Eric Vale, Andy Mullins, Chris Rager
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Reviewed by Jason Zingale
t’s been said that “One Piece” is the kind of show that takes awhile to hit its stride, and if that’s the case, well, it's probably still a ways off from happening. The third volume of Season One may start off strong, but the quality drops off considerably from there – reaching newer lows than some of the more lackluster episodes from Second Voyage. Part of this has to do with the fact that the new villain just isn’t as memorable as those before him, but it’s mostly because Nami (who plays a central role in this batch of episodes) is probably the weakest character on the show. She may be Luffy’s top choice to fill the role of navigator, but with Nami at the helm, “One Piece” is about as dull as a piece of flotsam.
Once again picking up smack dab in the middle of an ongoing arc (thanks Funimation), the first few episodes of Third Voyage wrap up the Don Kreig saga as Luffy and Sanji team up to defeat the evil pirate captain and his right-hand man, Commander Ghin. After persuading Sanji to join his crew as the cook, Luffy sets sail to catch up with Zoro, Ussop and the rest of the gang, who have tracked Nami to Fishman Island where it’s revealed that she’s been working for the pirate captain Arlong all along. Though she may have some people fooled, Luffy refuses to believe that Nami is a traitor, and instead of leaving her behind, he challenges Arlong and his gang of fishmen in order to win her freedom.
Most of Third Voyage centers on Arlong’s dictatorship over the island where Nami grew up and would in fact be most commonly described as the Fishman saga. A more apt title, however, would be the Nami Backstory saga, because it’s positively loaded with information on how the thief came to work for Arlong. Why Nami’s backstory is told over the course of several episodes while the other Straw Hat Pirates only received one each is beyond me, but it kills any momentum that was built up during the end of the Don Krieg saga. We spend so much time learning about Nami’s relationship with her adopted sister and foster mother that by the time Luffy arrives, you just want it to end.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t, and to make matters worse, Arlong and the fishmen are terrible villains. “One Piece” may have been created before “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” but that doesn’t make the idea of fishmen any less lame. It might sound like a good idea considering the show takes place on open water, but they never really pose the same threat as some of the other baddies. Granted, Third Voyage ends just as the battle between the Straw Hats and the fishmen is getting started, but while the Don Krieg saga finished on a good note (thanks almost entirely to Sanji’s fight with Commander Ghin), there’s something about Arlong’s inherent cheesiness that makes me believe it won’t be happening here. “One Piece” still does a good enough job of blending action and humor to keep me coming back for more, but until it rediscovers the charm that intially won me over, it might be time to dial down my expectations.
Special Features: Funimation’s poor track record continues with the latest two-disc release. Once again, the only extras included are trailers, textless songs, and a single audio commentary by voice director Mike McFarland and writer/voice actor Eric Vale (Sanji). If "One Piece" is as popular as they say, then surely it deserves more than this.