Shonen Jump movies aren’t exactly known for their quality; they usually amount to little more than 1.5 hours worth of fan-servicey filler, but when I discovered none other than Norio Matsumoto animated “One Piece Movie 6: Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island”, I just had to check it out. For those who aren’t aware, Matsumoto is an amazing action animator capable of capturing some stunning movement — he was the guy behind those episodes (30, 133) of Naruto.
So I sat down to this movie expecting great animation and hoping for a fun story, what I got far exceeded my expectations. This was a great movie, the last 30 minutes of which were an explosion of post-apocalyptic scenery and nakama-love, Luffy style. The Straw Hats come within whisker of dying, and in an outstandingly cool scene Luffy is almost crucified when impaled by dozens upon dozens of arrows. It looks breathlessly stylish, is undeniably darker than the TV series and like the best of One Piece, shows real heart.
For all its action-packed gusto, One Piece’s greatest strength has always been the steely bond of comradery between the Straw Hats. I could sit through hours of One Piece fillers just to see the characters interact and mess about. Movie 6 understands this, and what this results in is an almost heart-breaking tribute to Luffy’s loyalty to his nakama. Some of it borders on outright horror — during one especially grotesque moment, the Straw Hat pirates (excluding Luffy) are squished together and mutate into a kind of slimy, fleshy plant stalk that grows out of the deranged villain’s shoulder; it looks disgusting. In another shocking scene, Luffy has arrows shot through his hands and feet, blood pours from the wounds. He is in pain. You know it’s bad when Luffy is writhing in agony. This will scare kids.
Given my love of Matsumoto’s art, it should go without saying that Movie 6 is jaw-droppingly beautiful. The finale is an absolute tour-de-force of high budget Shonen Jump action — hand to hand combat, big open spaces, lightning quick movement, crazy special moves; arrows cloud the sky, Luffy’s gomu-gomu attacks have never looked as good.
Running in at a mere 90 minutes, this is essential viewing for One Piece fans. You just have to see the last half.