Eric Vale, Andy Mullins
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Reviewed by Jason Zingale
he problem with giving a television show a glowing review once is that when it comes time to review the next season, your expectations are almost always unreasonably high. In my review of the first batch of “One Piece” episodes, I noted that the series “had the potential to become one of the best [animes] ever." But after sitting through the second volume of Season One, my statement doesn’t feel quite as relevant. Maybe it’s that the initial allure of the series has worn off, or that the villains just aren’t as interesting this time around, because while First Voyage made me believe that “One Piece” was something special, Second Voyage only proved that I may have passed judgment a little too soon.
Picking up where Episode 13 left off, Luffy and the rest of the gang are still engaged in battle with the Black Cat Pirates – now joined by their former captain, Kuro, who plans to dispose of the Black Cats himself after he kills Kaya and takes over her estate. Not to be defeated by someone as disloyal as Kuro, Luffy uses his Gum Gum powers to put an end to his evil plot, and as reward for helping save the village, Kaya presents him with his very own ship. After convincing Usopp to join the crew on a permanent basis, the Straw Hats set sail to recruit more pirates for their trip to the Grand Line. When fate lands them smack dab in the middle of a battle between the kitchen crew of a sea-based restaurant and the notorious pirate captain Don Krieg, however, Luffy meets his next potential recruit: Sanji, a no-nonsense cook with a mean roundhouse kick. There's just one problem. Sanji isn’t interested in joining the crew, and in order to change his mind, Luffy must help him defeat Krieg and his band of misfit pirates.
Though the second volume deals almost exclusively with the Straw Hats’ altercations with the Black Cat Pirates and Don Krieg, the best episodes are those that step away from the battle in order to provide backstory for the main characters. In First Voyage, there was an entire episode dedicated to how Luffy came to receive the straw hat he loves so much, and in Second Voyage, there’s even more flashback goodness. An entire episode is dedicated to the origin behind Zoro’s famed Three Sword Style, while “The Illusory All Blue” jumps back and forth in time to explain how Sanji came to meet Red Foot Zeff (the pirate chef he now works for), and why he’s so intent on protecting the man's restaurant. Even when the show is deep into the Don Krieg saga, the series still finds time to massage certain subplots – like when Zoro takes on master swordsman Hawk-Eye Mihawk (the man he believes he needs to beat to be the best in the world) and fails... miserably.
With so much great character development in this batch of episodes, it may seem strange to criticize Second Voyage so harshly, but while there are some great moments included, the rest of the volume is pretty ho-hum. Neither Kuro nor Don Krieg are especially magnetic villains, and though the brief appearance of Hawk-Eye Mihawk injects some life into the second half of the set, it doesn’t help that he doesn't stick around. Not even the introduction of Sanji, perhaps the most interesting character in the series, changes the fact that for some reason, the Don Krieg saga isn’t nearly as cool as it should be. That may be remedied when the third volume (and thus the remainder of that saga) is released, but until then, I’m holding Funimation responsible. “One Piece” might still go down as one of the best animes ever made, but until Funimation figures out a better way to release these sets without interrupting the story, it’s never going to be as great as it could be.
Special Features: It’s slim pickings once again as the only extras Funimation has included are trailers, textless songs, and a lone audio commentary with producer Mike McFarland and voice actors Luci Christian (Nami) and Sonny Strait (Usopp).