet to end and has received over 60 published volumes. It has continued to receive critical acclaim and enthusiastic recognition from its always-expanding fan-base.
massively popular anime series is still
ongoing and has aired over 500 produced episodes. It is amongst
running series of all time -- in anime form or otherwise. The
show premiered in
Japan in October 1999. In North America the series was released
Entertainment originally and was heavily criticized for having a
poor dub and
for edits considered as significant cuts (sometimes entire
missing). Funimation saved the show for North America, produced
dub, and has continued to present One
Piece in its uncut, original form as it is presented here
and on all One Piece
Collection DVD box-sets.
The Series and Characters:
One Piece follows the adventures of Monkey D. Luffy and his crew of pirates. He is joined by Roronoa Zoro, Nami, Usopp, and Sanji. The beginning of the series takes some time to build as the characters are introduced over a nicely paced span of episodes and stories. There are some other characters that join the crew over the course of the show, which will be noted in this section of future One Piece Collection reviews when the characters are later introduced.
The main character
is Luffy. As the series begins he
is a 17 year old kooky-wacky kid with a heart of gold and a head
He looks at almost every scenario with total optimism and is
unwavering in his
belief that things can work out in the end. As a young boy he
ate a Gum Gum
"Devil" Fruit by accident that gave him special powers. The main
gained was a rubber body. He can bend, stretch, and seem
rubber-like (he is rubber!)
in a way that no one else
can. Essentially, Luffy is the most flexible person in the
entire world (at least in
terms of the characters
introduced on the show so far). Luffy
once saved by the pirate Shanks, who Luffy seemed to view as a
father figure. Luffy decided then that he is to become the "King
Pirates!" as the legendary Gold Rogers pirate was once called.
It has less to
do with stealing treasure or amassing wealth as it does with
sailing the seas
and experiencing the world with friends. Unlike most of the
pirates depicted on
One Piece, there is
little doubt that
Luffy has a pure heart and is not attempting to hurt anyone or
gain from the
loss of others. Luffy is a character that is unafraid of
fighting for what's
right and this is an endearing quality that has no doubt played
a significant part
in his long-term popularity. He usually thinks with his emotions
more than his
brain-power though, and when he does use his brain (i.e. "I have
catastrophe can sometimes ensue. Some viewers of the series
might consider him
an idiot (other characters on the show have expressed this
sentiment as well)
but he has things in the right place where they count the most:
and soul. Luffy is easily one of the most endearing, comical,
characters in anime history.
Trivia Note: He is also dubbed the "Straw Hat" pirate as he always fondly wears an old straw hat throughout the series. He might also have the largest appetite in any anime, which is certainly saying something.
Roronoa Zoro is one of the most physically strong additions to Luffy's crew. He used to work as a bounty hunter before he met Luffy. Zoro has magnificent skills with swords and he has a dream of becoming the greatest swordsman in the entire world. He somewhat reluctantly joined the crew at first but he quickly becomes a huge asset and friend. One of his sword techniques requires the use of three blades: one in each hand and another held using his mouth. While those who don't know him seem to fear Zoro, he is actually a kind of funny guy who takes more naps than anyone else in the crew (even when compared to Luffy). Zoro is probably the most "kick-ass" type of character within the entire One Piece anime.
Usopp is many things to different people. He gained a reputation as being a "liar", which is true but not exactly telling of his character. Usopp is a storyteller more than anything else. He seems to encourage laughter and happiness in others. It is fascinating to me how he is such a brave and courageous man at times and also a definite coward when something has too much scare-factor for him to face. Most of the time, he pulls through in the end anyway. While some viewers might be inclined to refer to him as a primarily "comic relief" character, there is a lot of sides to Usopp that make him stand out. His dream seems to be to become a strong, confident, and talented sea-adventurer.
Nami is the Navigator. She helps to make sure that the crew heads in the right direction at all times. She also has a dream (clearly a recurring theme of the series with each character) to map out the entire world. Nami is also known as a thief because unlike some of the other pirates of the crew she actually enjoys finding and taking treasures. Ironically, Nami claims to despise all pirates in the early episodes of One Piece until she officially joins Team Luffy. Nami is undoubtedly the smartest member of the entire crew and she is able to use her wit and intelligence to help everyone out of some of the strangest and most dire situations on the show.
Sanji might be the
most compassionate of the central
characters. He is the cook for Luffy's crew and he never
hesitates to serve
food to those in need of a meal. Early in his life, Sanji
experienced what it
was like to suffer from hunger firsthand and this dramatically
attitude towards others experiencing hunger. He can seem to be
level-headed of the team at times but then also the most
over-tempered as well.
If someone rubs Sanji the wrong way he never takes the matter
too lightly. Besides
having the occasional anger-management issue there is no
question that he's a
genuinely nice character who receives enjoyment from cooking,
women, and helping others out in a pickle (the pun was
absolutely intended). Sanji's
goal is to find the All
connects each area of the ocean.
For anyone who has experienced the joys of watching One Piece there is no question as to why the series has been such a massively huge hit in Japan and around the world. It starts with the characters as the most essential element but it extends far beyond that. There are many high quality production and storytelling aspects to this series, all of which helps it to stand out distinctively from a crowded anime scene. The art stands apart all on its own as one of the best production elements. The character designs are distinctive and memorable: not only for the central leading characters but for the majority of the supporting players as well. The unique art style crafted by One Piece manga artist Eiichiro Oda has been faithfully translated as the main animation style of the series. This will no doubt please both longtime fans and newcomers who should be able to easily see the wondrous qualities in abundance. There is a silly and comical tone to the art that ultimately helps to make it easier to absorb the many varying aspects of the ongoing story.
The central direction for the entire series is done by Kônosuke Uda. Uda doesn't have that huge of a list of directorial credits to his name prior to his work on One Piece (perhaps his most significant previous directing job was for Sailor Moon S - the third and best season). Yet there can be no mistaking the massive undertaking and leadership taken on with the One Piece craftsmanship at his helm. The series has a near perfect blend of story, action, comedy, drama, adventure, and more. Oda contributed significantly to this success story through having crafted the characters, artwork styles, and overall genre styling's with his manga creation but anime general Uda uses that magic to craft even more unique magic with this increasingly well-made series.
The pacing is surprisingly consistent and enjoyable. The story rarely seems to have what usually becomes known as a high episode count of "filler" episodes typically found in any series that runs as long as this show has by this point. While the story occasionally veers towards telling side-plotlines that might seem designed as filler to some members of the audience there is also an undercurrent of smart and finely-tuned scripting that makes it almost impossible to not find some new and entertaining aspect during these moments. Ultimately, the storytelling is so vibrant, full of life, and exciting most of the time that it seems illogical to complain about an aspect that isn't disappointing at all. One Piece has altered my concept of the filler episode by bringing enjoyment to those episodes as well.
There is a trifecta
of One Piece elements that seem worth discussing
together. The music
used on the show is excellent and definitely adds another layer
to the energy and
thrill of each episode. The comedy is jubilant and silly so that
goal of the storytellers was most likely to bring genuine smiles
audience. Lastly, the themes and message behind the series prove
meaningful. This trifecta exists because of the occasionally
of these reoccurring aspects. This comment is not meant as a
criticism, but is instead primarily an observation. The humor
often relies upon
a re-used joke that proved successful in an earlier episode, and
while the show
is smart to continue adding original elements on a frequent
basis it seems to
understand how certain elements can be reused in different
some degree. The music draws heavily upon a core group of
musical themes that
seem to emphasis different emotions that are the focus of a
given scene. This
offers viewers a welcoming blend of familiarity while also
establishing some consistency
at the core. Viewers will also begin to be familiar with the
main message of One Piece:
To follow your dreams. It's
the best message a show or film can give towards audiences and
it is something
that is handled with a level of grace that is uncommon. When
audiences are also
given a thematic backdrop which suggests it is important to
bring some kindness
to others and to remember to keep friends close to the heart it
vibrantly clear that One
Piece is far
more than one of the best series on television: it is a show
which wears its
beautiful heart directly on its sleeve. One
Piece deserves to be seen by anyone in the world who
an anime fan on any level. It is not
to be overlooked!
The Collection (Set 3, Episodes 54-78):
Collection 3 introduces a new character that is worth some added discussion. The Princess Vivi brings a new element to the series. She is the princess of Albasta and the Straw Hat crew must help her to return home. She is strong-willed, kind, and has a comical duck as her sidekick companion. The duck also happens to be rather huge (which adds something humorous somehow). Her storyline seems to be just beginning, but I have little doubt that her character will become central to some of the most important elements of the current and upcoming storyline soon enough. It will be interesting to see where the character is going in the story and where the audience will go along the way.
The Straw Hat crew enters the Grand Line at the beginning of this collection. At this point, the series happens to come up with a lot of ways to make the story stretch itself out a bit more. The good news is that none of the material is boring and it certainly never seems filler-related. The first segment of the set focuses on a young girl being chased after by some overzealous Navy officers who are looking for a dragon she is choosing to protect. Luffy and the rest work together to save the dragon and to journey in a quest to bring it back to its island home. The second storyline of the set focuses on a mammoth whale in need of a reminder of friendship. The third segment of the set (which evolves into being ongoing even beyond the final episodes on the set) introduces a town of bounty hunters which tries to capture the entire Straw Hat gang. The leaders are part of an underground organization attempting to capture the Albasta Princess Vivi and this story sets a massive motion of events into place and doesn't feel even close to being finished by the end of the set.
Some of the silliest moments yet happen on this collection. The last segment of the set contains episodes where the crew lands on a "Tiny Island" containing dinosaurs, giants, weird sea-creatures and other oddities. It's a land that seems to exist outside of any of time's normal passage. These episodes have some great comedy. Zoro and Sanji start competing with each other to see who can get the most food for the ship... facing down dinosaurs, of course. Luffy is as happy and continually unfazed by the creatures of the island to the point that it continues to be amazing simply how peculiar Luffy always is.
included on the third set are some of
the most entertaining and easy to marathon to date. I missed
having as much character
growth and development on the collection and would rank these
slightly less effective than the ones which precede them but
that doesn't mean
that the series isn't as enjoyable this go around. Contrary to
my worries of
any long-running show it appears as though One Piece isn't having any
in keeping the show fresh and interesting. When one story ends a
one usually begins. It's always going strong, and this
collection is fun to experience
as per usual.
One Piece arrives on DVD from Funimation in a Collection box-set format that combines two of the previously released "Voyage" sets into one. The PQ and AQ are no different from the earlier releases. Funimation hasn't even altered the menu design for these DVD collections.
The picture quality is pretty decent looking for a series that was started in the late 1990's. Funimation has done a solid job of representing the series on DVD. There is some aliasing and the image is softer than more recent productions but it does have colors that pop out and shine beautifully and the image is free from annoying compression because the discs contain no more than seven episodes each. These early episodes from One Piece are in pretty good shape and the release should please fans looking for decent picture quality. Funimation has released One Piece in the original broadcast aspect ratio 4:3 full frame.
The good news is that the 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound option for the English language dub is an excellent choice for fans. The surrounds are actively used to create an enveloping experience of sound with good use of sound effects and enough room for the score to add an extra element of suspense, fun, and intrigue. The voice cast for the Funimation dub is superb and a definite step up over what 4Kids attempted poorly many years ago. Anyone who has seen One Piece through Funimation should be familiar with their dub version. In preserving the original Japanese stereo track the series can also be appreciated with the original language audio. English subtitles are provided for the Japanese dub. Either option is worthwhile, but I had a slight preference for the more robust sounding surround sound choice accompanying the English dub. Both options feature clean and easy to understand dialogue.
The selection of bonus materials is limited on each Funimation One Piece Collection DVD release. Funimation included select staff commentaries, text-less songs, and trailers promoting other anime series released by the studio.
Commentaries with staff members are included on the following episodes of Collection 3:
Episode 61: An Angry Showdown! Cross the Red Line!
Episode 67: Deliver
Princess Vivi! The Luffy Pirates Set Sail!
After viewing 78 episodes in one month (25 episodes of which are from this set) the fact that I can honestly say I am not getting even the slightest bit sick of watching One Piece seems to help reaffirm just how awesome a series this truly is. I can't wait to dig into the next collection box-set to see even more of the adventures of Luffy, Nami, Zoro, Usopp, Sanji, and the rest. If you have seen One Piece before then you probably feel the same exact way about the series. It's one of the most enjoyable and engaging anime series! Funimation continues to do an amazing job with these collections (each of which gives dedicated fans exactly what they want). Newcomers are naturally encouraged to begin viewing the show with Collection 1 while everyone else is encouraged to continue with Collection 3. This series is so good it might even be wise to purchase multiple collection releases at once simply to guarantee that you don't run out of amazing adventures to watch. Seriously... take note anime fans. The show's that good. Highly Recommended.