Better late than never! Sorry this post is going up so late, Christmas kind of got in the way tonight and like an idiot I forgot to schedule this post for release beforehand.
His Name’s Zoro, he’s just like a samurai!
What’s the Story?
Hearing about a legendary sword, Nami is convinced that there’s treasure to be had, but after Zoro goes missing the crew find themselves chased by Marines and quickly separated in the forest. While Luffy and Usopp confront the navy in a sinister dojo, Nami and the rest of the Straw Hats come across Zoro attacking a peaceful village, alongside the marines! Has Zoro betrayed his crew and friends purely because of a childhood promise? And what of the bloody history of the legendary sword? Surely it can’t be true, can it? When it comes down to it Zoro will have to face his friend, but is this one opponent the future World’s Greatest Swordsman has no chance against?
Sigh. While the myth about odd-numbered Star Trek films all being bad has engrained itself into popular culture, the same can also be said for the One Piece films (at least until we get to Episode of Alabasta, which I have mixed feelings on at best). The Cursed Holy Sword, for me at least, is one of the worst One Piece films ever produced. On a technical level it’s a fine film, the plot is simple yet makes sense, there’s plenty of fun and action (Zoro especially gets a couple of great sword fights), but as part of the One Piece franchise, this film fails spectacularly. There’s a fundamental misunderstanding of the characters and the world of One Piece that just permeates the whole film, so much so that I can’t help but think that the people who worked on this only had a passing knowledge of the franchise.
Let’s talk about the Straw Hats first and while on the surface their characterisation is fine, the way they talk to one another and interact is spot on for the most part, however there are just tiny little moments that bug me, because they don’t feel right. The first one that caught my attention was at the very beginning of the film, with Nami bringing up the legendary sword. Yes, Nami is obsessed with treasure and the mere mention of it will fill her eyes with Berries, but really? A sword? Nami is interested in a sword? It’s just the kind of thing she’d be dismissive of until someone mentioned it was entrusted with jewels or something, then she’d be interested. There’s Luffy as well and while he’s an utter goofball, he’s not stupid and I can’t see him running around a bunch of tunnels enjoying himself after losing a fight and being told that Zoro has left his crew. At that point I imagine him more ticked off and declaring that he’s going to punch the bad guy. Again, it just adds to the feeling that the team behind this film read a brief bio on each of the characters, but never actually got to know any of them.
That brings me to Zoro. Ugh. I really don’t like what this film does with my favourite pirate swordsman and it’s a shame, because the potential was there. A childhood friend of Zoro’s turns up and through circumstance pits him against his friends, there’s the potential for some real drama there and a decent exploration of Zoro (I do like the flashback scenes we get of Zoro and Saga), but again there’s that problem that he’s not really acting like himself. Yes, Zoro is a man of honour and will absolutely keep his word when it is given, but he would never just up and leave his crew without a word. This is the man who wouldn’t let Usopp rejoin the crew unless he apologised first, because as he rightly points out, how can you trust a crewmember that just ups and leaves? This is the man who took on all of Luffy’s pain and injuries after Thriller Bark. This is the man who will one day be the World’s Greatest Swordsman and will let nothing stand in his way! He. Does. Not. Just. Leave! I’m not quite sure how you’d make it work, but definitely not how this film tries to do it. The filler nature of the film doesn’t help either, as we know we’re never going to see most of these characters again and Zoro certainly isn’t leaving the crew.
Let’s talk about the setting of this film as well, because that gets it wrong too. One Piece, for all its fantastical elements, has its own logic to it and always learns more towards science (no matter how many strange fruits that give people special powers there are). In this film though we have magic, demonic possession and the power of prayer, which again feels so out of place. Luffy has been referred to as the natural enemy of God before and has a tendency to punch people who call themselves gods, and yet part of this film’s climax is down to a priestess praying to her gods to stop an evil sword! Honestly the setting of this film feels like some generic fantasy adventure that the Straw Hat pirates have just been pasted into by accident. This film just annoys me on so many levels and yet I do have to give it a bit of credit, Robin gets a prominent role as she gets to put her archaeologist skills to use and even gets to fight one of the bad guy’s named lieutenants (even Nami gets in on the action), which is happens so rarely in the main series that I’m almost willing to give this film a pass, almost.
In the end, One Piece: The Cursed Holy Sword is a serviceable film, as long as you’re not a die-hard One Piece fan. If you’re after a generic fantasy romp with some lively action and funny characters then this will pass the time just fine, but if you come to this wanting to see the Straw Hats in action then I suggest you move along. While these people may look like Straw Hats, that’s clearly not who they are and we shouldn’t treat them as such. I’m going to go read the manga and remind myself why I like this series so much.
Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.