[One Piece Film Retrospective] #12: Film Z (2012)

After the very brief and very odd interlude of Straw Hat Chase, Toei “came to their senses” and the next year released another proper One Piece film, surely having learned that these movies are at their most successful when you have extra side-corn to market them, as in OVA and small filler arcs for the TV series, alongside the eventual promotion with retailers and shit.

So yeah, this had a tie-in filler arc in the TV anime, and an OVA set slightly before the events of the movie, Glorious Island Z, aka Nami and her big floaties taking more screentime (and “choice angles”) than Luffy eats meat during any meal of the day.

Fitting title, though.

Even if viewership can be spotty as some people got bored or tired of the TV series’ pacing (especially if they already know what’s gonna happen from reading the manga), you can bet chances of these people taking a look at the trailer for a new shiny One Piece film, even more if you market it by saying that this will pit the Straw Hats against one of their most powerful enemies ever.

That’s some marketing boasting, sure, but it helps as the movie actually it’s capable of backing that claim, suckerpunching you with quality after you’ve been confused by how the opening song is a cover of “How You Remind Me” by Nickelback, the ending a cover of “Bad Reputation” by Joan Jett…. both sung by Avril Lavigne.

Didn’t see that coming, huh?

As of why, it’s actually quite simple: Oda’s a big Lavigne fan, and you can find that portrait of her in his style around the web quite easily, in case you need more proof. To round up the “collab extravaganza”, the movie has the male characters wear Armani suits in certain scenes, as it was part of a cross promotion with Armani Exchange, and Oda picked the suit himself too.

Now we got all of THAT out of the way, let’s talk about the plot, with this original storyline marking the first time an One Piece movie has been set somewhere after the 2 years timeskip. Took long enough.

As foreshadowed in the review of Strong World, Film Z falls in line with pretty much all the trends set by the previous movie, as it tries to feel like a continuation of the world seen in the manga and TV series, and – mostly – it incorporates more characters from the Marine/World Goverment faction, here not having the Marine Admirals show up to have a fight, but having them involved deeply with the crisis, due their bonds with Zephyr before he quit and established his own, more radical brand of justice, as he felt betrayed and profoundly unsatisfied with the Marine’s method.

Actually i feel the script escalates well the stakes, as Zephyr wants to usa the Dyna Stones (banned weapons that are said to rival the Ancient Weapons) to blow up three volcanic island known as the End Points, and by doing so causing a sea of lava to overflow, cleasing the New World of both pirates and the corrupt “men of justice”, even at the cost of endless civilian casualties.

My only gripe here is that Z’s subordinates could be potentially interesting themselves but are not given proper space in the script, so they end up having some cool Devil Fruit abilities (that also are similar to canonical ones seen before AND after this movie released) but exist mostly to reinforce the character of Zephyr. Though it’s easy to overlook this issue, as “Z” is a really great antagonist, the best one so far for One Piece film antagonists for sure, and not just because he has a cool robot claw arn, or sports the simple yet effective design of the battle harderned, grizzled old warrior, ripped & scarred, but because he’s an extremely convicing antagonist with great motives.

Contributing to the feel this is a continuation-upgrade of sorts to Strong World is the character design and animation supervisor being Mayasuki Sato again, so we’re in good hands again, as one could surmise almost immediatly by gazing at the title sequence, which is the best one in the film series yet.

And this is, hands down, the best directed (and arguably written) One Piece film yet, definitely the best of the traditionally styled ones, not that surprising when we have Tatsuya Nagamine at the directors chair, previously known for his work on Precure, Powerpuff Girls Z, the One Piece TV special Heart Of Gold, and later for the Dragon Ball Super: Broly film, now directing the One Piece TV series from episode 892 onwards, so yeah, he is – deservedly and thankfully so – the main director for the Land Of Wa/Wano arc that’s currently airing.

Also notable it’s the final phase of the decisive fight between Luffy and Zephyr not being decided by the usual flashy extravagant Devil Fruit abilities with elemental discharges, but eventually becomes a a straight up bare knuckle brawl, enhanced with the Armament Haki tecniques and the like, and it still so well directed, animated and edited you don’t care if it’s not 100 % “traditional”.

It’s also under two hours, it never feels too long for the sake of it, so yes, in case you didn’t quite catch it, One Piece Film Z it’s fucking great, a must see film for fans.

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