Remember when Luffy had to fight the Trumps before facing off against Gruntilda?
It was a weird crossover, almost as weird as having a Shintaro Katsu look-alike character, but it is One Piece, it’s hard to say what doesn’t exist or did happen.
Oh wait, this film is from 2001, so scratch that. Aside from the “Trump” part.
Like “One Piece The Movie: Adventure In Search Of A Proper Title Card”, it was released during 2001’s Toei Spring Fair as a double bill with another Toei produced Digimon anime, Digimon Adventure 02: Diaboromon Strikes Back, a trend that will continue in future releases.
It was also shown alongside a featurette, Jango’s Dance Carnival, which we already discussed a couple years before, and this too would turn out to be a trend for future One Piece movies.
The plot sees the crew ship getting stolen (yes, again) by a group of pirates calling themselves the “Trump Brothers”, then getting attacked by them on sea because they want to give Nami as a present to their leader, Bear King. The crew is helped by a kid called Akizu and a young navigator called Borozo, presenting themselves as the “Thief Brothers” and after the Diamond Clock from Clockworld Island. Their interests align as The Trump Brothers occupied Clockwork Island, forcing the local population to build weapons for them, so they arrive on the island, storm the occupied castle, with the crew getting captured (in almost an Ultraman-esque manner, too) then freed by Luffy so they can face off the various members of the Trump pirate crew.
Now it’s worth explaining that “Trump” thing by pointing out that the enemy pirate crew is also localized as the “Card Brothers”, because that’s exactly their overall theme, with their names based off the classic english deck of 52 playing cards (referred simply to as “trump” in japanese due to the importance of trump cards).. and the circus, i mean, their leader is named Bear King, and all the others pretty much fit the “freaks” descriptor, with the obligatory sexy – and unbearded – lady.
While still clocking under 1 hour of runtime, i’d argue this is the first proper movie, as it actually feels like one, with a more fleshed out plot, a new group of villains, animation that clearly had more money put to it due to the fact it’s a movie, and the narrative indeed feels more apt for the format, in this case the main spectacle-interest being the Clockwork Island itself, not just as it’s basically an impossible spiral structure that reaches insane heights thanks to a weird mechanism built into the Diamond Clock, but the main part of the island it’s squirreled away at the very top, protected by a huge number of trap-laden stairs.
Heck, even the houses and the hair of the people living there are spiral shaped.
It’s fun but the new characters aren’t that great, the script still crams in the token subplot concerning a lost or misplaced kid that dreams too big for its own boots and unknowingly has some history with the island/place. And Luffy kinda reminiscing about Shanks saving him in a fairly akward way ; it makes some sense but also feels forced, like the studio got some notes about somehow cramming in flashbacks to very early One Piece in order to show Shanks on screen for 3 seconds.
Also, the main villain, Bear King, has a frankly weird non-canonical Devil Fruit, the Hard Hard Fruit, and i mean weird as in it utterly random, like yeah, he can harden himself for better defense and offensive capability, but he also can raise its body temperature? Why not…?
Yeah, aside from making the fruit ability in retrospect similar to the canonical Heat-Heat Fruit eaten by Charlotte Oven, it doesn’t make much sense unless you search on wikias to find out that the original japanese name it’s onomatopeia for stones/rocks knocked together to create a fire.
Hilariously, in the italian dub the fruit was referred to as the “Metal Metal Fruit”, making the puntastic localized choice seen before seem informative in confront.
Makes much sense as the “hot babe” villain character’s Devil Fruit ability, the Melt Melt, which turns her into unspecified slime, and acts like a Rogia type fruit…almost. Not quite. Whatever.
On the more positive side, we get to see the rare swordless Zoro fighting for a bit, the young thief character it’s better than expected, and it’s kinda cute that they tried to have some continuity between movies, as they bring back some of the henchman who worked with El Drago, they do make his name. XD
Overall, considering it’s still not a full lenght film, it’s quite serviceable, it’s alright, and better than the first actual One Piece movie in every way, not that was hard to do, but still, it’s a proper step forward, and makes for a pleasing early film about the Straw Hats.