Review

by Carl Kimlinger, Feb 15th 2013

One Piece

DVD - Season 4 Part 3

Synopsis:
One Piece DVD Season 4 Part 3
On the friendly island of Water 7, Luffy and his crew exchange their Skypeia loot for cash and head to the docks to get the Going Merry repaired and maybe track down a shipwright to join in their adventures. What they find is a crew of pros who swear up and down that Merry is irreparable and a local thug named Franky whose gang keeps stealing their money. When the Franky Family beats Usopp half to death, Luffy and the crew utterly destroy them, but the damage is done. Sick of his own ineptitude and furious at Luffy for giving up on the Going Merry, Usopp parts violently with his comrades. With Robin already vanished into Water 7's underworld and a betrayal about to bring a nasty frame-up down on their heads, are the tight-knit Straw Hat Pirates ready to disintegrate?
Review:

The premonition last volume was that One Piece was about to take off again. Boy was that premonition right. The show is out of the gate and racing for the horizon in this third of Funimation's season four sets, and it doesn't seem it'll be stopping anytime soon. This is a darker, more powerful, more evilly addictive show than One Piece has been in a long, long time.

It doesn't start that way, though. The beginning of the Water 7 arc is pure One Piece adventure: free and fun and full of new customs, odd people, and weird geography. The first couple of episodes see Zoro spank some of Franky's would-be pillagers, Sanji and Chopper and Robin gallivant around town, and Luffy and Nami and Usopp use the city's steep waterways like theme-park rides. It's one of the things the show does well, lighthearted adventure of this sort; and it doesn't disappoint here. Luffy and co.'s antics on Water 7's horse-fish transports are pretty funny and very acrobatic, and the crew's rapport is honed to a fine (and amusing) point by this juncture. There are a couple of fine comedic moments—Nami eating a slippery banker alive, everyone confusing Usopp with one of the dockworkers because of their rhinological similarity—and an ongoing Keystone Kops routine involving three suitcases full of cash.

It's all quite diverting, but serious things are brewing beneath the surface. The first clue comes early, when Robin disappears at the summons of a masked figure. And then Usopp is kidnapped by the Franky Family and the show jams itself into gear and puts the pedal down. It was easy, in the reams of silly side-adventures and less-than-awesome Skypeia adventuring between this and Alabasta, to forget how the show can stomp all over your heart with its big pirate boots. You can hear those boots a-shuffling when Nami discovers a battered Usopp in the street, and starting to tap-tap-tap when he apologizes for being too weak and pathetic to protect their money. They get a good rhythm going as Usopp storms Franky's hideout and later when Luffy drops the Going Merry bomb, but its only when Usopp and Luffy cross swords, so to speak, that they find our beating hearts and proceed to dance a drunken Irish jig on them.

That fight is possibly the most heartsick of One Piece fights, because you know that at its end, no matter the outcome, there will be no satisfaction and no closure; only sadness and bitter parting. That it's a thrilling, strategy-laden battle with enough turnarounds for a fight twice its length only makes it that much harder to take. Luffy's words at the end of the battle, delivered in a rage of sadness, cut right to the quick, leaving a final wound on our trompled hearts. And things don't get much happier from there. In short order one of Luffy's new Water 7 acquaintances is shot and left for dead and Luffy fights a destructive duel with Franky, trying violently to bury his sadness and regret. Whereupon a last revelation turns everyone—new friends and casual citizens alike—against Luffy's crew, while also delivering another deadly blow to the little group's solidarity. It's another thing we've forgotten in the lull between major arcs: the show's fondness for big, dramatic twists of fate. Twists that send us hurtling past the set's end, clawing for more episodes. Thank goodness for streaming video.

This is the kind of material that shows off One Piece's distinctive style to best effect. Or near-best at least. Water 7 is a showcase for the series' wacko visual inventions, from the city itself, with the towering ramps and spires that turn it into an enormous water fountain, to the smiling horse-faced fish that everyone rides around on. New characters have that unique One Piece blend of absurdity and awesomeness: a handsome, dangerous-looking shipwright who speaks only through his pet pigeon; a soaring dock worker with big button eyes and a Mike Doonesbury nose. And then there's Franky, a pompadoured punk with a metal nose, Popeye arms, and thing for speedos, who can breathe flames and fire his fist like a rocket. Pure genius, in a crazy kind of way.

Big emotions also suit the show's style. Its designs aren't subtle by any stretch (some of them aren't even human by most standards) and neither are their expressions. So the bigger the emotions, the better-matched they are to the characters' repertoire of facial expressions. Shameless, tear-squirting, nose-running inner agony for instance; or black-faced, vein-popping fury. Crazy eyes, exaggerated reactions, pupils that contract in shock and blank out in rage… these are the kinds of things the series is good at, and it gets plenty of opportunities to use them this time out.

As well as plenty of opportunities to strut its storied action prowess. The Luffy vs. Usopp fight is a study in emotional intensity, undercutting its well-edited knack for cool with the sickening effect it has on both combatants. The Franky fight is a run of fantastic destruction with no satisfactory resolution, while the Straw Hats' assault on the Franky Family's base is all darkly satisfying retribution, a rage-fuelled reminder of why no one in their right mind would seriously cross Luffy's crew. They all benefit from the show's odd but effective framing, weird-cool designs, and eye for effective shortcuts, as well as the baldly, superbly manipulative score.

It's when a dub is under stress that its cracks start to show. That so few emerge while this set piles on the pressure is proof of how the dub has grown over the years. That Colleen Clinkenbeard's Luffy seems a hair short of the necessary intensity and Eric Vale's Sanji a smidge underplayed is just a tribute to the emotional edge Luci Christian gives Nami and the blistering brilliance of Sonny Strait's Usopp, whose scenes before and during the Luffy fight are nothing short of revelatory.

Extras: two commentary tracks. One for episode 233 with ADR director Mike McFarland, Brina Palencia, and new addition Philip Weber; the other for episode 236 (the Luffy/Usopp fight) with McFarland, Clinkenbeard, and Strait

This is one of those sets that flies by and leaves you in a place that you don't really want to be left. There is only one thing to say after such a set: bring on the next!

Grade:
Production Info:
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B+
Animation : B
Art : B+
Music : B+

+ Plot hits full stride as the series moves through its most successfully emotional material since way back in Alabasta; passes quickly and leaves you raring for more.
Opening episodes are fun but slight; lightly drags its feet in certain unnecessary scenes; is but a very small chunk of what appears to be a very large arc.

Director:
Hiroaki Miyamoto
Munehisa Sakai
Junji Shimizu
Kônosuke Uda
Series Composition:
Junki Takegami
Hirohiko Uesaka
Script:
Hiroshi Hashimoto
Naoki Koga
Michiru Shimada
Yoshiyuki Suga
Junki Takegami
Suminori Takegami
Hitoshi Tanaka
Hirohiko Uesaka
Ryota Yamaguchi
Storyboard:
Junichi Fujise
Mamoru Hosoda
Takahiro Imamura
Hidehiko Kadota
Yukio Kaizawa
Tsuyoshi Koga
Aya Komaki
Tetsuji Nakamura
Yutaka Nakashima
Daisuke Nishio
Munehisa Sakai
Naotoshi Shida
Michiru Shimada
Yoshiyuki Suga
Kônosuke Uda
Yoshihiro Ueda
Ryota Yamaguchi
Shigeyasu Yamauchi
Kenji Yokoyama
Episode Director:
Yuji Endo
Junichi Fujise
Ayako Hiraike
Mamoru Hosoda
Yoko Ikeda
Takahiro Imamura
Hidehiko Kadota
Yukio Kaizawa
Hiroyuki Kakudou
Tsuyoshi Koga
Aya Komaki
Harume Kosaka
Ken Koyama
Hiroaki Miyamoto
Kazutoshi Mori
Yutaka Nakajima
Tetsuji Nakamura
Yutaka Nakashima
Kōdai Nakatsuka
Daisuke Nishio
Munehisa Sakai
Junji Shimizu
Koji Tanaka
Katsumi Tokoro
Kônosuke Uda
Yoshihiro Ueda
Sumio Watanabe
Shigeyasu Yamauchi
Music:
Shiroh Hamaguchi
Kouhei Tanaka
Original Manga:Eiichiro Oda
Character Design:
Kazuya Hisada
Noboru Koizumi
Art Director:
Kunihiro Chida
Kumiko Fukuzawa
Iwamitsu Itoo
Michiyo Kawasaki
Toshiaki Marumori
Yuri Sanan
Miyuki Sato
Tadami Shimokawa
Fumihiro Uchikawa
Tomoko Yoshida
Animation Director:
Toshio Deguchi
Masayuki Fujita
Yuuji Hakamada
Kazuya Hisada
Takeo Ide
Kazuyuki Igai
Eisaku Inoue
Katsumi Ishizuka
Atsuko Kawamura
Yuki Kinoshita
Yukari Kobayashi
Noboru Koizumi
Yuuji Kondou
Natsuko Makiyo
Hideaki Maniwa
Kiyoshi Matsushita
Naoki Murakami
Yukiko Nakatani
Masahiro Shimanuki
Takanori Shimura
Takayuki Shimura
Shigefumi Shingaki
Kouji Sugimoto
Shinichi Suzuki
Masayuki Takagi
Kazuo Takigawa
Naoki Tate
Tadayoshi Yamamuro
Megumi Yamashita
Kenji Yokoyama
Art design:Ryuuji Yoshiike
Producer:Yoshihiro Suzuki

Full encyclopedia details about
One Piece (TV)

Release information about
One Piece - Season 4 Part 3 (DVD)

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