Reviewby Carl Kimlinger,
DVD - Season 2 Part 6
As his crew chews their way through the Baroque Works upper echelons and Vivi rushes to put a stop to the oncoming clash between Alabasta's royal and rebel forces, Luffy has one thing on his stubborn pirate brain: Crocodile. The villainous "hero" has humiliated him twice, and he's hot to even the score. The ensuing fight goes from palace to underground tomb and will push our pirate protagonist to punishing extremes. But Luffy's out to ensure that friendship and all that Shonen Jump nonsense will triumph, and he's gonna do it at any cost the only way he knows how: at the business end of his fists.
Excuse me a bit while I do my Crocodile Fight dance. Crocodile! Crocodile! Crocodile Fight! Yeah! Crocodile! Crocodile! Crocodile Fight! Yeah! Okay, done.
If you were to chase me down, rope me to a chair, shoot me full of sodium pentothal and ask me what my favorite anime fight is, I'd probably name the Crocodile fight. Previous fights in One Piece all had their charms, from the Captain Kuro and Arlong fights, right through to the Mr. 5 and Warpol fights. But the Crocodile fight is something special. With it, for just a moment, One Piece becomes a work of pure cinema on par with just about anything in the action genre—anywhere, at any time and in any format. It's the best of everything good about the series: an extended battle bursting with thrilling pirate action, underwritten by simple but effective plotting, and charged with heartbreaking emotion. It brings to bear over sixty episodes of conflict and slowly boiling pressures, unleashing them in a single cathartic burst. It's immensely cool, hugely satisfying, and a lot more artful than anyone has a right to expect (check out the masterful choreography to the 4th movement of Dvorak's From the New World). The fight marks the pinnacle of director Kônosuke Uda's knack for fusing sound and image into something far greater than the sum of their parts, taking classical music as well as the show's own wonderful pirate fanfare and wedding them with the weird angles and weirder characters of mangaka Eiichiro Oda's strangely timeless art to create sensations new and memorable.
It also marks a narrative pinnacle. Fans often make claims about the advantages of shonen series' endless episode counts, but this is one of the few times a series actually taps fully into that potential. It exploits shamelessly our long history with these characters, their setting, and their plight. Not only in the fights, which swell the heart with their long-delayed meting of bareknuckle justice, but also the personal struggles that inform them. Vivi's simple plea—"stop the fighting!" shouted into a roiling sea of dying citizens—is given tragic force by the weight of shared history. The desperation and despair of that exhortation is like a living thing. We've seen the hell she has been through only to be brought to this juncture, crying out to a crowd that won't listen as it acts out her worst nightmare and her voice begins to fail... Well, let's just say that if you don't mist up, you may want your lachrymals checked.
Of course there are a great many non-Crocodile-fight highlights as well. Both Nami and Zoro get excellent fights, Nami's demonstrating the series' unique ability to meld humor and intensity—both in art and story. And the four episode post fight wrap up is studded with great moments: Navy Sergeant Tashigi coming to painful grips with her inability to alter the course of Crocodile's plot; King Cobra (get it?) bowing his head to Luffy in the bath ("authority is something you wear over your clothes...there isn't such a thing as a naked king"); Mr. 2 making the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of friendship; the Straw Hat Pirates partaking in a silent display of solidarity as they leave Alabasta. The list goes on, encompassing moments hilarious and touching. Nevertheless, the Crocodile fight and the events surrounding it are this set's centerpiece, and indeed one of the series'.
When dubbing there are inevitably times when it is impossible to preserve both the meaning of the dialogue and its place in the cinematic tapestry. The better a series is, the more frequent those moments are. Vivi's plea atop the clock tower, for instance, perfectly acted though it is by Caitlin Glass, doesn't fit into the scene quite right simply by dint of having a slightly (and unavoidably) less metronomic rhythm. A similar dampening effect occurs in the pivotal Luffy/Crocodile fight despite Colleen Clinkenbeard's supernatural ability to wig out, in part for similar reasons. (Though the impossibility of matching the freakish evilness of Ryûzaburô Ôtomo's Crocodile also has something to do with it). Given the faithfulness of the adaptation and occasional superior ad-lib by the likes of Sonny Strait's Usopp, such complaints may seem nitpicky, but the effect is noticeable.
For interesting extras we have: 1. the marathon feature, which allows you to skip opening and ending sequences—useful for the dub fan who dislikes dubbed songs; and 2. an episode-long commentary featuring ADR director Scott Sager and actors Christopher R. Sabat (Zoro) and Brett Weaver (Mr. 1) who along with more conventional behind-the-scenes information also recount an encounter in Alaska that culminates in them at a bar with an Inuit transvestite.
In the name of perspective it should be mentioned that, no matter how much fun it is, One Piece is still a kid's show about a rubber pirate. It isn't Shakespeare or Faulkner and it isn't a profound examination of the human condition. Heck it isn't even a perfect anime show. There are far too many clumsy perspective problems and instances where cheapo animation must be manhandled into something tolerably professional for that. But there are also enough times when its characters' poses and actions achieve a kind of iconic coolness, and when it hits a balance of affect and action that is so perfect, so moving, that you can't imagine a show about a rubber pirate being any better.
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : B
Animation : B-
Art : A-
Music : A
+ Crocodile! Crocodile! Crocodile Fight! Yeah!
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