Alabasta’s definitely one of the most well known One Piece arcs. For those who don’t answer with Arlong Park, this is the arc where people would say One Piece really got good. We got the first big villain group with a ton of memorable fighters and everyone got some action. I do think it’s an arc that has aged well but one that has been long since surpassed by adventures like Water Seven, Marineford, and Wano. Still, it’ a pretty solid adventure although I would say it’s weaker than the show version in just about every way so that’s the version that you would want to watch instead.
The film starts off with Princess Vivi as a child riding Pell throughout the kingdom of Alabasta. Things were really good back then. She then wakes up in the present aboard the Going Merry. She is with a band of pirates known as the Strawhats and a mysterious guy appears who can assume the form of anyone he has shapeshifted into before. He can add new people by touching their face. One of the faces he used was of King Cobra, Vivi’s father. She is worried that Alabasta is in danger so the crew sets a course for the kingdom immediately. She as not wrong, the terrorist known as Crocodile has set his sights on the land. Can the Strawhats stop him?
Now from the jump you’re assuming that the movie can’t possibly adapt a whole arc in one movie so some concessions are going to have to be made. That’s normal but at the same time it feels like the fights are what loses out most of the time. Some of the fights are practically off screen or we just see the end of them. Take the iconic Zoro vs Mr. 1 fight. It’s so short here that you’re barely able to get into it. I think the film could have focused on more of that and instead cut out the Robin flashback and some of the Alabasta flashbacks. If you’re reliving the arc then odds are that you’re doing so for the fights right?
Each fight just feels so short and you wish they could have been extended more. Even the Luffy vs Crocodile fights are pretty short when you really think about it. Of course they do get a bit more length to them compared to the others though. Things move at a very fast pace at least, you certainly can’t say that the story was dragging or anything like that. While I wish the fights were longer, it is still impressive that the movie went all the way to the end though.
There’s just no reason to choose this over actually watching the anime itself unless you desperately need to save a ton of time. In that sense this could be better as a rewatch or refresher for fans but if you’re a big enough fan to be revisiting an arc then you’ll probably just be watching the episodes again. Considering that this is a movie I kind of expected the animation to be better but I wouldn’t even say that is very impressive. Maybe it’s slightly better than the show?….I may not even go that far.
The animation style seems a bit different like it’s going for the more stretchy style like in Naruto vs Pain except that was stretchy so you could have terrifically fast fight scenes with a lot of energy. You didn’t really have that here so then if the fight’s going to be slower you may as well go with a more detailed style and that would be for the best. I did like the sound effects used when punching the sand though. That part did feel grander than usual.
I feel as though the film just wasn’t particularly high budget though. Maybe that’s why they had to rely on some extra CGI shots and a ton of still shots like this was a manga. Unfortunately those are also reused which ends up hurting the visual experience. So….the visuals didn’t quite live up to what this could have been which is what I’m getting at here. The soundtrack is fun enough though, has that classic One Piece feel to it for sure.
For newcomers it is probably less friendly to jump into than films like One Piece Gold or Strong World but I guess you just have to get on board and try to follow along with what’s going on. The story of Alabasta still hits right. It was a smart plan of Crocodile’s to use shapeshifting to get the country to fight amongst themselves. It certainly would have worked really easily if not for Luffy and the gang stepping in. For once I can’t even blame the civilians because the plan was quite thorough even including whole camps and villages being completely wiped out.
Crocodile works as a very solid villain. He’s smart enough to know when someone is trying to betray him and is also powerful enough to put a stop to that right away. Even now he is one of the more impressive fighters and the ability to turn into sand is really good. Of course haki would eventually wipe out that advantage but at this point in the story it really made him someone who could not go down very easily. His fights with Luffy were definitely a blast.
His group really gets no time to develop though. You won’t find any of them to be particularly memorable as they are taken down in short order. Bon Clay has the biggest role by far since he is the one who really jump starts the adventure by showing up and using his shapeshifting. It’s a good ability to have but mostly in non combat scenarios. Once you’re in a fight though then you need to have something else. Fortunately he does have his kicking abilities which are apparently good enough to even give Sanji a run for his money.
As for the crew, well they show up to take names. Zoro even looks like the Captain when the film first starts as he is in the front and all. He looks very capable throughout the movie and wins his fight with dignity so I’m reminded why he is my favorite Strawhat. Sanji definitely takes his share of Ls here like letting Bon Clay manipulate him during the fight but ultimately comes through for the team. Usopp has one of his best roles here since there’s not a lot of time for his comedic moments with how fast everything is moving. As a result he gets to tank one of the more painful looking hits and keeps on going.
You get the feeling that Usopp isn’t quite as powerful as some of the others but he certainly looks brave here. He came through when it counted. Chopper doesn’t get to do much but seems like a nice support. Nami even wins her fight 1 on 1 which was really critical. She’s not usually someone you have on the front lines so that was really impressive. As for Luffy, well he definitely loses quite a bit here even when everyone’s hopes are resting on him but he comes through in the end which is what counts. It was fun to see the film keep cutting away to everyone saying how Luffy was going to win while he was getting absolutely demolished in the fight.
Robin gets some foreshadowing here as we see a bit of her past but the film doesn’t really end up finishing that plot. Of course that’s what happens when your film just adapts one story arc in the middle of an ongoing. To be fair, it wouldn’t feel like a cliffhanger or anything with how the film ends. On that I can at least say that the film does have a true ending here.
Overall, Episode of Alabasta is a good film, but a weak adaption. I don’t think it’s impossible to adapt the arc into a movie effectively but you need to change up the pacing a bit. The fights absolutely needed to be longer to have really done the story justice. I also think that as a movie this film should have looked a lot better. Mainly the film’s only weaknesses are from when you compare it to the show though. If I saw this as a big One Piece movie in a universe where Alabasta did not exist in the manga, that would probably help it. It’s why I still say it’s a pretty good movie. You’ll have fun with it and it’s a nice way to see the adventure from another angle but of course you’re better off watching the show version so you get all the details.