This collection of episodes features the second part of the story that kicked off in the last set. After a couple of episodes of build-up- featuring a nice line in foreboding and dramatic tension- it's time to leave Water Seven as the action transfers to on and around the Sea Train. The Ocean-faring choo-choo is an interesting location that makes a change from the usual island or boat-based settings in the series. The train is filled with marines and government , with Robin being held in a carriage at the front of the train.
This nicely sets up a kind of horizontal equivalent of the tower in the Bruce Lee film Game Of Death, where Sanji and co must attempt to fight their way through carriage after carriage in an attempt to reach Robin before the train meets it's ultimate destination.
Elsewhere Luffy and the rest of the crew have made some unexpected alliances, as former foes unite to take on a common enemy. Enemies turned friends is a tried and tested trope of Shonen shows that is seen in earlier shows such as Dragon Ball, but it's one that One Piece has always managed to pull off effectively. It does so particularly well here, with Franky adding an entertaining new twist to the character dynamic. His cyborg abilities certainly bring something new and unexpected to One Piece, and his personality is as entertaining as any other member of the cast.
The Sea Train journey works well and provides a welcome change but it doesn't outstay it's welcome. Arguably this volume really takes off when the train actually arrives at it's journey's end- the rather imposing Government fortress/prison Enies Lobby.
The fortress itself is another great piece of design work, creating a location that seems worthy of it's fearsome reputation. It also brings with it a whole boatload of new enemies, ranging from insignificant cannon-fodder foot-soldiers to fearsome foes who could actually threaten to give our heroes a run for their money
The ensuing battle is on an undoubtedly impressive scale. One Piece is often at it's best when the crew are going up against seemingly insurmountable odds, and that is definitely the case here. In terms of pure action at least, this is probably the best One Piece has been since the Alabasta arc.
Outside the action, this latest volume has plenty to offer. Despite the increasing gravity of the situation, there's plenty of the series' trademark humour. Best here is a great running gag surrounding Usopp's new alter-ego and his self-penned theme-tune. And as always there's a great deal of heart, with this volume doing a great deal to fill in details of Nico Robin's mysterious history.
Virtually every crew member has a tragic past, and Robin's might actually be the most heart-breakingly sad of them all. Her background has remained shrouded in mystery for some time, so it's great to have more of it revealed at last.
This is still One Piece though, so it never gets too heavy and never stops being fun. Funny, action-packed and addictive as ever, this latest One Piece release is another treasure.
ONE PIECE: COLLECTION 11 is now available on DVD from MANGA UK and FUNIMATION.
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