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One Piece: Collection Six
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.
The (also) massively popular anime series is still ongoing and has aired over 500 produced episodes. It is amongst the longest running series of all time -- in anime form or otherwise. The show premiered in Japan in October 1999. In North America the series was first released by 4Kids Entertainment originally and was heavily criticized for having a poor dub and for edits considered as significant cuts (sometimes entire episodes went missing). Funimation saved the show for North America, produced an excellent 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, Chopper, Nico Robin 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 of emotions. 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 power he 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 was once saved by the pirate Shanks, who Luffy seemed to view as a hero and father figure. Luffy decided then that he is to become the "King of the 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 an IDEA!") 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: heart, spirit, and soul. Luffy is easily one of the most endearing, comical, and fun 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 impacted his attitude towards others experiencing hunger. He can seem to be the most 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, flirting with women, and helping others out in a pickle (the pun was absolutely intended). Sanji's goal is to find the All Blue, which connects each area of the ocean.
A wacky, well-spirited, and adventurous doctor named Tony Tony Chopper joins the group during the previous One Piece Collection. Chopper is a reindeer with a blue nose. He ate a Human Human Fruit that gave him the ability to speak and act in a human manner. Chopper hasn't been entirely the same ever since. He can walk, talk, and act as goofy as all the rest of the merry pirates on this show. There are multiple forms that this character can take: the form of a normal reindeer, a reindeer with the qualities of a young human boy, and a monstrous gigantic reindeer with the power of a body-builder man. This makes the character an interesting addition to the series. It was nice to see his relevance to the crew become a part of the ongoing plot. Team Luffy needed a doctor and he was a perfect match.
Joining the crew (after some downright uncertainty found with the plot-direction during the previous set) is the mysterious and often ever-so quiet Nico Robin. This is perhaps the most peculiar of all of the additions to the Straw Hat Pirates crew, because in previous episodes she had seemed to be more of an opposing force to some degree. Her actions are often very confusing because it is hard to tell if she is with the group primarily for her own (and not entirely disclosed) reasons or if she is turning a new leaf and wants to be a part of the positive proceedings accordingly. This makes her character one that is hard to grasp completely but it also makes her a fascinating addition to the One Piece group. Nico is a archaeologist and she has a wide range of knowledge about historical events and this gives her a more extensive understanding of some of the potential pitfalls looming before the Straw Hat Pirates that can help them during their adventures.
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 even altered my concept of the filler episode by bringing enjoyment to those types of 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 the primary goal of the storytellers was most likely to bring genuine smiles to the audience. Lastly, the themes and message behind the series prove to be meaningful. This trifecta exists because of the occasionally repetitive nature of these reoccurring aspects. This comment is not meant as a negative 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 circumstances to 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.
The essential 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 becomes 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 considers themselves an anime fan on any level. It is not to be overlooked!
The Collection (Set 6, Episodes 131-156):
The last collection of One Piece saw the conclusion of the massive Alabasta storyline. This particular storyline was the lengthiest in the series thus far and it was consistently one of One Piece's most intense arcs. You rarely felt as though you had time to even let out any breath before another moment of tense dramatics occurred. It was probably the greatest adventure the Straw Hat Pirates have had on the series to this point but it was so long in development that it became draining to reach the ending of the arc. By the time this arc concluded all I wanted from One Piece was a short break from the intensity and more of those comedic side episodes where it's just the joyous characters of the show being fun characters to hang out with.
This collection of the series begins in the best possible way by taking a step back from a world of lengthy arcs by instead emphasizing essentially what I had hoped for: the set's beginning episodes focus entirely upon the characters and their interactions. Each of the central characters receives their own moment to shine and receives new flashbacks that ultimately enhance our appreciation of the journeys these characters have taken so far.
The first half of the set is almost entirely about appreciating these characters. It's not a release containing as much of a huge arc during the first two discs. I truly enjoyed and appreciated this development. It was a nice "break" after the Alabasta storyline, which lasted almost too-long. I enjoy the humor on this show and there were plenty of funny moments. Some fans will want to sit-back and enjoy these mini-arc moments as much (perhaps) as I have enjoyed them.
Going into the second half of the collection is a different matter altogether as One Piece returns to building a storyline that clearly lasts for more than just a few episodes. The longest storyline during the first half of the set involved something akin to space-time continuum hocus pocus sci-fi unlike most of the stories introduced on the show, but it actually managed to conclude almost as quickly as it began, and was a nice oddity in science fiction that began and ended in just a few episodes. Before long, however, it became apparent that a new story arc was introduced that wouldn't even be close to completed by the end of the collection.
As for the new story developments:
Ever wondered if there was an island floating in the sky? Perhaps one known as "Sky Island"? It almost seems referential to Miyazaki's Castle in the Sky (perhaps with the intention to be as such) because of how influential and important both One Piece and Miyazaki films are in the anime genre. This is where the rest of the collection takes us.
Luffy and the rest of the Straw Hat Pirates decide to find the mythical Sky Island that apparently no-one has ever seen before, and they use their skills and wit to try and discover anything they can relating to how to reach the seemingly unreal destination. Unfortunately, everyone runs into a lot of trouble at a shady town community where countless pirates reside and dueling runs rampant. This storyline's instantaneously a fascinating one that grabbed a hold of my attention and left me with a sense of true wonderment.
One Piece: Collection 6 is yet another repackaged release containing two of the previously released Voyage sets. If you've been following the company's releases of the series so far, purchasing this collection is almost a no-brainer for fans. Anyone who didn't purchase the earlier DVD's has the perfect opportunity to do so now and these collection sets truly find Funimation releasing one of the absolute best series in the world of anime to date. There doesn't seem to be much to say that is negative about One Piece - too much of the show remains a pure joy from start to finish and few shows will delight as much as this one.
If I have one complaint, it is that I am still uncertain about one of the new characters the writers introduced as an antagonist and then blended into the main-cast. I'm referring to Nico Robin, who is a talented and intelligent addition to the crew, but who lacks a history lesson back-story that is genuinely interesting for the character. Given that the character loves history and is an expert in the field, it seems to be an odd ignorance of opportunity.
While Nico technically became a core member of Team Luffy she isn't utilized as frequently on the show. She is usually used primarily as a narrator-figure who reads books quietly in the background and occasionally shares important details that other character's wouldn't have been knowledgeable about without her intensive historical background and regular book-readings. This almost seems to be an odd reason to introduce a new character. I wonder if the core purpose of the character is only to provide plot information.
In a way, I feel as though this collection is a step above the previous set (even if the concluding episodes of the Alabasta storyline were extremely satisfying). It found an entirely satisfying mix of comedy, character development, and a new storyline that's absolutely bonkers in its bountiful creativity.
This may end up being one of the best storylines One Piece has had in its entire run. If you are a fantasy fan, this arc does something that will be immensely satisfying: it blends the realm of fantasy with the elements best loved in the One Piece formula. This creates a special blend equation, outmatching expectations, and delivering in all the goods fans have come to expect. Collection 6 is one of the best releases of the series so far and One Piece fans won't want to miss experiencing any of the zany fun for a solitary second.
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 a tad softer than more recent productions on occasion but the series also comes equipped with colors that pop and shine beautifully and the image is free from annoying compression because each disc contains no more than seven episodes each. These episodes from One Piece are in pretty good shape and the release should please fans looking for decent picture quality. It should be noted that I occasionally noticed more aliasing issues on this set than on prior collection releases -- but not by a large degree. The sets are still essentially impressive in the picture-quality department. 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 have been actively used to create an enveloping experience 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 huge step up over what 4Kids attempted poorly many years ago. Anyone who watches One Piece through Funimation's releases should appreciate 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. 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 commentary, text-less songs, and trailers promoting other anime series released by the studio.
Commentary with staff members is included on the following episodes of Collection 6:
Episode 140: Residents of the Land of Eternity! The Pumpkin Pirates!
Episode 144: Caught Log! The King of Salvagers, Masira
One Piece continues to do something that I never expected from the series when I started it: the series continues to find new ways to keep things fresh, interesting, and satisfying. I love these characters, the animation, and the sense of new adventures that is unparalleled in any other anime. The reason why One Piece is one of Japan's most popular anime series in history is so easy to understand. It's because it's actually the best ongoing series to date.
Fans who have continued to support the series by purchasing these collection sets will have a blast with Collection 6. The series is as brilliant as always. If you haven't jumped on the bandwagon yet now is the perfect time to do so. Seek out all of these collection releases. Just remember to start at the beginning.
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.