When you have an anime series that has run as long as One Piece, you're bound to have a divided group of fans supporting different characters — especially when it comes to recurring characters or guest stars. It's hard to please the fandom of an anime that has as much history as this (the anime started its run in 1999, with the manga debuting two years prior to that), so there's really only one thing to do.
Throw every popular character into one movie. Which is exactly what One Piece: Stampede has done, much to the delight of every fan.
One Piece: Stampede is the fourteenth One Piece animated film and sees pirate Luffy and his crew heading for a Pirates Expo, where they meet long-lost friends and old enemies. But there's no time to catch up — nothing less than the greatest pirate treasure of all is at stake in this event, which sends all the pirate crews scrambling on a madcap treasure hunt. However, something sinister lurks behind this contest, which may endanger all pirates, friend or foe alike.
There's no real story in the movie. It's simply an excuse to toss all of the One Piece characters into one movie and have them clash against one another. Ordinarily, a film without an interesting plot would be disastrous, but One Piece: Stampede has an ace up its sleeve — fight scenes. Half of the movie is spent watching characters fly against each other in extravagant bursts of colourful energy, as the movie eventually morphs into a long, extended fight scene by its second act.
And what a fight it is! It's more of a series of fights as characters join the fray, other characters get knocked out to make room, and everybody calls their attacks amidst spectacular explosions. Everyone is constantly unleashing their flashy finishing moves as it turns into a video gallery of each character's attacks. But as an anime fan, isn't that what you want? To see your favourite characters executing their signature attacks and being in the limelight? This is where the film shines. It knows its fans, it knows what they want, and it delivers it to them on a silver platter.
The action sequences in One Piece: Stampede are top notch, and it manages to favour almost every character while still providing some defining moments for them. As a result, the threats have to keep getting bigger, literally, as fan favourites like Sabo and Boa Hancock appear to help deal with a rapidly escalating danger. Of course, the whole reason the antagonist keeps getting bigger is to give the increasing number of heroes a suitable target for them to lob their super moves at.
3D animation in a 2D film is often used as a cost-saving measure for large objects such as vehicles, which is why the chief villain of the story ends up being animated in 3D. However, the film uses 3D animation from the early 2000s to bring the big bad to life, which looks terrible and cheap in 2019. It's partly ameliorated by the use of 2D animation to "cloak" some of the more egregious bits of the 3D-animated behemoth, but that doesn't mean that it looks nice. Still, it is understandable that the film would rather spend its budget on the main characters rather than a generic one-off villain, so the 3D animation is forgivable, to an extent.
The story also throws a red herring into the mix that's related to the core premise of the series, which serves to increase the dramatic tension of the film but then drops the ball in such a lacklustre way that you can hear the plot deflating as it squeaks to a close. It's almost as if the plot were a tongue-in-cheek reference to how long the series has run and how the creators could finally end it by giving the protagonists what they want — but it continues on, even though there's no good reason for the heroes not to end their quest.
But then, you're not watching One Piece: Stampede for the thought-provoking story — you're watching it to see your personal favourites throw down against other characters (and interact with other characters they normally wouldn't meet). It truly lives up to its name of a stampede of pirates rushing for the same prize, and is a satisfying watch for any fan.
Should you watch this at weekday movie ticket prices? Yes.
Should you watch this at weekend movie prices? Yes, if you're a One Piece fan.
End-credits scene? Yes.
Running time: 101 minutes
One Piece: Stampede is a Japanese anime film.
It is directed and written by Takashi Otsuka, with additional writing credits for Atsuhiro Tomioka. It features the voice talents of Mayumi Tanaka (Monkey D. Luffy), Akemi Okamura (Nami), Cho (Brook), Hiroaki Hirata (Vinsmoke Sanji), Ikue Ootani (Tony Tony Chopper), Kappei Yamaguchi (Usopp), Kazuki Yao (Franky), Kazuya Nakai (Roronoa Zoro), Yuriko Yamaguchi (Nico Robin), Toruu Furuya (Sabo), and Kotono Mitsuishi (Boa Hancock). It is rated PG.
One Piece: Stampede opens in cinemas:
- 5 September, 2019 (Singapore)
- 19 September, 2019 (Malaysia)
- 20 September, 2019 (Philippines)
Marcus Goh is a television scriptwriter who writes for “Crimewatch”, as well as popular shows like “Lion Mums”, “Code of Law”, “Incredible Tales”, and “Police & Thief”. He’s also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. You can find him on social media as Optimarcus and on his site. The views expressed are his own.
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