Starring: Mayumi Tanaka, Colleen Clinkenbeard, Kazuya Nakai, Christopher R. Sabat, Akemi Okamura, Luci Christian, Kappei Yamaguchi, Sonny Strait, Hiroaki Hirata, Eric Vale
Running Time: 650 minutes
It’s finally arrived! ONE PIECE is one of the longest running animes, sitting alongside the likes of BLEACH and NARRUTO, and yet it isn’t until now we are getting a box-set here in the UK. Not only that, but it’s also the uncut FUNimation and Japanese dubs of the show and not the butchering 4Kids version. A company that treated the show with such little respect (as it does Pokemon) that 144 episodes were edited down to 104. Still, that’s all in the past now and we can explore the show as it was meant to be seen, and what a show it is.
ONE PIECE starts with the simplest of prologues before each episode – a grand pirate was once executed for his crimes, but before being killed he revealed to the world that somewhere out there was his huge haul of treasure, including the ONE PIECE, which has led to an era of pirates searching for his booty (treasure, not buttocks). The show follows Monkey D. Luffy (Tanaka/Clinkenbeard), who enters in unforgettable fashion, as he assembles a crew to help him search for the ONE PIECE. Luffy is also aided by his demon fruit given superhuman power of being able to stretch like rubber, but took away his ability to swim; quite the punishment on the high seas.
The main plot is simple but leads way to countless adventures (the show is still going and is fast approaching its 600th episode). The first 26 episodes are collected here and it’s a damn fine set which acts as an introductory arc as Luffy puts together his crew including an experienced swordsman, a female thief similar to Han Solo, a chronic liar with his sights set on some real adventure, and a chef with some martial arts skills. Each character can be easily surmised, but also have many issues bubbling below the surface. Luffy is an exceptionally lovable protagonist with an optimistic outlook, a painfully honest attitude, but also a violent temper. Nami (Okamura/Christian), the ship’s navigator, is presented as the rogue, a part that is usually reserved for male characters. Her betrayals are often dark, but it’s impossible to dislike her.
The amazing characters are brought to life with unique character designs that set it apart from many anime. The designs of humans are usually long and gangly, and the clothing mixes modern day with a world that seems as though it is set in the past. This mixture of time specific visuals means the show can play fast and loose with elements it includes, which will certainly aid it in keeping its originality over the next 600 episodes. The animation itself keeps a fresh beat, employing a number of different techniques and bold camera movement. Most notable is the shading on characters’ faces, which takes the form of hard individual lines, rather than an area of shadow.
This may only be the introduction, but it is sure to hook all audiences. The general tone is fun and light, but the action sequences bring out the blood, and there are deep and powerful stories and themes being explored as well. One story in this set focuses on a dog protecting a pet store after his owner’s death. It’s a tearjerker, and the show promises many more moments to come. Bright, humorous, inventive, fast, with an engaging mythology, ONE PIECE is a show that paces itself and individual story arcs well, and since we’re starting from the beginning, you best jump aboard to set sail on this adventure now before too many boxsets make collecting the series a chore.