Wednesday, January 11, 2017

One Piece Film: Gold

In case you’re unfamiliar with One Piece, it’s a long-running series about a boy named Monkey D. Luffy who assembles a motley crew of pirates who wish to fulfill their dreams as he sets sail across the ocean to find the legendary One Piece and become King of the Pirates. The lasting popularity of One Piece has spawned a large amount of tie-in material, including merchandise, video games and movies. The thirteenth movie, One Piece Film: Gold, is the latest of these movies and the English dub received a limited theatrical run in America. While I haven’t kept up on much of anything outside of the main series, I decided to take this unique chance to see One Piece on the big screen.

Following the events of the Dressrosa Arc, the Straw Hat Pirates are flat broke. In the hopes of making some money, the crew arrive on Gran Tesoro, a floating island and independent country resembling Las Vegas. As the crew indulges in a huge winning streak, the country’s ruler and main entertainer, Gild Tesoro (Keith Silverstein), shows his true colors after he forces Luffy (Colleen Clinkenbeard) to lose all of their money in an all-or-nothing gamble and imprisons the Straw Hat crew member Roronoa Zoro (Chris Sabat) within pure gold. To prevent Zoro’s execution, the crew must now figure out how to repay their debt before 12:00 the next night.

Gild Tesoro (Keith Silverstein) rules Gran Tesoro with the power of the Gold-Gold Fruit.

Although the story is non-canon, it does a good job keeping One Piece fans entertained throughout. The story is pretty straightforward, although the third act muddies itself a little amidst several reveals of double- and triple-crosses and outright deception (managing to make plans before someone else’s plans). Certain elements also echo previous One Piece arcs, though this doesn’t detract from the enjoyability as the movie is able to weave these ideas together into an engaging whole. However, viewers who aren’t One Piece fans may easily find themselves lost in places without some sort of primer, as the main characters aren’t explained in any form apart from their names and bounties. This extends to Gild Tesoro, who has a simultaneously simple and complex motivation, although a bit of iconography present in his backstory would only make sense to longtime fans.

That said, the animation is very smooth and visually impressive in its blending of traditional and minimal CG elements. The character models all look more impressive than their television counterparts, likely due to the movie having a higher budget, and the abundant amounts of gold are all very well-rendered, which certainly helps with illustrating Gild Tesoro’s power to manipulate gold. By extension, the impressive animation also makes the climactic battles a visual spectacle. The generally bright color palette of the series is also complimented by lighting which helps with balancing and highlighting the serious and comedic aspects of the story. Particularly observant One Piece fans may also notice Easter eggs in the form of cameo appearances by characters from previous arcs.

One Piece Film: Gold is easy to recommend to One Piece fans, as it is a very entertaining filler movie with an engaging story and a one-off villain with a surprising amount of backstory. The animation and fight scenes are also impressive and the humor is a good contrast to the relatively serious tone. Viewers who weren’t fans to begin with may not enjoy it as deeply, but with the right primer from a fan, they might have an easier time swallowing the main concepts and following along with the plot, though they may still get lost in places.

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