One Piece Collection 11 (Episodes 253-275) (Cert 12)
4 Discs (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 520 minutes approx.
We were left emotionally drained by the revelations in the first part of the Water Seven story arc, which led to a split within the Straw Hats. First Ussop had a falling out with Luffy over the fate of the broken down ship Going Merry, then Nico Robin abandoned the group to side with the dangerous group CP9.
As the story continues the group is now complete disarray with Nami and Chopper the only two still together, Luffy and Zoro having gone missing. While Nami is unable to make it to the sea train in time to stop Robin leaving with CP9 for the judicial island of Enies Lobby, Sanji luckily manages to board the train. Nami and Chopper must now find Luffy and Zoro and make their way to Enies Lobby to save Robin.
With much of the emotional backstory and heartbreaking drama out of the way, the focus in this latest batch of episodes is on the action and zany antics of our bunch of misfit pirates. However the saga of Robin’s past still has many gaps that need filing in and we move a step closer to getting the full story of why Robin is considered so dangerous, and why she is resistant to being rescued while accepting her fate.
There is a sense of frustration surrounding Robin’s rationale which remains oblique to us, but she is resolute that her actions are justified, and in essence believes she is protecting her friends by keeping them at a distance. But as this moment of judgement comes closer Robin is exposed to some home truths that change her perception of why she should be punished, although it may just be too late.
Robin has always been an enigmatic character with her original introduction to the One Piece universe being that of an enemy, making her the perfect candidate to build such a multi-layered storyline around. It also comes with a positive message concerning the opportunities available to someone to turn their life around and become a good person, and by incorporating that into the central remit of the cast being a tight knit unit, that bond Robin has formed with the Straw Hats is the main vestige of goodness which is keeping her going.
Elsewhere chaos rules supreme as the various rescue attempts begin in earnest. After escaping their individual predicaments – in the most absurdly implausible and OTT manner possible, natch – Luffy and Zoro are reunited with Nami and Chopper, who with the assistance of the newly formed alliance of the remaining Franky Family members and Galley La Company, the rescue mission is on!
Old lady Kokoro reveals another sea train the Rocket Man and offers to drive the group to Enies Lobby, which is an adventure in itself. Along the way they encounter a giant sumo-frog named Yokozuna while rescuing Sanji and Franky who had been ejected from the other train after being rumbled by CP9. Ussop meanwhile still feels uncomfortable showing his face around the others so he reinvents himself as the masked hero Sogeking the Sniper King! Amazingly the mask fools everyone despite it being painfully obvious who is behind it!
Aside from a half episode wasted on a group of CP9 members performing a play for their chief Spandam, the new de facto head villain, the rest of the material is focused around the wall to wall action as the Straw Hats-Franky Family-Galley La alliance fight their way through the marines, the elite Watch Dog group and the inhabitants of Enies Lobby to reach the Tower Of Law.
Long time One Piece fans will already be used to the unbridled, bombastic mayhem that is on display here yet one cannot fail to yield a laugh or two as masses of bodies fly into the air from one of Luffy’s super punches, or Sanji’s kicks; or the ridiculous testosterone fuelled battle cries which were presumably scripted with caps lock on as the streets of Enies Lobby are laid to waste. The energy is infectious and makes for a fun experience for the viewer even if it is business as usual.
Where other mangakas seem to repeat themselves a lot and the paucity of fresh ideas and characters is exposed the longer as series runs, Eiichirō Oda seems to have been blessed with the ability to continue to create compelling and fresh stories as well as delightfully absurd and engaging characters. New ideas are cropping up even in this late stage of this arc and despite the central premise of our heroes kicking butt remaining the same, Oda somehow keeps us coming back for more.
On that note this particular set ends on the dour note of the first part of the exploration into Robin’s past as a little girl. This looks set to expand upon the various brief flashbacks we have seen thus far of her childhood while hopefully explaining how she gained the name and reputation as the Devil Child. Left hanging as we are, let’s hope the wait for the next volume isn’t as excruciating as the tumult young Robin apparently endured.
A quick mention about the presentation is warranted as most episodes open with a rather protracted recap of the previous chapter, but many then continue with the story before the credits roll, so if like me your are tempted to hit the skip button, don’t as you will miss out on vital developments. Also, some later episodes are preceded by a small promo for a competition which was intended for the native audience only. Quite why they weren’t edited off this release I have no idea.
If you haven’t caught the One Piece fever by now you probably never will but this latest collection features some of the funniest and riotous action sequences of the show’s run thus far. Bristling with energy and tongue-in-cheek, madcap silliness built around a poignant tale of friendship, this is another top notch slice of escapist adventure Straw Hat style!
English Language 5.1 Surround
Japanese Language Stereo
Episode 255 Commentary
Episode 263 Commentary
Textless Opening – “Kokoro no Chizu”
Textless Closing – “Dear Friends”
Textless Closing – “Asu wa Kura Kara”
On The Boat – Behind The Scenes Of One Piece with Christopher R. Sabat and Colleen Clinkenbeard
Episode 265 Commentary
Episode 273 Commentary
Textless Opening – “Brand New World”
Textless Closing – “Adventure World”
On The Boat – Behind The Scenes Of One Piece with Sonny Strait and Patrick Seitz
Rating – ****
Man In Black