[One Piece Film Retrospective] #9: Episode Of Chopper: Bloom Into Winter, Miracle Sakura (2008)

The year after Episode Of Alabasta, Toei decided to do it again… but also not quite go full recap/abridged retelling of a canonical One Piece story arc.

I guess some complaints about the previous movie eventually made their way up to the committee, but as usual, the wrong lessons were learned.

As in, nothing was learned, but they decided to both innovate and compromise at the same time with Episode Of Chopper Plus.

Chopper was already the focus of the third movie, so i think i somehow understand why chose him again, but this time we have an even weirder gaggle of creative choices.

With Episode Of Alabasta the team was tasked to do the impossible due to the lenght of that arc, so i guess they figured it would make for a better movie if they decided to set a more realistic target to adapt in the standard feature film lenght, and the Drum Island arc was certainly a bit easier in terms of “digest recap”. Arguably, a bit too much, which i speculate led to the choice of changing a lot of stuff and adding new original material specifically for this movie.

It’s an odd pastiche of new and old that also kinda baffles and bamboozles, but for different reasons from Episode Of Alabasta, honestly kinda the opposite.

At heart, it’s a retelling of the Drum Island story arc, so it focuses on the crew encountering Chopper, learning about him and his ties with the departed Dr. Hilluk, then helping the beloved “racoondeer” defend the island from the despot Wapol, whom took power after the legimate king and his son died, seized all medical doctors only for himself and is now returning to the island to take the throne back after fleeing when the Blackbeard Pirates attacked island.

And now begin all the various “buts”, since it’s also a “what if” scenario, so here the arc takes place somewhere after Enies Lobby (due to Robin and Franky already being part of the crew, them riding the Thousand Sunny and Luffy using Gear 3) instead of before Alabasta (or the mini-arcs preceeding them), Vivi is not present as part of the Straw Hat crew, but the main motivation for the Straw Hats going there is still Nami getting sick, and overall the story it’s mostly the same.

The biggest addition is the new character of Musshuru, Wapol’s older brother, whom also got exiled when Blackbeard Pirates attacked, and also gets a new (and non-canon as hell, of course) Devil Fruit ability that lets him spread and control poisonous mushroom spores. So of course he has a mushroomy shaped head, fits its quite extravagant design and his Lazy Town-colored bowl cut.

I find myself more welcoming with this odd what if scenario plus retelling of canon story arc material, if nothing else because it’s almost 2 hours so the narrative can actually “breathe”, but there’s also the attempt at doing something a bit different than a runtime restrained abridged adaptation of the canonical story arc.

Even if it’s also a cheap compromise to have it both ways, it is.

The animation and production values are honestly great here, even without comparing to the previous recap movie (which i don’t hate, i don’t), it’s excellent work, fluid, with some style to it, the colors are vibrant, it just looks way better than most of the previous One Piece films, and the production values do make you feel the expected and desired jump in quality from TV animation.

The comedy parts are incredibly well animated, but same goes for the fight and it does hit all the right notes in terms of the emotional moments, so get ready to cry a river again for the flashbacks.

As with Episode Of Alabasta, the movie was aired on TV featuring new footage, but this time the new material it’s a short sequence that takes place somewhere after the timeskip, and it basically retcons this entire movie as being a dream Chopper had.

Cliche, yes, but it’s actually a better framing and ending to the whole story, kinda wonder why they didn’t do this to begin with.

Overall, despite the odd double compromise of recap film and what if scenario, Episode Of Chopper it’s far better than one would expect, especially if confronted with the previous movie that also did an abridgded retelling of a canonical arc.

Better than i remembered, too.

The choice of the arc itself it’s plain better for the needs of a theathrical full lenght feature, and with it being just under 2 hours the narrative can let the story and the character fully develop without the “need” to edit it down to the point you might just watch a cliffnotes version of the story instead of the actually story, the production values are great, the animation’s pretty dang good with some style to it (kinda resembling the one seen in Baron Omatsuri And The Secret Island), and the new material (alongside the relative changes made with the story being set in an alternate timeline) is pretty fun, makes for something different that adds and not detracts from what is a beloved and familiar story arc for One Piece fans.

Seriously, for what conceptually was/is a “dog’s breakfast”, Episode Of Chopper Plus is actually way better than it had any right to be. A nice little surprise, even though one would have preferred original material, but we wouldn’t have to wait long for that…

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