Region: 2 - UK
Length: 108 minutes
English 5.1 Surround
Japanese 2.0 Stereo
Destroy All Pirates! Said to be comparable to the Ancient Weapons of old, the Marines' trump card, the 'Dyna Stones', have suddenly been stolen by a group of renegade vigilantes. The terrifyingly powerful man responsible, former Marine Admiral 'Z', now stands in the path of Luffy and his Straw Hat Pirates. Can the Straw Hats defeat 'Z'; and his crew, or will the New World meet its end at the hands of this mad man?
Iím not a huge One Piece viewer. Iíve read some of the manga (itís not like you can breeze through it) and Iíve watched some of the DVDís. I like it whenever itís on but Iím not a rabid fan. So when I heard about Film Z, I wanted to watch it because stand alone films tend to be kinder to new viewers. That is true for the most part in Film Z, though there are a couple of characters I wasnít familiar with in this but Eiichiro Odaís tale has a way of draining you of your complaints.
Taking place after the Straw Hat Pirates (Luffy, Nami, Usopp, Zoro, Sanji, Tony Chopper, Franky, Nico Robin, Brook) have entered "The New World" another section to the Grand Line ocean, our heroes cross paths with Z, a pirate-hating hulk of a man with a powered arm and a crew of similar lieutenants who leave the Straw Hats dazed and destroyed. Following one of Z's lieutenants attacks in the battle a third of their crew de-aged (Robin is now 18, Brook claims he's younger and Nami is a child) by 12 years in some cases, they barely make it out of Zís fleet attacking the Going Merry. After they limp back to Dock Island for repair, they learn the story of why Z was once the greatest Marine Admiral and Commander and how he came to fall so far into darkness.
One Piece is one of those stories that has its own inertia, pulling you in with a dizzying array of characters and crazy capers. It always starts with a conversation between Luffyís crew that invariably links into the plot that is happening off screen. In the world of One Piece, the plot happens to other people, Luffyís crew just have to resolve it. So when weíre treated to the notion that an ex-military force has been operating under the Admiraltyís nose and killing pirates left right and centre, it should raise alarm bells. However once you realise that the world of One Piece is a giant ocean, the fact that few people have heard of Zís exploits makes more sense. Itís not actively trying to solve its own limitations, itís just good at doing so anyway. Writer Osamu Suzuki and director Tatsuya Nagamine set up the rules, set their cast off and let you derive as much fun as you can from it. They also give you stuff like the plot device of the Dyna Stones which govern the...actually itís not that important. All you need to know is that if Z successfully blows up three islands linked via magma vents (!), he will destroy The New World and stop pirates from ever using it again. Which will also kill a bunch of innocent people who live there as well but nobody brings this up with him in any conversations that I know of.
The filmís best bits are when the gang works together and pounds the snot out the opposition (it even works when the Straw Pirates get beaten). They fight, strategise, change their tactics and laugh in the face of danger. I know that is a staple of shonen fighting shows and manga but One Piece takes a step further by involving the people who are not fighting into the battle. So we get moments like the conversation with Mobston, the owner of the dry dock on Dock Island who wants pirates to be have a fighting chance against people like Z. So he throws his lot in with the Straw Hat pirates and hopes for the best. Mobstonís grandson has a talk with Luffy before the big battle that echoes Luffyís talks with Red Shanks. But Luffy is more ambiguous as to what kind of person the boy should be, leaving him to make up his own mind as to what he should do. When theyíre on their own, the gang hide out from the marines and gather intel on the armyís plan to take on Z and recover or destroy the Dyna Stones. Even when theyíre against the wall, they naturally thrive on the impossibility of their situation. The final fight between Zís people, the newly reunited Straw Hats and the invading Marines is epic with Zoro engaging in a lava pool sword fight with Ain, a waif-like girl who had been the one who de-aged the team and Sanji beating the stuffing out of Binz, a master manipulator of earth over layered waterfalls. Of course, after being beaten twice by Z with his Sea-Prism Stone laced arm, Luffy brings the whole proverbial kitchen sink to the fight and trashes him in a They Live-style beat down.
Film Z works as a standalone film because in Oda's world, you don't need to know about the backstory of our heroes. If you're confused or not sure what's happening, don't worry. There'll be a fight or a funny gag to keep you on an even keel before long. While it's light and fluffy for the most part, there are little pieces like Z's past, his melancholy and his quest for justice that make events a little more grounded. All in all, the fights and intrigue as to the why of Zís manic quest meld nicely together and are sure to enthral One Piece veteran fans and novices alike.
Manga UK ports over Funimationís dub along with the original language track. I stuck to the Japanese language track for the most part but Iím familiar with the Funimation dub and itís perfectly fine and if youíve been watching the dubbed version of the show, it is more of the same.