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This Week in Anime
Is Strong World Peak One Piece?

by Nicholas Dupree & Steve Jones,

Suffering from One Piece withdrawal while the anime series is on hiatus? Netflix added One Piece Film Strong World to its line-up last month and it works as spectacular side story as we wait for the Wano arc to return.

This movie is streaming on Netflix

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

@Lossthief @mouse_inhouse @NickyEnchilada @vestenet

Nick, you know that evolutionary phenomenon where large island animals will, over generations, grow smaller to better adapt to their environment? Well, I just found out the same thing happens to shonen protagonists.
Oh trust me, that is nowhere near the surprising bit of evolution to happen in One Piece right now. But since you're still ages away from even knowing what "Wano Fatigue" means, and we're still waiting for the anime to return, we might as well visit an earlier point in the evoluffynary line.
Truth be told, I have not been keeping up with my One Piece homework since we last covered Stampede, so I ask that you be patient with me if I mix up which character is a skeleton and which character is a robot? I think? But Strong World makes an appropriately strong case for me diving back into the manga, because this movie kinda rules.
It's nostalgic for me in two senses. First, it was the most recent movie when I first caught up with One Piece. Which was only a scant..uh...13 years ago. And it's also the first time in years I've seen these characters in their pre-time skip forms.

By which I mean that Stoner Brooke is a thing of beauty.
My eyes were feasting on all of the fashion choices in that scene. Sanji's just wearing a loose tie over a sweater. Chopper looks like he was forced to wear that onesie on a dare. Luffy's working that cool-casual scarf. And I don't know what Usopp is thinking, but that's par for the course.

There's...a lot to say about the clothes in this movie. Like the fact Sanji's idea of adventuring clothes is this rhinestone cowboy getup.

Also I forgot how far along you were in the manga, but I assume the afro skeleton and Ace Ventura: Tech Detective are new to you?
Correct. I mean, I know the gist to them thanks to weeb osmosis, but the most recent main crewmember I'm intimately familiar with is Nico Robin.
Well, you're not gonna get a lot from any one of them in this movie, but you'll at least get to see more of the Straw Hats than in Stampede! That one was stuffed to bursting with the massively extended cast of this franchise, while Strong World is just filled with fucked up animals.
And honestly I don't need a whole lot more in a movie than that. The conceit of the film is that it takes place on a series of floating islands where evolution has been artificially accelerated in order to produce weaponized megafauna. And the creature designers apparently took this as their cue to go off and use every part of the buffalo, so to speak,—and then they attached those buffalo parts to other random animals. So we've got everything from giant land octopods to literal army ants to electric duck-peacocks to blue sabertooths. It's pure Looney Tunes.

It's great. Some of my fondest moments of early One Piece were just the spreads of weird animals Oda could come up with, and this scratches that itch 50 times in its first act alone. Just freaky, bloodthirsty beasts as far as the eye can see.
It's also just delightfully cartoonish, even in its carnage. Like, I love the denouement to that fish getting shredded.

He just like me fr
I'd forgotten just how many bone puns Brook packs into this thing.
A veritable skele-TON of them!
Yohoho~ Skull joke.
I regret that.
Don't be. That's just how this movie is. I mean they introduce our big villain via a dance number alongside a clown and a gorilla dressed like The New Radicals.
Rarely do I sympathize with fictional characters as much as I sympathized with Nami in this exact moment. Getting kidnapped is one thing, but getting kidnapped by clowns? That stings the soul.
It's even funnier if you know the larger lore around Shiki here. In the (vague movie-centric) canon he's a former rival of Gold Roger, the most legendary and central figure in the series' history. And here he is with sword legs dancing with a clown who makes fart sounds when he walks.
God, Kung Pow: Enter the Fist has the same exact joke, and it's just as good here. Exquisitely dumb comedy done for zero purpose. You love to see it.
It's also a great way to make Shiki look goofy right before we remember he's an extremely dangerous bastard and your local weather guy's worst nightmare.
Yeah! The film opens with this metal-as-hell backstory about him breaking out of prison, and then it keeps flipping back and forth between him workshopping manzai routines and him plotting a big ol' genocide. But it all feels congruous within the context of One Piece's overall loudness, which is a quality Strong World smartly emphasizes start to finish.
It also gives me something that has been in short supply during the recent years of the manga: the Straw Hats hanging out together and being total idiots.
That particular bit got me good. Like, speaking as someone a few several hundred chapters behind on One Piece, I thought it was completely reasonable to expect that Chopper, at some point, had received the ability to take off his fur. Wouldn't be the weirdest power I've seen in this series.
To be honest I think even Chopper forgets what his powers are half the time. Also I'm glad your introduction to Franky includes his ability to retrofit animals into automobiles. It's genuinely one of the best things ever.
Oh is that a recurring bit? I figured it just happened here because of the giant animal thing. And "Crawley Davidson" is chef's kiss brilliant.
I won't give away too much. You deserve to find out on your own. The point is, the Straw Hats are the stars of this thing, and it's super refreshing when most of them were sidelined in Stampede. Though some habits have never gone away, like the very necessary introductory scene of Nami at the pool.
Yeah, obviously I haven't gotten to the part in the manga where her proportions go completely off the deep end, but Strong World was sure to remind me of what's in store.
Thing is I actually like most of Nami's material in the movie. Despite the inciting incident being her getting kidnapped by Shiki, she's active through nearly the whole thing and is central to the emotional core. But also boy they like showing off her butt.
Do they ever. But you're right, she is also the film's emotional center, and she really carries the moodiest scene in particular. It's one of the few times Strong World takes itself entirely seriously, and despite all odds, it makes it work with intimate framing and strong character acting.

That's the magic of One Piece, baby. At its best you can slingshot from wacky cartoon hijinks to deathly serious stakes, then back again and it all lands perfectly. I also love the way they use lighting in that sequence. Whole thing starts off just before sunset and Shiki's power eventually blots out the sun entirely as he dominates the crew.
It's so good! And then a couple minutes later the movie tells you to get stickbugged. Multitudes!
Haha look at that goofy thing! A minute later it's destroying a village of bird people. One Piece!
Oh yeah, here's another great microcosm of that: Luffy tenderly reassures the adorable innocent villagers of their humanity, and immediately follows it up with a promise to clobber the crap out of Shiki. That's my guy.

The ultimate narrative of basically every One Piece story is simple: Inform Luffy who he needs to punch and get him within punching distance. This one just adds a little flair by getting everyone dripped out beforehand.
Earlier in the film, I had jokingly questioned why Shiki had instituted a dress code for his big evil pirate gathering, but then I saw the light. It was all for the eventual Straw Hat swag. I'm sorry I ever doubted you, One Piece.
One of the joys of One Piece movies is getting to see new outfits. Just look at this one for the new Red film. I love it.
That's absolutely adorable. He looks like a nephew on Halloween.
As a rule, Robin always has the best look, of course.
Impossible to argue with Nico Robin With a Gun. Nor would I want to. Luffy's badass mobster look here is very good too. Especially with the incongruous straw hat complement.
It's just great all around, and they really do lean into it feeling like a crime movie in the third act. You've got Shiki and his yakuza-style sake cup ceremony. The sliding doors revealing hundreds of guards in the rooms on either side of the main hall. And in the middle of it there's this guy.
You can even hear the music briefly riff on the Matrix soundtrack when they shoot up the place to their absurd degree. And then Usopp and Chopper run off to roleplay Elden Ring while everyone else is doing their own thing. It's an embarrassment of riches.

There's a snowboarding ape with nunchaku and it barely even registers among the chaos. That's the kind of third act we get.
Robin even fights Mothra for a hot second. It's great.
I like the part where Zoro stabs a clown so hard that he explodes.
Gotta love that Zoro's power up is just "what if there were three of me?" and he somehow makes that happen. 15 years later and I still don't know how that works, nor do I care to ask. Through probably my favorite goofy thing is when Nami does the stereotypical action movie thing and rips her fancy dress so she can run more easily. Except she never runs anywhere. Apparently she just can't navigate if her thighs are too covered up.
Come on, Nick, everyone knows that the zettai ryouiki is the part of your anatomy most sensitive to fluctuations in barometric pressure.
You joke but I wouldn't be surprised if somewhere in the One Piece universe there's somebody who can predict weather with their garter belt.
I'm not putting anything leg-related past Oda considering the climax of the film is Luffy crushing Shiki under his inflated electrified foot.

I love it. I love Gear Three so much. It's the best power Oda ever came up with (one extremely recent addition notwithstanding) and I love how it's just Luffy turning into the Anchor Arms episode from Spongebob.
I saw something recently about how you can tie pretty much all shonen action stories back to Popeye, and if I didn't believe that before, I sure do now.
Replace devil fruits with spinach and not much would actually change about One Piece. Though unlike the sailor man, Luffy doesn't skip leg day:
Just the one leg tho
Also if I have one nitpick of this movie, it's a little fucked up how they only think about the consequences of defeating the guy whose power is keeping all these islands in the sky AFTER they crack him in half. They're real lucky those villagers conveniently learned to fly with their vestigial arm wings just in time.
To be fair, I don't think anyone in the film, outside Nami, thinks about any consequences of anything. As cheesy as the ending is, though, what makes it for me is the montage of the enormous mutant animals all smiling and living together in harmony. We definitely saw a lot of those die, but it's all cool now. That rules.
It's also immensely funny to me that Lore Reasons require we check back in with Sengoku just long enough for him to admit the marines didn't do jack shit again. Just put him in a donut shop with a cup of joe and it'd be perfect.

That's the lesson of One Piece kids: Cops are either useless or will actively make things worse.
And that's why One Piece owns. On top of all the other cool shit we just talked about, of course. To repeat, I had a blast with Strong World, and I pledge the next time we cover one of these movies, I'll be more caught up with the manga. Turns out, I missed these losers and their large mouths.
And even as a veteran fan I really enjoyed coming back to it. This franchise is so massive and sprawling that it can be easy to get lost in the weeds, but this was a reminder that there's a lot of cool, fun stuff you can only really get with One Piece.

Now chop chop (fruit) on that reading, Steve. I expect you to be at Water Seven by this time next week.
Aye aye, Captain! I'm on my way!

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