One Piece Season 2 Part 4 (of 4) (Mania.com)

By:Bryce Coulter
Review Date: Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Let the Alabasta Arc begin with plenty of side stories aplenty…

What They Say
As Luffy's crew prepares for a treacherous trek across the parched sands of Alabasta, they are joined by Chopper, the ship's new doctor. His healing powers are sure to come in handy with Crocodile and the assassins of Baroque Works plotting to take over the country by force. Meanwhile, Captain Smoker, a foe Luffy is powerless to defeat, continues to pursue the merry pirates to the far reaches of the globe. But thanks to some new friends and a fiery ally from the rubber-man's past, the Straw Hats just might survive long enough to help Princess Vivi restore peace to her beloved kingdom.

Contains episodes 92-103.

The Review!
Audio:
For this viewing session, we listened to English dub.  The audio was crisp and clear.  We did not experience any distortions or dropouts.  Again, the English cast continues to impress as the saga continues.  The addition of Brina Palencia as Tony Tony Chopper is brilliant as she masterfully captures the extreme vocal ranges of this very diverse and interesting character.  As stated in my previous reviews, this diverse cast keeps delivering top-notch voice acting.

Video:
The Alabasta Arc originally aired in 2001.  As with the previous collections this transfer for One Piece does not disappoint in its original full frame aspect ratio. One Piece’s transfer is consistently clean and pleasing to watch.  All of the colors appear very solid and exhibit great vibrancy. Cross coloration is absent and aliasing is at a minimum. On rare occasions there is just a small bit of noticeable background noise, but nothing to be concerned about.  Nearly 10 years old, the animation quality is not quite up to par with today’s new anime style.  However, One Piece’s bizarre character designs will keep your attention as they can be very random and often memorable.  Not the prettiest, but it will definitely capture your attention.  This especially holds true for the new characters inserted in this collection.  The cursed fruits make for some of the wackiest of characters.  Chopper is especially interesting as he has three different modes of transformation.

Packaging:
The box for this One Piece collection continues to follow the path set by the previous third voyage collection.  As with the other collections, this set features two thinpack DVD cases.  The cardboard box that houses them is arranged in a rustic looking wood design with the One Piece logo prominently displayed on each side.  The front of this collection features Nami, Vivi, Luffy and Ace.  The flames surrounding Ace draws in your attention as do Viv and Nami’s outfits.  And those outfits get a lot of mileage as they are on the back of the box and are also featured on the front of one the cases.  As usual, the backside of the box features a brief description of the series along with the technical specifications and a few screen shots.  The front side of the first DVD thinpack features brothers Luffy and Ace.  And as I mentioned before, you get another larger picture of Nami and Vivi in their desert attire on the second DVD case.  The thinpack images are nothing more than cropped images from the collection case.  The inside jackets for each of the DVD cases reveal a map background with the Going Merry in the middle.  The DVD artwork depicts the four cardinal directions, like a compass, but looks more like pieces of rigging and sail fabric. 

Menu:
The menu system for One Piece is rather simple, but effective.  The menu background uses the same design that is used for the DVD cases and box.  The main menu features a portion of the artwork found on the thinpacks/box front.  The right side of the main menu features a vertical menu selection.  The menu appears on an old piece of parchment.  Your standard episode and setup menus are all found here as well as a great looping musical score for each menu.  The music loops appropriately and does not abruptly end, which is a nice touch. The menus are easy to access and transition smoothly without any problem.

As with other the collections preceding this one, the marathon mode feature allows you to view all the episodes without having to watch the episode introduction, preview for the next episode, and the closing credits.  This is a nice touch that is great for marathoning, but I’m sure many true One Piece fans will want to watch the intro and closing.  Of course, you can play each episode in its entirety by selecting play all or going into the individual episode list.

Again the staff commentary for this collection is a bit tricky to find as it is not placed in an obvious location on the main.  To find the staff commentary, you must go to the individual episode listing where you will find it placed under episode 103.

Extras:
The extras included in the collection are found on the second disc.  The extras include the textless songs for the series and a handful if the latest FUNimation trailers.

Of course, the staff commentary is also featured in this collection.  Scott Sager leads the commentary with Barry Yandell, who does the voice for Mr. 2 Bon Clay, Leah Clark, who plays the voice of Paula or Miss Double Finger and Coby.  This interview accompanies episode 103.  The main discussion focuses primarily on the Baroque Works agents.  They also talk some about having done the voice acting for “The Desert Princess and the Pirates” movie that was released this past year.  This movie actually is a condensed version of the Alabasta arc and is the very first full-length One Piece movie.   We also get some insight to how all of the voice actors for One Piece are interconnected.  I guess the voice acting world is a lot smaller than I thought!

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers). 
Let the great Alabasta story arc begin.  The foreshadowing and the build up for this story arc has been a long time a coming!  We last left the crew heading towards Alabasta and this collection now leads us to the island kingdom that is under siege by the villainous Crocodile.  The citizens of Alabasta do not realize this as their focus is on the country-wide drought.  Historically, Alabasta thrived because of its use of its oasis’ and irrigation.  The people are now blaming the King of Alabasta for all of their problems and the three year drought.  Rumors of a civil war are brewing and Vivi is determined to try to help the people and the King realize that Baroque Works and Crocodile are the reason for what has happened to their country.  This sounds easy, except that the people are under the illusion that Crocodile is a good guy because he has been providing aid to the people. Unbeknownst to the people, Baroque Works is slowly but surely taking over the country.  That evil Crocodile!!
 
There is a lot going on in this story arc and if you are not paying attention you can get lost in the plot and many subplots.  Word to the wise, you gotta pay attention in these Shonen series!  So, each episode starts out with a short overview of what happened in the previous episode(s) along with a map that shows the progress of the crew as the travel from the port of Nanohana.  Vivi knows that time is short as she has proof that Baroque Works is behind the plight of the Alabasta Kingdom.  She needs to get this information to her father as quickly as possible.  But she needs to confront the rebel commander, someone that she grew up with.
 
The silly and zany actions of Luffy, in this collection of episodes, are the most random yet.  As a fan, I felt a little annoyed with his actions, continually getting lost and complaining.  You really get a sense of what the rest of the crew feels as they get really irritated with his stupidity as well.  However, that common bond of friendship is so strong that the crew always stays the course even when big bro Ace shows up.  Ace is the complete opposite of Luffy.  Known as Fire Fist Ace, he ate the Flame-Flame Fruit that gives him the ability to emit flames when he throws a punch.  Strong, polite, and intelligent, Ace aids the crew at just the right time as Captain Smoker is hot on the Straw Hat’s trail.  We learn that Ace is looking for a bounty hunter named Scorpion, someone who may have killed a friend of his.
 
This collection of episodes is really scattered about and has a lot of subplots that do not completely wrap up by the end of episode 103.  At the conclusion of the last episode, I was kind of scratching my head and wondering what all I just watched.  I understand the episode count for each collection, but I wonder if it would have been better to have included more episodes in this one.  You really don’t get a sense of any type of closure at the end of episode 103.  Alabasta is a huge story arc!
 
The subplots in this collection set up some nice foundational springboards for the overall plot.  You get a real sense of immersion into the island of Alabasta as there is plenty of background information presented about the kindom, the people, the strange wildlife, the desert, etc.  We also learn a lot about Viv as her background story is fleshed out in good detail.  As the collection closes we get to witness all of the Baroque Works agents gathering at the Spiders Café to meet with Crocodile while the Straw Hats try to catch up with Kohza and the Rebel Amy as they head toward Katorea.

Summary:
The fourth voyage of the second season is a crazy sandstorm of events that will leave you buried if you don’t pay attention.  Lots of subplots and side stories build up the foundation for the infamous Alabasta Arc.  This set of episodes packs everything in, but doesn’t really give you a great sense of where the story is headed.  Viv and Alabasta’s background are fleshed out in great detail, and we also get to spend some time with Ace, Luffy’s big brother.  What Crocodile is doing to the people of Alabasta and how Barqoue Works is undermining the authority of the king foreshadows some epic challenges for the Straw Hat crew.  This set comes highly recommended for the fan that is keeping up with the story, but is not recommended for newcomers to the series!

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Staff Commentary, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Review Equipment

Samsung  UN46B6000VF 120Hz  LED HDTV, Samsung HT-WS1R/XAA  2.1 Channel Soundbar Speaker System with Wireless Subwoofer, and Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p



Mania Grade: B-
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: A
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 14 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
MSRP: 49.98
Running time: 320
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: One Piece