One Piece the Movie 1: I'll Become the Pirate King!
Monkey D. Luffy is a teenage boy out to find the legendary treasure known as One Piece and become the King of Pirates. He is also unique in that he has eaten the fruit of the gum-gum tree - Luffy is literally made of rubber, and is able to perform feats of physical skill which would otherwise be impossible. With his intrepid and eccentric crew, he goes off seeking the Grand Line, where this treasure is supposedly hidden.
This does not stop them from seeking other treasures along the way, as well as tangling with other pirate crews also en route to the Grand Line. In this feature, Luffy and his crew rescue the wannabe pirate Tobio from the clutches of the fearsome El Drago, and are led on a goose chase that just might lead them to the Golden Island treasure of the famous pirate Woonan.
Right now, it seems as if pirates are on the brain. There's the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie, and "Talk Like a Pirate Day", and even Veggietales references to pirates. Pirates, like ninja, are in.
So it's refreshing to watch a pirate show without so much as an "Arr, matey" in the script. While One Piece is definitely a show about pirates (and the children who want to grow up to become pirates), it's also a very original and highly charming romp that owes more to Popeye the Sailor Man than the current trends of cutthroats in brogue.
Still, the archetypes are here, with the swashbuckling swordsmen and cannon-studded galleons that we've grown accustomed to in the genre, but there's constant anachronisms like a floating oden bar, and Zoro's bizarre skills with katana, that are unmistakably Japanese. It's all very outlandish and overblown and, well, cartoony, but that's what makes it so fun.
The strength of this movie (as in the series) is by far the characters. Luffy is likably goofy, an idealist with the pistol arm to back up his dreams and the presence of mind to know when to use it. He's loyal, brave, and if he's a bit undersized, it just means that his enemies will fall just that much further -- though if he can make an erstwhile enemy into a loyal friend, he's that much happier. His optimistic attitude is infectious, and you can't help but think that there simply *has* to be a little of Popeye's strength and quirky humor in Luffy's ancestry.
And that's just *one* character. Luffy's pirate crew is extremely likable (from the expert swordsman Zoro and the master thief Nami to the ambiguously useful Ussop, whose nose would make Cyrano cringe). Granted, these characters work best for the folk who have seen the series and are familliar with their backstories.
The movie-storyline guest characters aren't quite as rich - Tobio falls into the little-boy-wannabe-pirate template much like Coby in the early part of the TV series (or you could argue, Luffy himself once upon a time). He's stubborn and wants to be a pirate, but really doesn't have the talent or heart or even the slightest idea of how to do it. By the end, he realizes what path he must take in life, thanks to Luffy and his gang.
Today's antagonist, El Drago, turns out to be another of those "I ate a Devil Fruit" guys, and while he's pretty one-dimensional, his sword-wielding henchman (predictably, Zoro's opponent) is actually rather interesting despite being largely silent.
Which brings us to the plot, which is your typical treasure island goose chase, and not entirely original in concept and theme, but very entertaining in execution. While the "surprises" are really only going to surprise younger children, it's still fun watching these characters go through the motions - like any good hero's journey, this franchise isn't really about the destination, but how the characters get there.
Technically speaking, the animation is very glossy and this show just looks great. Granted, it's a kid's show, so the backgrounds and designs are a bit more simplistic than the norm, but considering the audience, this movie is definitely not going to disappoint any of its intended viewers based on its visuals. The music seemed fine to me, though I've always liked the music of the One Piece franchise.
Overall, a drily written review isn't going to do you any good in knowing what this show is really like. It's goofy, it's silly, it's adventurous, and it's fun, and while this first movie is best for fans of the TV series, it's good enough to pique the interest of newer fans who haven't read a single page of Shonen Jump.
Short for a movie, but well-executed and entertaining. People looking for deeper or more mature material would be better off looking elsewhere - this is a feature made purely for fun. — Carlos Ross
Recommended Audience: While there is a bit of violence here (especially with the villains in this show), it's no different than the content in the television series or the comic, and pretty far outside the realm of reality. Fine for most children seven and up.
Version(s) Viewed: Prerelease fansub
Review Status: Full (1/1)
One Piece the Movie 1: I'll Become the Pirate King! © 2000 Toei
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