One Piece Collection 21 (Episodes 493-516) (Cert 12)
4 Discs DVD (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 566 minutes approx
To say it has been a while since the last DVD release of One Piece is an understatement – December 12th 2018 was when volume 20 hit the shelves, which is quite a way to go back if you are trying to recall the events leading into this volume.
As it happens, the narrative is somewhat “reset” for the collection in that we only really need a casual reminder of what happened before as a lead in to what occurs here, making it easier to get back into the swing of things. In fact, the episodes first two discs cover a flashback arc, so the sense that this a fresh point to rejoin the story should become clearer.
One salient piece of information from the prior volume which serves as the catalyst for the is the trip down memory lane is the death of Monkey D. Luffy’s brother Ace, which in turn incurred a huge, devastating battle between all pirates regardless of allegiance and the Navy. Luffy was badly injured physically and forced to recuperate, but emotionally his life had been torn apart.
Luffy’s childhood has hitherto been something of a mystery but is now revealed in detail. The story begins a decade earlier with seven year-old Luffy being left in the care of mountain bandit Curly Dadan and her crew by his grandfather Naval Vice Admiral Garp. He hopes being with Dadan will stop Luffy wanting to become a pirate (so a bandit is better?) like his father Gold D. Roger.
Dadan is a bit of a rough old bird, not giving Luffy much but expects him to do all the chores around the camp, but instead Luffy spends his time trying to be friend with the other child in the camp, 10 year-old Ace. The truculent and secretive Ace tries to avoid Luffy but he keeps following him, when Luffy discovers Ace and another boy named Sabo are stealing money and treasure to fund their escape from the lives.
Sabo is the son of a nobleman who dictates every bit of his life to him but treats him coldly, whilst Sabo hates the sense of entitlement wealth and status engenders in people and rebels. When Luffy discovers what Ace and Sabo are up to, he vows to keep quiet, ever after being captured by the gangs they stole from, finally earning Ace’s respect and the duo are now a mischievous trio.
In typical One Piece fashion, the story is a genuine rollercoaster of highs and lows, with the zany antics of the youngsters and the outrageous reactions from those around them just side splittingly funny. In contrast, the serious social commentary regarding the caste systems, socio political agendas, and the general abusive nature towards children is dark and unsettling, and without spoiling too much, the conclusion is heartbreaking.
Ace and Luffy may not be blood brothers but their bond is as deep as if they were, so even though Ace hardly featured in the series we finally get to see just how much he meant to Luffy, and vice versa. If the emotion of this retrospect arc doesn’t get to you, I’m sure the sight of Chibi Luffy, still indomitable and naïve, will make this an enjoyable watch.
The main story resumes with disc three but again, we are weaned back into it rather than an abrupt return to the action. The fall out of Ace’s death resonates with the various pirate captains who fought alongside Luffy and the freed inmates from Impel Down, and having learned that the eponymous One Piece treasure is real, they all decide to try again to reach the New World.
Fans who have been watching religiously thus far will also recall way back in volume 17 the Straw Hats were separated by warlord Kuma, each ending up in a different part of the world. Now, three volumes later, we get to catch up on their adventures, albeit with each one sharing an episode with the others as opposed to Luffy full story arcs. If Nami, Robin, Sanji, Zoro, Brook, Franky, Chopper, or Usopp is a personal favourite and you’ve missed them, rejoice as they are finally back.
With so many individual stories that had great potential to run as full arcs in their own right, it remains a shame that One Piece creator Eiichiro Oda didn’t give everyone in the Straw Hats the chance to star in their own mini-adventure. If this was the case in the manga then this was a missed opportunity for fans of the anime, unless it was a call by the producers to save time and resources, which is still leaving us deprived.
Judging by how this collection ends, with the Straw Hats reunited in spirit by a photo of Luffy in the newspaper with a cryptic message only they would understand, and vowing to become stronger to help Luffy fulfil his destiny, we are either going to see a series of juxtaposed training sessions in the next volume or the story will start afresh after a time jump. Either way, immediate future prospects are enticing.
A final quick note about the episode count – if you noticed this set begins with episode 493 and not 492, this is because 492 was a crossover episode to launch a new anime series Toriko in Japan, thus presumably deemed irrelevant for international audiences, not to mention would have needlessly disrupted the flow of the current storyline.
The 15-month wait between UK releases of One Piece is excruciating and I have no idea why this is but there is a magic about this show that allows the viewer to jump right back into it with relative ease. This amazing sense of comfort negates the time apart within moments, even if the main details are sparse in our memories, a special quality few long running show possess.
So, rejoice that One Piece is back and let’s hope there isn’t another long wait until the next volume.
English Language 5.1 Surround
Japanese Language Stereo
Marathon Play Feature
Episode 495 Commentary
Episode 503 Commentary
Inside Look: The Shot Heard ‘Round The World
Textless Opening Song – “Fight Together”
Episode 506 Commentary
One Piece Outtakes: Part 1
Episode 515 Commentary
Textless Opening Song – “Fight Together”
Rating – ****
Man In Black