For years, films based off of long running shonen series always presented themselves as simple stories, with the only true highlight being the rich animation that would accompany this familiar territory. Eiichiro Oda wanted to make sure that this didn’t happen for the 10th One Piece film, where most of the other entries were just retellings of previous story arcs and instead offer up a film that would celebrate the series for its 10th year anniversary. The end result is One Piece: Strong World, a film that is a culmination of the series’ accomplishments, as well as being cannon to the actual central storyline.
After being held in prison for years, the Gold Lion pirate, Shiki, escapes from the Marines and manages to hold a secret meeting for pirates that reside all over the world. As he’s on his way to the meeting, he runs into the Straw Hat Pirates and recognizes the talents of Nami, as an excellent navigator and decides that he wants her to be a part of his own crew. He kidnaps her and takes her to Strong World, a series of floating islands, where Shiki is plotting his nefarious plans to go against the World Government and the Marines, by conquering all of the East Blue. The Straw Hats, unhappy with their own shipmate being stolen from them, decide to go to Strong World, in order to get Nami back and stop Shiki from unleashing his power on their homeland.
One Piece: Strong World is hands down one of the best theatrical releases of shonen film and presents itself as a primary reason on why One Piece is such a fantastic series. In the very opening sequence, we’re introduced to the ridiculous character designs of creatures, the absurd powers of Devil Fruit users and a different sense of exaggeration, that most other anime can’t even compete with. While it would help to have seen the series in the first place, in order to have a grasp on the different characters shown, I think that its possible for someone who’s uninitiated in anything One Piece and still have a damn great time.
The fact that Oda himself wanted to oversee everything that went into this film, is one of the things that really makes it feel genuine. After being out for a decade, it only makes sense to have the latest film be a true celebration of the series. Oda’s touch is felt all over the film, from the great comedic moments, to the wacky character designs, the entire film really feels steeped in the source material. Another major contributor is Director Munehisa Sakai, who’s directed over 40 episodes of the original series. It would take someone who knows these characters, in order to place them in an adventure that feels much larger in scope, than what we’re used to on the small screen. With Sakai, he succeeds in turning Strong World into a fun filled celebration of One Piece and makes it a point to differentiate from his previous theatrical works.
Funimation’s release of the film is a bit of a middle of the road for a release, containing a fantastic video and audio transfer, but only having one minor extra. The video is presented in a AVC encoded 1080p transfer, with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The transfer is crystal clear and gives the film the most proper visual representations of One Piece there is. From the outlandish color schemes, to the incredible key animation, the video on this Blu-Ray transfer is top notch and a great example of the series as a whole. The audio on the film contains two Dolby TrueHD 5.1 tracks, one in the original Japanese and the other with the English dub. Both mixes sound really robust, with the English mix offering a bit more in the surround area. While I mostly listened to the film in the original language, during action sequences and other great dialog bits, I’d change the track to get an idea of what they both sound like. The only extra on the disc, is a character introduction to Brook, who hasn’t made his debut yet in the Funimation TV releases. The video speaks to many of the fans at various anime conventions, to then switch it over to interviews of Ian Sinclair, the voice actor for Brook and Mike McFarland, the English ADR director for One Piece. While the segment is a bit insightful, I certainly wished that there was a lot more going on, since the film is a major milestone in One Piece history. Even a solid English commentary with all of the Straw Hats would have been pretty nice, but sadly to say, there’s really nothing here to supplement such a fantastic film.
One Piece: Strong World is a fun filled time, with its great examples of what makes the One Piece series such a wonderful anime drug. If you find yourself weary about watching over 600 episodes of anime, but wouldn’t mind dipping your toe in the water to see what all the hoopla is about, then One Piece: Strong World is one awesome way to do it! Highly Recommended!