With One Piece - Season Five Voyage One, FUNimation starts the ninth season of the incredibly popular anime show, and it's still going strong. I can't think of many shows, from any country, that are still as fresh and full of energy as this one does. Going from strength to strength this is turning out be one of my favorite long-running animated shows.
The collection picks up with Luffy and his Straw Hat Pirates along with the Franky Family, the Galley-La Company, and a sumo wrestling giant frog named Yokozuna approaching Enies Lobby, a government stronghold where both Franky and Nico Robin are being held. They only have a short amount of time to breach the fortress defenses, defeat the 10,000 Marines and other guards stationed there, and find Robin before she and Franky are passed through the gates of justice to the hell beyond, a fate that no one has ever returned from.
Even with all of the power on the Straw Hat's side, this is going to be a tough battle so everyone gets together to create a plan that just might have a small chance to succeed. Since the final line of defense is going to be the government super agents CP-9, and only the Straw Hats would stand a chance against them, the other two teams will go in first and clear a path allowing the pirates to advance quickly to the strongest opponents. Luffy likes the idea, as does everyone else, and so they start devising strategies and mapping out what they know about the island. That's when they notice that Luffy has disappeared. He didn't feel like waiting for a plan so he's storming the impenetrable fortress all by himself.
The rest of the group proceeds with their plan, and there's a tough battle through every stage of Enies Lobby, filled with thousands of Marines, giants, a three-headed judge, and a terrible jury. In other words it's a typical One Piece adventure.
This a set filled with battle, and it's all quite fun. The breaching of the various walls and defenses of Enies Lobby spans all of the episodes in this setů and isn't even wrapped up by the time the second disc is over. Not to worry, along with the creative defenders with outrageous powers there is some character development and background stories. The collection actually ends in the middle of a flashback revealing Robin's origin and what actually happened to her when she was a little girl back in her homeland. It's a story that's surprisingly touching.
Of course, the show is known for its creativity and they haven't started slacking off even after 275 episodes. There are some great characters, such as the pair of giants who tie in with a previous adventure that the Straw Hats had, and some really off the wall creations. My favorite in this set has to be the island complex that houses Enies Lobby. The place is surrounded by a reverse-moat. Instead on having water surrounding a castle, this island is surrounded by a waterfall on all sides. It's connected to the ocean by a thin spar of land and the rest of the island is just hovering over a gigantic bottomless pit into which the Blue Line is constantly pouring. The island is always sunny too, around the clock and even when a storm like Aqua Laguna hits. What better place to house a Marine stronghold?
There's also more of Sogeking (translated as Sniper King in the dub). He quickly shot up to the top of my "favorite One Piece characters" list. In the last collection when Sanji rescued Usopp and asked for his help from his former shipmate 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 walked away, and then the long-nosed, masked, Sniper King enters soon after singing his theme song. They play the theme song again, which is great fun. I love seeing Usopp go through the motions of being a superhero. His intensity is hilarious.
This set contains the next 12 episodes (264-275) 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 Sonny Strait (Usopp) and Patrick Seitz (Franky). The roughly 15 minute talks are hosted by ADR Director Mike McFarland and he asks the actors about the auditioning process, their favorite moments, and how they think their character has changed over the course of the show. They're both interesting and worth watching, but I really, really enjoyed Patrick Seitz's interview. He was funny and out going and looked like he'd a guy you'd want to hang with. There are also clean animations and a series of trailers.
Another great collection of shows. I know I've said this before, but this show keeps on running strong, against all odd. I think it's better now than it was 150 episodes ago. There's not many programs that you can say that about. Highly Recommended.