And a L-A-D-Y, Nami’s not shy!
What’s the Story?
After hearing reports of attacks on East Blue, the Straw Hat pirates set course for home, but along the way they run into the famed pirate Shiki, the Golden Lion. Once a fearsome pirate on the same level as Gol D. Roger, Shiki has spent the past twenty years in hiding, working on his ultimate revenge and now he’s ready to set his plans into motion. First though, he needs a top notch navigator and he’s set his sights on Nami! Trapped on a series of floating islands, the Straw Hats must battle their way through a horde of super powerful, super aggressive animals, as well as an army of pirates if they want to save their hometowns from utter destruction!
And we’re here at last, my favourite One Piece film out of all the ones produced so far (and no, it’s not just because this is the first film to be supervised by series creator, Eiichiro Oda, before anyone goes there. Also Stampede hasn’t come out in UK cinemas yet either, so bear that in mind). For me, this is the film that most captures what I love about One Piece. Yes, Adventure of Dead End probably gave me more consistent feels, and Baron Omatsuri was completely unique and beautiful, Film Z has the best villain and Gold is just fun, but this, Strong World, is One Piece distilled.
It’s a grand madcap adventure, full of heart, humour, action and a dizzying array of imagination. Whether it’s the Straw Hats battling it out with Shiki and his army of monster animals or just the banter that flies between them, I have an absolute blast watching this film. That’s something I really want to praise with this film, the writing and the humour especially. Most of that I’ll put down to the fact that Oda-sensei was responsible for the story this time around, though someone else is credited for the screenplay. It makes me wonder just how much changed, if anything, during the process of turning this into a script because the Straw Hats have never been written this well outside of the series. I find it hard to pick my favourite jokes, mostly being torn between Zoro’s ‘That wasn’t there before’ or Brook leaping in to save Robin and stealing Sanji’s thunder, or, frankly, any time Brook opens his mouth because he’s always hilarious.
Not that this film is purely just jokes, there’s plenty of action and a wealth of drama since a lot of the crew’s home towns are on the line. One of my favourite little scenes is when the local villagers apologise to the Straw Hats for being so happy about Shiki heading to East Blue, because it would give them a break, not realising that they were talking in front of people from East Blue. Admittedly it’s Nami that carries the lion’s share of the emotional baggage for the film, we see her home town in flashbacks and she keeps looking at the bracelet that her sister gave her while the others barely mention East Blue (though, again another bit of dialogue I love, there’s Zorro’s line about how if being from East Blue makes him worthless, what does that make the other guy?).
Nami does get a fair chunk of spotlight in this film and that’s another reason I like it so much, considering Nami is one of my favourite Straw Hats and she’s had very few times to shine in the series post-time skip. And yes, Nami is used for a lot of fanservice, but I’m willing to let it slide because at the same time it’s showing just how smart and cunning she can be. It’s not just her amazing navigational skill, but all the time she’s a prisoner of Shiki you can see her looking for ways to escape or to sabotage his operation, a lot of which works in the end, which I appreciate. Nami isn’t just some damsel in distress.
Let’s talk about the film’s villain though, Shiki. He’s the perfect mix for a One Piece villain, both an utter hilarious goofball and a despicable monster that you just can’t wait for Luffy to catch up to and given him the beat down he so richly deserves. For all the goofy comedy at the beginning of the film, Shiki has such a threatening presence throughout the film, especially when he shows off his powers, which are seriously overpowered. My hat goes off to his voice actor who walks the perfect line between comedy and intimidation. Also I love the fight scene in the middle of the movie where the majority of the Straw Hats team up to take on Shiki, we need to see more team up fights between the Straw Hats as they’re always spectacular when they happen.
Okay, enough gushing, let’s talk a little about some of this film’s problems, because however much I love it there are a couple of issues. For me, pacing is the biggest issue that this film has, this is the longest One Piece film to date and it’s doesn’t use that time as well as it could. The plot feels uneven, especially in the middle where we’ve got stretches of quieter moments interspersed by quick bouts of action. I love the scenes individually, but there’s just something off about the way they all hang together. The only thing I could put it down to is that the film doesn’t quiet know where to put its focus, or tries to focus on too many things at once, there’s the plight of East Blue, the villagers, Shiki’s army of arriving pirates, the animals, Nami’s situation. Maybe if this had been an arc in series it would have had more time to let things breath and even at almost two hours, the film feels like its glazing over aspects to keep the story going. Still, it’s not a massive issue, the fun I have with this film more than carries me through me it, but that might not be the case for everyone, just saying.
In the End, One Piece Film: Strong World is my favourite of the One Piece films produced so far (we’ll see what Stampede is like once that’s released). It’s packed full of great comedy, blistering action and a whole heap of heart, all of which is wrapped up in the usual inventive craziness of the One Piece world. This film feels like it has a scale and grandeur that most of the other films don’t. Nami carries most of the emotional weight of the story and gets a rare chance to show how tough and cunning she can really be. If you’ve not seen this film, make sure to check it out.
Thank you for bearing with me while I indulged myself this December, back to regular reviews soon, though I have a special revisit planned for next week. See you all in the New Year!
Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.