Mika DoiIkue OhtaniMasaya TakatsukaEiichiro Oda
One Piece featurette shorts (2001-2004)
Medium: film
Year: 2001-2004
Director: Daisuke Nishio, Munehisa Sakai, Yukio Kaizawa
Writer: Hiroshi Hashimoto
Original creator: Eiichiro Oda
Studio: Toei Animation
Keywords: One Piece, anime, pirates, baseball
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Actor: Akemi Okamura, Hiroaki Hirata, Ikue Ohtani, Kappei Yamaguchi, Kazuya Nakai, Mayumi Tanaka, Wataru Takagi, Hisayoshi Suganuma, Jun Ishikawa, Mahito Ohba, Masaya Takatsuka, Tetsu Inada, Kazuki Yao, Kouichi Nagano, Mika Doi, Misa Watanabe, Shigeru Chiba, Eiichiro Oda
Format: Three mini-episodes, each five-and-a-half minutes long
Url: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_piece_movies
Website category: Anime early 00s
Review date: 19 September 2011
You remember One Piece! Long-running anime franchise about Luffy and his Straw Hat Pirates? Comedy adventures with Devil Fruit superpowers and wacky distortions of the laws of physics? Yup, that's the one. Anyway, three of the early One Piece movies were released with mini-episodes, each five-and-a-half minutes long. These serve the same function as Tom and Jerry cartoons, except that their comedy is similar to what the regular series routinely does anyway.
They're fun. They're throwaway nonsense, but that was inevitable given the format. The important thing is that they made me laugh. They could even probably be used as introductions to the One Piece universe, given their encapsulated nature.
1. Jango's Dance Carnival, released with Clockwork Island Adventure (2001)
It's like a regular One Piece episode, but shorter. That's a worrying constraint, but surprisingly it works. There's comedy with Luffy being almost homicidally incompetent, which is always funny. Thanks to him, the Straw Hat Pirates get chased by marines and repeatedly near-annihilated. It's a miracle his friends haven't murdered him yet.
The most remarkable thing about the episode though, unsurprisingly, is Jango and his Dance Carnival. Jango is an evil Michael Jackson. I couldn't believe it when I first met him in the manga. He's got Creepy Skeletal Plastic Surgery face and he has body language taken from Jackson's dance routines, so for instance he'll be moonwalking when people want to talk to him. Admittedly Eiichiro Oda didn't give him Jackson's personality, instead making him a hypnotist who's liable to send himself to sleep at the same time as his victims, but even so I'm surprised Oda and Weekly Shonen Jump never got sued. That's the character's background... and in this mini-episode they take the parallels so far as to have him organising a massive dance-a-thon at which he does a Michael Jackson dance routine and makes Michael Jackson noises.
This episode also breaks the sky.
2. Dream Soccer King! released with Chopper's Kingdom on the Island of Strange Animals (2002)
This mini-episode has no plot. Instead it's a football match between the Straw Hat Pirates and a bunch of their most famous enemies, which in the One Piece universe appears to involve a penalty shoot-out in which both sides are using the same goal and goalkeeper. This is funny because it's just five and a half minutes of rampant silliness. Imagine everything that the One Piece characters might conceivably do to the rules of football. Yup, you've got the idea. Naturally they end with a penalty kick from Sanji, since kicking is his superpower and he spends his life defeating opponents using only his feet.
Oh, and it guest-stars "Odacchi", i.e. the manga creator, Eiichiro Oda. He's doing the voice too.
3. Take Aim! The Pirate Baseball King, released with The Cursed Holy Sword (2004)
It's the same as Dream Soccer King!, but better because it's about baseball.
I should defend that statement. The problem with trying to build a comedy episode around football is that it's such a simple game. Players chase a ball. That's about it, really, and in Dream Soccer King! they don't even do that. Baseball on the other hand is elaborate. You've got a pitcher, a batter, a catcher, the main business of pitching and hitting, players trying to steal a base and even additional wrinkles you don't have in cricket like the problem of batters hitting foul balls. This allows far more scope for comedy because our heroes have more ways to be stupid and/or violate the rules or spirit of the game. Paradoxically the audience don't even need to be familiar with the rules for all these gags to work, as is shown by for instance the Maison Ikkoku baseball episode.
One weird feature of the episode though is that they didn't use the regular voice actors. Shigeru Chiba and Kazuki Yao are playing the commentators, in their usual villainous roles of Buggy and Bon Kurei... and in addition they're doing everyone else's voices too. Even newbies will find this weird, because of the busty redhead (Nami) being voiced by a man.
Personally I think each episode is funnier than the one before, but by a hair-splitting margin. They're all good. I can't say I expect to feel any urge to rewatch them, but I was still hugely entertained by all the ways in which Luffy, Zoro and the others can manage to be incompetent. In summary: very funny. Incidentally if you've never seen any One Piece and can't see yourself ever getting around to investing any real couch time in the series, you might consider giving yourself a taster through these. It can't hurt. They only last five and a half minutes, after all.