This has definitely been a movie that’s been on the backburner for quite a while. Strong World is known as one of the better One Piece films or at least when it came out it was known as such. After that we got some heavy hitters like Z and Gold which have also forged a name for themselves. Strong World is definitely a fun film but definitely a step under Gold and I get the feeling that Z will win. It’s a good all around adventure, but does have some issues.
The film starts off with the Strawhats scattered once again amidst a bunch of flying islands. We then see that Nami has been captured by the pirate known as Shiki, the strongest man in the world. Luffy and friends will have to hurry if they want to save her and after this we also learn how she was captured in the first place. Shiki has amassed a large pirate army and many other crews have also gathered to help him wipe out the East Blue. The stakes are high and continue to escalate as the terror approaches the home of the Strawhats.
Shiki is definitely established as a powerful villain here since he is untouchable for most of the heroes and even Luffy has to play defense for most of their encounters. The film makes it very clear that Shiki is stronger than Luffy. In a straight fight the hero just has no shot to win here. While not unheard of, it is still rare to see Luffy losing like this. He takes quite a lot of hits throughout the film. Shiki’s ability is to manipulate gravity and that helps him enhance his speed and power as well. Shiki is definitely a powerful enemy, but I can’t say that I cared for him.
He’s super quirky to the point where it is hard to keep thinking of him as a threat. He panics with his subordinates quite a bit after all and has a very short memory span. Nami manages to escape from him several times as well so you do have to doubt his security measures. Being good in a fight is not enough to make you a great enemy. His two lieutenants also aren’t all that good. One is basically King Kong and the other one is decent with a sword, but too busy trying to keep up charades to actually remain as a threat.
As expected the animation is quite good. Surprisingly the film doesn’t lead off with the big high budget scene. Typically the films love to show the environment and the animation in the first shots like in all of the Pokemon films. For the One Piece film it starts off with a Shiki scene first and then cuts away to Luffy which is where the animation goes way up. The visuals for the jungles are definitely quite solid and the whole thing is very smooth. This is one area where it can definitely hold its own against the newer titles.
I also really liked the soundtrack. The tunes are a lot more fun than what is in the actual show. It’s going for a very “nature-esque” array of themes which makes sense since Luffy is in the jungle the whole time. It’s all very fast paced and high energy. The film definitely went all in on a technical level.
So where does the film falter? Well, it does have a fanservice issue. To an extent we can always expect that with One Piece with Nami around, but Gold for example did a good job of restraining itself. Maybe a tiny moment here and there, but Strong World just keeps it coming for quite a bit. It’s enough where it is noticeable. As mentioned, the villains are also a little on the weak side. The ones in Gold had a lot more character. Brook also still exists and so naturally most of his dialogue is terrible.
It is also a bit iffy to see Luffy and the others get wrecked so badly, but that I can roll with since you can’t ask for the strongest villain to fight and then be upset when he clobbers the heroes. At least Luffy and the others put up a fight although Luffy should have gone into Gear 2 as soon as Shiki went after Nami. There’s no real reason to hold back when lives are at stake right? Zoro and Sanji are definitely shown to be out of their league this time, but they do get to contribute a little at least. The scene of the whole team trying to fight Shiki was cool because they almost never get to fight an enemy like that. The only time I can think of off the top of my head is when they all fought Aokji. I love group fights like that and for One Piece I feel like that may never happen again, but the series has a ways to go so hopefully they do get to do that. In the meanwhile the movies help with this since it’s a lot easier to have the whole group assemble here.
A standout character was actually a thunder bird named Billy. At first you expect he’ll just be a fun animal mascot to aid Nami, but the guy can fight. He takes out a ton of giant monsters and without him Luffy wouldn’t have stood a chance against Shiki. Billy’s the kind of movie character you want to have. He doesn’t steal moments from the main cast, but does assist a lot so he doesn’t feel like a filler character either. The guy just wants to help his friends out and you can’t go wrong there.
One key part that the film does right is keeping the adventure very fast paced like all good fantasy films should. There’s rarely a time where the film really slows down so there is a lot of replay value. I may not call this film great, but I did have a fun time and there’s a lot to like here. It’s just a good popcorn fun adventure where you get to see all of the characters unleash their signature abilities and take down some villains. It’s a little contrived that both Sanji and Zoro’s opponents escaped only to have to fight them again though. I’m thinking they wanted to include their second intros, but you do have to wonder how the villains would have escaped in the first place.
Overall, Strong World is definitely a fun film that I’d recommend. Whether you’re a fan of the series or not you’ll definitely enjoy it. There are enough recap nods and such to ensure that even people unfamiliar with the series can get into it. I thought the opening showing off all the members of the crew was handled really well. They all get the name bumpers and a quick scene so you can see what they can do. Nami is the last to be shown, but I think you’ll still be able to tell that Luffy is the main character since his segment is the longest and he just feels like your classic Shonen lead. I’ve always loved character intros like this so One Piece really nailed it here. I look forward to seeing what the next film is like.