[One Piece Film Retrospective] #5: The Cursed Holy Sword (2004)

When preparing to do this new One Piece films retrospective, there was one in particular i was dreading to cover again, that i istantly knew i wasn’t gonna like having to watch another time for review purposes. Yes, i didn’t particularly care for the first official One Piece movie, but i always had “beef” with The Cursed Holy Sword, even on a conceptual level it irked me greatly.

But i’m a man fond of redemption tale, and giving this movie a second chance after all was just professional courtesy as a critic, after all it’s a “re-view” in name, fact and spirit.

I will recognize that one could see this movie in particular as an attempt to offer something a bit different from before in terms of movie outings, i can’t fault that mindset, but i still feel like this was a previous script for another shonen series that was repurposed for another, more popular IP, regardless if was a good fit or not.

And yes, i would argue the fantasy-heavy storyline doesn’t really fit the world of One Piece much, usually the weird stuff it’s all due to some Devil Fruit ability or something that is treated akin to science, something that its grounded in its own reality, see the Skypiea arc treatment of the “gods in the sky” kerfuffle. Put another way, 99 % is just stuff that it’s explained in-universe sooner or later, i mean, it fits with the underlying “age of discovery” angle the pirate theme often brings.

On the other hand, One Piece is also a series where people turn into dinosaurs and mitological creatures, and there is some occasional “mystical-esque” element, heck, the whole utilization of shadows in the Thriller Bark arc is enough proof, alongside some more recent istances in the Wano arc… one coincidentally being a cursed sword. YEP.

So you could argue it’s not completely out of left field for One Piece to have a movie with big emphasis on the mystical and fantasy elements, since it’s a pretty weird world where pretty much anything can exist or happen, there are some “precedents”…. but it still feel a bit off, even if it’s technically “correct”, and i personally really don’t care much for it.

The story – as one would assume by the title – revolves about a rumored legendary sword known as as “The Seven Stars Sword”, supposedly located in the very same place the Straw Hats just arrived, Asuka Island, but also said to hold a powerful curse. They are then attacked by Marines, despite leaving Zoro on guard duty to prevent that very situation, and are forced to dock in another part of the island, in a village devoted to keep the curse of the sword sealed.

Marines then attack the village with the intent to free and ideally get hold of the sword’s rumored power, and to the crew’s surprise, they see Zoro in their ranks, and wonder how these events are connected to the sword, the legend behind it (which involves three magical jewels, mystical rites etc) and the related prophecy about the red moon.

The storyline this time around focuses more on Zoro, which is a nice change, it’s something different, and it’s all made to tie into the villain, Saga, an original character which here is stated to have been a childhood friend of Zoro that he thought dead, that kind of familiar chanbara clichè.

On that matter, yeah, Saga is sadly pretty forgettable as a villain, as he’s basically possessed by “THE DARKNESS” (not the band, that would be quite cool) and speaks the same dribble about bringing ultimate justice to the world through the cursed power he gained, bla bla bla.

There’s a whole backstory with a mythical origin story that explains how the sword became cursed, and it’s about as stock as pretty much all the fantasy elements, heck, even the people of the village protecting the sword feel like “fantasy bootlegs” of the Skypiea people, and here lies the biggest problem of the movie: it’s not the veering more into a more fantasy-heavy storyline with mystical elements, is that even those are too generic to be interesting.

Seriously, i mentioned Rave The Groove Adventure before, but even that series would reject this boring ass plot, i mean, Rave, so it’s kinda ironic to see a One Piece movie accidentally almost entering the territory of its own “bootleg series”… though i would reserve that label for the other famous shonen series that eventually made proper famous Hiro Mashima (which was an assistant to Eiichiro Oda,FIY), Fairy Tail.

But i’m getting off track again.

But to be fair the movie isn’t bad, it ain’t, at least the setup is good to have some decent action scenes and more fights, where the previous movie kinda lacked in terms of having showdown between the Straw Hats and the new villains. Plus the gag of the village elder being actually a very tall woman compressed into the usual “o-baba hunchback” stereotype form is pretty cute.

I really don’t have much to say in terms of animation, it’s good work as you would expect, but nothing here stands out in particularly, despite it clearly having the polish and quality upgrade from the TV episodes, again, as one could reasonably assume. There are some exceptions, mostly the sequences depicting the events of how the swords became cursed, those do look pretty good and feature a different art style that’s quite fitting the tone and nature of the myth.

Mileage will vary a lot with The Cursed Holy Sword, depending on what you want from a One Piece movie, but for better or worse it’s an attempt at something different, with an arguably middling but not awful result. Either way, it could have used a better villain.

But fear not, something very special was on the way for One Piece fans…

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