Anime Corner: One Piece: Stampede Review

Blog One Piece Stampede Review Title

Snipers are there for support!

What’s the Story?

Welcome to the Pirate Fest! Master of Festivities, Buena Festa, has set up the ultimate gathering of pirates from across the Grand Line. It’s pretty much the worst of the worst all in one place to fight, drink and…enter in beauty contests (?) to their heart’s content! Of course pirates want more than a good party, there has to be some treasure involved somewhere and Festa has got his hands on something truly special, Gol D. Roger’s treasure! No, it’s not the legendary One Piece, but apparently it’s just as good and whichever pirate manages to get a hold of it will have the power to change the world! Not everything is as it seems though, Buena Festa wants more a festival, he wants to kickstart a whole new era and just what is Douglas Bullet, a former member of Roger’s crew, doing on the island? When the Navy shows up as well things quickly turn from a treasure hunt into a no holds barred battle royale for survival!

The Review

I’ll warn you now, if you’re not a fan of One Piece then this is not the film to convert you. It is a film so steeped in the lore and the length and breadth of the One Piece world that I don’t really know what someone unfamiliar with the series will get out of it (outside of some gorgeous animation and amazing fight sequences). There’s so many characters and cameos and references to things from throughout the series’ history that I’m surprised the film doesn’t collapse in on itself. As a fan of One Piece since childhood I loved it, I cheered every time a familiar character popped up, or when we got to see the Straw Hats take on new, yet familiar, opponents (Sanji vs. Smoker!). Honestly I wish we could have seen a bit more of some of these match ups (Zoro vs. Fujitora!), but that would probably require another hour being added on to the film and wreck the pacing, which thinking about it I wouldn’t have minded that much. This whole film is basically a gigantic shot of fanservice to the centre of my brain and I adore it! Which brings me to my problem. As a fan I just want to go through all the little scenes and moments that were so amazing to me and gush endlessly about them, but the more analytic part of my brain can’t help but admit, there are problems with this film.

Let’s start with the story, obviously with such a massive cast of characters taking part we can’t have the story be too complicated, things would just get messy really quickly that way. Stampede decides to avoid this problem by having the barest of bare bones plots, the entire film is basically a continually evolving fight scene. We start with the members of the Worst Generation squaring off against one another, then Bullet comes in and decimates them and anyone else who gets in his way all in the build up to the big title fight were pirates, Navy, Warlords of the Sea and revolutionaries team up to take down Bullet once and for all. There are also lots of smaller fights interspersed between the struggle against Bullet but most of those only last a few minutes. It’s an exciting and action-packed extravaganza, but more than once I caught myself wondering if this was a Dragonball film. Part of what I love so much about One Piece, outside of the characters, is that it continually manages to tell heartfelt and heart-wrenching stories and while there were moments like that in this film (I’ll get to them in a minute), I felt like I wanted more.

I can’t help but put a lot of these feelings down to the antagonists of this film, which is a common complaint I have with the majority of villains in the One Piece films. Here’s the thing, Bullet could have been one of the greatest villains in the films’ history if we were shown his back story rather than just told it. Bullet is a man who was betrayed by his friends and superiors, a man who believed that the only person he could rely on was himself. That is until he was bested by Gol D. Roger and found someone to follow, but when Roger was executed he became lost, falling back into his thinking that only his own strength mattered. It puts him at greats odds with Luffy who fights for his friends and, in my opinion, all the best shonen fights are between two sides who have opposing ideologies. However, we’re only told Bullet’s backstory and catch flashes of it in a few blink-and-you’ll-miss-them sequences. Imagine if the film had opened with Bullet’s capture? The man raging about the death of Roger and going into a wild frenzy, that would have gotten me so much more invested in his character than some flashback sequence to when Blackbeard broke everyone but him out of Impel Down.

Let’s talk about those heart-wrenching moments though, because those are what really make this film so special to me. As usual the majority of the Straws Hats get regulated to the background in this film, Luffy is obviously the star of the show and Zoro and Sanji get some nice fights, but the rest are only given a few moments to show of their various attacks (I was impressed by the screen time Robin got considering she usually fades into the background, but really? You set up a Crocodile vs. Robin fight and skip out on it?! Why? I want to see that!). However, the MVP for this film has to go to Usopp. Generally speaking he is one of the weakest members of the crew and it’s even pointed out in the film that he’s also a bit of a coward, but when it comes down to it you can count on your man Usopp! It ties in nicely with the ideological clash with Bullet who stomps on Usopp in seconds flat and then tells Luffy point blank to get rid of such a useless burden. Yet it’s thanks to Usopp’s surprise attack that Bullet it taken down in the end, giving Luffy the opening he needs to pummel the guy. The scenes with Usopp really tug at the heartstrings, you can see how scared and outmatched he is and yet he doesn’t give up and that final take down is such a satisfying moment thanks to Usopp. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I actually wish the film gave me more scenes with Usopp and less of the fanservice.

The Verdict

All in all, One Piece Stampede is a brilliant film for fans. If you love One Piece and you haven’t seen this film then what are you doing? Find a way to watch it right now! However if you’re not a One Piece fan then you’ll probably enjoy the spectacle of the vibrant and action-packed animation and the Usopp scenes might tug at your heartstrings for a bit, but I don’t know how much it’ll mean to someone who doesn’t at least have a passing recognition of all of these characters (and there are a lot of characters). Personally I loved it despite its flaws and I’ll be buying it just as soon as it comes out on DVD. I just hope it doesn’t take as long to come out as it did for it to arrive in UK cinemas.

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Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.  

 

Anime Corner: One Piece Film: Strong World Review

Blog One Piece Strong World Review Title

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!

The Review

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.

The Verdict

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.

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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.

Put a Tune to It: Western Songs for Anime

I got nominated for a tag by tcrow over at Crow’s World of Anime! I’ll admit it’s been a while since I’ve done any tags and this was an incredibly fun one to dig into. At first I thought I was going to have a hard time with this, depending on my mood my musical tastes can get very eclectic and there’s normally a lot of musicals involved, which won’t fit a lot of anime. Then I started actually thinking about it and my selections came to me within about an hour, but before we get to them, let’s do the housekeeping.

First this tag was originally set in motion by Dewbond over at Shallow Dives in Anime and here’s the rules!

  • Choose any number of western songs (any genre) that you think best sums up an anime or manga of any type or genre.
    • If you want to pick more than 1 from each section that’s fine. Or if you can’t think of one for a specific category that’s fine also.
  • Explain why you think your choices could work. Is it the lyrics? The tune and the beat? Or just the music video?
  • Link back to the original post so I can read people’s suggestions, I’d love to read everyone’s ideas.
  • Include Put a Tune to It in your tags so everyone including myself can find them all easily.
  • Nominate around 1-5 bloggers. My nominations will be at the bottom.

And so, without any further delay, let’s get this show on the road!

Halloween-Themed (Soul Eater)

Okay, we’ll start off with a pretty obvious one and the first thing that came into my head. This is Halloween by Marilyn Manson. Does this really need any explanation? I must have seen a dozen amvs with this set to snippets of Soul Eater or any anime with a halloween episode over the years. It just fits so well. Every time I hear this version of the song I automatically see Maka and Soul standing under that grinning crescent moon, Blair riding a pumpkin somewhere in the background.

Mecha (Gundam)

And we’ll follow that up with another song that I automatically associate with anime, Mr. Roboto by Styx. This one I can blame on the review site SF Debris, because his reviews of Gundam 0080 had this song set over the credits and its been fixed in my brain ever since. I love that beat as they sing the ‘domo arigato’ part, it works so well as a marching beat as a gundam or some other mecha is deployed for action. Plus the song is unmistakably 80s and I always think of the 80s when I think of mecha, that’s another common association in my brain.

Drama (Sound Euphonium)

Right, taking a step away from long-held associations, let’s pick something a bit more current (at least in the fact that I’ve only recently discovered this band), Brighter by Against The Current. This song is really for any series that has either a main character or a large portion of the cast who are a little unsure of themselves. They’re lacking in confidence, but as the series progresses as they begin to discover themselves bit by bit and let their passions ignite. For me this song really suits Kumiko from Sound Euphonium, specifically towards the end of the series when she’s decided that she wants to be truly special along with Reina and is ready to throw her all into the band’s performance.

Gangster (91 Days)

And now, something a little more offbeat (I knew I’d get one in here somewhere). Gangsta’s Paradise by Postmodern Jukebox ft. Robyn Adele Anderson. I love the Postmodern Jukebox, they often take more current songs and perform them in a more retro style and this happens to be one of my favourite covers they’ve done. Can’t you just smell the smokey atmosphere in some rundown speakeasy as you listen to this? It fits so well with 91 Days as well, considering that anime is set during prohibition, I can just see Angelo and Nero sitting and sharing a drink while this plays, all the while Angelo is slowly reaching for his gun.

Shonen (One Piece)

Okay, maybe the last two choices have been me trying to get songs I really like on to this list and, well, here’s another one (though in my defence I think this one really fits). Friendship Song by Brennley Brown (featured in Tangled the Series). Considering how many shonen series are all about the power of friendship and unbreakable bonds, this song is really just perfect. It’s intended to be about two friends, but I think it works just as well for a group, like say the Strawhat pirates. They can always rely on one another, they’ll always have one another’s backs and be there through the laughs and the tears, as the song says, ‘we fit together perfectly’.

Shonen (My Hero Academia)

Another common trend in shonen anime is that their main protagonists are often optimistic dreamers. They’ve got these big, impossible dreams and there’s no shortage of people ready to tell them how unattainable their goal is. Yet that won’t deter them, they have….High Hopes by Panic! At The Disco (did you see what I did there? Of course you did and I’m sorry, I just couldn’t resist that one.) I can just see Midoriya charging forward as this plays, All for One or some other villain cackling away until Midoriya comes out of nowhere and smashes them out of the way and ready to declare ‘I am here!’

Epic Fantasy (Fate series)

Last one! Actually this one may be cheating a little bit because I first discovered this song in an amv using clips from Fate/Zero and Garden of Sinners fused together into the best amv I have ever seen (look for Steel Fenders amv on Youtube, I hope it’s still there). Ever since Iron by Woodkid has been linked to the fate series in my brain. From the first blast of those trumpets to that rising beat, this song is the very definition of epic to me. It fills my head with images of climatic battles, legends brought to life and just a sense of majesty that makes me want to grovel in my unworthiness (which is often how I feel about the fate series when it’s at its best). If you haven’t heard this song, then listen and thank me later.

Hmm….there’s not as much rock on this list as I thought there was going to be, or electro swing for that matter. Ah well, we’ll leave it here for now. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed my choices, I certainly had a lot of fun putting this together and thanks Crow for nominating me!

As for who I’ll nominate, apologises if you’ve already been selected, but I’ll go with:

Scott

Ospreyshire

Jon Spencer

Irina

Karandi

Of course anyone else who is interested please join in.

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.

Anime Corner: One Piece: Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island Review

Blog One Piece Baron Omatsuri Review Title

His name is Luffy, That’s Monkey D. Luffy, Gonna be King of the Pirates!

What’s the Story?

After receiving a mysterious invitation to Omatsuri island, which promises spas, beautiful women and dream-come-true food, the Straw Hat pirates head there to check it out. Unfortunately when they arrive Baron Omatsuri, the ruler of the island, challenges them to bizarre challenge after bizarre challenge, from catching giant goldfish to a ring toss race along the town’s canals. But not everything is as it seems on the island, who is the mysterious moustached man watching Luffy from the shadows, why does everyone have a plant sticking out of their heads and, most concerning at all, why are the Straw Hats suddenly at one another’s throats? The secret of this island is darker and crueler than anything they’ve come across before and unless Luffy finds a way to pull his crew together, he’s going to lose them forever.

The Review

Directed by Mamoru Hosoda (yes, that Mamoru Hosoda!), this is a One Piece story unlike any other in the franchise and I very much love it (in fact it may just be my favourite Hosoda film to date, there, I said it). Sorry to go full-on gush straight away and I can clearly see the parts of the film that might turn some people off, but for me, I was mesmerised by this film. From the style and the design of everything to the dark, haunting story it’s telling, I just wanted to drink it all in. My beloved Straw Hat pirates have wandered into a twisted nightmare realm and I can’t do anything but watch as they’re torn apart one by one. Argh! This is an anime film! It’s supposed to be filler! Why am I so concerned for the Straw Hats? Why do I get the feeling that this time it actually could be the end of them! Ahhhhhhh!

The feels is one of the strengths of this film, but we’ll come back to that later. Let’s start with the animation and the directing. Now anyone who’s seen a Mamoru Hosoda film before will know the animation style and it does take a few minutes to get used to seeing the Straw Hats drawn this way, they do look good though and the animation lends itself to the frantic style of the movie. Add on to that the energetic directing that bounces back and forth with the crew’s banter and this is a film that makes you sit up and pay attention, which just makes all the ominous warnings about how bad things are going to get all the more chilling. There’s an unsettling air to Omatsuri island even while the crew are getting caught up in crazy antics after crazy antics, you can’t help but notice the growing sense of dread, especially as the crew start to break apart.

That’s the thing about this film and the reason I love it so much (even if I wouldn’t want to see this done all the time). It takes the Straw Hats and their tight bonds of friendship that make up the vast majority of Shonen series and it delights in tearing them apart before your very eyes. Yes the Straw Hats often argue, with all of their lively personalities its hard for them not to clash, but you never doubt that when it comes down to it, they’ll be there for one another, except this time they’re not. This time their differences grate on one another until they split apart and once they decide to go alone, they’re done for. It’s heartbreaking to watch and yet completely understandable at the same time, they’re still friends deep down, but sometimes friends can really get on your nerves and the Baron uses that to his full advantage.

That brings me to Luffy and, really, this film has to be one of his greatest trials. It fully exposes his weaknesses as a Captain and I do genuinely believe that Luffy is a good Captain, just not this time. Yeah he’s wilful and never thinks things through, yes he’s not a very good sailor and would be dead a thousand times over without his crew to back him up, but he is a good Captain for one simple reason, he has good instincts. I know that may sound a bit silly, but it genuinely is Luffy’s greatest strength, he can see right to the core of a problem and knows exactly how to fix it. The best example I’ve got is the Alabasta arc where Vivi’s coming up with plans to end the rebellion and Luffy just sees right through it to the fact that if he beats Crocodile, this all ends, and yes he loses against Crocodile, but how does the arc end? All of Vivi’s plans have backfired and it’s down to Luffy to send Crocodile flying. Luffy can always spot an end boss and he always knows what the right thing to do is, however crazy it appears to everyone else.

That being said, in this film Luffy’s instincts fail him, he’s used to seeing his friends argument, but he fails to notice the subtle undercurrent that this time things are more serious. Luffy’s utter rage at the loss of his friends at the end of the film isn’t just at the Baron, but at himself as well. He should have noticed, he should have done something and if it wasn’t for the action of one brave dad, he’d have lost his friends forever.

Finally, let’s talk about the Baron. While he may not look all that imposing or threatening, the Baron is my second favourite villain ever produced by the One Piece films (my favourite is Zephyr from One Piece Film Z I you’re interested). The Baron is utterly ruthless and cruel and you just can’t wait for Luffy to slug him one, but at the same time you feel sorry for the guy. Spoiler Alert, he lost his entire crew in one devastating storm and the grief has driven him mad, though I’m sure the parasitic Lily Carnation wasn’t any help. Now he lives with facsimiles of his friends in an almost dream world, feeding the Lily other pirates in order to keep the illusion going and delighting in tearing apart strong groups of friends so that they feel the same pain he did. That…that is just messed up.

The Verdict

All in all, One Piece: Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island is one of my favourite One Piece films. It’s something totally different from the rest of the franchise and that’s what makes it such a great experience. It exposes the weaknesses of the crew and their captain, taking on a dark tale of grief, madness and pain, all wrapped up in fast-paced, wacky and unsettling adventure. For the first time in one of these films I felt like the Straw Hats might not actually make it out the other side and that is an achievement in itself. Whether you’re a fan of One Piece or not, be sure to check this out.

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That’s it for this week, so I hope everyone has a very merry christmas and I’ll see you back here in a week for the end of One Piece-cember as we pay a visit to the Strong World.

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.

Anime Corner: One Piece: The Cursed Holy Sword Review

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.

Blog One Piece Cursed Holy Sword Review Title

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?

The Review

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.

The Verdict

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.

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Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.  

Anime Corner: One Piece: Dead End Adventure Review

Blog One Piece Dead End Review Title

Yo-ho-ho, he took a bite of Gum Gum!

What’s the Story?

Strapped for cash and craving some adventure (as is always the way for our favourite fantastical pirate crew), the Straw Hat pirates learn of a secret race across the Grand Line with 300 million berries as the prize and can’t resist entering. However there’re plenty of deadly opponents between them and the goal, including giants, fishmen, the famous bounty hunter Shuraiya and worst of all is the former marine, General Gasparde. Add in to that a kid out to save his Grandpa, treacherous seas and a despicable plot to wipe out the competition and this adventure may just turn into a dead end after all. Luffy and the gang have their work cut out for them!

The Review:

Okay, an unusual place for me to start, but let’s talk about translations! Now I bought one of the One Piece movie collections in order to watch this film and while the subs on the other two films are perfectly fine, the subs for this film are pretty poor, especially when it comes to names (I mean this film is listed as ‘Adventure of Dead End’, which sounds pretty stupid). I’ve decided to go with the translations from the One Piece wiki for this review because those spellings make more sense to me (and ‘Dead End Adventure’ is a much better name), but I’ve never come across this before, at least not off an official release I mean they really couldn’t be bothered to put together a new set of subtitles for the DVD release, really? Anyway, translations aside, I really like this movie. Honestly, if you’ve never tried One Piece (and with over 90 volumes of manga and over 900 episodes of anime I can’t blame people for being scared off, or having no idea where to start), but to me this film is a pretty good sampler of the series. Sure the story isn’t really canon and you won’t learn all that much about the rich world of the series, but its got a good handle on the characters, there’s plenty of exciting action, wacky adventures and it knows where it’s heart is.

Let’s talk about heart first, starting with our favourite band of misfit pirates, the Straw Hats. What surprised me most about this film was the quiet moments with the crew and you get the sense that the people who worked on this film really know these characters. From Nami getting angry at Badger for giving up on life, to Sanji explaining to Badger that they’ve all had hard lives in their own way, but they keep living because they all believed that one day things would get better. Even Luffy’s silent rage at Gasparde, both for what he did to the other contestants in the race and just his general scumbag outlook on life, all of it is a perfect summation of the characters and while you can learn more details from the series, watching this film will give you all you need to get who these people are at their core. Also I appreciate that everyone gets a least a couple of things to do across the adventure, even if Luffy is the only one to fight a named enemy character, the crew wouldn’t have made it through the race without each of their own special abilities at one point or another, which I appreciate (it’s especially nice to see Robin doing something with her powers, which feels like such a rarity these days).

Moving on to our original characters for the film, honestly, I think this is where this film shines brightest because, Shuraiya, Badger and the old man may just be the best original supporting characters in any One Piece film, no, scratch that, the best original supporting characters in any anime film connected to a long running series. Let’s face it, anime films connected to a long running series always have a whiff of filler about them, the characters that show up in it are never going to be seen or mentioned again and are often their just to force us to care about whatever location our main characters have found themselves in. Thing is though, Shuraiya, Badger and the old man really do make me care. They’re brilliantly written characters with a great tragic back-story to tell that perfectly fits in with the film’s theme of living on despite how cruel the world can be. Shuraiya is a badass fighter and he even gets to take out Gasparde’s lieutenant in one heck of a brutal fight. Badger manages to be a kid character that isn’t completely annoying and the real emotional centre of the piece and I pretty much love the old man, especially at the end.

As for our villains, well, Gasparde is really the only one of note, but what a note he strikes. He’s menacing and threatening from the get go and completely despicable. His outlook on life and his fellow human beings had be screaming for Luffy to knock that grin off his face and it was so satisfying when he finally did (they also have a pretty brutal fight, it may just be the animation quality, but you really feel the weight of all the punches that land and boy to they look like they hurt). That does bring me to my only complaint with the film, it might just be a matter of the film having to keep itself short to fit into the run time, but you never really get a sense of the scale of the race. While I love the quieter moments in this film and the connections all the characters share, it does mean there’s very little time for the race. After the initial rush of excitement the Straw Hats only face off against one other crew and that only lasts a few minutes before we get to the big twist and then go barrelling into the final confrontation with Gasparde. It just feels like we needed a bit more action in the middle somewhere to see some of these other crews in action and that would have made the twist even more effective, but I am happy with what we got.

The Verdict:

In the end One Piece: Dead End Adventure is a simple, but still great adventure. It’s a film that really understands its characters and with some of the best original supporting characters I’ve seen in an anime film and a truly despicable villain, it knows how to get you invested. It’s a film that knows where its heart and its focus should be, even if that means the adventure of the title gets cut a little short to fit into the run time. Still if you’re looking to experience of some of those carefree pre-time skip days of One Piece, or just wondering if you want to check out the series proper, then this film is a good place to start.

fish stamp good

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.  

Introducing One Piece-cember!

It’s that time of year again! December is finally upon us and, as anyone who’s followed me for more than a year will know, this is when I get indulgent (well, more indulgent). In the past I’ve dedicated this month to several franchises/series I love, looking at the likes of Scooby-Doo, Batman and Spider-Man, but this year I feel like keeping things in the animesphere. So, draw up your pirate flags, gather your crew and, if you’ve happened to eat any strange fruits of late, stay out of the water, ’cause we’re headed for One Piece!

20 years ago the very first episode of the One Piece anime aired in Japan, and though it was a few years later that I first saw that same episode (even if 4Kids had taken a hatchet to it), I’ve been a fan ever since. Luffy burst his way into my life and him and the rest of the Straw Hats have never left. Now I know One Piece isn’t perfect, it’s picked up its fair share of problems over two decades and it is an absolutely mammoth series to try and get into (one of it’s main problems). Yet, when the series is on its A-game it is a titan of emotional and intricate storytelling. The world-building alone is something to marvel at, with so many characters and locations and detail to weave between them all, this is the epitome of a living breathing world. Add on to that characters that I adore and root for, as well as a whole bunch of wild, madcap adventures across the high seas and is it any wonder I fell in love with this series?

So, with all that in mind, I’m going to be looking at four films from the One Piece catalogue and they are as follows,

6th December – One Piece: Dead End Adventure

13th December – One Piece: The Cursed Holy Sword

20th December – One Piece: Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island

27th December – One Piece: Strong World

Hopefully you’ll enjoy this as much as I’m going to, so step aboard and let’s set sail for adventure!