Maintaining consistent quality is one of the greatest difficulties found in an long-running shonen anime. One Piece, as one of the world’s longest running and most popular series within this genre, is not free from this pitfall. After the conclusion of the epic battle against CP9 in Season Five, we enter Season Six with the “Thriller Bark” arc.
Though I’m a fan of both One Piece and the undead as a fount for fantasy tropes, One Piece Season Six Voyage Two revealed some growing pains for the series.
A review copy was provided by FUNimation Entertainment.
One Piece Season Six Voyage Six consist of episodes 349 through 360, constituting the second portion of the Straw Hats’ adventure on Thriller Bark. Warlord Gecko Moria has successfully stolen Zoro and Sanji’s shadows and placed them into zombie husks to act as his minions. Oars, the corpse of a massive devilish giant, is poised to become Moria’s greatest underling as Luffy’s shadow is inserted into the creature.
Meanwhile, the beastly Absalom captures Nami with the intent to marry her. The pirates rush to save their crewmate and recover their shadows, all the while helped by the elusive skeletal musician Brook, who has some experience against Thriller Bark’s monstrosities. As our heroes battle against zombified horrors they will need to make use of unconventional tactics and abilities in order to survive.
Season Six sees the premier of Brook, a skeleton with an afro who has a connection to a character the Straw Hat Pirates met over 250 episodes ago. This connection is interesting, and shows that Eiichiro Oda is playing the long game with his series, and intends to call back to ideas referenced early on in One Piece. Brook’s inclusion also allows him to be a useful plot device, as he acts as the mouthpiece to reveal the weaknesses of Moria’s zombies and the inner workings of Thriller Bark’s forces.
Regrettably, while Brook is a great character, too much of his dialogue is expository, and is often repeated to really drive points home. I doubt One Piece’s script writers really assume their audience needs to be reminded time and again that salt can defeat zombies, and instead chalk it up to a ploy to fill air space.
Repetition is actually the downfall of Season Six Voyage Two. Aside from explanations, viewers are forced to endure repetitive gags and flashbacks, some of which are from as recently as the previous episode. Again, this seems more like a move to burn time in the episode rather than remind viewers, most of whom can probably recall these events and concepts. As a result, the plot meanders needlessly and events take longer than they should, while on the joke front there are way too many “running back and forth” gags and scenes of characters laughing for extended periods.
Speaking of laughter, a major gripe I had with the voice acting of Season Six Voyage Two relates to the laughter from both Gecko Moria and Perona. While Chris Guerrero and Felicia Angelle do their best to imitate the method in which the Japanese VAs laugh, it ultimately failed and came off as grating. I realize these characters are evil and supposed to be unlikable, but when a character spends at least 30 seconds laughing per encounter, a grating guffaw really irritates the viewer.
The animation quality is highly variable within these episodes. While the later episodes see some very well done scenes, especially the battles of Sanji versus Absalom and Brook versus Ryuuma, the earlier episodes feature significant shifts from moments of high to low quality animation. This includes an overuse of stills, which brings the viewer out of the moment. Throughout, the art and character designs are good.
One trope that these episodes also brought out several times is the old “You can’t do X, it’s impossible!” This is, of course, followed by a character immediately doing X, surprising everyone. Though this is standard for shonen series, I feel it’s essentially a dead horse at this point and is best retired.
Still, there is much to like about Season Six Voyage Two. The voice acting is solid across the board. Ian Sinclair voices newcomer Brook, doing a superb job as the skeleton who uses humor to disguise his hidden pain. Andrew Chandler does stellar work as the villain Absalom, lending a great rough tone to the beastly character. Though I did state that the VAs for Moria and Perona have annoying laughs, their work is otherwise strong.
Both Brook and Usopp receive a number of great character moments. We learn about the former’s past and motivation, and watch as this complex character unfolds before our eyes over the course of the episodes. The latter, meanwhile, reveals that some of his perceived negative qualities are actually quite useful against Perona’s positive emotion-sapping ghosts.
One Piece Season Six Voyage Two is a decent installment of the series, but is by no means even close to the best. It’s an enjoyable story with some great character development towards the end, but an overuse of repetition of dialogue, gags, and flashbacks. The animation quality noticeably improves in the second half of the DVD set. For those who are following the series, these episodes are worth watching simply to glean some key plot points, but are by no means required viewing for any anime fan.
-great character moments for Brook and Usopp
-good voice acting
-solid artwork and character designs
-unnecessary repetition of gags, dialogue, and flashbacks
-noticeably lower quality animation in early episodes
-grating laughter from Moria and Perona
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