One of the inherent problems with attempting professional reviews is that you're forced to keep up with the times. Sometimes I'm forced to jump fairly late into an established franchise in effort to get reviews published while they're still pertinent. This was the case of One Piece: Season 2, First Voyage. Released on June 30th, this is actually the fifty-fourth through sixty-sixth episode of the series and it just so happens to be my first experience!
The twelve episodes contained span a pair of discs packaged within two thin packs (inside a nicely artistic cardboard outer slip sleeve). Coming in at a runtime of 320 minutes, the show wears a conservative TV 13 rating. There is no real rough language, nudity, sexual situations, and what little violence does occur is quite cartoony.
Language options are typical sub & dub meaning the choice of original Japanese dialog, English dubbed voice track, and the option of English subtitles under either.
Special features are limited to textless songs and a crop of Funimation trailers on the second disc.
I have to just come out with it- this is really a fantastic show! I apologize to fans if it sounds like I'm surprised to say this, but in a way, I am. I've had mixed emotions about many of the shonen titles that the world seems to be amazed with (Dragon Ball Z, Bleach, Law of Ueki and so on). So naturally the fact that One Piece is marketed as a massive shonen saga coupled to my having decided to finally give it a try at episode 54, the formula was looking pretty bleak. However, even after considering all of the strikes against it going in, I found Season 2, First Voyage to be an engaging adventure right from the get go, filled with a bubbly, likeable cast and some pretty slick visuals.
Speaking of, the visual style of One Piece is nothing if not unique. Imagine simple but colorful backgrounds with intentionally washed out lead character models. The pallet may look pale after viewing any one of a hundred more colorfully intense anime titles but the look of the show is easy to get used to and before long actually becomes comfortably addicting. In fact the entire feel successfully mimics the theme of the wickedly cool treasure maps that adorn the interior of each of the two thin packs.
For those wondering what's unique about this installment, our young band of pirates finds themselves on a mission toward the Grand Line only to encounter a strange little shipwrecked girl being heavily pursued by the fleet of marines (8th division). Before long their paths lead to high jinks on the high seas involving a senile dragon, a yellow frog that's bigger than a house, and a mercenary who looks an awful lot like someone out of a Dr. Suess book.
If I were to attempt to isolate a single factor that makes this show something special I would perhaps site its sense of humor. The show is funny and not just over-the-top slapstick funny either. Rather, the dialog that stems from the character interaction is authentic and genuinely witty. This is one of few shows that I can recommend the English dub track over the usually superior Japanese vocal work. Not that the Japanese audio does anything to detract from the experience, it's just that the Funimation talent nailed their character roles so spectacularly that missing it would be a shame. There were several moments where the obscenely obese Commodore had me laughing out loud (a real rarity among shonen titles or anime in general for that matter).
Additionally, while the characters do have some super-human abilities (stretchy bodies, lightening legs, and undullable blades), the show is really more of an adventure than it is a never-ending fighting tournament.
Audio work is really well done and ranks among composer Kouhei Tanaka's better pieces. The powerful swings in tempo match the bravado of the onscreen action and in case you've been living under a rock, pirate swashbuckling is pretty darn action packed.
In all I would strongly recommend giving One Piece a good once over if you found any entertainment in movies like Pirates of the Caribbean or The Goonies or simply enjoy great characters, swift adventure, and a good laugh.
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About the reviewer
Jason Rider (AKA OneNeo on Amazon.com) is the author of the successful children's fantasy novel series The Uncommon Adventures of Tucker O'Doyle from Bellissima Publishing. … more
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The Straw Hats are headed for the treacherous Grand Line in search of a genuine pirate adventure! But before their journey begins, they discover a strange little girl with a fleet of angry Marines hot on her trail. The merry pirates are badly outnumbered and the canon balls are getting dangerously close, but Monkey B. Luffy never deserts a mate in need. Even when it means crossing paths with angry dragons, a giant whale, and a slicing, dicing whirlwind of a bounty hunter. Risking their live on the high seas is just part of the fun for a crew in search of the Legendary One Piece!
Stills from One Piece: Season Two, First Voyage (Click for larger image)