The previous One Piece box set ended with the mysterious Robin (along with Franky and Usopp) being whisked off under guard by sea train to the prison island of Enies Lobby. This time round, the remaining Straw Hats plus a bunch of Franky’s crew set off after them on another train called Rocketman. To pull off a rescue, they’ll need a big-scale assault with multiple forces and – wait for it – a plan!
A plan? Does this mean the Straw Hats have finally started to grow up? Actually there are signs of this throughout this box set, and not just in the leaner, lankier character designs. Prompted by feelings of sisterhood towards Robin, Nami seems to be emerging as a more touchy-feely and less, well, cold-bloodedly mercenary character than of yore. Luffy reveals that he has developed a second gear for fisticuffs. Meanwhile, Usopp (always more precocious than everyone else) shows signs of having a midlife crisis as he dabbles with a suave new superhero persona called Sniper King.
Usopp’s hilarious alter ego is just one great running gag in a collection which offers a near-perfect blend of comedy and thrills. The tone is set with an early setpece in which a storm is about to engulf Ocean Seven and Nami is trying to rescue Luffy (who is squashed in a narrow gap between two buildings) and Zoro (who is stuck headfirst down a chimney). Because of the expressiveness of the animation and because you care so much about the characters, scenes like these have a surprising emotional weight on top being very funny, a combination of touching absurdity and goosepimply atmospherics. Later on, Sanji gets to shine as he tears through compartments of baddies all by himself and squares off against a crazy cook who wears an edible combat suit. And throughout there are wonderful characters such as Yokuzuna, the giant sumo-wrestling frog seeking vengeance for the death of his beloved master. There’s a gorgeous depth of colour and crispness to the animation on this DVD transfer. 10/10
These One Piece releases feature some of the best voice acting talent around, and there’s a welcome chance to put faces to the names in a quartet of 13 minute video interviews with Colleen Clinkenbeard, Sonny Stait, Patrick Seitz and Christopher Sabat. They tend to follow the same formula (questions about the auditioning process, favourite characters, etc) but interesting things emerge. Sonny Stait speaks of his character Usopp as a clown with pathos, Christopher Sabat discusses Zoro as a team player. Patrick Seitz talks about working on the One Piece game and then not playing the character again for five years. ~ Two audio commentaries with members of the voice cast, who discuss lots of random stuff including, occasionally, One Piece. 8/10