One Piece Collection 12 (Episodes 276-299) (Cert 12)
4 Discs (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 543 minutes approx
I suppose it is somewhat fitting that my anime reviews for 2015 should end with a One Piece release, since the first of the year was a review for the eighth feature film from this long running and seemingly invincible franchise.
There is also an element of frustration surrounding this particular release, since it was originally due to hit the shelves back in October but an unspecified issue saw its release postponed until now, some two months later. But it is now finally here!
However, having left us to wait even longer for the continuation of this epic saga exploring the mysterious past of Nico Robin, the show itself leaves a lot to be desired by falling foul of the dreaded filler material to mark time while the ongoing manga gets sufficiently ahead of the anime.
The result is a rather haphazard collection of episodes, many of which one can skip if they become impatient in their wait for the main story to resume again, but be warned – not all filler episodes come at the same time, meaning more disturbances to the central adventure at hand.
We open with three episodes to conclude the look back into Robin’s past, explaining why her mother abandoned her as child and how the consequences of her actions shaped the way Robin behaves as an adult. This is truly stirring and emotional stuff, presenting a completely different side to the stoic and tacit women we know and love while providing so many answers and explanations regarding the current dispute between the Straw Hats, CP9 and the folks of Galley La Company.
Just as we resume the present day action however, we take out first of many infuriating detours – infuriating because they came at a literally nail-biting crucial point of the story. Just as the reunited Straw Hats, along with cyborg Franky, leap off the top of a bridge tower, we cut to flashbacks from the pasts of the Straw Hat members, courtesy of the old 4:3 picture ratio footage from the early release we’ve already seen.
And to tease us further, at the end of each of these episodes the fateful jump is shown again albeit with a tiny bit more added to it, cutting off the same point every time, making this the most protracted jump in history! It is not until half way through the second disc that the story resumes in earnest but the audiences in Japan watching this on a weekly basis must have been tearing their hair out!
Presumably as a goodwill gesture for our patience, these recap episodes each contain a chibi comic coda entitled Straw Hat theatre, five hit and miss mini vignettes which sees the cast in a variety of guises and situations, including one if they were all women! It might not be enough to appease our impatience but some will find these amusing.
Finally we return to the story and once we get into the full swing of things the misgivings towards the prior procrastination quickly evaporates as we get One Piece back with one hell of a bang! Robin has now been handcuffed by the villainous CP9 Chief Spandam (his history is also revealed during this set) and is being taken to the Tower of Law in Enies Lobby. One of five keys can open these handcuffs, each one in the possession of a CP9 member, leaving the Straw Hats to take on individual fights to earn possession of the correct key.
But this is One Piece and you know it isn’t going to be that easy, and it isn’t! Zoro and Sogeking (Ussop under a mask which the others still haven’t twigged despite Franky pointing it out to them) end up handcuffed together meaning two keys are now needed but they also have to work together to fend off two very dangerous CP9 members. Sanji gets destroyed because he can’t fight a woman and desperate measures sees Chopper transform into a rampaging beast.
If you’ve stuck with the series this far you know they don’t do anything by halves and even with the obvious padding of the extended recaps at the start of each chapter and two more non-canon distraction episodes, this rule still applies, going all out with the bombastic craziness that has made this franchise so universally successful.
The spotlight may flit between different fights with one or two sharing a chapter while the other simmer away in the background, but each clash is a genuine thrill ride designed to show off the best of the participants and forge new respect among the team players. Franky still has a hard time convincing the Straw Hats that he is reformed but they willingly fight alongside him for the moment, realising his worth to them as an ally.
True to the ethos of the show, the zany humour is still a fundamental part of its make-up and the manner in which it effortlessly switches from brooding violence to anarchic irreverence on the turn of a heel is still beguiling to watch. This is a regular occurrence in this particular set and is much needed, especially after the emotionally draining opening of Robin’s back story, yet is never overplayed or inserted purely to facilitate a change of pace.
If One Piece is genuinely adept at anything it is the deceptive way it seems to offer little but in actual fact delivers a lot. It is quite understandable that the flashback/filler material will not sit well with everyone and, after the delay of the release, it is not unreasonable to expect the story to carry on from where we left it (Naruto Shippuden, we’re looking at you!) but even if you discard the unwanted garnish there is still a substantial feast here to stuff yourself silly with.
Hopefully One Piece Collection 13 won’t be too far away and by the end of this set you’ll feel the same way too!
English Language 5.1 Surround
Japanese Language Stereo
Episode 277 Commentary
Episode 287 Commentary
Textless Opening – “Brand New World”
Textless Opening – “We Are!”
Textless Opening – “Crazy Rainbow”
Textless Closing – “Adventure World”
On The Boat – Behind The Scenes Of One Piece with John Swasey and Stephanie Young
Episode 289 Commentary
Episode 290 Commentary
Textless Opening – “Crazy Rainbow”
On The Boat – Behind The Scenes Of One Piece with Jonathan Brooks and Jason Liebrecht
Rating – ****
Man In Black