[One Piece Film Retrospective] #14: One Piece Stampede (2019)

Oddly a movie title that could have also worked for Chopper’s Kingdom on The Land Of Strange Animals, since that actually has bull-like animals going into stampedes, while walnuts are disappointingly missing from the 14th One Piece film, One Piece Stampede, which doesn’t really have a “wild west” theme of sorts, despite its title, but delivers with a smorgasboard of characters from the series.

Fitting as its main raison d’etre was to celebrate the animated series 20th anniversary.

And indeed in retrospect its become even more clear the main goal of One Piece Stampede was to bring together an all-stars ensemble of One Piece character, especially the ones rising in popularity and that make their film debut here, like Trafalgar Law, Kidd, Boa Hancock or some oldies-but-goldies, like Smoker and Tashigi. Yep, in case you forgot or didn’t read the review of Episode Of Alabasta… they were actually absent from that one, absurd as it sounds.

This angle makes the choice of having a very simple plot fitting to that end, though before release they hinted at a plot point regarding “Raftel”, but let’s not jump the gun.

Again, the plot it’s fairly slim and straightforward, basically a redo of the fourth film, Dead End Adventure, as the main thrust is a race between the Straw Hats and a lot of old friends and enemies, held by a pirate called Buena Festa, with the usual lack of any rule as they sail up the Knock Up Stream and compete to reach the treasure that it’s said to have belonged to Gol D. Roger himself.

Standing against them is also Festa’s partner, Douglas Bullet, a legendary pirate that knew Roger personally and was also imprisoned in Impel Down (which might have undergone an expansion over the years) for years before the events of the film.

Yeah, it’s checking out all the expected beats seen in the previous films: legendary pirate who knew, was a rival and/or crewmate of Roger and wants to become Pirate King himself (the ideal of wanting to create a new era by erasing Roger’s influence here is funneled to the secondary antagonist, Festa, but it’s also similar to Film Z , Marine intervenes by launching a Buster Call, Rob Lucci and Sabo show up, heck, we even have the villain grows to supergiant proportions by using his Devil Fruit ability (like in Film Gold), and there is an attempt to almost lean into a quasi-canonical narrative by tying into an important plot ploint for the series.

The last one it’s because the treasure is a logpose for Laugh Tale, and the movie actually provides the first time we actually ever heard its actual name, as previously it had been known and translated as Raftel, but still, it a logpose to reach where the One Piece lies. It makes for a good story hook, and a great treasure that justifies the insane amount of people and factions showing up to get hold of it, and most of the movie being very heavy on action, as in tons and tons of battles.

So Bullet fits well as he basically a massive beefcake monster of a man (sporting the old time tradition of One Piece characters capable of being as tall and wide as Fist Of The North Star enemies, even without belonging to the race of giants), with his only purpose and drive being the very strongest, and having a fitting “might is right” philosophy.

A powerhouse spectacular villain, indeed.

So he’s not that interesting in terms of motivations or goals, but he’s one of those damn satisfying villains to see in action, as he challenges alone the entire Worst Generation, making the movie basically a giant raid boss battle against Bullet, making ways for unlikely alliances between the smorgasboard of characters treathened by his might and thirst for domination.

It’s easier to say which characters AREN’T in Stampede, be it plot relevant, treated as a joke or as part of the many, many cameos, with the many crowd scenes hiding at least one or two characters from the series’ past, or even the other movies, making for a fun game of “Where’s Waldo” if you’re a longtime One Piece fan, before they get hit further by nostalgia via the remixes of older themes, like the remix of We Are that plays in the climax of the final battle (and something else i’m not gonna spoil).

But unlike in Film Gold, the pandering it’s actually used to further fuel the action and choral nature of the plot, the characters are fun to see in action even if you don’t 100 % remember everyone’s deal (but of course older fans will get the most out of it), the plot it’s also fairly thin and a bit generic in premise, but it balances out with the quality of the execution and of the action, which is more abundant than air in One Piece Stampede, and honestly it’s great stuff, hugely entertaining and a great spectactle, with an excellent animation quality that’s also consistently so from start to end.

For a 20th anniversary movie meant to celebrate the series with an all stars characters ensemble and a high octane, action driven plot, One Piece Stampede absolutely delivers, it is a blast as it was when i saw it in theathers. It’s not the best one, i still think Film Z has it beaten in overall quality, plot and characters, but this would end up pretty high on my personal ranking of these.

Definitely a good one we had until the next one, Film Red, eventually debuted in japanese theathers just a few days ago.

But this is sadly the end of the retrospective… for now.

The summer break starts now, so happy summer vacations, etc etc.

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