Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
DVD - Season 6 Part 3
Luffy and the Straw Hats have been separated on Thriller Bark, but even worse, time is running out for them to reclaim their stolen shadows. Zoro, Sanji, Robin, and Chopper are on the trail of those, with the help of living skeleton Brook, while Usopp tries his best to defeat Mistress Perona, who can control ghosts. Meanwhile Nami is unconscious and about to be forced to marry Absalom! Will anyone be able to defeat the Special Zombie Oars? And who is this soft-spoken giant man who suddenly appeared?
Thriller Bark is One Piece by way of Tim Burton, and as far as story arcs in the shounen series go, it's one of the more interesting. Gecko Moria, one of the Seven Warlords, is both ridiculous and frightening with his ability to steal shadows and use them to animate zombies, and while we are reasonably sure that everything will turn out all right for our heroes in the end, there's some real tension created here, particularly during the battles with Oars. The show never lets it get too scary, though, and Oars can be a very funny character at times, as well as the Nami/Lola/Absalom “love” triangle.
This set of twelve episodes picks up during Usopp's fight against Goth Loli Mistress of Ghosts, Perona. Perona finds Usopp more of a joke than a threat, and this ends up working in his favor quite well. Usopp is always a lot of fun to watch in his one-on-one battles because his particular strengths require him to rely on cleverness rather than brute strength or being able to hold a sword in his teeth, and his lack of Devil Fruit powers make him really think things through while trying to stay at least one step ahead of the enemy…while screaming like a ninny the entire time. His fight against Perona allows for all of these things. Both Sonny Strait and Kappei Yamaguchi do excellent Usopp voices and both have a lot to work with in this fight specifically, making this a pretty great segment for fans of the long nose.
Nami's role feels a bit shortchanged here, with her being unconscious for the first half of the collection. A check with the manga shows that this is nothing really new, but it certainly feels as if her role has been diminished a little. That said, Nami is the one who first encounters Bartholomew Kuma, another of the Seven Warlords, and thus gets a taste of the foreshadowing his entry onto the scene provides. She also does take a pivotal role in part of the fight against Oars at one point, so perhaps a lack of screen time does not, in this case, translate to a lack of importance.
The Oars battle really makes up the backbone of this set. Oars, a zombified monster from 500 years ago, has been animated with Luffy's shadow, giving him a sort of Luffy + The Incredible Hulk feel. He's also incredibly difficult to fight against, using Luffy's attacks (more or less) with his own inestimable strength. Every time it feels like the Straw Hats catch a break, something else happens to set them back, making the parts of the episodes devoted to Oars' defeat simultaneously exciting and frustrating. Zoro, Franky, and Sanji make up the majority of the fighting force here, backed up by Brook, Chopper, Robin, and, eventually, Usopp as more and more crew members arrive on the scene. We've seen the crew fight plenty of villains stronger than a single one of them, but Oars appears to be defying their group strength, which, while not strictly new, is certainly a cause for worry. That Moria has a large role in Oars' strategies is more worrisome, and by the time we reach the end of the twelfth episode, things look to have gotten very serious in a couple of ways.
As with all long-running series, these episodes of One Piece do suffer in the animation department. Poor Robin's figure seems constantly in flux and plenty of off-model moments are present – one reused shot has Zoro apparently sitting on air with his arm draped over the lip of a roof; others make it look like he's keeping a sword shoved down his pants. Detailed animation is reserved for major fight scenes, but even then it looks pretty shoddy, and no amount of creative zombies can really change that.
The voices, on the other hand, are really working hard. Both English and Japanese casts contain characters done better than the other language, so it is difficult to point to one that is truly better than the other. Chris Guerrero's Gecko Moria is a stand out and feels much more gleefully terrifying than his Japanese counterpart, but mostly it is down to which actor's spin on the character you prefer; for example, dub Franky has more of a bro flavor while sub Franky has a more thuggish twist.
Extras on these discs are fairly interesting, with commentary taking the form of the cast telling personal ghost stories rather than commenting on the show (a couple really are creepy) and there's a special in-the-booth with Eric Vale, voice of Sanji, that's also pretty fun. At this point, when episodes are in the high 300s, it must be a little difficult to come up with new things to say about the show specifically; regardless of why they've decided to be more creative with the commentaries, they're interesting to listen to, sort of like a radio show.
One Piece remains an epic pirate adventure in its sixth season as the Thriller Bark arc begins to wrap up. There's plenty of foreshadowing for those who know what's coming along with the tense yet goofy fighting and character dynamics that have made it fun all along. The animation is suffering, but the voices are great, so come aboard and make your dory fast – this is a fun ride.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B
Animation : C-
Art : B-
Music : B-
+ +: Never a dull moment as the scene shifts, some parts of the Oars battle are really tense. Usopp's fight against Perona is fun. Good foreshadowing
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