SPECIAL FEATURE: DVD Review: One Piece Film: Strong World

Film: One Piece Film: Strong World
Running time: 113 mins
Director: Munehisa Sakai
Starring: Hiroaki Hirata, Carli Mosier, Yƻichi Nagashima, Kazuya Nakai, Akemi Okamura
Genre: Anime
Country: Japan

Region 1 release.

Stretching out over thirteen years, One Piece seems just as unstoppable as its protagonist Monkey D Luffy. The rubber man and his crew continue their quest for the treasure of One Piece in this tenth movie, and the significance of Strong World is that it was the first of the movies written by One Piece creator Eiichiro Oda. This geared up fans who have a cult-like worship of everything Oda writes or draws down, and thus naturally Strong World made $4.5 million on is first day of release.

The film opens with many marines in panic as their ships are floating in mid-air, before they soon come crashing down as the marines’ fleet admiral looks on seemingly already knowing who is responsible. The antagonist of the film, Golden Lion Shiki, equipped with gravitation control powers, appears smoking a trademark ‘bad guy’ cigar. Action like this continues throughout with the Luffy and the Straw Hat crew all separated on a floating jungle-like island with many strange animals.

The crew's navigator, Nami, has been captured by Shiki and so begins the fight to retrieve her, escape the floating islands and, ultimately, to stop Shiki from his attempt to take over the seas. The story also includes a tortured village of people imprisoned by Shiki and a deadly disease…

The story aside for now, the real treat of the movie is the quality of the animation, which really makes the setting and its inhabitants flow uniquely, as Luffy glides through the jungle battling oddly designed animals, such as a giant land ridden octopus. Oda has stated in the past that one of his hobbies is drawing animals, which is how you can instantly tell how much he was involved in Strong World. There are a few scenes where the pirate ships appear almost 3-D, which is a nice touch, and the fight scenes are explosive, with eye absorbing animated action, which is a far cry from when the images simply started life on paper in black-and-white.

An aspect of the film that is somewhat unlike Oda is the simplicity of the story. One Piece is known to have incredible depth due to characters rarely dying, meaning that they always return and add a new element to proceedings. Many twists and turns occur in this world of pirates, making the viewer unsure of what is to happen next. Strong World does not have this element, as you almost instantly know how it is all going to unfold due to its simplistic story of 'bad guy captures girl – good guy tries to get her back'. This does, however, allow you to just embrace the action and entertainment value of the characters.

Shiki and his two henchmen provide the slapstick humour, which adds a layer of comedy to his evil persona, but it’s Monkey D Luffy who is the star of the show - as always - with his mindless acts of impulse and comical stupidity. Luffy and his crew have insatiable chemistry built up over thirteen years of swashbuckling adventure, and it’s a delight the filmmakers have captured this. An example of this chemistry is the macho rivalry between swordsman Roronoa Zoro and cook Sanji, who, after finally being reunited following days of separation on the island, just look up at each other to plainly say, “Oh it’s you,” before returning to their slumber. This kind of rapport and depth of character is no mean feat when it comes to animated characters, and is exactly what makes One Piece so watchable.

The characters personalities are not the only elements that stand out, but the unique clothing designs of the Straw Hats really catch the eye, including Franky's banana hat and one particular scene with them all in mafia-style clothing. They did such a good job, Luffy ended up on the front cover of a men's fashion magazine in Japan!

Strong World is proof of how difficult it is to tell a story in two hours, and is probably only of interest to existing One Piece fans. A treat for the eyes but does not do a whole lot for viewers looking to be inspired. On the plus side, good entertainment value for regular fans.

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