Arriving back in her homeland, Vivi discovers that things have gone terribly wrong and that justice must be dealt.
What They Say
The island kingdom of Alabasta is about to erupt in civil war - a war engineered by Crocodile, one of the Seven Warlords of the Sea, and his criminal organization Baroque Works. Monkey D. Luffy, his Straw Hat pirates, and Princess Vivi race to the island, where the strongest warriors of Baroque Works wait to stop them. Can Vivi and her friends stop an entire war? And how can Luffy fight Crocodile, when Crocodile can turn into sand?
FUNimation has done up a really good release here with what they’ve presented in terms of audio. The original Japanese language track and the new English language adaptation both get a really solid Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix where there is a significant difference in how it sounds compared to the DVD level mixes included. The two languages are also presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 encoded at 640kbps, which is a bit better than DVD, but the end result is still the same. The lossless mix has a lot more warmth and depth to it, even in the quieter scenes it feels like it has more of a presence. Little things like footsteps take on a new level where their placement is stronger and has more impact. The mix obviously makes out the best when the music is sweeping and the action is high, but across the board this is a solid mix that really emphasizes that lossless makes a difference in presentation.
Originally in theaters in early 2007, the transfer for this feature is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.851: and is encoded using the AVC codec. One Piece has never been a show that’s really looked gorgeous when it comes to the TV series run as it has a very cartoonish nature about it. This feature retains a lot of that, particularly when it comes to the character designs, but it has a much stronger visual feel here than any TV episode. The biggest part for me was the beauty in the colors. When it comes to animation in high definition, I always look at the blue skies to see how they come across. Here, set against the desert scenes or the seas, the blues look so rich and warm that they’re captivating. Colors in general here look vibrant without being too strong or out of place. Beyond a little line noise during a panning sequence or two here and there, the transfer looks fantastic and representative of the source materials. There’s little real flaw here that I can see and even the small amount of film grain that’s present looks great, adding the right touch to things. This kind of presentation makes me want to see more One Piece features and quickly.
Presented in a standard Blu-ray case, the cover art looks good here as it has a black border with some ornaments to it while the interior has a theatrical poster look for the feature. With a clean logo along the top – which is good considering how much text there is to it – the bulk is given over to the characters of which there are several. The leads are all running around looking serious in the foreground while the background has the main villains of this feature with some of the setting brought into play as well. It’s not a bright and garish cover but one that really feels just right for what the story is all about. The back cover has a good presentation as well with the logo and a fun shot of Luffy along the top while below is the basic premise of the plot and a few shots from the show. The bottom portion is given over to the technical and production information as well as the usual ratings and logos. The main technical grid for the release continues to provide all the right information in a clean and easy to read format that is pretty identical to the bulk of Hollywood releases which is a huge plus. No show related inserts are included nor is there artwork on the reverse side.
The menu design for One Piece is pretty solid as it uses the whole parchment map aspect for its background which looks really nice, especially as small bits of animation play across it. The menu navigation also appears to be following a basic approach by FUNimation with everything set in the lower left corner but done in a style that fits the show. This one uses an appropriate font and some of the parchment style color backgrounds for it as you move about the submenus to set everything up properly. Everything loads quickly and the layout is very smooth and easy to navigate. This release doesn’t use BD-J so bookmarking is a non-issue, though I would certainly like to see that become a standard on every Blu-ray release since people do like to revisit their favorite scenes.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The eighth movie in the franchise, The Desert Princes and the Pirates: Adventures in Alabasta is the first One Piece movie to see release in the US. At the time it was licensed, it was the most recent one out in theaters in Japan which made sense for it to be picked up. It is an awkward pick-up for a lot of fans though because the episodes aren’t that widely available, either in broadcast or on DVD, even at the time of its release. For myself, I’ve only been watching the One Piece DVD releases of the TV series so I can speak only so far into this release, but there are likely other fans in a similar situation. If you want a fans opinion of the content here, check out our existing DVD review.
Having seen the first two TV sets that FUNimation has released, this movie is largely nonsensical for me. Nonsensical may be too harsh though as the real problem is that the characters aren’t who I’m familiar with and the somewhat central character of Vivi hasn’t been introduced yet. That has this feature looking like something of a glimpse into the future that’s interesting but is otherwise hard to connect with. Most of the time, when Shonen Jump based shows are made into movies, they’re done fairly self contained. Naruto is a good example of this, though they do observe some of what’s going on in-continuity as well. The earlier One Piece movies appear to play the same way, but this one feels like it’s different as it brings about some character resolution for Vivi in the end. The story doesn’t end with nothing changed from when it started, which doesn’t allow it to just mysteriously happen in the midst of some TV episodes.
The Desert Princess and the Pirates has Luffy and the rest of the Straw Hat crew heading to the land of Alabasta, the place where Vivi comes from. What they find there is that the country has basically been subverted. Her father, the king named Cobra, has been manipulated by the supposed hero of the country, a man named Crocodile. Using his nefarious methods and an organization that operates for him, he’s been brewing and stewing things into a full fledged revolution. Pitting the common folk against each other along with putting the king on one side of the picture, he’s intent on taking over entirely and picking up the pieces so he can make it into what he wants.
Luffy and the gang get into things fairly quickly as they meet up with a quirky mimic character that can take on appearances and some portion of abilities it seems. It’s amusing at first since he’s able to change genders easily and does what you’d expect a lot of guys to do in that situation. Strip. Changing into Nami and dropping his clothes is a priceless moment since the rest of the guys all have their jaws drop while Nami herself just get furious at everyone. That just tumbles everything eventually into a trek into the desert to reach the kingdom and then the discovery of what’s going on. It’s interesting in that there’s an approach to the problem from Luffy that’s unusual. While they want to stop the revolution and bloodshed that’s being foisted on everyone, he plainly says that doing so won’t stop the real problem, and that’s Crocodile. It has them re-think their approach a bit before going forward again.
The problem that I kept running into with this feature is that I’m nowhere near where these characters are. With Vivi having been introduced into the series and not showing up at the point I’m at yet, there’s no connection to her or her storyline. The camaraderie that she shares with everyone is enjoyable enough and I know their personalities enough to enjoy the basic aspects of the film, but that actual connection that bonds them together, which is really highlighted throughout the film and at the end, just isn’t there. Without that connection, all I’m left with is to enjoy the action and the visuals as the gang works through saving a kingdom from a revolution by people who’ve eaten the rather common Devil Fruit.
That action side of the film is fun if somewhat in the vein of what we’ve seen before. There’s a lot of action throughout with all sorts of fights as various adversarial relationships are established early on. Everyone gets a chance to get in on the action and there’s the obvious big moments towards the end. They also play up the epic nature by having some good scenes with lots of armies running around and going after each other, but unfortunately those felt far too digitally done in comparison to other aspects of the film and really took you out of the scene. Some shows have handled it better but this one just felt amateurish and too blatant in how it was done.
The eighth One Piece movie certainly isn’t a bad one, but it’s coming at a time when someone like myself who has only seen the first twenty six odd episodes of the series. The disconnect is too large in some ways because the characters are familiar yet not the same because of all the experiences that they’ve had. As a glimpse into the future, it certainly has me interested in seeing more of what’s to come as Luffy comes across as a bit more serious and mature while the rest are more comfortable in their own skins as well. As a Blu-ray presentation, FUNimation has again done just about everything right here and I continue to be excited to see what they have in store for the future with other releases, One Piece included.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.