One Piece: Film Z (Cert 12)
1 Disc DVD/Blu-ray (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 108 minutes approx.
Avast me hearties, it is time once again to set sail on the Seven Seas with the guys and gals of One Piece for their twelfth feature length outing.
The film opens with “Black Arm” Zephyr, now known simply as Z, a former navy Admiral who has since gone renegade and now leads his own army the Neo Marines, raiding the naval artillery base on a volcanic island for their stock of Dyna Stones. During the raid Z is defeated when an eruption occurs and is sent flying into the ocean. Sometime later Z is discovered floating in the sea by the Straw Hats and Chopper nurses Z back to health.
However Z has a personal grievance against pirates and has sworn to wipe them out, thus repaying Luffy and co. for their hospitality by trying to kill them. Z’s henchmen Ain and Binz track Z down and aid his escape, defeating the crew and through Ain’s Devil Fruit power, leaving Nami, Chopper and Robin in younger bodies. Initially keen on revenge the Straw Hats learn that Z has in fact a destructive motive that drives him making their mission to face him again two fold.
For fans who are following the TV show via the UK release this film will be a little disorientating due to the changes begat by this story being set two years after the events of the TV timeline circa 2011/2012, hence the significant aesthetic changes to the main cast. As per the last UK released film Strong World, the Going Merry has been replaced by the Thousand Sunny and the Straw Hats crew now includes skeleton Brook and cyborg Franky.
A rather timely inclusion to the cast for this story is former navy admiral Aokiji, who has only just made his debut in the story currently running in the UK releases. We’ve yet to truly see what effect Aokiji has on the lives of the Straw Hats but plenty of hints in this story lead us to assume that little water has passed under the bridge in the interim.
Back to the story and Z proves to be a rather unique antagonist for Luffy and friends who isn’t really a direct threat to them, rather a foe through circumstance. Z has a huge but understandable chip on his shoulder about pirates which is revealed later in the film, making the Straw Hats instant enemies although as usual Luffy tries to laugh it off. Z has quite the backstory and is very well developed non-canon adversary as well as visually impressive one who really deserves to have a long running story arc in the TV show. One Piece creator Eiichiro Oda over saw the production of this project which may explain this rare depth for a one-off villain.
Z’s two main henchmen get the better of the Straw Hats with their devil fruit powers – Binz can manipulate flowers while Ain has the power to reverse people’s ages by twelve years. She manages to hit Nami, reducing her to ten years old, Chopper to a reindeer fawn and Robin to a barely noticeable eighteen. Brook is also touched but as he is a skeleton no-one notices the difference.
It wouldn’t be anime without some creepiness so prepare to squirm as Sanji laments the absence of the adult Nami’s beauty only to then realise he can witness her blossoming into adulthood! Ugh! Similarly, when the crew set off to Dock Island to seek further information on Z, the girls get a job in a bar with Nami as a waitress (really Japan?) and Robin as an exotic dancer because apparently 18 is the right age for driving men wild with sexual desire!
Putting this grumble aside, the story expands for Luffy when Z steals the straw hat given to him by Shanks, and as we know no-one touches Luffy’s hat! While this is a personal mission for Luffy, for the others Z must be stopped from destroying the Three End Points using the Dyna Stones, which create explosions when exposed to oxygen. Z and his Neo Marines have the Straw Hats and the Navy on his trail so something has to give.
Oda’s aforementioned presence on this project adds an air of authenticity to this film that others have lacked, enabling it to cross reference previous canon material with a credible sense of cohesion. The main story has the potential to be bigger than a 100 plus minute film, a feeling one gets with the rushed final act but the overall run time is not wasted with any incongruous frivolities or extraneous material.
While all the regular cast are present in the final battle, the focus in this tale falls mostly on junior Nami, Luffy and Z, with Straw Hat favourites Sanji, Zoro and Usopp only popping up when needed. For viewers unfamiliar with Franky and Brook, this film does little to showcase them either, leaving us to wait for their TV arrival to get a true feeling for them.
The bigger budget and additional CGI animation reveals itself from the opening moments and is used wisely in both the battle scenes and the comedic action set pieces involving fast moving transportation. The colours are bold and there is great depth to the island scenery which looks a treat on Blu-ray, but be aware that the flashback scenes are suffused with a nostalgic filmic grain. Also be warned that the opening and closing theme songs come courtesy of Canadian pop-punk brat Avril Lavigne, so remember the fast forward button is your friend.
One Piece: Film Z confounds us by appearing rather late in the franchise’s impressive run yet remains a resoundingly fresh and accomplished spin-off when surely by now, the ideas should be running thin. A darker and deeper story built around an interesting foe on a distorted moral crusade drives this fun and action outing along, delivering one of the better cinematic adjuncts found in the One Piece milieu.
English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Japanese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Rating – ****
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