I haven’t been a One Piece fan for very long. I avoided the series for years for a combination of reasons. At first the only dub available was the 4kids dub, which was kind of terrible. I could have watched the series fansubbed, but most fansubs for One Piece I’ve seen contain every fansubbing habit that makes me wish I could punch people through the Internet. The other reason, and the biggest reason to be honest, was that the series was just so long and I didn’t want to commit to something that would take so much time to watch. But several months ago I found the first Funimation DVD set for about $15, so I figured I might as well give it a try and I ended up becoming a fan. I also adopted a stray kitten around the same time. That’s not really relevant at all.
While sailing away from a batch of filler episodes, the Straw Hats are nearly crushed when wreckage from a ship starts falling from the sky. After looking around in the wrecked ship Luffy finds a map to the sky island, Skypeia. When Nami’s log pose starts pointing straight up into the sky the crew begins to believe that Skypeia may really exist, and set out to find a way to reach it.
It can be a little difficult to review a random batch of One Piece episodes. You can’t really expect a great deal of plot development in 13 episodes of a series that currently spans more than 490 episodes. But one can hardly begrudge the series for that. It’s Shonen Jump, the plot is supposed go along very slowly. So it basically comes down to whether or not this particular batch of One Piece episodes is entertaining. Which it is, kind of.
Truth be told, this set doesn’t really showcase One Piece at its peak entertainment value. It’s the beginning of a new season, so most of the episodes are simply building up to what this season is mostly about, which is Skypeia. The crew does get to Skypeia during this set, but it’s only during the last few episodes and it doesn’t really get that far into the events there. This could have been saved by having some great fights, but there really aren’t that many. The couple that are there are pretty good, but they’re over way too quickly.
There are quite a few good things though. This set introduces us to a few characters who become really major characters later on in the series. The biggest of these introductions are Whitebeard and Blackbeard, who have had major roles in the most recent arc in the series. If you go into this set already knowing who these characters are and what their importance later on is, going back and seeing their very first appearances is an interesting experience. The set also brings the standard crazy fast paced wacky fun that makes up the majority of One Piece. Luffy gets excited about anything and everything going on around him, Usopp screams frantically about anything and everything going on around him. That kind of thing.
One interesting part of the first several episodes is the implication that a new age of pirates is coming, and pirates like Luffy, who only seek to chase their dreams, will be left behind. It’s interesting to see Luffy go up against someone whose beliefs are in direct conflict with his own, and how he responds to this person’s attempts to insult him. The actual fight between the two ends with a single punch from Luffy, re-enforcing the series’ message that following your dreams is more important than anything else, but it was still an interesting little arc overall.
The animation at this point in the series is greatly improved over how it used to be. In the beginning, Toei was taking some hilariously obvious budget-saving shortcuts. One that happened frequently was close-up shots of villains faces, half obscured by some kind of darkness, so that they didn’t really have to animate things when said villain was talking. You didn’t have to be some kind of expert on animation to spot these things. Thankfully most of those shortcuts aren’t employed anymore. Some fights still make use of quick cuts to create the illusion of people punching each other, but this is only for the less important fights. It’s not stellar animation, but no one really expects a studio to put more than the least amount of effort they can get away with when making a Shonen Jump adaptation. It basically looks as good as it needs to, and as good as one would expect.
Season Three of One Piece marks the point of the series where Funimation took over dubbing the series from 4Kids. It’s the first season they dubbed, having actually recorded it back in 2007 before going back and dubbing the first two seasons. So these thirteen episodes are the first thirteen episodes that the cast recorded, and surprisingly it sounds just as good as the first two seasons. There are a few differences, with Mike McFarland noting during the commentary that Colleen Clinkenbeard’s Luffy is a little higher pitched (though I didn’t really notice a difference). On that note though, it never really made sense to me why they cast a woman to play Luffy, and this goes for both the Japanese and English versions. Casting a woman makes sense for younger male characters, but Luffy is an older teen. All of the other male crew members, except Chopper, are around his age and are voiced by men. Nothing against Colleen Clinkenbeard’s performance, but I don’t see why they wouldn’t just have a guy voice him.
Other than that, I don’t really have any complaints about the dub. Some people complain about Christopher Sabat, Eric Vale, and Sonny Strait using the exact same voices that they used in Dragon Ball Z, but that’s not actually a real problem. Of course Eric Vale is going to sound the same as Trunks and Sanji. They’re both normal human characters who have normal speaking voices. His actual performance as Sanji is vastly different than Trunks though, because they’re vastly different characters, and that’s what actually matters here. It’s a really great dub overall. Not necessarily Funimation’s best, but One Piece isn’t necessarily the kind of material that’s going to bring out the best in voice actors most of the time, with its fairly simple and straightforward characters.
There isn’t really much to talk about as far as extras are concerned on this set. There’s the normal things like textless opening and closing (which Funimation actually dubs for One Piece) and several trailers. There’s also a commentary on one episode, as is the case for every One Piece set. It’s for episode 144, which Mike McFarland notes he chose because it was the first episode they ever recorded. Colleen Clinkenbeard and Brina Palencia, who voices Chopper, also take part in the commentary. It’s not exactly a deep, in depth commentary on One Piece as much as it’s three people goofing around in a recording booth. It’s fun to listen to if you’re a fan of the dub, but that’s about it really. Season Three also marks the point where the packaging design improved, most notably with the cover art. Cover art for each set in Seasons One and Two was just key art of the characters put together on the cover, whereas this set features actual art of the Going Merry riding the Knock Up Stream. It’s still the basic flimsy cardboard sleeve with thinpack DVD cases in it though.
This isn’t really the best DVD set of One Piece you could watch, and is definitely not a good one to start with, but it’s not bad overall. It has a few decent fights, the same fun and energy that One Piece always has, and introductions of a few substantial characters. But it’s most certainly only for fans of the series, who are willing to put up with the slow build up that the makes up this set.
Pros: A few decent fights, normal fun and excitement of One Piece
Cons: Kind of slow build up with no real pay-off in this set