One Piece – Finishing Enies Lobby ~ To the ocean, back to the sea of adventure

When you enjoy something so completely, it’s never easy to write a review about it, and, as if you didn’t know already, I love One Piece. Of course, I could just not bother with this blogging nonsense, but I can’t ignore my conscience. More people need to be watching this anime and, in my own feeble style, I need to tell you why I love it.
Earlier today I finished watching episode 312 and according to Wikipedia, that’s the official end point of the Enies Lobby saga. My initial thoughts are that this was by far and away the best arc of One Piece. That’s a remarkable feat when you think about it; after an amazing 300 episodes, it’s still getting better and better. A lot of the credit has to go to the unflinching vision of Oda-sensei, who has been crafting this wonderful story for nigh on 10 years now. I imagine he draws it with a big Luffy style smile slapped across his face.
Also, it’s worth pointing out that One Piece is the most fansubbed anime ever; every single episode has been translated, encoded and shared by people spread the world over. So through all the tragic 4Kids bullshit, the fans remained undeterred and stuck together, achieving a quite remarkable record. You cannot doubt their dedication! Here’s hoping FUNimation give us a release worthy of such a loyal fan base; even though they will be beginning production at Skypiea, I’m desperate to fill my walls with beautiful One Piece DVDs.
Why is Enies Lobby so much better than, say, Alabasta then? It’s the way the Straw-Hats worked together. In the past, it has usually felt like that as long as Luffy was around, the day would be saved. He beats down Crocodile, and that is that, the world saved. It’s not that simple with Enies Lobby though; Luffy is basically sidetracked by Rob Lucci, leaving the rest of the Straw-Hats to rescue Robin. It takes a real team effort to survive; each person is pushed to their limits, a true test of their spirit to remain together.
My favourite scene was just prior to the final moments of Luffy’s clash with Lucci; Usopp’s looking down on the fight from high above and spots that Luffy is close to defeat. He removes his Sogeking mask and starts screaming and shouting, urging Luffy to fight on, desperate for him not to give up. All this contrasts with Usopp’s earlier fight with Luffy; they are supposed to be enemies, but Usopp’s show of support gives Luffy enough heart and determination to finish the fight. It’s a really wonderful scene, a perfect ying-yang of Luffy’s strength and Usopp’s support; they need each other to survive.
It’s apt that Merry shows up in the end and carries everyone to safety. Though it may be too nostalgic for some, the boat is symbolic of the Straw-Hats bond to one-another; it represents all those past adventures, their precious memories and the dreams they’re yet to grasp. It’s not just a ship, it’s the One Piece adventure itself, Merry is the reason they are all together and ultimately, it’s the reason they survive.


One Piece – A nostalgic comment, nearing the end of my adventure

I’m up to episode 301 of One Piece; 15 more and I’ll have finally caught up with the current fansubs. It’s taken me nearly three years to get this far and now I’m almost there, I have this weird feeling. It’s been great knowing that if I’m ever bored with anime, if I ever wanted to watch something that I knew I’d love, I could always lose myself for hours on an adventure with One Piece. Yet in a few days time, that’s all going to change. I’ll be waiting each and every week, like all the other straw-hats, for just one measly episode. Maybe it’s just me, but I prefer watching anime in bulk. 23 minutes per week just isn’t enough and having to wait so long between cliffhangers totally fades my enthusiasm. Almost just as much, I’ll miss writing about the series in this way too, I suppose my One Piece posts have largely come to define me as a blogger, so for what it’s worth, thanks for reading! I’ve had so much fun talking with you guys about the show.
Anyway… I started writing this because I wanted to sound off about Enies Lobby. Episode 301 marks the turning of the tide in favor of the Straw-hats; basically, Robin is saved, thank god! I’m not sure how much more I could take of the bastard Spandam’s violent abuse; he’s the first villain in One Piece that I’ve truly come to hate, given his unrelenting and harrowing treatment of Robin. Best of all, the one to save her, at the darkest of dark moments was, of all people, Usopp (or Sogeking, if you want to get technical!); I love that he’s finally done something to be proud of (good job on Sanji’s part, talking some sense into him) and saved a dear friend with his own two hands.
From the various CP9 characters, my favorite has to be Kaku. Not only does he have this cool square nose and an innocent sense of humor (HAHA! Giraffe!) , he was probably the only CP9 assassin to show a little humanity. Once Zoro finishes him off, we see this bitter-sweet flashback to his time in Water 7; I love that scene of him jumping over the city, flying through the clouds at such a speed with that big smirk slapped across his face.
Now, I’m about to embark on my final catch-up with One Piece. I can’t wait to see Luffy beat down Rob Lucci. Until then!


One Piece – I want to live!!

The time of writing this is 00:01; mid-night. I’m up for work tomorrow at 07:15. I should be in bed, but instead, I’m wide awake, filled with the burning passion to write this post, to write anything about One Piece. It’s kind of odd, really, I mean, why? What is it about anime — and especially One Piece — that refills my engine? It’s such an intangible feeling, or passion"¦, or whatever.
I just want to sound off on Nico Robin’s back-story. I want to say that Saulo was a really awesome giant, and his death was totally cool (pun intended?). I liked his fake laugh; it’s kind of depressing (especially when Robin tries it), but heart warming at the same time. His last moments captured an epic, awe-inspiring and cofused mixture of loss and hope. Everything about the Buster Call attack was massive; a chilling sense of chaos is felt when we see library books being thrown from a window; all that knowledge, wisdom, history — to see them burnt to ashes by madness and fear is undoubtedly an unsettling, even creepy, sight to behold.
What else is there to say but "I want to live". To hear Robin finally say it was a great moment, and nearly as good as that was Sogeking destroying the World Government’s precious flag. They declare war on the world to protect their friends, and it’s at this moment, with all their lives on the line for her, that Robin finally decides to stop running, risk it all and believe in her nakama.


One Piece – High gears, high drama and why Sogeking is the coolest

Prior to this evening, it had been nearly two months since I last sat down with an episode of One Piece. I’d finally reached the promised land of the Enies Lobby arc but some what worryingly, it wasn’t clicking with me. I found the plot was becoming fairly predictable and excruciatingly slow, while even the soundtrack was still rehashing the old favorites we first heard way back in Alabasta. I felt like I’d seen all of this before; I was bored and needed a break from the Straw-hat gang. Well, now it feels like I just got back from vacation!
It’s ironic that I stopped watching at episode 271, right before Luffy unveils his sensational evolution and goes bad-ass on Blueno from CP9. I loved the moment of his victory; the sudden realisation that he has knocked his opponent out cold. Luffy’s new technique was cool and bad-ass, but then, the rubber-man has always been cool and bad-ass anyway.
The real reason why I’m writing this is that I wanted to comment on the end of episode 274. Having fought their way through literally thousands of marines, the Straw-Hats (including Sogeking) find themselves at the top of a tower directly facing Nico Robin. They walk to the edge and stand in-line with Luffy, looking across the island right into the eyes of their broken comrade. Combined with the swirling and theatrical background music (a new song too!), this is a life affirming and symbolic moment for Robin; perhaps once and for all putting to bed her superficial attempts to escape her friends in order to save them. When Robin shouts across "Leave me alone, I want to die", Luffy simply retorts "if you want to say those words, come over here and say them with us". Us; your friends.
What I love about this scene, aside from what I’ve mentioned above, is that we have characters like Usopp and Nami there too. Luffy, Zoro, Chopper and Sanji are all on another level, they can stand there without feeling consumed by fear and doubt. Usopp and Nami are different though, they must know they have no chance in a fight, but they’re still there anyway, standing tall on the edge of the building, risking it all to win back their lost friend. In this scene, that’s why Sogeking is the coolest and bravest of all. And that’s also why I love One Piece.


One Piece – Being the weak one sucks, just ask Usopp

Being the weak one sucks, just ask Usopp – beaten within an inch of his life and robbed of a new found fortune; the money was for everyone; for his nakama. They relied on him to carry it and he lost it. They wouldn’t lose it, but he did, because he is Usopp – the weak one. The material money is actually irrelevant; it’s just that the thieves stole his pride too. Hanging around with Luffy, Zoro, Sanji and Chopper, this was bound to happen. He can’t keep crawling back to them for help, and so he goes alone to "Franky’s House", knowing full well he will take another thrashing; better to die trying than to live in shame, knowing deep down you’ll always be a burden to your friends.
When the Straw Hats find Usopp, he is lying unconscious on the stony beach; beaten, broken, no pride. Their loyalty to their friend surges forward and they utterly destroy Usopp’s spineless opponents; the house is levelled. They knew the money was long gone, but that was always irrelevant – they kept going to avenge their broken friend; Luffy says "Guys, don’t think we’ll leave any bones unbroken".
It’s not fair being weak, you can’t do anything. Episode 234 is an emotional, gut wrenching tribute that mirrors both Usopp’s insecurity and bravery, that it’s good to be able to look your mates in the eyes and show you did your best. The climax – the way the Straw Hats stick up for each other is the reason why I so adore this show.


He's a man of rubber with an afro

Luffy’s ultimate technique? Certainly, he’s wearing an afro!


One Piece Movie 6: Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island – This will scare kids

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.

Editorials Reviews

Observations of Everything: Bye-Bye November

Still hopelessly hooked on…
Black Lagoon (2nd Barrage)
Episode 19 and counting
The bog-standard Naruto fillers would be a lot more interesting if they managed to nab the creative bastards working on Black Lagoon. With that said the 2nd season has often flattered to deceive and appears to be more content to up the ante in terms of fire-power and “phat explosions” than provide any real character development. The end result is a darkly fun but superficial couple of action-packed story arcs. And something needs to be done about the painful Engrish – sorry Balalaika; you can’t be a bad-ass and talk like an idiot.
Code Geass
Episode 7 and counting
It feels wrong writing this but for what it’s worth I’m thoroughly enjoying Code Geass. I’m a sucker for colourful animation and this, mad haircuts and Victorian costumes abound, is so hideously over the top, melodramatic and knowingly fun that it’s become a ridiculous parody of everything that’s cliche within anime, from cloak wearing mecha to ditzy college days romance.
Death Note
Episode 9 and counting
Death Note isn’t an especially clever show but the suspenseful battle of wits and jaw-dropping brinkmanship between an increasingly unhinged Light and the quirky L has had me edging off my seat from the very first episode. I’m totally addicted to this show, and episode 8 contains the most dramatic opening of a packet of crisps e-v-e-r. What with all the Pizza Hut pimping in Code Geass, surely Walkers could have stumped up for some Shinigami flavoured chips?
One Piece
Episode 172 and counting
Well into the Skypiea arc now, but following on from the grandiose adventures of Alabasta, I must admit I’m finding it (“Save the country!”) all fairly predictable, same old music and same brand of narcissistic super villains’ ala Crocodile. Still though you can’t beat the smiling enthusiasm of Luffy and if I’m looking for something purely entertaining to stick on, One Piece has it all. That and Wiper is hella cool.
Welcome to the N.H.K
Episode 21 and counting
No Yamazaki, don’t gooooo! After the lull of the unengaging MMORPG arc, the last two episodes have shown Welcome to the N.H.K is back to its melancholy and border-line suicidal best. Yamazaki’s sad departure and Satou’s subsequently lonely realisation that he’s just lost his best mate rivalled Honey & Clover in its atmospheric reflection on the vital importance friendship. I can’t believe the end is so close now.
Stuck in backlog hell is…

  • 009-1 – Old school sci-fi anime revamped and I’ve read a lot of praise for this show.
  • Bakumatsu Kikansetsu Irohanihoheto – Traditional Japanese dialogue is extremely confusing
  • Bartender – Sounds massively boring but because of that, I’m desperate to give it a shot!
  • Red Garden – Stop crying god dammit! No, don’t sing about it either!
  • Tokyo Tribe 2 – The animation looks odd and creativity deserves attention. Also going in its favour is that it isn’t harem.

One Piece – Winning without even throwing a punch

It’s funny how we spend hours upon hours watching anime, often only for but a few short minutes of absolute pay off. I watch One Piece for these transcendental moments; don’t get me wrong, it’s a consistently fun show but every so often, it raises itself to a rare point of pure emotional resonance with me, where for a few scant minutes all of my attention is completely focussed on the screen, emotions lost somewhere between ultimate high and shocking low.
This happened again today with episode 147 – Luffy, Zoro and Nami are sitting at a bar, drinking and joking, when a purely evil pirate by the name of “Bellamy” walks in and immediately starts a fight with Luffy. He laughs in Luffy’s face, calls him weak and bitterly insults them all for chasing their childish dreams. In Bellamy’s mooted new world, there is no need for dreams. By now him and his whole crew are viciously mocking The Straw Hat Pirates, bullying them, spitting drinks in their faces and throwing beer bottles, basically trying to strip them of their dignity.
But Luffy refuses to fight back, and he tells Zoro to do the same. They have the shit kicked out of them; they are thrown through wooden tables and have their faces smashed through broken glass. Nami – like the viewer – is urging them to fight back, to stand up for themselves, but still they refuse. Eventually they are thrown out of the pub, barely alive.
Now we are left to wonder why they refused to raise their fists in the face of such provocation. Luffy doesn’t strike me as such an ardent pacifist – if someone needs a good beating, he’ll hand it out. But I wonder if he pities Bellamy, the man’s contempt for chasing dreams and ambitions a sure sign that he himself has lost faith in life. He hates Luffy and the rest of the Straw Hat pirates because they stand for everything he wants (or lacks) in life. Luffy’s pride and dignity never wavers, to fight back would suggest he is afraid of losing something, so he stands tall and embodies everything Bellamy lacks, in turn protecting his dreams with a iron will. Luffy and Zoro win without even throwing a punch.
This was a brilliant, passionate and gut wrenching scene; a fine example as to why I love One Piece, it was worth watching 146 episodes if just to get to this point.


The Alabasta Arc of One Piece

The Alabasta Arc of One Piece sees this fine series at the top of its game, juggling dynamic character drama, explosive political upheaval and some eccentric body twisting action. Despite falling into a few classic Shounen Jump cliches (not least of all a super villain in Crocodile who unwittingly reveals his devious plans to his then captured arch enemies) the sheer scale of the Alabasta rebellion unfolding before my eyes was a spine tingling, gut wrenching sight to behold.
There was a lot that I came to love about Alabasta; from the endless sand dunes of its harsh deserts to its mythological architecture. The final battle set in Alubarna combined this giant, compelling feeling of a country at war with such a beautiful collection of rocky, warm and timeless landscapes. The animation- and particularly Luffy’s final battle with Crocodile was earth shatteringly fluid, completely encapsulating a Devil’s Fruit battle with its gravity defying, unnatural sense of power and movement.
Ultimately though, it’s the characters that really made this arc. Be it through Pell’s heroic sacrifice or Vivi’s painful cries for peace, I often felt completely immersed in it all. The tragedy, the philosophy and essentially, the friendship that wins out in the end was touching and heavily emotional.