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One Piece: Stampede Review

October 24, 2019 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
One Piece Stampede
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One Piece: Stampede Review  

Directed By: Takashi Otsuka
Written By: Takashi Otsuka, Atsuhiro Tomioka and Eiichiro Oda
Runtime: 102 minutes
MPAA Rating: N/A

Monkey D. Luffy – Colleen Clinkenbeard
Christopher R. Sabat – Roronoa Zoro
Sonny Strait – Usopp
Luci ChristianL – Nami
Sanji – Eric Vale
Stephanie Young – Nico Robin
Patrick Seitz – Franky
Brina Palencia – Tony Tony Chopper
Ian Sinclair – Brook
Daman Mills – Douglas Bullet
Mick Wingert – Buena Festa
Matthew Mercer – Trafalgar Law
Johnny Yong Bosch – Sabo
Greg Dulcie – Smoker
Monica Rial – Tashigi
John Swasey – Crocodile
Mike McFarland – Buggy / Helmeppo / Richie
Justin Cook – Eustass Kidd
Leo Fabian – Killer
Lydia Mackay – Boa Hancock
John Gremillion – Dracula Mihawk
Charles C. Campbell – Issho
Taliesin Jaffe – Basil Hawkins

Believe it or not, it’s been 20 years since Monkey D. Luffy and the Straw Hat band of pirates set off on their adventure to find the One Piece, the legendary treasure of the former Pirate King, Gol D. Roger. 20 years later, the One Piece franchise is still going strong. The show is well on its way to 900 episodes, and the original manga series created by Eiichiro has nearly reached 1,000 chapters. One Piece: Stampede not only marks the 14th film installment for the series, but it also celebrates 20 years for the hit franchise. Stampede is an anniversary adventure that certainly does not disappoint.

During Stampede, the Straw Hats and pretty much the entire pirate world have been invited to the Pirate Fest, basically the San Diego Comic-Con for pirates, courtesy of organizer Buena Festa (Wingert). Buena Festa is even promising an epic treasure hunt, where the winner will receive a treasure that once belonged to Gol D. Roger himself.

What Captain Luffy (Clinkenbeard) and his friends don’t realize is that they are walking into a trap. Buena Festa has employed the services of Douglas Bullet (Mills), a fierce pirate once worked for Gold D. Roger himself and was able to escape Impel Down. Now, Douglas Bullet wants payback, and Buena Festa is going to unleash Bullet’s insane strength on all the pirates of the Worst Generation and all the Marines that the World Government can throw at him. At the heart of the fight is a precious object that could hold the key to finding Gold Roger’s One Piece treasure and the fate of the entire world.

Like most anime features based on Shonen Jump manga properties, One Piece: Stampede is a standalone adventure set ambiguously during the current era of the series. Movies like this are basically like a big sidequest or adventure in an RPG. The heroes and cast come together to fight some new, one-off baddies, who will likely never show up in the actual series, and it doesn’t and really can’t do much to advance the main story, since it’s basically an original story and not part of the original manga storyline. This is not mean to necessarily be a knock on Stampede. It’s simply the general reality these stories often face. That said, the My Hero Academia series actually did a good job of adding some material to set up the first movie, Two Heroes, which was released last year. However, Stampede follows the general one-off, standalone format for Shonen Jump movies.

The tradeoff here is that the animators get more time and a bigger budget to really show something extraordinary. In terms of a motion picture, this is probably the best that the Straw Hats and other pirates have ever looked, especially on the big screen. The character models for Stampede are a little more stylized than their TV counterparts. Their outlines are bit thicker and rougher. The environments look larger and have more depth. The movement and colors are more vivid. Director Takashi Otsuka and his animators really went all out here to create an epic, swashbuckling adventure. One Piece is no stranger to large-scale fights, but due to Douglas Bullet’s unique Devil Fruit power, he has some of the most insane strength ever seen for this story. Of course, Luffy is never going to run away from such a challenge.

As this is a film celebrating the 20th anniversary of the series, the cast is pretty much a who’s who of the One Piece Universe. All the major characters, and a lot of the minor ones, get some sort of role, cameo or appearance here. The most standout is none other than Buggy the Star Clown (McFarland). Buggy is more or less the comic relief of the series, but he’s used to great comedic effect here and has some of the most entertaining scenes. Even Crocodile (Swasey) is back for this story and gets in on the action.

One Piece is an epic, grand story that’s really only done in by its rather slow pace and a narrative that sometimes can get a little unwieldy. For creator Eiichiro Oda, subtlety is overrated. The benefit of that is that One Piece in infused has this grand, epic adventurous look, feeling and style that’s hard not to like. Also, the characters are iconic and indelible. Specifically, the Straw Hats are quite a quirky, ragtag band of misfits, but they are a very charming, likable band of misfits. Even their flaws and foibles are rather endearing. A major theme of One Piece is friendship and true comraderie. That pays off here in some very heartwarming, emotional moments between Luffy and Usopp (Sonny Strait), who have had one of the most core relationship for the story since its earliest days.

The last One Piece movie, Gold, was like a big heist movie. Stampede is more akin to a Marvel Comics Annual issue, where a bunch of mainstay characters all appear in the the same story for a big one-off crossover that does not go past a single issue. Overall, due to how it uses a larger cast and an even bigger scale story, it’s a more entertaining film than Gold. The payoff is a great battle where a lot of the characters, both friend and foe, are inexplicably forced to work together for a common goal. Despite the vast amount of characters and subplots, One Piece: Stampede never comes off as overly bloated.

That said pacing of the fights are a bit iffy after the Marines show up and all hell breaks loose. In movies like this, climax or big fight tends to start very early. Then the heroes will get separated in different areas. In significant chunks of Stampede characters are separated and just trying to get from one place to another. The series is guilty of this as well. As a result, sometimes the audience is left waiting for characters to just get to a certain place. It’s similar to how in Game of Thrones characters will spend what seems like years traveling from one place to another, only to pass large distances in minutes of screentime in the later seasons.

Douglas Bullet is probably one of the more compelling “filler” villains in a while. At least he has a personal stake in the story due to his past association with Gol D. Roger and the treasure he and Buena Festa have uncovered. The secret treasure is more or less a McGuffin, but it’s at least one of actual significance to the One Piece mythology.

One Piece: Stampede is a satisfying celebration for the franchise and characters of Eiichiro Oda. The scenario he provided definitely impresses upon the audience to enjoy the journey while it lasts because once it’s over, it will be the end of an era.

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
One Piece: Stampede is a great celebration for the 20th anniversary of this beloved franchises and iconic characters therein. It's more or less a filler adventure storyline, but the tradeoff is some large-scale action, getting to see some the older characters again, and some of the best animation ever for the franchise. One Piece: Stampede is definitely worth checking out in the big screen. Thanks to Funimation Films, Stampede will be playing throughout a significant number of theaters in North America for a limited engagement starting October 24.