One Piece Collection 8 (Episodes 183-205) (Cert 12)
4 Discs (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 520 minutes approx
The first two discs in the latest set of this perpetually running anime are concerned with completing the equally exhausting Skypiea arc which has so far covered about at least six discs. A good memory would probably be handy to remember everything that has happened thus far since a lot has gone down in what has been an entertaining if sprawling adventure. However there is a danger that the ending will feel just a little overcooked and protracted beyond its usefulness that might corrupt one’s overall opinion of it.
When we left the story the God Eneru was about to launch a weapon to destroy the Sky Islands so he can claim the treasures of the Golden City for his own, the same treasures which have been the stuff of legend but no-one has been able to confirm he existence of it. The Straw Pirates, who have spent much of the adventure separated from each other, finally come together for a final group effort to thwart Eneru but again Luffy and Nami are left to fight the battle from the top of the giant tree stalk while the others are left helpless below.
In what should have been concluded in half the time the story keeps on going just when you think the end is near; it even takes a three episode diversion for a flashback to somewhat belatedly full us in the history of the elusive and fabled Golden City and why Montblanc Noland earned the “liar” epithet that sealed his pariah status. If you can’t remember who Noland is, and that is quite understandable, you’ll need to go back some forty episodes back for a refresher.
Perhaps I’m being a little hard on these closing chapters as the action is prime One Piece and there is plenty of genuine emotion born out of the suffering of the Skypieans but with the cast’s dialogue being shouted at their top of their voices and the pitfall of repetition in the fight sequences, it’s difficult to not feel just a little worn down by it all. Whether this makes a difference, the ending is left a little open so perhaps a return to Skypiea or a rematch between the Straw Hats and Eneru is something to look forward in the future?
The second half of this set sees our heroes embark on a new adventure which may be a dreaded filler arc but is actually hugely entertaining and above all a lot of fun, a stark contrast to the emotionally draining impact of the previous arc.
Having left the Sky Islands and falling back down to the surface level water the Going Merry lands in what appears to be a rocky lagoon within the island of Navarone, which in fact is home to the fortress of the Marine Base G8. When the group all disperse to investigate their surroundings the marines erroneously think they’ve discovered a ghost ship which sets off the alarm bells but when they realise the truth the hunt is on to bring in the sworn enemies.
The early comedy comes from the various endeavours of the Straw Hats to evade capture once they realise they’ve infiltrated a naval fortress. For all you cosplay fans Nami disguises herself as a nurse and befriend the meek female medical officer left to tend to the entire base on her own, with a bit of help from a poorly disguised Chopper. Usopp and Zoro are captured fairly early on while Sanji and Luffy are mistaken for two celebrated chefs who have come to cook for the marines. Robin also adopts someone else’s identity, that of an official naval commander who arrived for a visit.
Played mostly for laughs this arc is the perfect remedy for any ennui the previous arc may have engendered as the story move along at a solid pace and doesn’t have an extensive cast with multiple factions to push the audience’s memory and powers of recognition to their limit. The humour is irresistibly silly, not necessarily genius as it plays up to the various quirks and foibles of the cast, such as Luffy’s insatiable appetite and Sanji’s weakness for women. Both are put to the test when the fortress kitchen is run by the fierce Jessica who Sanji is keen to impress (and does) if only, Luffy didn’t eat all the food!
What makes this non-canon arc work so well is the strength of the writing and how it was deftly incorporated into the end of the Skypiea arc for seamless continuity as opposed to the crew just wandering into their next adventure. The writing also makes well observed references to the past and keeps the general flow of the character’s personalities alive without taking any liberties, such as giving them new abilities or random companions to work alongside (Bleach I’m looking at you).
In what is an unusual move, this set ends on a cliffhanger with just one episode left to go in this arc before Eiichiro Oda’s original material resumes. Why they didn’t close on the last episode here and start afresh in the next release is anyone’s guess, especially for the sake of just one chapter.
An undeniably packed collection is volume eight of One Piece which will keep the faithful more than happy. I’m sure opinion will differ on the conclusion of the Skypiea arc, which this writer couldn’t wait to end, but hopefully the sheer joyous hubris of the G8 arc will suitably entertain the naysayers who discriminately avoid filler material.
English Language 5.1 Surround
Japanese Language Stereo
Episode 193 commentary
Textless Opening – “Bon Voyage”
Textless Closing – “Moon And Sun”
Episode 196 Commentary
Textless Opening – “Bon Voyage”
Textless Closing – “Dreamship”
Rating – ***
Man In Black