Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
DVD - Season 5 Part 6
After departing from their last adventure with all crew members reunited, Luffy and the Straw Hats resume their voyage to the New World. On their way there they are sidetracked by a ship in distress – the vessel of the Phoenix Pirates. Captain Puzzle and his crew suffered mightily, first in the New World and later when their flag was stolen by a group of bounty hunters from the Accino Family. Now the Accinos have their sights on the Straw Hats' flag as they lead the Thousand Sunny into a seemingly endless maze of ever-shifting icebergs...Also included is Ace's showdown with Teach and a special Chopperman episode.
Set sail for Filler Island with Luffy and the gang! Within this set of twelve episodes is one that has any real bearing on the upcoming arcs of the One Piece story, one goofy Chopperman adventure, and then a ten-episode filler arc wherein the Straw Hats battle a mafia family of bounty hunters, the Accino Family. While this arc does little to really further the main plot, it isn't entirely devoid of merit, although it is a bit of a come-down from the massive battle between Ace and Teach that opens the set.
The basic plot of the Accino Family episodes (also known as the Lovely Land Arc) is that they are a group of bounty hunters who also steal pirates' flags, bringing both the captured seafarers and their banners to the leader of the group, a man named Don Accino who has eaten a devil fruit. The group makes their base in a shifting mass of icebergs known as the Ice Road, and navigation through it is nigh on impossible. When the Straw Hats first encounter them, they have taken the flag of a crew known as the Phoenix pirates, lead by the formerly fierce Captain Puzzle. But Puzzle was gravely injured in the New World, and that, along with losing his flag and the death of his first mate, has taken away his will to both pirate and live. When the Accinos show up and take Luffy's flag too, Puzzle is forced to think about what he really wants to do, making him a foil to Luffy's constant positive attitude as well as contrasting with Jiro, his young crewman, who has unbounded faith in his captain's abilities. His storyline drags a bit, but it ultimately tells a nice story about rising again in the face of adversity, even if the phoenix symbolism is a bit overdone.
The Straw Hats' storyline is naturally a bit more complex, involving separations and regrouping of crewmembers – Luffy and Chopper do spend most of the set together with Robin on her own doing her always-impressive Robin things – and seeing how everyone works together differently is generally a good time. The Usopp/Sanji team is definitely one of the more amusing ones, especially because their opponents are a pair of sappy ice skating lovers, which is silly even within the realm of this show. (Another Accino family member is a hockey player.) The gang learns that their flag is being held in Lovely Land, the Accino stronghold, and that's where they're headed – on foot, in a shark sub, or by other means. Nami is determined that Luffy won't know that the flag was stolen, Luffy already thinks it is, and general misunderstandings ensue.
A highlight of this arc are the savage penguins. These toothy evil seabirds are just fun to look at, make some interesting sounds in both English and Japanese, and the animation of them moving in a large group is, if not spectacular animation, then at least fun to watch. Equally wonderful (if not moreso) is Sonny Strait's delivery of Usopp's first encounter with the birds – his “cute widdle pengins” line is terrific. Likewise Colleen Clinkenbeard has some perfect delivery with some of Luffy's shorter, sillier lines, although on the whole she still tends to sound as if she's straining her voice at times. Other than that dub or sub is really going to come down to the viewer's personal preferences, with strengths and weaknesses on both sides and Chopper being adorable no matter who is providing his cute voice.
Some of the visuals for this arc are quite interesting beyond the savage penguins. The flying fish design (called a kite in the sub) is a very good blend of fish and fowl, and when Don Accino uses his powers to move under the ice, the effect is really neat. Puzzle, on the other hand, looks like a 90s rocker, and his ship appears to be the spawn of Sam the Eagle and the red angry bird. The flags in Don Accino's collection don't show many, if any, exact repeats in design, but they do appear to fluctuate in size depending upon the shot. As an added bonus for pirate fans, real life pirate Calico Jack Rackham's flag (better known today as Captain Jack Sparrow's) shows up in the collection.
The Chopperman episode, the first full-length one devoted to the spin-off, is cute, but nothing special. We do, however, get to see Luci Christian (Nami) recording it in one of the extras. Other extras are two commentary tracks, both of which are a bit different from the usual. The first, for episode 326, is with all engineers, which gives a much different picture of anime than when it's just the voice actors, although all of them do do small voice parts as well. The commentary for episode 335, on the other hand, is really fun. In it Joel MacDonald conducts a series of “cross town” interviews with cast members to get them to answer viewer questions. The actors are in a variety of weird locations – driving a cab, in the men's room – and Macdonald's breezy, clueless “interview” style just adds to the humor. One actor's location may raise some eyebrows in light of relatively recent news about another, but generally speaking, it's pretty great.
This may not be the best set of One Piece episodes, but it does have its moments. The interesting extras do help to make up for the slightly lackluster content, and the preview shows us that we'll be back on manga track as soon as the next set of episodes comes out. While technically this adds very little to the main story, it is still enjoyable in that good old One Piece way – crazy villains, a good central team of characters, and really weird wildlife. It's not perfect, but it doesn't feel like a waste of time to watch, and for a filler arc, that's not so bad.
Overall (dub) : C+
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C+
Animation : B-
Art : B-
Music : C+
+ Savage penguins are a great creature addition, Puzzle's story is kind of heartwarming. Some great delivery from the actors. Good extras plus marathon mode.
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