Animated Movie Reviews, Animated Movies, Reviews

One Piece: Stampede Review


Time to look at the latest One Piece film. This one was definitely getting a lot of hype before it came out because it was bringing together a ton of One Piece characters. Pretty much every big pirate who is currently alive in the series is returning for this film. Naturally since the film is under 2 hours you can’t expect all 60+ of these guys to get a big role, but the movie does a good job of at least allowing them all to get their special attacks in. Then you’ve got the second wave of characters who are big enough to get their own fights. It’s definitely an amazing One Piece experience for fans and anyone who enjoys a good action film is sure to have a blast as well.

The film starts by taking us back to the famous Blackbeard prison breakout from a while back. It turns out that there was one pirate who was far too powerful for Blackbeard to let him join. This guy’s name is Bullet and he once served aboard the Pirate King’s crew. Well, now he is back in a big pirate festival. Festa has organized this thing in order to bring together the Marines, Pirates, and Revolutionaries so they can all be destroyed in one fell swoop. He doesn’t really care who wins so long as everyone gets crushed in the end. Strawhat Luffy and friends have arrived here as well even though they figure it’s probably a trap. That’s because the prize is a treasure from the Pirate King and nobody can resist such a tempting offer. Can Luffy protect his crew and secure the prize before Bullet destroys them all? It’ll be a hard battle for sure.

Right away you have to acknowledge that Bullet is going to be an incredibly powerful villain. He has to be in order to take on pretty much the whole cast of One Piece. The film does not disappoint with his abilities. The guy is pretty much on the level of the 4 empires with how easily he is able to dispatch his opponents. The best fight in the film for me is definitely when he takes on “The worst Generation” (Which is basically a bunch of the hype characters) and defeats them all with ease. They can barely land any decent shots on him which shows just how unbelievable he is. Bullet’s speed and power are off the charts to the point where it’s like seeing All Might bump off the League of Villain lackeys back in season 1. Luffy and the gang are completely outmatched.

Bullet’s also just a fun villain. His goal is to be the strongest and stop the Buster Call. A Buster Call is when the army sends in their admirals and a fleet of ships to sink an island. To date nobody has ever really been able to stop a buster call on their own. Sure, a bunch of characters escaped in Marineford but that wasn’t technically a buster call and they did manage to stop the main threats the government wanted to end. For Bullet to defeat such a thing would be very impressive. He also likes a good fight and seems to have a reasonable honor code. He’s defeating his opponents at the top of their game and doesn’t use any cheap tricks.

Festa is the only other important new character and he’s a fun enough villain. The guy definitely holds onto his grudges and really wants to wreck havoc on the world. It’s for a surprisingly petty reason though. The guy has a great seat but you do have to wonder how nobody noticed him the whole time. I guess he’s so weak that the heroes don’t need to bother prioritizing him. They’d probably just finish him off afterwards which works well enough.

The animation is definitely top notch. It’s all very smooth and vibrant which is great. The fight I mentioned from earlier is very impressive and like something out of DBZ. There are also a bunch of other fights throughout that have great cuts as well like Zoro vs Fujitora and pretty much any scene with Sabo. It’s all very consistent for the duration of the film. We also get some CGI which looks good enough. I think CG is at the point where it should always look good so long as you splash it in a lot of colors. That’s where CGI is at its best. It may not be enough to make giant things exciting, but it tries its best. As for the soundtrack you’ll recognize some tunes from the show. The main new theme was Bullet’s theme and it’s the best piece of music in the whole film. Whenever it appears you know that things are going to get tricky for the heroes. It’s just great all around.

This film also completely avoids the occasional fanservice issue that the series has at times and even Brook doesn’t have time to do anything iffy. The film managed to avoid having any real issues and that’s the first step to being a great film. The next step is to actually have great moments and this move has them in spades. There are a ton of homages and nice little scenes for fans. All of the characters get quick moments where they look good and they all get a ton of hype. That being said, keeping up everyone’s hype does come at a bit of a price.

Pretty much every fight in the film is a tie. That’s something that tends to happen when you bring in a bunch of old characters who still have a lot of fans and Stampede wasn’t able to get around it. Unlike some titles like DBZ where there are big power gaps between everyone, a lot of characters in One Piece are still very close. There are characters from the opening arcs who can hold their own against the current villains. That’s because the characters get stronger very gradually and the old characters keep training as well. The matches are still hype, but this does dampen the excitement for them a little since you know that the battles can’t end. This happens over and over as everyone gets a skirmish and then backs down. Unless you’re fighting Bullet then your battle won’t end.

This film is trying to be Marineford 2.0 with how every character is around and that arc also had the same issue at times. Naturally nobody can die this time around, but all things considered the film did do a good job of keeping that same energy throughout. Once the action starts near the beginning of the film is really never dies down. That’s always important for a big movie like this one since it helps for replay value. Stampede definitely has a lot of that at its disposal.

Then the only other part of the film that could have been improved was Bullet’s final form. When he started to transform I admit that it was a little disappointing. That’s because he went from being an awesome DBZ villain to suddenly being a skyscraper who can barely move. Naturally this is where the CGI starts to come into play. No matter how neat a design the giant form might be, it’s just not going to be able to make for really fun fights the way that his first round was. When one fighter can’t fight back then it’s no longer a real fight. Since Bullet’s giant form can’t do much it just barely counts as an actual match. Bullet does manage to bring back his human form near the end of the film for a quick fight as well though so we did get a true climax.

Luffy is definitely at his best here. He may not look too good against Bullet for a while, but not being strong enough to win isn’t a bad thing in itself. The important thing is that he was trying to win right from the start and was quick to try and help Usopp. Helping his crew out has always been Luffy’s main objective and it’s good to see that hold true here. The rest of the gang aside from Brook look good as well. Zoro and Sanji definitely contribute the most, but Franky and Nami are also very useful. Then for the other pirates it was nice to see Sabo since it’s always rare to see his adult form. It’s a little surprising how calmly Luffy and Sabo exchanged a casual greeting here and then just didn’t talk again. I guess it wasn’t really the time or place to really have a long dialogue but a team up would have been good.

Stampede did a good job of choosing the all star team at the end. Hancock is one of Luffy’s most dependable allies at this point while Law is practically a strawhat now. Smoker may not always be able to compete against some of these guys but his ability is really neat and he has been improving quite a lot. The fact that he can still give these guys a fun for their money is pretty good. Mihawk also shows up to flex real quick and the heroes are lucky that he didn’t stick around since the guy still appears to be way out of their league. He’s definitely Emperor level or at least that’s the way he appears to me.

Overall, Stampede is definitely a great film. I like this new trend of the fight starting early on and then continuing for basically the entire film. Dragon Ball Broly did that to great success and now the same is true for Stampede. I definitely preferred it to Gold and Strong World. I haven’t seen the rest so I can’t comment on that, but that would put this as the best One Piece film right now. There are really no serious complaints I had with it and the movie definitely has a ton of replay value. Naturally as a fan you will get extra enjoyment out of it since it’s a reunion type film, but I dare say that casuals who haven’t seen the series before will enjoy it as well. There’s something here for everyone.

Overall 8/10

7 Star TV Shows, Reviews, TV Show Reviews, TV Shows

.Hack//Sign Review


It’s time to look at what I’d consider to be a fairly iconic anime. It’s not so much that it’s known as one of the greatest anime of all time like DBZ or that it’s super long like One Piece, but it’s just an anime that you’ve likely heard of over the years. The .Hack franchise is also pretty popular in its own right and this is certainly the most well known show. It’s definitely a fun adventure that takes a pretty deep look into the online gaming genre.

The show takes place in the future where online games are finally on the rise once more. In particular a fully immersive game known as The World has gotten incredibly popular because of how realistic it is. Just pop on the helmet and you are inside the game. A player named Mimiru was exploring a cave like normal when she bumps into a player named Tsukasa. He runs off and she thinks nothing of it at the moment. However, it turns out that Tsukasa is unable to log out of the game and can’t even recall what is happening in the real world. The other players suspect that he is a hacker while others are worried about what has happened to his real world body. The secrets can be found with the Key to the Twilight. It’s an object of immense power can can change the game itself. Of course, finding it will be tough since the heroes don’t even know if it exists at all or if it’s merely a legend.

A big part of the anime is about exploration as the characters look around for a dungeon that isn’t in any of the official guidebooks. Effectively, they are really getting into the game now since it’s like going back to the days before the internet. Of course the stakes are high since Tsukasa’s life hangs in the balance. The heroes have to decide if helping like this is worth it or if the game is starting to take up too much of their time.

Despite being the main character, Tsukasa is actually pretty annoying. He is constantly snapping at everyone and feeling sorry for himself. From the start things would have been better for him if he had talked to the Crimson Knights instead of making a break for it and acting all suspicious all of the time. From his actions he basically told them that he was a cheater so of course they would try to arrest him at that point. Then Tsukasa actually destroys a few players. He never turns into a total villain or anything though and his actions are not malicious. He attacks in self defense but naturally the Crimson Knights won’t believe it. Tsukasa doesn’t have an easy time of it at all, but the reason why he is annoying is that you feel like the lead is making the situation a lot worse on himself.

Mimiru is the main heroine here and in a sense you could say that she represents the average player. She is intelligent but not a pondering philosopher like the rest of the characters. She is just here to enjoy the game at first but gradually gets pulled into Tsukasa’s web. I’d say that she definitely has a pretty tough experience here since the wavemaster is hard to be friends with and tends to panic or run away when the going gets tough. Mimiru’s definitely a fun character throughout and was certainly crucial in Tsukasa’s personality change. I dare say even more than Subaru as she got him to take the initial steps out of his shell.

Subaru is the leader of the Crimson Knights but she tends to disagree with their methods. She wants them to just go around talking with people as opposed to actively keeping the world safe. I rather disagree with her on this one at the very least on the idea that they should be so lenient on cheaters. They should report them to the admin right away and in the meantime locking them up makes sense. It would be like locking someone’s account for a little while. The knights naturally did take it a little far by the end, but I felt she was too far in the other direction. Subaru is a nice character though even if she isn’t the best fighter. She can just be rather naive at times like when she actually expected the Crimson Knight to tell her if the friends that he disliked leave her a message. I don’t think anyone expected him to actually do that.

Bear is another one of the main characters. He hangs out with Mimiru a lot as well as BT. Inside the game he is probably the deepest thinker and is also the most pro active in trying to find out the truth behind Tsukasa’s predicament. He has to make a lot of tough calls on his own and ultimately ends up making the right ones. It would have been rather tough on the kid without him. Bear can always hold his own against the other characters in a verbal battle and is good at planning as well. He’s just a very solid all around character.

BT is a character who really doesn’t care for lettuce since it erodes the taste of whatever it touches despite society telling her that it has no taste. It’s a pretty interesting backstory. In the game she likes to play as a very tricky character who will betray the heroes for a good item. She plays both sides quite a lot throughout the series before finally choosing the right side. As a result she is rather annoying though and it was too little too late when she came to aid the heroes. She also tries to go after Crim in the real world even though he’s pretty decisive in rejecting her. Of course it’s always tough to move on immediately.

Crim is essentially the “Top Player” character of the game. He has a considerable amount of skill and vows to use it for justice. He role plays as a Superman type figure who is always around to help those in need. He definitely ended up being the best character in the game. For starters he is the only one who didn’t really bring any drama with him to The World. He likes to keep the real world and the video game separate and completely gets absorbed into his role. That’s definitely the way to play and he is able to do this while still appreciating the stakes that the game now holds.

Sora plays a big role in the series as he likes to manipulate all of the characters and hatch plans of his own. As he is one of the strongest characters in the series there typically isn’t much that the heroes can do to oppose him. Only Crim is able to properly stand up to the guy. He can be fun to have around, but I definitely wouldn’t say that he is a likable character. At least he ends up trolling both the heroes and villains which is always nice for a wild card. At most you might feel bad for him during the end of the series since he tries one last betrayal which doesn’t even matter and ends up getting himself a little too deep into The World.

For a while the Crimson Knight was easily the best character in the show. He’s one of the big antagonists of the series who believes in hunting down the hackers so everyone will have a fair gaming experience. He isn’t pleased when Subaru tells him that they are just a fan group with no real power. At this point he decides to take matters into his own hands. It’s not as if he goes crazy and starts trying to destroy everyone though. He merely stays in his quest to stop the cheaters and it’s a shame that by the end of the show he didn’t get to do as much as I would have hoped. His fight scene with Tsukasa early on was cool though. I think that may have even been the first episode. Even there he wasn’t in the wrong you’d think since Tsukasa was obstructing Justice. On the other hand, since the Crimson Knights are a fake group with no authority then are they outside their jurisdiction? I’d say no.

As the characters mention from time to time, they are all role playing inside of The World. Why not role play as a police officer? While the Crimson Knight gets a little extreme towards the end, he is not unreasonable at the start. If someone is hacking the game then they must be stopped before other players are hurt right? Especially since this game does seem to give you some level of pain feedback in the real world. In the video games a lot of the characters also don’t like the hackers since they mess with the game so much. The Crimson Knight does get distracted by the romance angle quite a bit, but otherwise he had a pretty interesting mission throughout the show.

The show is very dialogue heavy of course so don’t go in expecting constant fight scenes. Fortunately the writing is really good so the dialogue works. The show never feels dull or boring despite all of the talking because the show is just very interesting. You’re engaged with what they are talking about. The characters may go in circles at times but it won’t dampen your enthusiasm as they will at least gain some kind of new clue which alters the conversation. I think the voice acting deserves a lot of credit here as well. Every character sounds rather monotone and robotic but that makes sense since they’re all role playing within the game. It adds to the effect pretty well and makes them easy to listen to.

.Hack also manages to avoid some of the negatives that typically go hand in hand with anime as well like fanservice. The show avoids this which seems to be pretty tricky for video game anime like this or at least that’s the impression you get from titles like Sword Art Online. It was tough deciding whether this show would be a 7 or an 8 because it is fun, but is it great? It was very interesting throughout and while the show lacked action the mystery was fun. It’s not the kind of mystery that would lose much replay value on the second watch since it’s not about a culprit that you are finding, but secrets of the world. Everything is very meta so I think it would hold up well enough on a second viewing.

I also liked the soundtrack quite a lot. We get many different operatic themes which help get across the show’s mysterious tone. “Come with me to the Twilight” works well for all of Tsukasa’s moping scenes where he’s wondering what to do next. The show is constantly throwing in both lyrical and instrumental themes at you which fit in well. They are epic but can also be interpreted as sad depending on the scene. The only theme that I really didn’t like for epic scenes was Sora’s. It’s a really happy theme that seems completely out of place whenever it pops up. For example, it pops up during the final battle between Crim and Sora which is a hype scene but the music doesn’t fit at all.

It’s not a theme that pops up too often though so it’s fine. Also, as we don’t get too many fights during the series it’s always fun when they do pop up. The Sora bouts are always enjoyable and the invincible monsters were also cool. Each fight is fairly short so enjoy what you get from them. The thing is that most of the characters aren’t too strong here as they want to enjoy the game and aren’t grinding their stats. Only Sora and Crim decided to grind their way to level 100 and at that point it all comes down to their skill level when wielding their weapons. Since The World is so glitchy, it’s probably for the best that they don’t take that part too seriously.

The animation is also pretty good and holds up well. It’s a classic 90s-early 2000s aesthetic. The colors are bright and the backgrounds have a lot of detail. I liked how they animated Skeith as well. He certainly comes across as a very intimidating figure. The gray, faded out look for the real world also did a good job of showing that aside from The World, Earth hasn’t changed much and that’s why everyone wants to be playing the game instead of just going through the same motions as always. It would be cool to see more of the human world, but this way it does keep more of a mysterious vibe.

How much you enjoy the show will depend on what extent the vibe works for you. The first half can be rather slow as all of the characters keep heir secrets and don’t really do a lot to shed light on the situation for anyone else. It’s not til we enter the second half where the characters all start to team up and realize that an enemy is near. Then we get the fun dungeon exploration and battles against the mysterious being. As it is the show basically just ends around this point as the clean up is left to the characters of the original 4 video games. It’s not like these characters can fight a being who is a part of the game like this so I wonder how often they would log on after this or if they began to take a more cautious approach. Either way as long as you find the show interesting like I expect you will then the lack of activity at times won’t really be an issue.

One thing that would have been nice would have been to include more of the video game characters. Several of them got cameos here which was cool, but having them around more would have been even more exciting. I suppose they could have stolen the show since they were so OP though. By not having them around, it also showed that while the situation was huge for the main characters, it wasn’t necessarily an end of the world event where everyone had to show up. Even by the end of the show a lot of people probably didn’t even realize what was happening since they would probably just ignore the forums.

Overall, .Hack//Sign is definitely a fun show. It’s the kind of title that has a lot of replay value since the dialogue is engaging from the start. It’s very solid across the board so I wouldn’t say that it had any specific weaknesses. At most I do think it could have used some more fight scenes but the characters do stress that this isn’t really that kind of game. Combat is a feature though so it’s always an option. The show is also better in batches than weekly since the show likes to progress at a slow pace in order to allow all of the characters to process what is going on and discuss it. If you haven’t seen a really solid video game adventure yet then this is a great way to start. Now I just need to go back and play .Hack part 4.

Overall 7/10