- Buy the DVD
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
t’s extremely rare to come across an anime series that is not only original and highly addictive, but also has the potential to become one of the best ever. The pirate-themed action/comedy, “One Piece,” does just that, and it takes only 13 episodes to convince you of its excellence. Based on the bestselling Shonen Jump manga by Eiichiro Oda, “One Piece” has garnered comparisons to the likes of Akira Toriyama’s “Dragon Ball Z,” and for good reason. Both series follow the same basic formula of creating mini-arcs that begin with the introduction of an eccentric villain and end with an epic battle, all while developing the main story along the way. It’s like a serialized version of “Final Fantasy” on the high seas, but with a richer mythology and some colorful characters to boot.
In a time when pirates ruled the waters, legend speaks of Pirate King Gold Roger and his massive cache of treasure dubbed “One Piece.” Following his capture and eventual execution, Gold Roger revealed that the treasure had been hidden somewhere on the Grand Line, and whoever uncovered the treasure first would be crowned the new Pirate King. Now, several years later, pirate wannabe Monkey D. Luffy is on a journey to rally up his own crew and track down the One Piece. He might not look very intimidating in his red vest and straw hat, but Luffy is actually a talented fighter thanks to his super strong elastic skin, which he received from eating the Gum Gum devil fruit. Only one of each type of fruit exists in the world, and though they grant the consumer special powers, the devil fruits also take away their sability to swim (the last thing a pirate should be deprived of). Along the way, Luffy teams up with a skilled swordsman named Roronoa Zoro, a greedy navigator named Nami, and a big-nosed marksman named Usopp, who uses a slingshot and unconventional ammo like rotten eggs to dispose of his enemies.
Though I’ve seen my share of strange anime villains, “One Piece” takes the cake with one of the weirdest groups yet, including a pirate captain named Buggy the Clown and his circus-themed lackeys, and Jango the Hypnotist, a Michael Jackson-looking bad guy whose mode of transportation is moonwalking. Of course, with so many villains popping up in the first 13 episodes, you’d think there wouldn’t be enough room for character and story development, but “One Piece” actually manages to juggle its priorities pretty well. Unlike “Dragon Ball Z,” battles don't last for several episodes, leaving plenty of room for the writers to further develop the world of “One Piece” via flashbacks and other various subplots.
If there’s one criticism to be made, however, it’s in Funimation’s handling of the DVD release. Though it’s nice to see that the episodes are being offered uncut and with a brand new U.S. voice cast (Christopher Sabat is perfect as Zoro), some potential fans might be turned off by the fact that the first season has been cut into pieces. These 13 episodes appear under the subtitle “First Voyage,” but if that’s the case, why does the final episode cut off in the middle of a story arc? It just doesn’t seem right, especially when Funimation is charging around $30 for the two-disc set. “One Piece” is certainly good enough to warrant such an investment, but with the series still ongoing (and already approaching 400 episodes), that sort of investment might be too much – even for the most diehard fans.
Special Features: Funimation packs its usual collection of trailers onto the two-disc set, but the only real special feature is a cast/crew commentary on the first episode. Producer Mike McFarland is joined by the voices of Luffy (Colleen Clinkenbeard) and Zoro (Christopher Sabat) to discuss how they got involved in the series, and while it’s a good listen for those interested in the production side of things, it would have been nice to see a few more included than just the one.