After 250 episodes it's expected that a show would get a little stale and start repeating itself. That's what makes One Piece so astounding. Here we are with FUNimation's release of Season Four Voyage 5 which covers episodes 253-263 and not only is the program still fun, exciting, and fresh feeling, but they introduce a new character (sort of) who is the most hilarious and entertaining cast member yet, and that's saying something. I've gone into the last few collections worrying that the show will jump the shark, but it's still going strong and now I'm starting to wonder if it ever will.
The collection starts off with the Straw Hat Pirates in a pretty dire situation. Their ship, the Going Merry, has been damaged so badly that it can't be fixed, and Usopp was so upset at the news that he left the team. Meanwhile Nico Robin, who has a hefty price on her head, has joined the government agency CP9 and with them attacked the mayor of Water Seven. She (along with a captured Usopp) have just left the island on the Sea Train, moments before Nami arrived hoping to rescue them. And on top of all that a terrific storm is heading their way, Zoro is stuck in a chimney and Luffy is trapped in a tight space between two buildings.
As this set opens, it's revealed that Nico left the Straw Hats not to betray them, but to save them. CP9 was threatening to kill them all if she didn't join their ranks, and she was willing to give her life to help out her friends. Of course, once Luffy hears that he's not going to let anything stop him from rescuing Nico, violent storm or not. He acquires some unexpected transportation, the aid of Frankie's gang, and head off chasing the sea train.
Meanwhile on the train Sanji has stowed aboard and is trying to rescue Nico himself, even though he has to face an incredibly powerful Marine that's been stationed in each car.
One Piece has always been known for wild and outrageous characters and this set has some notable ones. The award for most bizarre power in the series (so far) goes to Wanze and his Ramen Kempo. This chef has the odd (and rather disgusting) ability to fill his mouth with flour and extrude Ramen noodles from his nose, which he uses either in the preparation of food or as a weapon. Of course his fight with the chef Sanji is funny and entertaining.
This collection also sees the introduction of Sogeking (translated as Sniper King in the dub). He quickly shot up to the top of my "favorite One Piece characters" list. When Sanji rescues Usopp and asks for his help in freeing Nico, the sling shot wielding pirate turns him down. Usopp left the Straw Hats and his pride won't let him rejoin them. He walks away, and then the long-nosed, masked, Sniper King enters soon after singing his theme song. The song, told with a montage that looks like the opening to an action TV show, tells how he comes from far away
Surprisingly, the show hasn't lost any of its charm. The characters are great, the plots are oddball but fun, and the show still has that slightly off skew outlook that makes it both hilarious and entertaining. I can't wait to see what's next.
The DVD:This set contains the next 11 episodes (253-263) on two DVDs, each in its own thinpak case. The two cases are held in a nice slipcase.
This set offers the original Japanese track in stereo as well as an English dub in either stereo or 5.1. While the 5.1 dub was nice during the battle scenes, I preferred the original language track. The voices just seemed to fit characters better and made for a more enjoyable viewing experience. The English voice actors did do a good job however and people who like watching in English shouldn't be disappointed.
The full frame video looked pretty good overall. The colors were bright and solid and the blacks were nice and inky. The image was generally sharp too. The only real problem was a more than average amount of aliasing. Diagonal lines are often jagged and when the camera pans across a scene, fine lines tend to shimmer a bit. There's also a bit of cross colorization, but it wasn't distracting.
As with the other volumes, there's a "Marathon Play" option, which lets you watch the show without the opening and closing credits. That's really cool and something that all shows should offer. There are commentary tracks to two episodes, but they don't really excite me. There is, however, a pair of extras that I did enjoy: interviews with the voice actors. These segments, going under the title On the Boat, had some solid information about the actors and how they see their roles, and they were interesting. This time around we're treated to talks with Christopher R. Sabat (Zoro) and Colleen Clinkenbeard (none other then Monkey D. Luffy). They're hosted by ADR Director Mike McFarland and he asks them about the auditioning process, their favorite moments, and how they think their character has changed over the course of the show. They're interesting and worth watching. There are also clean animations and a series of trailers.
I'm surprised that I'm having just as much fun watching this show now as when it first started, but that's definitely the case. The program is just as hilarious, entertaining, and bizarre as when we first met Monkey D. Luffy. If you've been watching this show, you'll want to pick up this collection too. Highly Recommended.