Reviewby Jacob Hope Chapman, Sep 4th 2010
One Piece Season 3 DVD Part 1
Having escaped the mysterious rainbow mist, Luffy and crew are surprised to find their next treasure hunt fall right into their laps…or fall from the sky and nearly crush the Going Merry. After recalling the famous stories of Noland the Liar and the city of gold he discovered, they decide to find out more about the mysterious island in the sky that might hold the answer to the legend. However, the pirates of a stopover port called Mock Town are quick to, well, mock their beliefs in the floating island's treasures. Regardless, the Straw Hat Pirates prepare to risk life and limb in a voyage to the clouds…a flight with only a 60-second window of survival and an angry “god” waiting above.
Well over 200 chapters into his story, mangaka Eiichiro Oda must have realized he was using up a little too much ocean tracing the Grand Line with his lovable rogues, so to keep the search for the One Piece going even longer, he'd have to expand his horizons, literally. Bad jokes about “the sky's the limit” aside, that's exactly where Oda takes the gang in the next extended story arc: a world called Skypiea, where the clouds are a fluffy, moist bay, seashells serve all the purposes of the household-appliance dinosaurs in The Flintstones and the people wear superfluous fairy wings on their backs.
Well…that happens eventually. First they have to get there, and while the Going Merry is seaworthy, it's not exactly a seagull on the breeze in that gap between waves and sky. This means, as any seasoned shonen fan can tell you, a good ten episodes of sniffing around and piecing together old stories before they find their way there, and then the journey itself may take another two episodes. “Are we there yet?” indeed.
All the same…it doesn't really feel like a slog through useless interactions. One Piece is renowned for its balance between shameless wild slapstick and heart-swelling moments of surprising insight. The dearth of adventurous spirit in Mock City, (replaced by hedonistic greed,) is one such microcosm of the human condition. Upon retrospect, very little of what happens there has anything to do with actually reaching Skypiea, or the plot at all, really. What is important: the introduction of some new shadowed villains, some changes in bounty for the crew, etc., is scarcely memorable compared to Luffy's confrontation of ideals with Bellamy and his goons. As Zoro puts it, there's no point in fighting the arrogant losers, but when they finally do anyway, it's an applause-worthy clash that shows the strength of Luffy's spirit and why his crewmates admire him.
So it's impossible to call this filler even as every nerve in the viewer's brain screams for things to move forward. Do we need to spend an entire episode looking for a “South Bird” (feathered compass with attitude) for the trip ahead? Not really, but it was incredibly funny seeing the Straw Hats chase it down. This can't be filler…what the Jolly Roger IS it?
This weird relationship between the pointless and provocative keeps the fans watching while being more than kind to newbies as well, but needless to say: this is not the best One Piece has to offer. It seems little more than a necessary segue to loftier places, but bless the show for one thing: it is nonetheless entertaining for it, whether it be wasting time with Buggy in a mining shaft or scratching our heads over the effectiveness of using a two-story cymbal monkey to salvage shipwrecks, this is worth a few good laughs along with its more rousing fight scenes.
Production values remain solid throughout this arc with no notable dropouts in the animation or character models. (Aside from Oda's trademark mutant women-designs flipflopping Nami's figure all over the place!) The music and voice acting are also consistent with previous releases but it may be interesting to note that this is the point at which Funimation first started dubbing the series…and quite astonishing that there is no noticeable difference between the VAs' ability here and in “earlier” (really later) seasons. This is usually not the case so it's nice to see Clinkenbeard and the rest were comfortable with their roles right out of the gate, although the performance to really watch for in the dub is the sadistic spring-legged Bellamy, played by Justin Cook. Harsh, trilling “yakuza” types can be tough to make as gnarly-sounding as they should be in english, but the tenacity and throat-bleeding glee Cook displays here is spot-on, similar to his role as Yusuke in Yū Yū Hakusho with a few extra spoonfuls of madness thrown in.
Extras are limited to clean themes and trailers, along with the oh-so-welcome Marathon mode option that cuts out previews and songs to better power through the season.
As long-running shonen series go, One Piece at least knows how to lay out its pace when absolutely nothing is going on, and although that isn't the case here, this is still the transition to the introduction of a new story arc. It's sort of like taking pictures of wildlife outside a rest stop on your way to Yellowstone. You made a memory when you got that fuzzy picture of an elk, but you can't wait to get back in the car and set out for the real vacation. Let's hope Skypiea turns out to be worth the trek.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B-
Animation : B
Art : B+
Music : B+
+ Some inspiring moments like the showdown with Bellamy, Skypiea is a great example of the boundless imagination in One Piece's universe
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