One Piece – Thriller Bark Arc (Episodes 337 – 381) Review

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Now to say I’m “way behind” on One Piece would be a massive understatement. Even the UK released DVD collections I’m a good few collections behind, and those don’t even cover half the series… that’s still airing weekly! Still, I really enjoy the series when I get to sit down and watch it, though I’ll admit that this arc was a real slog, and because of that I haven’t been keeping up, it was only the realisation that the latest release here in the UK covers the big Luffy-Ace moment that I’ve, sadly, heard all about that’s spurred me on to finish this story and move on to the next. So let’s get the Thriller Bark Arc out of the way and move on to greener pastures… I hope!


The Straw Hat Pirates travel to the ghost island of Thriller Bark, where they encounter Gekko Moriah, one of the Seven Warlord of the Sea, who is using his Devil Fruit abilities and the surgical skills of his subordinate, Dr. Hogback, to steal people’s shadows in the hopes to revive the massive and demonic creature known as Oars…

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

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This screenshot is like the weirdest “Where’s Wally?” picture ever.

Monkey D. Luffy (Mayumi Tanaka / Colleen Clinkenbeard) – Luffy is the Captain of the Straw Hat Pirates, and wishes to reach the top of the pirate ladder with his crew, though he’s open to detours when a talking skeleton arrives on his ship and tells him a sad tale…

Roronoa Zoro (Kazuya Nakai / Christopher Sabat) – Zoro is aiming to be the world’s best swordsman, as well as happily serving on Luffy’s crew. One thing he would like right now would be a new sword, however…

Nami (Akemi Okamura / Luci Christian) – Nami is the Straw Hat’s navigator and has a strong obsession with material wealth. That being said, she has come to view her crew as more important than money, which is something of a milestone for her…

Usopp (Kappei Yamaguchi / Sonny Strait) – Usopp wishes to be a brave warrior of the sea, but still has a problem with fits of cowardice. That being said, he’s a proud Straw Hat crewmate, so he’ll always help out! … if he has no other choice…

Sanji (Hiroaki Hirata / Eric Vale) – Sanji is the Straw Hat’s cook, as well as an extremely capable fighter in his own right. His love for the ladies often hinder his viability during combat, mind you…

Tony Tony Chopper (Ikue Otani / Brina Palencia) – Chopper is a reindeer who ate the “Human-Human Fruit” and became a strange hybrid of the two species. He is also a very capable Doctor, which is the role he serves as a member of the Straw Hats crew.

Nico Robin (Yuriko Yamaguchi / Stephanie Young) – Robin is an archeologist who has been searching for information from a completely blank period of history. She normally serves on a crew until her needs are met, but recent events have made things clear for her: she wants to be a part of the Straw Hat Pirates as much as she wants her own goals achieved.

Franky (Kazuki Yao / Patrick Seitz) – Franky has just joined the Straw Hats as their shipwright and even built their new ship from scratch. A cyborg himself, Franky is no slouch in the fighting department either.

Brook (Cho / Ian Sinclair) – Brook ate a Devil Fruit that returned his spirit to his body for a second life, though sadly for him his body had already wasted away when he found it. Now a walking skeleton without a crew, Brook has had the added misfortune of getting his shadow stolen by Gecko Moria…

Gecko Moria (Katsuhisa Hoki / Chris Guerrero) – Moria is part of the Seven Warlords of the Sea, powerful pirate captains that are allowed to exist under the thumb of the World Government. He travels the seas on his island-sized ship Thriller Bark and wishes to create an unstoppable army of zombies using his own shadow stealing abilities…

Oars (Mayumi Tanaka / Colleen Clinkenbeard) – Oars is a now-dead giant of crazy proportions who once terrorised the seas. His frozen body has found its way into the hands of Gecko Moria, who wishes to re-animate it for his own means…

Dr. Hogback (Hiroshi Iwasaki / Marcus D. Stimac) – Hogback is a world-renowned surgeon and scientist who has an unhealthy obsession with bringing back the dead, especially if that dead person meant something to him, romantically…

Victoria Cindry (Naomi Shindou / Jamie Marchi) –Victoria Cindry was an actress who one day sadly died. One of her biggest fans, Dr. Hogback, took her corpse and reanimated it so she could be with him forever, whether she wants it or not.

Perona (Kumiko Nishihara / Felecia Angelle) – Perona is one of Gecko Moria’s crew, and has control of ghosts that can fill whoever they touch with negative feelings.

Absalom (Hiroaki Miura / Andrew Chandler) – Absalom has used Dr. Hogback’s surgical skills to have a whole bunch of animal parts grafted onto him, which when combined with a Devil Fruit power that gives him invisibility, makes him a tricky foe.

Plus many more!

The Good:

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Zoro really shines during this arc, one of its few good points.

While some of the sillier aspects of Brook can sometimes get annoying (even among much sillier things that I don’t mind) he is a fun new crewmate, and finally gives Luffy the musician he’s always wanted. Brook’s tragic background of his entire crew being killed off, shortly after he took control from his departed Captain, is a good contrast to his personality. A scene where Brook and his crew decide to play a song together as they die, complete with Brook counting down the performances (Quartet… Trio… Duet… Solo…) as each of his friends die, with him being the last, was grim, and a great scene. The idea that the Devil Fruit allowed him to reclaim his body, but it had already withered away is the amusing kind of nonsense I like from One Piece.

As for the actual arc itself? Well, there are a couple of bright points. Some humour lands, like Sanji being angry at Absalom for no other reason than jealousy over the fact he has the Invisible Devil Fruit, and that’s the one fruit he would have eaten so he can spy on girls was amusing, though boy it went south quick. Likewise, Perona has an ability to make her opponents fill with negative emotions, which lead to some funny scenes of Luffy and the normally stoic Zoro fall to their knees and wonder why they’re allowed to live, but it has no effect on Usopp as he is always negative about himself anyway. That was funny. The actual fight between Usopp and Perona went on and on forever… Scenes where members of the cast hide within a giant living teddy bear who can’t quite tell Perona what’s happening was also surprisingly funny.

The standout sequence to me was Zoro fighting legendary and now reanimated swordsman Ryuma, which not only was a really entertaining fight, but Zoro got himself a legendary sword and therefore is back to having three. Speaking of Zoro, after the main fight is over a second Warlord of the Sea, Bartholomew Kuma, arrives with orders to kill the Straw Hat crew and any witnesses as the world can’t know a Warlord was defeated by a pirate. Zoro ends up intriguing him enough that he offers him a deal: take all of the pain Luffy has taken during his fight with Moria at once, or everyone is killed. It leads to a great moment where Sanji finds him standing in one place, covered head-to-toe in blood, arms crossed, claiming that “nothing happened” while everyone was out cold. Sanji is the only other Straw Hat member who knew what really happened, and it add to their unspoken bond. Great stuff.

Dr. Hogback, a.k.a. Vampire S&M Robotnik, starts off as an annoying and obnoxious character (he has the worst trademark laugh yet…) but I did end up enjoying the fact that his personal zombie Cindry was actually an actress he had a crush on and all the talkback she kept giving him was some deep-down knowledge of what he’s done to her. She eventually “breaks her programming” and defies him before returning to the afterlife proper. It’s… alright, especially compared to a lot of other things…

The Bad:

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A skeleton with an afro kills a giant spider/monkey creature with a sword-cane… One Piece everybody! *claps*

The arc overall is quite… dull. It follows the familiar One Piece format of everyone meeting the foes, getting split up and taking out one or more high-level opponent each, and then gathering together to see Luffy win the day, but unlike other arcs that has led to great viewing, the fights here were, for the most part, extremely uninteresting, and often filled with the same gag over and over. Luffy tries to fight Moria but instead fights his living shadow, then takes forever to get back to the main fight. Sanji takes on Absalom to save Nami, but a lot of the fight is dominated by an overweight hippo lady trying to kiss Absalom and marry him (seriously the gag of Absalom “dodging” kissing attempts gets old REAL FAST). Usopp outsmarting Perona doesn’t last quite as long, but is still stretched and recapped a hell of a lot. Other characters fighting generic zombies isn’t all that interesting either.

The main fight against Oars, followed by a quick fight against Moria, was fine in a spectacle sense (there were some fun shots of the sheer size difference between Oars and the regulars) but just lacked a proper ending as Luffy used some quickly thought up “cheat” of absorbing a bunch of shadows and gaining some ultra-form for a short time in order to win. Oars was funny to start with as he was brought back to life via Luffy’s shadow and started off with some of his personality traits, but he soon turned into generic giant foe.

Brook, like I said, is a fun addition to the crew, but my God the flashbacks… He and his old crew had a strong friendship with Laboon, the large whale everyone met a whole bunch of story arcs ago, and I swear the showing of Brook’s backstory and how he met Laboon took forever, then it was seemingly recapped 100 times, not to mention the sheer amount of times he plays the same song over and over…

Basically, despite being one of the shorter arcs in the series, it’s 60% characters running around screaming, 20% recapping stuff already shown during this very arc, and 20% actually good and entertaining footage…

Overall Thoughts:

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Gecko Moria’s final form! … That lasts all of a few seconds.

I’m glad I’ve already covered the debut arc for One Piece, as this would be a pretty sour note to start the (probably never actually going to end) coverage of the series on this site. It has some good moments, but in general it’s just not as funny as it thinks it is (which is a shame as One Piece often makes me laugh), and doesn’t have half as much good action as prior arcs to cover for it. I’m about half way through the next, smaller arc and it’s already 100x better, so look forward to that coming soon, and forget this ever happened. I know I will!

2 Star Watch

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