So, of the Mithical staff, I am almost certainly the biggest One Piece fanboy. I keep current on the manga, keep up with the anime, have several Portrait of Pirates figures, etc. That being said, I find the movies and specials to be very hit or miss. Some are definitely worth the time, others aren’t. That’s kind of the nature of Shounen series movies, though. I’ve personally found the One Piece ones to be at least as consistent as the Dragon Ball Z movies and probably have a better batting average than the Naruto movies. The reason I bring this up is that, despite being a huge fan of One Piece, I don’t regularly keep up with everything about the movies and specials. I’ll check them out when they come out, but they’re definitely not the focus of my fandom. I had seen some promotional images for the newest One Piece movie prior to sitting down to One Piece Heart of Gold. On my first watch, I spent about the first half of the special thinking “this looks nothing like the images I’ve seen. That villain doesn’t look a thing like the shots I’ve seen. And I thought Lucci was supposed to play a much larger role than a brief conversation with a subordinate.” Eventually, it dawned on me that this was the special leading up to the Gold film.
The 10 second version of the plot to One Piece Heart of Gold: Treasure hunter Mad Treasure and the Marines are both chasing a little girl, Olga Myskina, hoping that she can lead them to a treasure called Pure Gold, supposedly worth enough to buy the whole world. Olga stumbles onto the Straw Hat ship. Hijinks ensue.
One of the main stumbling points for a lot of Shounen series movies/specials is uninteresting villains. There’s just not enough time to develop them in the film. This is kind of the case in One Piece Heart of Gold. While Mad Treasure is interesting enough to at least somewhat invest in as a villain, his subordinates are pretty thin. I know they’re not the focus of the movie, but if they’re going to be given fight scenes, I’d like a little more. Mad Treasure himself stands out pretty well amongst the series’ movie villains (not the best, but probably in the top quarter). Olga was pretty entertaining to me, even if we perhaps hit on her quirk of not being able to keep her thoughts of betrayal and escape to herself once or twice too often early in the special, while one of them could have been shifted towards the end. Altogether, she was a fun character for the Straw Hats to bounce off of.
Art and animation-wise, I liked the locations well enough in the film. While we’ve already had an animal large enough to have people living inside it (Laboon), the multiple islands and the stomach acid were presented in a fun, but still somewhat threatening way here. The final confrontation in particular, with the golden glowing arena and the rising acid level, was quite well done in both design and animation. The character designs were alright. Psycho P was pretty different design-wise, but as discussed above, was somewhat underused and underdeveloped. The Straw Hats get new costumes for the special, but half of them lose them pretty quickly and are in uninspired (or unnecessarily fanservice-y) costumes for the remainder of the time.
Some spoilers for the current arc of the manga are in the next paragraph, so read at your own peril.
On a wider note, though, I just really enjoyed seeing all of the Straw Hats back together and interacting as a full group again. At this point, it’s been several years since we had everyone together and interacting, so I just had to enjoy the dynamic between the characters. The movie does a good job capturing the feeling from the manga and series when they have all of the Straw Hats there. I didn’t realize how much I missed parts of that until it happened here.
Altogether, One Piece Heart of Gold was a solid enough special. It doesn’t do anything terribly unique, but was a pretty solid special. What I will say, though, I liked most of the groundwork that we see for the actual next One Piece film, including location, characters, and the like. I’m more excited for Gold now than I was before watching the special, so it accomplished its mission, from a certain point of view. All in all, if you’re a fan of the series, I’d definitely recommend giving it a watch. If you’re not into the series, I dunno if this is going to draw you in or be the thing to turn you around.