THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
"ONE PIECE FILM: GOLD"
One Piece Film: Gold is based on the wildly successful Japanese manga series that spawned a TV show and twelve other movies. This is, however, a stand-alone picture that requires no previous knowledge of the material. (As one with only minimal awareness of One Piece beforehand, I can attest to its accessibility.) The English-dubbed picture is receiving a special theatrical engagement in cinemas from January 10-17. There's a really fun story here, which, coupled with terrific animation, makes this an event worth seeking out.
The heroes are the Straw Hat Pirates, an appealingly ragtag group of, as their name suggests, pirates. Each of them has some kind of extraordinary ability (super-stretching skills, weather manipulation, etc.). The gang sets sail for Gran Tesoro, a massive floating island/casino/independent country where everything is made of gold. The King, Gild Tesoro, is a master showman with the power to manipulate that gold. He promises to show the Straw Hat Pirates a good time. They soon discover that his hospitality is actually an underhanded means of enslaving people – and they aren't the first ones to fall under his spell. Using their collective know-how, the Pirates decide to fight back.
One Piece Film: Gold starts on a strong note by creating a terrific setting for the story. Gran Tesoro is so opulent that it makes normal opulence look like destitution. This really helps us understand why the Straw Hat Pirates get sucked in. They see opportunities for jackpots – every pirate's dream, after all – and are subsequently distracted from the questionable things on the fringes. The animation used to convey the grandeur of the island casino is excellent.
Without veering into spoiler territory, the movie also has a clever story twist involving Gild Tesoro's right-hand woman, Baccarat. She possesses a special ability that features prominently into his crooked scheme. The way she reveals that ability, coupled with the Pirates' need to find a way to defend themselves from it, is both creative and perfectly suited to the setting.
Such imagination extends to the characters. The Straw Hat Pirates are an enjoyably motley bunch, with a variety of personalities and fashion styles. (True to anime in general, the female characters are buxom and often under-dressed, which might be seen as slightly sexist by some viewers.) There is a good message about teamwork running throughout One Piece Film: Gold. Only by cooperating and melding their individual talents can they hope to defeat their nemesis.
At two full hours, the movie is a little on the long side. Although the final battle, which follows a cool Ocean's Eleven-style caper, is extremely entertaining, the film as a whole might have benefited from streamlining a few things in its mid-section. In a couple moments, the pace sags ever so slightly. That fairly minor quibble aside, this is a funny, inventive, and gorgeously animated adventure showcasing some colorful characters and a bold, original setting.
One Piece Film: Gold is sure to please fans and curious newcomers alike.
For more information on where One Piece Film: Gold is playing, or to order tickets, please visit the official website.
( out of four)
One Piece Film: Gold is unrated, but contains mild language, some scantily clad female characters, and cartoonish violence. The running time is 2 hours.
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