one_piece_10

One Piece Collection 10 (Episodes 230-252) (Cert 12)

4 Discs (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 520 minutes approx.  

Can it really be true? Is this the beginning of the end of the Straw Hats?

At the conclusion of volume nine, our sea faring heroes had taken a sea train to the ship building island of Water Seven, where the streets are like the Italian canals and transport is via hybrid sea monster boats called Yagara. With 300 millions berries in their possession, the crew are seeking to have the Going Merry fixed up by the famed shipwrights of the island, the Galley La Company. While Luffy, Nami and Ussop take care of this, Zoro stays by the ship, Sanji goes off to buy some food and Chopper and Robin go off for a wander.

Naturally mayhem is soon to rear its ugly head. Chopper manages to lose Robin, last seen with a mysterious masked man; Zoro is threatened by a gang of thugs whom he defeats with ease; and Ussop is jumped and the money is stolen. Learning his attackers were the Franky Family Ussop tries to get the money back, foolishly taking on the entire gang alone. After being found left for dead, Luffy, Sanji, Zoro and Chopper get a measure of revenge, but this is only the start of their troubles.

Usually my review for the latest One Piece release begins with a perfunctory note about how the whacky adventures of the Straw Hats continues. While this is true of this latest volume, it doesn’t fully cover the direction this newest story takes, known affectionately as the “Water Seven Chapter”.

There are some initial pacing issues with his latest set of episodes which gives the impression that he show is just marking time which is some ways it is. That doesn’t mean it isn’t entertaining – one thing One Piece is always is entertaining – it just feels a little protracted. Even the opening recaps of each episode switch between the brief narrated reminder to a full five minute repeat of the closing moments of the previous chapter.

One could argue however that there is good cause for this as what transpires across these twenty three is pretty shocking and threatens to spiral out of control with its many twists and turns – at least of the original domestic TV audience watching on a weekly basis would appreciate such an in depth reminder.

So, what could be so be dramatic to warrant such treatment? For starters there is Robin’s mysterious branching off from the gang. She has always been a bit of a closed book compared to the others but the appearance of Admiral Aokiji in the previous volume seemed to have triggered something in her which has been followed on here. Galley La founder Iceberg is subject to an assassination attempt and he names Robin as one of the culprits, which puts her and the Straw Hats by association, on the most wanted list.

When Chopper and Sanji finally catch up with Robin she doesn’t deny her involvement and warns the others not to look for her anymore. Of course they don’t listen and while Sanji takes up this task, the other Straw Hats are in big trouble trying to prove their innocence to the Galley La members and angry islanders. And to make matters worse, Ussop has split from the crew after a huge disagreement with Luffy over the future of the Going Merry.

And while Franky, the cyborg leader of the family who the Straw Hats wiped out, is seeking his revenge, there is the small matter of the secretive group CP9, a masked collective of brutal behemoths with sinister motives driving them, which include Robin. How on earth are the Straw Hats going to come out of a situation where two crew members have flown the coop, one is MIA and the others are fighting for their lives against all odds AND they no longer have a ship to escape on?

Even with the extraneous recaps there is a wealth of material crammed into these four discs, to the point that what is outlined above doesn’t even cover a third of what occurs. To lift this story above the formulaic fare the villains are given flashback episodes to explain to us what makes them tick, some unsurprisingly beginning life with less pernicious desires. This comes distractingly at a point when the Straw Hats’ plight is at its apogee but nonetheless provides a much welcome additional depth to these new characters.

Possibly the biggest story to come out of this adventure is Ussop’s departure from the gang. A stalwart since the very early days of the series, the braggart with the big nose and bomb flinging catapult is as guilty as Luffy for being untimely comic relief but here he gets serious, deadly serious. Indeed, the falling out between Ussop and Luffy takes up an entire episode and while it sounds like a chore, it is one of the most emotionally charged moments in the show’s history – and this arc if full of them!

It’s hard to tell what was going on the mind of creator Eiichirō Oda but there must have been some major shift in his personal life to have led to the heavily dramatic bent and emotional outpouring of the characters. The crazy comedy and outlandish fights are still present and correct but have been toned down considerably, as if this is a new and mature One Piece.   

Hopefully this bold shift in mood and tone to a darker, often poignant and occasionally introspective one won’t put off fans who want the wall to wall comic action that One Piece is known for. In terms of substance over style this is, for this writer, the most edifying and deeply engaging release yet and I am counting the days, hours, minutes and seconds until the release of volume eleven for the conclusion of this fabulous adventure.

 

Extras:

English Language 5.1 Surround

Japanese Language Stereo

English Subtitles

Disc 1:

Episode 233 Commentary

Disc 2:

Episode 236 Commentary

Textless Opening – “Kokoro no Chizu”

Textless Closing – “Eternal Pose”

Disc 3:

Episode 244 Commentary

Episode 245 Commentary

Disc 4:

Textless Opening – “Kokoro no Chizu”

Textless Closing – “Eternal Pose”

Textless Closing – “Dear Friends”

On The Boat – Behind The Scenes Of One Piece with Brina Palencia and Eric Vale

 

Rating – ****

Man In Black

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