The Skypiea arc continues with high flying hilarity and action.
What They Say The Straw Hats traveled to Skypiea in search of adventure, but they may have gotten more than they bargained for. It took less than a day for Luffy to earn the title of public enemy number one, and now his crew is subject to the harsh judgment of an angry god and the four lethal priests of Upper Yard!Zoro, Nami, Chopper, and Robin are trapped aboard the Going Merry when it's commandeered by a crustacean and marooned on a sacrificial alter. Luffy, Sanji, and Usopp are quick to mount a rescue mission, but they've got a problem of their own: a dancing dango of madman with an endless supply of agonizing ways to die! It'll take more than a miracle for this crew to be reunited - especially all in one piece!
Contains episodes 157-169.
For this viewing session, we listened to English dub. The English 5.1 track is solid with no distortions or dropouts. On par with the other releases, this is a solid sound track that predominately uses the forward sound stage. As mentioned in previous collections, the English dub cast brings a lot of fun and depth to this great series.
The Skypeia arc originally aired in early 2003. 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 7 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. The transfer is as good as it can possibly be.
Following the previous collection’s boxart design, the positioning of the collection title as it is featured at the bottom while the main focus of the artwork is positioned at the top. The artwork featured on the front depicts Luffy, Sanji, and Usopp fleeing the crazy priest, Satori. As usual, the backside of the box features a description of the series along with the technical specifications and a few screen shots. The thinpack case design features a canvas textured background with the Straw Hat pirate logo as was done in the previous collection. Beneath the logo is the words “Luffy’s Pirates”. The inside jackets for each of the DVD cases reveal the same logo and text placed onto wooden planked background. The DVD artwork also changed with an image of The Going Merry prominently featured. Overall, this is a decent design with a welcome set of changes that refresh the packaging.
Nothing has really changed with the menu system for this collection. The menu design 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 larger image of The Going Merry that is found on the back side of the cardboard slipcover. The right side of the main menu features a vertical menu selection. 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 menu. To find the staff commentary, you must go to the individual episode listing where you will find it placed under episode 166.
The extras included in the collection are found on the second disc. The extras include the textless songs for the series and a handful of the latest FUNimation trailers. The episode commentary features Mike McFarland and actresses Stephanie Young (Robin) and Luci Christian (Nami). The main topics of discussion focus on the advantages of working with multiple ADR directors and the challenges associated with acting and directing without full knowledge of the series.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers).
Having been found guilty for breaking all kinds of laws, the Straw Hats find themselves hastily making plans to flee Skypeia. While trying to escape from Sky Island, Robin, Chopper, Nami, and Zoro are taken hostage by God Enel. He sends a giant lobster to carry The Going Merry to the Sacrificial Alter in the Upper Yard. Thus begins a crazy journey that will whiplash you across the Upper and Lower Yards and beyond.
Embarking on a long story arc requires an investment in seat time, but those hours will fly by. The prescription for this fun will require copious amounts of slapstick humor and plenty of action. We also see the return of ‘the map’ and narrative that recap the events that have taken place in the previous episodes. For some I reason, I enjoy seeing the map and watching all of the arrows.
Separating the gang after a short regrouping is common fare with One Piece. Luffy, Usopp, and Sanji are left behind and are tasked with finding a way to get to the Upper Yard to help their shipmates. Conis feels compelled to help them after coming to grips with her betrayal of these new friends. She previously spilled the beans about the location of Straw Hats allowing God Eneru to capture The Going Merry.
As our heroes set out to regroup, we are introduced to the priests who serve under God Eneru as well as their mysterious powers. We learn more about the Sky Knight and good deal about the history of Skypiea. The Sky Knight used to be God, but he was overthrown by Eneru. While exploring their surroundings, Nami, Zoro, and Robin discover the true fate of Jaya, the city of gold.
I mentioned earlier that you will obviously get mental whiplash during this collection. It takes you on a bumpy ride of humor and fighting with a hefty load of backstory. The pace can sometimes leave you wondering what just happened. At other times the pace is a bit too slow. The four episodes covering the battle with the priest Satori of the forest and Nami’s discovery of Jaya’s missing half tends to drag along too long. But, that is where the humor comes in and makes One Piece such a great series. Just when you are about to tire of something, the story suddenly takes off in a whole new direction.
As this collections wraps up, a war between the Shandians, the native people of Skypeia, and the priests who serve Eneru is brewing. The tension is a harbinger for an epic war. God Eneru has very little screen time thus far. I expect he will have a lot more screen time in the next collection as he and Luffy are destined to cross paths.
Mr Frog’s Wild Ride is nothing compared to the wild ride that awaits you as the Straw Hats move throughout the floating island of Skypeia. A proven format of craziness and creative storytelling will all but suck you and keep you begging for more. Can the Straw Hats find each other? Better yet, can they survive the battle that is taking place between the priests and the clan of angry natives? The Straw Hats are anything but sinners in the hands of an angry God, they are the ambassadors for all things good and awesome in a great anime series.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Staff Commentary
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
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