Wednesday, September 25, 2013

One Piece (Uncut) Collection 3 (Episodes 54-78)


One Piece is set in a world which, for many years following the death of the pirate king Gol D . Roger, has been experiencing the "Great Pirate Era", with pirates all over the world scrambling to find Roger's treasure, the One Piece, a symbol of the pirate king and a guarantee of glory and power for anyone who finds it. As the threat of piracy grew, so too did the marine corps of the World Government, the seafaring police force and enemy to all pirates. As the story starts, a young man called Monkey D. Luffy (voiced by Dragonball Z's Mayumi Tanaka in Japanese and Fullmetal Alchemist's Colleen Clinkenbeard in English) sets out into the world, leaving behind his small island home in the East Blue ocean on a small makeshift raft, beginning his quest to become the pirate king or die trying. Through a charming combination of persistence, optimism, luck and inspiration, Luffy manages to assemble a craft and crew to tackle the ocean and its threats with.

When Part 3 of the series begins, Luffy and the crew of the Going Merry are preparing to enter the Grand Line, a stretch of ocean devilishly difficult to enter and near impossible to survive. Throughout their voyages they face down foes on both sides of the law owing to Luffy's strong desire to defend the dreams and hopes of the downtrodden and the general love for violence that 60% of his crew seem to share. As such, their journeys are prone to the occasional detour or delay with new challenges and obstacles appearing with alarming frequency.

Episode 54 of the series originally aired in January 2001 and at first glance, the animation appears to show its age, lacking a little of the sheen that more contemporary anime fans may have come to expect, though this is no way detracts from the story or the entertainment value of the series and any initial misgivings can easily be forgotten as the story dashes forward with energy and charisma to spare. Occasionally, the show falls prey to the anime stereotypes of exaggerated emotional expressions, but typically the plot and the characters manage a superb job of maintaining tone and personality, avoiding the realm of 'too cartoony for its own good' easily.

Anime series based on quests and an escalating series of enemies and power sets is not a rarity in this world. What makes One Piece truly stand out, as it has in terms of acclaim and popularity since its original release, are the wonderfully humourous and endearing characters, each with their own unique personality traits and mannerisms and, most importantly of all, each with their own calling, their own dream awaiting them in the Grand Line. Luffy himself often serves as the most entertaining and endearing character, catapulting between naive clown, blindly obsessed with the consumption of meat and grim warrior without pushing the boundaries of characterisation. As a child, Luffy ate the Gum Gum fruit, one of several Devil's Fruits, which gave him uncanny, rubber-like attributes but also made it impossible for him to swim. This combination of invulnerability (to anything from bullets to cannonballs) and certain death from anything deeper than his bathtub manages to make Luffy's battles at sea impressive and over the top without losing the atmosphere of danger and risk which make him the heroic lead of the show.

Also aboard the Going Merry is Luffy's first mate, fiercesome sword-fighter, Roronoa Zoro (voiced by Blue Exorcist's Kazuya Nakai in Japanese and Dragonball's Christopher R. Sabat in English.), always on the lookout for new challenges to help him become the world's greatest swordsman. Zoro serves as the go-to warrior for the series, letting little other than the occasional drink distract him from battle.

Ship Navigator/ Cat Burglar Nami (voiced by Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood's Akemi Okamura and Samurai 7's Luci Christian in English) serves as the voice of reason by default, though she is far from above letting others face danger if there is treasure elsewhere for the taking. Her dream is to be the first navigator to create a perfect map of the entire world.

Usopp the liar (voiced by Death Note's Kappei Yamaguchi in Japanese and Soul Eater's Sonny Strai in English) serves as the ship's sniper and is the most cowardly member of the crew, usually creating fantastic and outrageous lies to explain why he is urgently needed well outside the battlefield. His ambition is the most simple of the crew's; not wanting to be the first or best at anything, he simply wants to become a brave warrior of the sea, despite his cowardly nature.

Lastly, the ship's cook, "Blackleg" Sanji (voiced by Tigergreat cuisine and beautiful women. His willingness to do anything for Nami is matched only by his inability to agree with Zoro on anything and the two are constantly at each other's throats. Needing to keep his hands safe for the culinary arts, Sanji fights with his powerful legs, keeping his hands tucked neatly into his pockets. His dream is to find the All Blue; a legendary ocean to chefs which is said to contain all of the world's species of fish.

Even the antagonists of this series are given entertaining original personalities, with very few instances of token 'bad guys' making an appearance. Characters throughout the series are given an array of attributes to make each one stand out in terms of appearance, abilities, personality and motivation. Eiichiro's innovation and attention to character design make this series really stand out from the crowd.

On the Part3 DVD of One Piece, both Japanese and English versions are available. While at times the English versions can sound a little more over the top than their Japanese counterparts, both provide an entertaining and overall very well delivered performance, leaving it only as a matter of the viewer's own preferences for which to watch. The DVDs also include bonus commentary for two episodes as well as textless versions of the different opening and ending credits used in the show.

One Piece is a tremendously light and entertaining anime adventure which never makes the mistake of taking itself too seriously, with characters and conflicts taking centre stage and delivering a marvellously amusing and original package. The story itself develops neatly across the 25 episodes, showing the crew's journey towards the Grand Line as well as their early adventures within it. After reaching the Grand Line, the action accelerates rapidly and episodes become a more intense and dramatic experience. It takes very little effort to see how the series has reached such levels of popularity worldwide. Part 3 of the anime series remains largely faithful to the original series but also boasts two episodes focusing on material not found in the manga. For fans of the anime genre or just fans of entertaining television, One Piece is a must and Manga UK's release of the series is an excellent place to start.

One Piece Collection 3 (episodes 54 - 78) is available on DVD September 23rd 2013.



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