Note: We were provided a review copy by FUNimation
Pick a number between 349 to 372. The winning answer? You, after indulging in the newest One Piece collection from Funimation. One Piece Collection 15 comes packed with 23 episodes that continue with the Thriller Bark arc. The Straw Hat Pirates continue their journey through the Transylvania-esque island ship, Thriller Bark, and this new collection picks up right in the middle and will take you toward the final moments of the arc eventually leaving you begging for more. Let’s dive into the box set, what it offers, and then briefly touch on the anime for those that are just getting around to this arc.
The Box Set
As I mentioned earlier, One Piece Collection 15 is the latest collection that Funimation has released for One Piece. It spans 23 total episodes, from 349 to 372 covering the middle portion of the Thriller Bark arc. It’s comes with your standard DVD packaging, outside sleeve which protects the plastic casing containing your four DVDs. Each DVD contains between five to seven episodes a piece. There’s nothing that makes the collection necessarily stand out, but for a series as long as One Piece it doesn’t really need it. That can be saved for the much larger collections. It has a MSRP value of $34.98, however Funimation and other retailers tend to sell it at around $25-$27, so you’re looking at just slightly over $1/episode, which really isn’t a bad price, and that’s if you’re banking on just the episodes alone. Naturally they come with your choice of English dub or Japanese dub, and English subtitles, once again, standard affair here.
In terms of special and unique features, the Funimation classic “marathon mode” makes a return allowing you to watch a single instance of the opening before going through every episode on the DVD in order with no opening or ending themes until the end, where it will cap off your two hour adventure with the ending theme. It’s great if you have an extended period of time to sit down and watch it. You have your usual textless songs which are always nice if you want to admire the art in the opening theme, along with that is your standard episode commentary. What is really nice to see though are the interviews with Christopher Sabat (English voice of Zoro) and Eric Vale (English voice of Sanji). Each is about 30 minutes long and goes through the various stages of recording and English dub, along with other “day in the life” studio antics. While the debate about Japanese dub vs. English dub will never end, it’s great being able to take a look and see just how much effort, time, and passion these voice actors go through to provide something for Western audiences.
All in all, it’s your standard set packed with a couple of nice, albeit normal, goodies. However what ultimately drives this as something to pick up is just the price alone. At about a dollar an episode, you really can’t go wrong.
The Thriller Bark arc sets off as the 18th arc of One Piece, taking place after the incredible Enies Lobby arc which told us the story of Robin and CP9. Thriller Bark focuses on the Straw Hat Pirates coming across a skeleton named Brook and how they stumble into the Florian Triangle and the ghost ship/haunted island, Thriller Bark. As mentioned earlier, Collection 15 takes us half-way into the on-going arc so we’ve already been introduced to the land of the undead and the mad scientists behind the scene. We are introduced to Gekko Moriah and his Devil Fruit, the Shadow Shadow Fruit which allows him to steal a person’s shadow and control it as a physical form.
Thriller Bark is certainly a fun arc and something that is a nice bit of relief from the emotionally heavy rollercoaster ride that was the Enies Lobby arc. However, the problem with being a follow up to Enies Lobby is that it has a lot to live up to and ultimately falls short of that. While there is some amount of character development within the episodes we see in this collection, I never once felt as emotionally attached to everyone as I did with Robin’s story and her troubles with CP9 and the World Government. This isn’t a reason to dislike Thriller Bark nor is it necessarily a bad arc, it’s just the timing. I don’t care how good you are at the cello, if Yo-Yo Ma plays before you, it just won’t sound as good.
That being said, if you’re a fan of horror tropes, this is certainly the arc you need to check out. It’s got zombies, haunted houses, mad scientists, sentient inanimate objects, ghouls, ghosts, goblins…pretty much everything you’re looking for in a spooky setting. We’re introduced to new characters specific to the arc that we end up liking, even if they are crazed and evil, but that’s always been something great that One Piece does. Even if I end up absolutely hating a villain’s motives and what drives them, I feel attached to them in some way and find a way to relate to them. Thriller Bark is no different. Case in point: Oars, the massive, red, skull-faced zombie that ends up being reanimated by Gekko Moriah after stealing Luffy’s shadow. Though a fearsome enemy, he’s merely a puppet of Moriah. While we’re talking about Oars, I do want to say that a great thing that One Piece does well is size. It’s always incredible to see these massive creatures scale up against normal people, it gives a great sense of just how frighteningly large they are. We’ve seen it done with prior characters, and the character design for Oars does not disappoint.
Given that you’re thrown right into the middle of the arc, the action is non-stop and One Piece always has incredible fights that should not be missed. While it isn’t the most story-driven or character focused arc, Thriller Bark is definitely one that really shouldn’t be skipped. While it won’t deliver the same experience as the Enies Lobby arc, Thriller Bark is an important milestone that begins to set the foundation for some major events moving forward.
You can pick up the set here.