One Piece: Stampede

One Piece: Stampede is already a monster hit in its native Japan. The film – the latest in a lengthy series of manga, TV shows, and other movies – came out there in August, where it promptly had the biggest opening-day attendance of the year. Since then, it has gone on to gross more than $47 million. Funimation Films brings this sensation to American cinemas on Oct. 26 and 30 as an English dub, and on Oct. 24, 29, and 31 in Japanese with English subtitles. Canadian theaters will get it Oct. 28 and Nov. 8 in English dub, and on Oct. 25 and Nov. 5 in Japanese with English subtitles. (I screened the subbed version.)

The film follows the continuing adventures of pirate Monkey T. Luffy and his “Straw Hat” crew. They're invited to a Pirate Festival, where the goal is to be the first to discover a long-hidden, extremely valuable treasure that once belonged to the legendary Gold Roger, King of the Pirates. The competition is fierce, as all the various groups are intent on winning. A bigger threat looms, though, as the Straw Hats must contend with Bullet, a former protege of Roger's. He possesses virtually unmatched power.

One Piece: Stampede can be a little unforgiving for newcomers. Like the previous One Piece Film: Gold, it's a stand-alone entry. Nevertheless, the movie brings together a lot of characters from throughout the extensive One Piece universe. If you're not already familiar with the bigger picture, it's easy to get lost or confused. Fans, on the other hand, will delight in seeing so many favorites pop up.

The story of what Roger's treasure is and what it can be used for similarly ties nicely into One Piece history. A number of clever plot elements factor in, most notably the revelation that the treasure is hidden in an unusual location that requires a wild method to reach. Bullet's backstory, meanwhile, contains some intriguing details that make him more than just a generic villain.

Colorful animation is the best thing about the movie. And by colorful, I don't just mean visually bright. Each of the characters is creatively designed, and the multiple fight sequences are done with style. Oftentimes, we zoom into a character's eye or fist as they fight, then zoom back out. It's almost as though we're in the middle of the melee ourselves. Special abilities employed by the combatants are neatly done, as well, leading to a picture that's never dull to look at.

One Piece: Stampede is an undeniably manic film. There are about ten things going on at all times. That's kind of what the franchise is, though. Admirers won't be disappointed.

To find a theater near you, please visit the official website.

out of four

One Piece: Stampede is unrated, but contains animated fighting. The running time is 1 hour and 41 minutes.