A new reviewer brings us, somewhat belatedly, to the eighth collection of One Piece episodes (although to be fair I did have to catch up on the entire series thus far). It also brings us to the end of the Skypiea arc, after what seems like an eternity. Our former One Piece reviewer, and editor-in-chief, often highlighted the show’s glacial pacing (some would say harshly) - well, he should be thankful that he never made it this far. The Skypiea arc has proven to be by far the weakest of the series up to this point, making One Piece’s trademark slow and methodical progress seem lethargic, even agonising at times. When you add that to this arc’s increasingly nonsensical storyline and thoroughly uninspiring bad guys you have the recipe for a low point of the series to date.
The first few discs of the set finally wrap up this arc, and one could easily argue that this is at least a couple of discs too many. There are twists and turns aplenty, but rather than ramping up the tension they serve only to add to the frustration that this storyline is still going. Eneru, the self-proclaimed God, continues laying waste to everything and everyone around him but kicks it up a notch in these closing episodes. Despite being spilt up for much of the concluding section of this arc Luffy and the gang continue fighting the good fight against seemingly impossible odds. However, since we discovered that Luffy is impervious to Eneru’s lightning attacks the end result has been all but inevitable. The action is typical One Piece and remains entertaining, while a few of the new characters even manage to hold their own for while and prove somewhat interesting, most notably Gan Fall (the erstwhile God of Skypiea) and Wyper (the mightiest of the Shandorian warriors).
This talk of action and battles brings me to a big complaint about the way these episodes are edited: the teaser trailers at the end of each episode (there to ‘tease’ the next episode) often contain spoilers, sometimes massive ones, even exposing the results of battles on occasion. This completely diffuses any tension built up and ruins many a cliffhanger, which may otherwise be fraught with suspense. Similarly the recaps at the beginning of each episode are massive, taking up an infuriatingly large chunk of each episode’s running time. Then, as if only to further infuriate viewers, the series takes a trip into the past to fill in some of the history of the Upper Yard and the story of Montblanc Noland (Noland the Liar). While not the worst episodes you will have seen, they really serve only to further slow the pace of the already glacial progress.
The second half of this collection is an anime-original story: The G-8 arc. Normally filler is a dirty word here at UK Anime, but here the filler arc manages to be much more entertaining than the canon arc which preceded it, at least so far. After leaving Skypiea, the Going Merry’s crew find themselves caught in the middle of the G-8 marine base, otherwise known as Navarone. Almost from the moment the realisation of their situation hits, this arc sets out its stall: These episodes are pure shōnen fun and action. The pacing is good, and even though the story is a simple one it manages to entertain much more consistently than anything the previous arc had to offer. The crew need to escape the island, but not without first reclaiming their treasure which the marines have captured.
In a complete contrast to the first two discs of this set, these episodes are fast paced and packed full of action and comedy. Much of the comedy on offer here is simple slapstick or a return to old faithful gags like Luffy’s insatiable appetite, but this comes as a welcome palette cleanser after the epic length and heavier tone of the last arc. Despite being filler these episodes are weaved into the series’ canon seamlessly, so if you didn’t know it wasn’t based on material from the manga then I doubt you’d notice.
Even with the drastic improvement in second half of this set it still can’t hope to make up for the first half, meaning that overall the entertainment value here is low. If you can manage to persevere through the painfully slow Skypiea episodes you will be rewarded by a simple but fun filler arc, although even so this is probably a set best left to completionists and die hard fans.