27 Jun 2013
Now that the dust has settled and the initial excitement has died down, we can now settle down and watch how One Piece develops free of at least some of the exuberance of that first release. So, with twenty-six episodes already under our belt, how does this second collection of One Piece episodes fare?
First and foremost, we still have plenty to tidy up from the story arc left unfinished at the end of the first collection of episodes, and thus we spend some more time focusing on Sanji's story and his fight against the formidable and ruthless Don Krieg - a pitched battle that looks all set to go south until Luffy (who else?) steps into the fray.
With this done and dusted, Sanji joins the crew, which would otherwise now be complete were it not for the fact that Nami has disappeared - something which doesn't sit well with Luffy, leading to a decision to give chase and track her town. It's this decision which sets the tone for the remainder of this volume, which revolves entirely around Nami's back story and her relationship with both her hometown and the Fishman pirate known as Arlong. It's a scenario which leaves this navigator torn between new friendships and old allegiances, and more importantly provides further evidence (were it needed) that she'll do anything to achieve here goals.
Of course, this particular story arc once again brings us to a face-off where Luffy features prominently in winning the day, and the final episodes on this particular DVD set meander here and there almost aimlessly for a while, bringing back some familiar faces before putting down a marker that the real adventures of the Straw Hat pirates as a full-blown crew are about to begin.
In overall terms, this second collection of episodes is very much along the same line as the first - its narrative arcs are mostly very character-centric, and there's no shortage of weird and wonderful individuals (in terms of both character design and behaviour) for the series to leverage as it progresses. Leverage it does, too, as each arc is punctuated by heart-felt character moments and inflection points of genuine emotion that mark this series out from a lot of shounen fare when it's at its best.
If only the series could reach these peaks more frequently and faster. Frequently, One Piece continues to feel like paying a visit to an elderly relative who insists upon showing you every single one of their holiday snaps - you know that they have some good stories and anecdotes to tell, but it takes them so long to reach the crux of those stories that there's a genuine danger that you might drift off to sleep before they get there. To call this series glacial would be to put it mildly, so be prepared to stock up on patience before indulging yourself in One Piece's world as occurrences which should play out quickly drag over countless episodes for no good reason other than to elongate the show's running time.
Of course, this sense of slow pacing isn't unique to One Piece, but it is rather unusual to see such a snail's pace employed from the very start of a series such as this, and it's perhaps the obvious quality of some of the story beats hidden in the midst of this treacle-encrusted content that makes it all the more exhausting - there's an epic adventure bursting to get out here, but the series can't do much with it because it's still stuck at the proverbial self-service checkout at the supermarket while someone tries to scan through an iPhone as broccoli.
In terms of this disc's release, we can have no complaints and thus there isn't a whole lot to say here - subtitles are good overall, the English dub is great, and with another twenty-seven episodes provided across these four discs there's no shortage of content to be enjoyed here.
If you're a more patient person than I, then One Piece may have more to offer you - as we've already discussed, it has some great characters and a unique aesthetic that fits the larger than life individuals that inhabit its world, and the broader strokes of each story arc are wonderfully thought out and - pacing aside - implemented.
Who knows, maybe one day someone will fully give One Piece the same treatment that Dragon Ball Z received via its Kai re-release, and we can enjoy the series at a snappier, less bloated pace.