One Piece Collection 20 (Episodes 469-491) (Cert 12)

4 Discs DVD (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 543 minutes approx   

When we last saw Monkey D. Luffy he was on the verge of rescuing his brother Ace from execution at Marineford, now aided by the monstrous Whitebeard and his many pirates. The Marines are not without formidable fighters on their side, calling on the Seven Warlords of the Sea to uphold justice but loyalties are beginning to be torn asunder.

It has been quite a trek for Luffy to get this far, spending countless episodes trying to escape from Impel Down prison and now even running a few yards towards the scaffold where Ace is currently being held is another multi-chapter endeavour. It is fair to say this current arc channels the worst excesses of Dragonball Z by taking so long to get to the point, although in the case of One Piece the procrastination isn’t so prominent.

Not that this is all on Luffy – with the various groups of pirates either under Whitebeard’s command or from different factions, to the many people Luffy has become acquainted with during this adventure, there is seldom a dull moment and plenty of personal history to be revisited to explain the many individual issues that are to be settled during this almighty battle royale.

Luffy was actually badly injured at the end of the last volume and his treatment signals Whitebeard’s turn to step up and put the Navy in their place, his vested interest in Ace and Luffy’s wellbeing explored in a flashback. But first Whitebeard has to deal with a betrayal in the ranks due to the propaganda of the Navy against him succeeding in convincing one of his pirates that Whitebeard had sold out to the enemy.

This ties in with a subplot featuring cowardly pirate Buggy trying to earn his fame by broadcasting the Battle of Marineford and portraying himself as the saviour and hero of the hour ties in with a rare piece of satirical commentary for this show, taking a shot at the veracity of the media and its manipulation of the masses.

By controlling all of the transponder snails the Navy broadcasts reports containing whatever narrative they so choose, painting themselves as paragons of justice and the pirates as a lawless danger; in reality, the marines and the Warlords are no better in their abuse of power and disregard for another life, often going further than the pirates to ensure victory.

During the battle this becomes even more apparent and even the most hardened of the pirates and the criminals who escaped Impel Down with Luffy, find themselves so in awe of his tenacity and sense of righteousness that whatever acts of duplicity they were going to commit is abandoned in favour of fighting Luffy’s corner. The more this happens the more desperate the marines are the more dangerous and deranged the Warlords become.

Essentially this is a battle of wills between two sides believing in justice but with different ideas in how this should manifest itself. The Navy have brought forward Ace’s execution, which is deemed harsh in the first place, to spite him and any dissenting voice, whilst Luffy is seeking justice for his brother and this blatant abuse of power by the marines. With neither side able to discuss this, because it is a matter of law vs. outlaw, violence is unfortunately the only way to seek a resolution, which again the Marines started.

One Piece creator Eiichiro Oda has played with this askew dynamic since the beginning, since historically pirates aren’t meant to be the good guys but Luffy was never the type to cause trouble for trouble’s sake, so the term “pirate” has a nebulous meaning for him and the Straw Hats, positing them as a ragtag crew of misfits with a salty edge to their otherwise empathetic personalities.

That Luffy is the one who suffers the most during this battle – emotionally and physically – puts a unique value on the strength of his moral fortitude and sense of fair play lacking in the so-called upholders of justice. No more is this evident than in his face off against Garp, an staunch admiral of the navy and Ace and Luffy’s grandfather, putting the duty of his job before family even if it means a physical showdown with them.

Garp is therefore emblematic of the Navy’s mindset as a whole but this is a die of them that isn’t seen by the public, which Buggy’s antics in front of the camera continues to obscure. But other warlords have fallen under the influence Luffy’s indomitable spirit, from the bulbous Jimbei to the sultry Boa Hancock, now daydreaming of marriage to Luffy, creating a philosophical divide in loyalty.

In the final analysis, Oda has not only crafted a somewhat protracted tale of heroism, sacrifice and family loyalty with this storyline but also a powerful anti-war polemic that puts the loss of lives into perspective against the megalomania of those at the top. The battle was won at a tragic cost yet there were no winners morally; the lack of gracious in victory shows that lessons weren’t learned, raising pertinent questions as to what justice truly means.

Whilst this subtext gives us a lot to ponder and the execution of the pivotal events in exploring these points are some of the show’s truly horrific and emotional moments to date, there is a chance some viewers might find the lack of progress insofar as Luffy spending many episodes running towards Ace yet remaining virtually stationary a little repetitious.

Also there are no detours looking at the stories featuring the other Straw Hats, so if your favourite is among them, you have to make do with the credits and eye catches to see them in this release.

Despite that feeling of jogging on the spot for most of the episodes in this set, the quality of the storytelling is a reminder that One Piece is still a force to be reckoned with, as the 500 episode milestone approaches!

 

Extras:

English Language 5.1 Surround

Japanese Language Stereo

English Subtitles

Disc 2:

Music Lessons With Brook

Episode 476 Commentary

Episode 480 Commentary

Textless Opening Song – “One Day”

Trailers

Disc 3:

Episode 482 Commentary

Episode 486 Commentary

Disc 4:

Top 10 Moments

Textless Opening Song – “One Day”

Trailers

 

Rating – ****

Man In Black