Reviewby Sam Leach,
One Piece: Heart of Gold
A precocious young girl named Olga finds herself the target of the World Government, among many other nefarious forces, as she strives to secure the extremely valuable “Pure Gold” belonging to her family. The story leads to Olga teaming up with the infamous Straw Hat pirates as they fight off a pirate crew led by Mad Treasure and traverse a series of ancient challenges guarding the volume of wealth said to be capable of buying the whole world.
Heart of Gold is just one in a string of recent One Piece TV movies, but it's the first to get a home video release from Funimation. The amount of post-time-skip content to get dubbed is slowly growing in North America, so if you're hungry for more One Piece, especially on Blu-ray, this is one of your more notable options.
Heart of Gold is a weird case because it's essentially a two-hour advertisement for another two-hour movie—One Piece Film Gold. That's not even to mention the three-episode filler arc from the TV anime that also did the same thing. If you're trying to connect the dots and figure out what goes where in continuity, you have to get a little picky since neither movie really fits in the manga or show's story, but the events of Heart of Gold do lead directly into Film Gold, making it a sort of prequel. So we've got a Film Gold cinematic universe in the works here.
By the very nature of its existence, Heart of Gold is difficult to put much passion into. It's pretty solid on all fronts, but you're not getting the fun of seeing the core One Piece storyline develop, nor the pizazz and thematic intrigue of the theatrical movies. Every compliment I can muster will inevitably get drowned out by “Yeah, but nobody really cares that much.” It just kind of exists.
At the same time, I think there's quite a bit to like about this special. I think the art style is notably strong, showing off those bold outlines I'd kill to see in the TV show more often. Obviously Film Gold is going to have this one beat in terms of technical achievement, but as a product between TV and theatrical animation, it looks fantastic. Its final battle is as stylish and fluid as you could hope for, and the designs are all attractive enough to hold your attention when there isn't a lot of movement.
Another compliment I have to offer is for the character of Olga. Toei's got a history of obnoxious child characters in filler stories, but Olga is really enjoyable. Although maybe she doesn't technically count as a child because she may or may not be the age that she appears. That said, her design is great and her devious personality is fun. She doesn't quite look like the kind of character that Eiichiro Oda would draw, but it just makes her that much more of a breath of fresh air.
As for cons, this one can get pretty boring, since it's all about selling another better movie; you're just not going to end this thing with fond memories of that time the Straw Hats met Olga. Nami and Robin also suffer from the usual out-of-place sexualization, where their curvy shapes have to come through even when they're bundled up in thick winter jackets, let alone when the bad guys capture them and force them into skimpy outfits for some reason. I guess Film Gold and Heart of Gold end up on different sides of the fanservice coin when it comes to taste.
Features-wise, this Blu-ray doesn't have anything beyond a simple trailer reel for other Funimation releases. I can't imagine they were under any obligation to grease the wheels when it comes to marketing this thing, since it's pretty much exclusively for completionist One Piece fans who were going to buy it anyway. As a companion piece to the other One Piece Blu-rays on your shelf, it fits in nicely. Hopefully Funimation can bring more of these TV specials to Blu-ray.
As a standalone adventure, Heart of Gold does have a lot going for its setting and characters. I'm never against a good Goonies-style treasure hunt. However, these specials are basically just nicely-drawn filler arcs that you have to buy separately. If you find yourself going out of the way to watch it, you probably won't regret it, but that's as interesting as it gets.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B-
Animation : B+
Art : A
Music : B
+ Great art style and animation, Olga's a fun character, solid sense of adventure with a fantastical setting
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