One Piece Collection 7 (Episodes 157-182) (Cert 12)
4 Discs (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 588 minutes approx
The Skypiea arc is in full swing and the Straw Hats are far from out of the woods yet. When we left them they had just upset the local authority the White Berets and had incurred the charge of Class 2 criminals which meant they are to be handed over to the big boys, the Priests.
As ever zero damns are given by our heroes and they prepare to move on but while Nami, Zoro, Chopper and Robin board the Going Merry, Luffy, Usopp and Sanji stay back to gather supplies from their hosts Conis and Pagaya, the ship is whisked away by a giant shrimp which takes them to the Upper Yard to face their fate. When Conis takes the others to get a boat to follow their friends, she confesses that she called the shrimp since it was God Eneru’s will and she couldn’t disobey it. Of course this does little to deter our heroes and of they sail.
The main theme pervasive throughout the four discs in this latest set is the group acting on their own or in small parties. When the Going Merry is stranded on a sacrificial altar in the Upper Yard Chopper is left to look after the ship while the others go investigating the jungle area surrounded by flying shark invested waters. While under attack Chopper uses a whistle given to them earlier by warrior Gan Fall and his bird Pierre who comes to the rescue and involves them into their skirmish with Eneru and his priests. Meanwhile Luffy’s party arrives on the other side of the Upper Yard and have to deal with the game playing priest Satori.
One thing this volume doesn’t scrimp on is action although you may have guessed by now that having concurrent battles there is little forward movement in the story for a fair chunk of episodes. In the same vein as Naruto and Dragonball Z this means being stuck in the same location for an extended length of time (much to the delight of the animators and background artists I am sure) which creates a sense of ennui but at least the locations and personnel changes between the two battling parties to keep the temptation to reach for the fast forward button at bay.
In the second half of this arc the group are eventually reunited but not for long as they journey onto the fabled Gold City but thanks to a giant snake a second separation occurs, this time leaving most of the crew alone to fend for themselves, with only Robin remaining on the correct path towards the Gold City. But a deeper story is unveiled here as we progress.
The God Eneru, as you might imagine, is a fairly self centred and belligerent chap who like to throw his weight around and have his subjects live in fear rather than comfort them through divine inspiration. He has a plan for the world of Skypiea which unfortunately for the ordinary folk doesn’t include their existence. Upon learning of the imminent arrival of the Straw Hats Eneru decrees that the Survival games should commence and makes a prediction that there will only be five survivors in the final. Is he right? And who will those five be?
This is where things get interesting as the islands are fact inhabited by many different clans all with their own agendas. At the bottom of the totem pole are the ordinary folk of Angel Island from whom Conis and Pagaya are outcast for supposedly being criminals. Being the weakest of the people in Skypiea they fear Eneru the most and have no form of defence from any catasphrophies or invasion. More aggressive are the Shandia, guerrillas who represent the last of the race whose island was taken over by the arrival of Eneru and the Skypieans. The Shandians beliefs mean they protect the Golden Bell but with the Skypieans turfing them out of their land they instead are embroiled in constant warfare of their homeland.
Unfortunately for the Straw Hats they are also guilty of trespassing on their land and are deemed enemies too, leading to a four way battle royale when Gan Fall’s true identity is revealed, again tied in with the Skypiean invasion. This extravagant turf war makes for some slightly uncomfortable viewing in lieu of current issues in both the Middle East and the Ukraine (although this storyline is ten years old) which adds an extra sense of poignancy to the story and heightened sympathy for the plight of the aggrieved parties.
This may sound like an overly dramatic response to a “simple” anime show, but Eiichiro Oda’s script is surprisingly mature and thoughtful for what is usually a rambunctious and fairly single minded show. When the actions slows down and the exposition begins Oda ensures that the story carries some emotional weight to not bore the audience while serving to flesh out the characters further beyond their initial one dimensional roles, giving us a better understanding of their motives and beliefs.
Don’t be fooled into thinking, however, that Oda has gone soft on us with this socially conscience storyline – there is still plenty of the usual manic antics and excitable dialogue delivered at 120 decibels as well as the physical comedy of Luffy, his rubbery body and his madcap crew. Everyone gets a moment in the spotlight across the twenty six episodes presented here, and while some of the new characters fail to grab the imagination others make enough of a mark to have a significant impact of the story development.
Ending on a frustratingly timed cliffhanger this volume starts off as more of the same old One Piece but after a while settles into a failry evocative multi-layered adventure. The result will see the hardcore fans counting the days, hours and minutes for the next volume!
English Language 5.1 Surround
Japanese Language Stereo
Episode 166 commentary
Textless Opening – “Hikari E”
Textless Opening – “Bon Voyage”
Textless Closing – “Faith”
Textless Closing – “A To Z”
Episode 171 Commentary
Textless Opening – “Bon Voyage”
Textless Closing – “A To Z”
Textless Closing – “Moon And Sun”
Rating – ***
Man In Black