Director: Goro Taniguchi
Writer: Hiroaki Kitajima
YES, finally time to talk about this one!
While a lot of One Piece fans know about this OVA, i fear it’s not as well known as it should, and regardless, it’s an interesting piece of One Piece media, a look into what could have been if Toei didn’t eventually took upon adapting Eiichiro Oda’s manga into an anime series in 2001.
Released in 1998 as basically a “test run”, a pilot, alongside other ones from Jump series (like Hunter X Hunter), to celebrate Shonen Jump’s 30th anniversary, Defeat The Pirate Ganzack (the originale title would literally translate to “Defeat Him! The Pirate Ganzack!”, FIY) was produced by Production I.G., features an original story (that could be placed between Orange Town and Syrop Village, if you must), a 29 minutes runtime, markedly different voice actors and a notably different animation style.
The premise sees Rufy, Zoro and Nami wandering on the sea until a plesiosaur with a kabuto attacks them, taking Nami and leaving Luffy stranded. He’s eventually waked up by pirates pacing back and forth trying to catch a little girl in armor called Medaka, who wants to see her parents, and he beats them up. They catch up with Zoro and get treated by an elderly man, Skid, which tells them of the pirate Ganzack and how he has enslaved the whole town, and forced all the young men (including Medaka’s father) to work on his Devil Tower, while keeping old people, children and women as hostages.
This lead to a rebellion, Zoro and Luffy confronting the baddie, who is fond of secret weapon (and crab-armor, for reasons), culminating in a showdown between Luffy and Ganzack, and all is well for the crew, sailing to eventually more canonical adventures.
Thinking back is odd to imagine a One Piece like this, especially after almost 2 decades of animated episodes, OVAs, movies and more, but as far as the story goes, it’s not a bad adaption, and pretty much ticks all the checkmarks. It has Luffy explaining his Gom Gom ability, it has Nami doing her fake defecting routine, it has the little boy/girl who hates pirates but has to reconsider after seeing Luffy save the whole city/island, and Ganzack is basically a mix of character traits from early One Piece villains like Bagy, Arlong and Don Krieg, especially the latter one, as he heavily relies on a suit of armor filled with a ridiculous amount of weapons. Including the crab claws shoulder attachments (filled with weapons like a sticky pink goo that immobilizes people), they make him a bit more distinct but i still find the crab theme random.
One thing you will ONLY see here is Luffy actually killing the villain, as he basically launches him into the sky against the enemy’s own bombshell. Yeah, no classic Team Rocket style flying away into the sky with a blink, just dies, he’s never shown somehow still alive but defeated and picked up by his men, who would need a lot of drain nets to scoop him from the ocean.
Joking aside, the main notable difference is the animation style, which has a completely different feel from Toei’s, and the different voice actors for Zoro, Luffy and Nami,
Tackling first the voice acting, Zoro (dubbed here by Wataru Hitagi, another seasoned voice acting veteran), who is the one who sounds the most different, and – as many fans have already pointed out for sure – he sounds more like Sanji, it does, which is kinda weird after years and years of hearing Zoro voiced by good ol’ Kazuya Nakai. Nami and Luffy’ VAs (Megumi Toyoguchi and Urara Takano, respectively) actually are quite fine, even in retrospect.
Interestingly, some voice actors from this OVA would actually dub One Piece characters later, mostly Marine villains and antagonistic pirates. Can’t say the same for the composer, as the music in this OVA was done by Toshiya Motomichi, and while not bad, Kohei Tanaka and Shiro Hamaguchi’s output for the series is simply better. And had years to define One Piece in the audio departament, definitely helps.
While a whole series like this wouldn’t have been necessarily bad, and it’s quite interesting to wonder on the things that could have been, i honestly think Toei Animation’s style fits One Piece better overall. Some people reasonably disagree, it hasn’t been a perfect ride with Toei, but they also seem to forget the absurd workload and some realities that affected older shonen series going on forever, so it’s blinkard to just assume Production IG One Piece’s TV series would have perfect.
Do i really need to remember you of those XXX Holic (a series i quite like… as a manga) screens? I don’t.
Quite charming artifact from the era, fun and entertaining in itself, nicely animated, and of course quite the interesting treat for a fan of One Piece, a chance to not just wonder but actually see what could have been but wasn’t (for best or worst, you decide) for the One Piece anime adaptation.