After the One Piece TV series started airing and proved to be successful, a movie was bound to be made sooner or later.
And this is… sure it’s called a movie, and i’m willing to call it as such, but it was clearly early in the series’ history, as Toei’s anime adaptation only started airing in 1999 (an year after Production IG’s One Piece OVA: Defeat The Pirate Ganzack), so i guess they figured out it was better to not go all the way immediatly, and made this medium-lenght, so it could be released alongside the even shorter Digimon film “Digimon Adventure: Our War Game” during the 2000’s Toei Anime fair.
Those are a lot of words to say that Toei kinda cheaped out and compromised, and honestly i can’t really say that’s unfair, as this movie feels less like a movie and more like two episodes of the TV series superglued together.
And not interesting episodes either, but first, the plot.
The Straw Hat crew is once again just sailing around when they get robbed by henchmen of El Drago, a pirate captain there in search of the island where legend says Woonan, a pirate famous for hoarding tons of gold, buried his glistening loot.
After El Drago uses his Devil Fruit power, the crew is separated, with Luffy and Zoro meeting a kid captured by Woonan, Tobio, find a floating Oden shop run by Tobio’s grandfather, Ganzo, Nami secretly boarding El Drago Ship, and Usop all ending up on the island, where eventually the reunited Straw Hat crew find where the treasure really is buried…after Usop bullshit his way into making El Drago and his men believe that he knows where the treasure (and allegdly Woonan himself) is hidden, leading them in a fruitless goose chase just to save his skin. Classic Usop.
Since its set somewhere in what is now called the East Blue Saga part of the One Piece, it uses the classic, iconic “We Are” opening the TV series had at the time (hence the same ending, “Memories”), and it has the quartet Straw Hat crew of Luffy, Zoro, Nami and Usop, meaning it’s most likely set somewhere after Syrup Town, given Usop already in the crew and Nami tries to not get involved…. if you wanna play the timeline game, it’s all non-canonical anyway.
I, personally, don’t particularly care either way.
I will say this: the comedy is decent, and it definitely feels like something that would happen in early One Piece, but as part of a bigger storyline, given it has also an antagonist, El Drago, that falls more in the “comedic” category of One Piece villains.
On its own it just feel like a couple of filler episodes with a very predictable and not that interesting payoff, it has nothing really cinematic to it, even in terms of looks it’s very slightly better looking than an average early episode of the series, aside from some backgrounds that stand out as they look worse than what you would find in a normal One Piece episode.
Which is kinda to be expected due to the nature of TV anime, not so much here in what it’s intended as a film production. A shorter film, but a film nonetheless, so it’s fair to expect a bit better than this.
Animation fares better, and fitting to this movie’s priorities, it’s also at its best for the comedy more than the fights. thought its kinda odd to see that the main fight between Luffy and El Drago feels more like a Dragon Ball one, it’s kinda fitting in more ways than one, but the way El Drago uses the power of his non-canonical Goe Goe Fruit to launch a sound-based destructive beam and even has the “aura charging” glow.
In retrospect, it’s at least something slightly different, so not that bad.
Not much to say even in terms of El Drago’ lackeys, aside from Golass, the token “old fashioned” native american warrior in terms of design, here to provide a foe for Zoro to fight at the end. A very brief one, i mean, really brief.
I don’t think the plot it’s proper bad, but it’s very forgettable and derivative of itself, then there’s the fact most of the events in the movie can be traced as evoking other, more memorable and meaningful ones (also from the early arcs) in the canon story… most likely not intentionally so, derivative by accident more than actual choice.
Overall, the first movie it’s passable, but it’s worth watching if nothing else for the comedy more than action or plot, and it’s hard to really hate it or recommend avoiding it all together since it just 51 minutes long. Though i will say i still have trouble considering it the first proper movie, as – while not bad – it doesn’t feel quite like a movie but more like a beefed up TV special or two-three episodes from a filler arc of the TV series compressed into a medium lenght affair.
Not exactly starting with a bang. MH.