One Piece Collection 19 (Episodes 446-468) (Cert 12)
4 Discs (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 543 minutes approx
If Monkey D. Luffy is your favourite One Piece character this latest volume will be a manna from heaven for you as the bulk of its twenty-two episodes are devoted to his mission to save his brother Ace from execution. If however, it is one of the other main cast members that entertain you, their brief appearances will be a disappointment.
But Luffy is the central hero of this long running saga so we shouldn’t be surprised his arc is the one creator Eiichiro Oda has chosen to focus on, with the Straw Hats having been separated from each other, and currently residing in disparate and distant locations across the Grand Blue diegesis.
Picking up where the last volume left off, Luffy is still trying to break out of underwater prison Impel Down from which only one prisoner has ever successfully absconded. Flanked by a rogue’s gallery of dangerous criminals and pirates, many of whom also have Devil Fruit powers, the exit is near for Luffy but the warders are also a mix of super powered beings, proving tough opposition for our hero.
Yet this coalition of convenience has so far yielded spectacular results in getting closer to the outside and the prison staff are getting worried, having brought in the big guns, like the poisonous Magellan who already has pushed Luffy to near death. The first disc is solely dedicated to the final stages of Luffy’s escape from Impel Down, and whilst this is a spoiler, it is a necessary one – they do finally break free!
Thanks to Jimbei, one of the Seven Warlords who is so impressed with Luffy’ tenacity and heart that he renounces his status and turned against the navy, and the sacrifice of two escapees, the group make their way to Marineford, where Ace is due to be executed in just a few short hours. However, this isn’t going to be a straightforward public execution because this is One Piece and nothing ever goes smoothly.
Not in the least, the truth of Ace’s parentage is revealed and a shocking flashback sets the scene for an emotional reunion between proxy father and son which causes problems for the Marines as this old man and his crew are as dangerous as they come, and they’ve not come alone. And with other pirates keen to wage war against the Navy the only possible outcome is complete mayhem.
Oda once again plays with our sense of affinity for the rule breakers with this story, since it pits our hero Luffy long aside a group of morally dubious and corrupt individuals he not only has faced and defeated as enemies, but also were jailed for a very good reason. Some revert back to their old selves once the arrangement ends having escaped Impel Down, others continue to support Luffy, having earned their respect.
In subverting the definition of honourable by exploring this grey area of one’s moral fibre the narrative is formed to encourage us to cheer for some truly grotesque ne’er-do-wells and brutish deviants. This is achieved by the subtle commentary about lawmakers being more corrupt than the villains they fight against, with Oda presenting a compelling case, mostly through flashback, to justify supporting this anarchy against the system.
Ace may be Luffy’s brother but he is a character that hasn’t featured that much so far in the show’s run, which for these UK releases has exceeded 450 episodes, so Oda is leaving it a bit late in garnering the audience’s emotional investment in his fate. A brief look into the brothers’ history offers a hint of how their close bond is and their shared benevolence towards others, the latter explored with a heartbreaking outcome.
Being One Piece this also means plenty of action, and with this story being eked as it is, some of the fights take on a slight Dragonball Z feel in lasting longer than they should, but this is the exception rather than the rule. The eclectic mix of characters and abilities means they are never dull and offer fresh challenges for Luffy to overcome, either alone or in tandem with his allies.
During the Marineford episodes as the marines vs. pirates war escalates, there is a slight echo of Bleach in the way the truly powerful fighters stand back whilst the others get their butts whipped before unleashing immeasurable destruction on their opponents. The formula here is the same, usually beginning with someone calmly deflecting a killer blow without batting an eyelid or exerting any effort.
Those of you lamenting the paucity of presence by the other Straw Hats will feel cruelly teased by how they only get half an episode each to update us on their adventures. Just to keep you in the loop, Nami is stuck on Weather Island with a wizard making various weather conditions inside bubbles; Franky has become a gentlemen cyborg since he had to swap cola for tea; and Chopper is nursing a giant bird that can’t seem to fly.
Meanwhile Zoro is trapped on an Island with Perona from Thriller Bark; Brook has been mistaken for Satan by a clan of impoverished villagers; Usopp is the living cannibalistic domain that is Bowin Island; and Sanji remains in hell on Kamabakka Kingdom were the residents are all cross dressers (cue heavy use of the word “queers” here).
Like before, Robin’s plight as a prisoner of the despotically run Tequila Wolf is the most fascinating and fertile of these individual arcs and the one this writer hopes gets to enjoy the same in depth and extended treatment that Luffy’s is, but sadly, the way things are going, this may be hopeless optimism at its purest.
One Piece is a juggernaut of a franchise that shows no signs of slowing down, although it will occasional hit some bumps in the road. This is another solid entry into the canon but the sole focus on Luffy might not appeal to everyone.
English Language 5.1 Surround
Japanese Language Stereo
Marathon Play Feature
Episode 446 Commentary
Episode 452 Commentary
Usopp: The Sniper King
Textless Opening – “Kaze wo Sagashite”
Episode 462 Commentary
Episode 468 Commentary
Textless Opening – “Kaze wo Sagashite”
Textless Opening – “One Day”
Rating – ****
Man In Black