one_piece_9

One Piece Collection 9 (Episodes 206-229) (Cert 12)

4 Discs (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 543 minutes approx 

We set sail once again with the madcap crew of the Going Merry in what is a landmark volume in this ongoing series of releases for one of anime most enduring titles. The reason for such significance is that from the second episode onwards, the show is presented in widescreen format instead of the old 4:3 picture ratio, signalling the move from standard definition to High Definition in Japan. Not only will you see a marked improvement in the picture quality but also the old eye catch of the cast on wanted posters is replaced with a new one of Luffy peering down a telescope!

Content wise we enter into a new story arc, but not before we conclude the Navarone Arc which began in the last volume but this takes up just one episode in this set. The new adventure sees the Straw Hats fall foul of a rival group of pirates of the Sexy Foxy ship, led by the decidedly unsexy Foxy, who the Going Merry overtakes as they try to navigate a difficult wave.

Our heroes arrive on a nearby deserted island where everything is taller and elongated from trees to animals including a long necked horse they mistake for a giraffe. The horse’s owner they soon discover is Tonjit, an old man who has been stuck on a pair of giant stilts for ten years! Just as Tonjit is rescued by Luffy’s reckless behaviour, the Sexy Foxy arrives on shore and Foxy challenges the Straw Hats to a Davy Back Fight – a series of contests where the ship’s personnel are the prize!

Eiichiro Oda has done something smart here in that he is able to get some mileage out of a fairly slim premise while allowing his imagination to run wild – in other words, this is prime One Piece shenanigans” This new arc may have been deliberately chosen to kick start the HD era of the show, chock full as it is of exhilarating action sequences of a grand scale. One round in particular involves a skating race inside an elliptical stadium which would arguably have lost much of visual dynamic without the panoramic benefits of a widescreen picture.

Of course, we are supposed to overlook the small matter of where this stadium magically materialised from and indeed how it was instantaneously constructed (although the Sexy Foxy having a crew of 500 might explain this) but if we have learned anything from this series, or anime in general, it is best not to ask such questions! With the Straw Hats totalling just seven people (well, six and a reindeer) they are automatically behind the eight ball in terms of manpower and when Luffy loses the opening round they are reduced to six team members.

Being the antagonist Foxy manipulates everything to his favour – biased referees, breaking the rules, etc – while his greatest weapon is his Devil Fruit power of the Slow Beam which, as you may have guessed, slows an opponent’s movements down to an infinitesimal rate for thirty-seconds. A very handy power to have which pays dividends for Foxy, as much as the in fighting and ineptitude of the Straw Hats jeopardises their chances of winning a round.

With this portion of the story over there is a brief diversion of a filler arc but don’t panic it’s quite fun. A strange boy with an enchanted horn steals the memories of the crew while they sleep except for Robin who remained awake. With nobody recognising each other or how they came to be together, Robin ahs to try to reinvigorate their memories before the group self-combusts. Unfortunately Zoro becomes trapped under a spell from the real root of the problem and turns on his crewmates.

This mini adventure kicks off with the usual stupidity, while temporarily pressing the reset button on the cast’s personalities – Ussop talks himself up as the captain of the ship while Nami and Zoro’s abhorrence of pirates resurfaces and Chopper has to avoid being eaten by the others! Comedy aside this turns into a poignant reminder of the various incidents that drove our heroes to unite with Luffy and each other and a unique way to delve into their pasts without the usual contrivance of a flashback story.

Returning to the canon material and after Foxy tries to exact revenge against Luffy, despite an act of generosity from the Straw Hats earlier, we head into another story which introduces us to Admiral Aokiji, a lazy and apathetic marine with a past connection to Robin. At first he seems like a harmless chap until he reveals his Devil Fruit power of manipulating ice and his true motives for hunting Robin down are exposed.   

While this is all by the numbers One Piece craziness, there is a lot happening across these four discs and the action comes thick and fast. Even during the comparative down time the pace never lets up, always moving the story forward rather than diverting for spurious pauses for breath which makes for a nice change.

The first half of the Foxy feud arc provides some of the biggest laughs and the most fun with the over-the-top contests the Straw Hats are forced into. In fact, over-the-top feels rather inadequate to describe the madness of some of the rounds as Oda lets his imagination run wild in turning simple games into laugh-out-loud riotous mayhem. With the introduction of the Aokiji Arc, the tone darks a darker turn but the transition is smooth and compliments the manic mirth of the previous episodes.

One Piece has rebounded from the prolonged ennui of the Skypiea Arc from the last few volumes with this release, returning to the manic, bombastic and very shouty antics that should please long time fans of Luffy and his fellow Straw Hats, acting a firm reminder of how good this show is when it is on form.  

 

Extras:

English Language 5.1 Surround

Japanese Language Stereo

English Subtitles

 

Disc 1:

Episode 211 Commentary

 

Disc 2:

Episode 215 Commentary

Textless Opening – “Bon Voyage”

Textless Opening – “Kokoro no Chizu”

Textless Closing – “Dreamship”

Textless Closing – “Eternal Pose”

English Trailer

 

Disc 3:

Episode 218 Commentary

 

Disc 4: 

Episode 229 Commentary

Textless Opening – “Kokoro no Chizu”

Textless Closing – “Eternal Pose”

 

Rating – *** ½ 

Man In Black

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