One Piece Collection 15 (Episodes 349-372) (Cert 15)
4 Discs (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 566 minutes approx.
The more observant among you may have noticed that the last One Piece release reviewed on this site was volume 13. The reason volume 14 wasn’t featured is because I wasn’t afforded the review discs on this occasion so the chronology has been broken as we continue with volume 15.
However, I have kept up with the series despite this setback so I am able to fill in the blanks ahead of discussing this latest release so have no fear of the continuity being disrupted for you too. So, to quickly recap, after the Straw Hats, with new crew mate Franky the cyborg and their new ship the Thousand Sunny, have finally departed Enies Lobby and are on their way across the seas once again.
Along the way, the Thousand Sunny is mysteriously thrown into the foggy Florian Triangle where they encounter a ghost ship, the sole inhabitant on board being the jovial afro sporting skeleton named Brook. Formally a human, Brook was the sole survivor of a mass slaughter that wiped out his crew, thanks to the Devil Fruit he ate, except his body wasn’t restored.
Brook also has no shadow which was stolen from him and now he cannot stand in the daytime sun. Suddenly the ship is transported to the ghost isle of Thriller Bark, which turns out to be part of an island onboard a giant pirate ship, infested by human-animal hybrid zombies. They are the handiwork of noted surgeon Doctor Hogback whose apparent noble gesture of giving the deceased another chance at life is hiding a greater motive.
In this part of the story, the Straw Hats having already been through many trials and tribulations – including having Luffy, Zoro and Sanji having their shadows stolen and their powers transferred into zombies – discover the main instigator of all of this is one of the Seven Warlords of the Sea, Gecko Moria, a huge gargoyle of a man and master shadow manipulator.
Moria has in his possession the rebuilt, mammoth sky-scraping body of a former 500 year-old devil named Oars, awaiting one last shadow to reawaken it as the ultimate Special Zombie. With Luffy’s shadow being the final one added, Oars is resurrected, but suffused with Luffy’s personality, his rampage is more one of childish caprice than murderous intent – at least until Moria gains control of him.
Condensing two collections worth of plot into a few paragraphs wasn’t easy, even if the Thriller Bark story arc doesn’t begin until half way through volume 14. A lot happened in the first part that is news worthy, much of which was concluded in this part despite the end clearly not in sight.
One Piece is noted for its sprawling story arcs, each one essentially a number of mini adventures unravelling under an overarching premise, and this is no exception. It begins as pseudo-ghost story by way of introducing Brook to the line-up, before evolving into a quirky take on the Island Of Dr. Moreau with the supernatural twist of the dead being fused with animal DNA.
This allows creator Eiichiro Oda to let his imagination run loose with the designs of the zombies and the various combinations of rotting corpses and anthropomorphic animals, while staying true to his distinctive art style. And of course plenty of his trademark zany humour.
Leading the way on this front would be Lola, the amorous warthog who instigates a love triangle of sorts when Nami is chosen as the bride of leopard faced General Zombie Absalom, who Lola has decided will be her husband. Elsewhere Usopp proves his worth by being the only one who can defeat pink obsessed loli-con Perona, whose attack skill is creating negative ghosts that cripple her opponents with depression – even Luffy!
One thing that stands out in this collection which is rather subtle within the context of this wacky show is Oda’s attention to his own continuity, looking back and forwards. Brook’s fifty-year promise takes us back to a situation involving the Straw Hats in the early days of the show, a helpful reminder is provided in a flashback episode, while future storylines are teased by the arrival of another of the Seven Warlords of the Sea.
Considering how long One Piece has been running and the amount of material Oda has create, this attention to detail and recollection of the past storylines is quite remarkable and admirable – most fans don’t even have that kind of memory! While much of the show’s formula is a case of lather-rinse-repeat, it is watching a story like this where the ability to keep things interesting and feeling fresh after all this time is very evident.
Adding Brook to the line-up so soon after Franky joined the Straw Hats is another interesting move but a can look at it that Franky had plenty of time to establish himself in the epic Water Seven arc, that he was practically an honorary group member anyway. With Brook the feeling out process is still there, and while fans who have seen the films from later in the One Piece timeline will already be familiar with him, this introductory story puts him in a much better light.
Something else to look out for with Manga’s presentation along with the new look menus is the “Marathon Feature”, similar to Dragonball Z, in which you can watch the episodes in one long stretch sans opening and closing credits. However, this doesn’t excise the recaps or the Roger D. Gold intro so some fast forwarding is still required. Thus we only lose a few minutes from the run time instead of 20 plus minutes.
One Piece keeps on rolling and while we know what we are getting into, the endearing characters, utter silliness and continual creative reinvention keep us coming back for more.
English Language 5.1 Surround
Japanese Language Stereo
Episode 352 Commentary
One Piece In The Booth with Christopher R. Sabat
Episode 356 Commentary
Textless Opening – “Jungle P”
Episode 361 Commentary
One Piece In The Booth with Eric Vale
Episode 368 Commentary
Textless Opening – “Jungle P”
Rating – ****
Man In Black