First teased during the screenings of Episode Of Chopper, Strong World was immediately treated as a big deal, not only as was the tenth film for the series, but it was also made to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the TV anime, and for the occasion Eiichiro Oda himself wrote the script, instead of just providing character designs and approving story ideas as he did for the previous movies.
Also, in what would become a trend for future One Piece movies, Strong World features an original villain that was an acquaintance, crewmate or contemporary of Gol D. Roger, and previously was detained in the Impel Down prison complex. That alongside making the Marine (or the World Goverment aligned) characters more prominent – if not integral – to the story at hand.
The villain here is the pirate Shiki, dubbed “The Golden Lion” due to his mane, a legendary pirate from the Golden Era that escaped from Impel Down by cutting off his legs, and had basically vanished from existence, only to show up 20 years later in order to take revenge on the entirety of East Blue, and force the Goverment into surrender by using genetically enhanced animals, engaged into a constant battle for survival over the islands (the titular “Strong World”) that fly thanks to Shiki’s Devil Fruit ability.
Having the series’ creator for the story and script it’s a treat, and also the solution to the problems the previous recap movies (especially Episode Of Alabasta) had, since we have Oda basically write what would anmount to a small arc (which would typically translate to 20 episodes of content or so) for cinema, so we get two hours that feel “authentic” to the series as they could be, as it’s basically a great compilation of elements from the canonical arcs, for one Oda’s penchant for creating a cornucopia of bizarre animal creatures is unmatched, heavily featured and important to the plot.
The villain, Shiki, it’s pretty good, too, even if one could argue he’s a bit too familiar in motives (the “best hits” thing i mentioned) and goals, but he’s still a strong antagonist, not only in terms of raw power due to his Float Float fruit ability, more to his personality, he’s pretty brutal but also quite sly, charming, manipulative, and willing to do even goofy stuff, i mean, his first screen appearence has him dancing and then doing a japanese comedy routine act with his clown scientist and his gorilla in human clothing subordinates. All reflected in his good design, as he looks pretty intimidating by having two swords as peg-legs… but also has a helm stuck in his head. He just does.
The movie was also preceded by an anime-only 4 episode filler arc, Little East Blue, which i haven’t seen (and don’t care to at the moment), but we did cover Strong World Episode 0, an OVA that serves as a prequel and illustrates Shiki’s backstory and his rivarly with Gol D. Roger, serving as a nice supplement, but you don’t need to see that to “get” or proper like the character of Shiki.
Animation it’s the good stuff you’d expect by now from Toei for this theathrical releases, and it is, though there are some hiccups, not gonna lie, like, some of the CG for the ships and stuff like that could have been better.
Still pretty good, mind you, just we know the studio can do even better, but the presentation it’s excellent, and we even got the japanese band Mr. Children to provide the opening song, “Fanfare”, as by personal invite by Oda.
Dat yakuza-inspired invasion of Shiki’s palace and the final fight, though. Great stuff.
In terms of traditional styled (and written) One Piece films, this is quite good, the best one… so far, anyway, but even if you’re not overly familiar with the series, Strong World still remains a good fun anime movie, and it’s no wonder was so popular (as it was its film comic adaptation, common for One Piece films since Dead End Adventure) and well received at the times, even outside of the fanbase that was gonna lap up pretty much anything One Piece related anyway.
Good enough to have it stand as the last One Piece film all the way into early 2011, as we will find out with the next review.