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One Piece Film: Gold (2016)

As the Straw Hat Pirates continue their travels across the high seas, they come across the famous gamblers paradise, Gran Tesoro. A ship the size of an entire city which acts a neutral ground for both pirates and marines so both can take their chances at the casinos and win the fortune of a lifetime. Eager to join in the fun and get a chance to relax from their journey, Luffy and the crew disembark to enjoy Gran Tesoro's lavish riches. That is until Gild Tesoro, the ship's ruler and self-proclaimed king of entertainment suckers the crew into a life or death wager. With fellow crew member Zoro captured and at the mercy of Gild Tesoro's devil fruit power, it's up to the crew to steal back their friend and whatever gold they can get their hands on. It's the heist of a lifetime and the Straw Hat's never back down from a challenge. Will they be able to rescue their crew mate from certain death or has their luck finally run out?

One Piece Film: Gold is the 13th animated movie tied to the popular One Piece manga and anime series. The film was directed by One Piece veteran, Hiroaki Miyamoto (assistant director of Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island, and storyboard/episode director of over 300 episodes of the One Piece anime). The film was produced by series creator, Eiichiro Oda, while the screenplay was written by Tsutomu Kuroiwa (screenplay for GANTZ O). The film was distributed by Toei Company and first premiered on July 15th at the Abu Dhabi's Emirates Palace Hotel. After the film was released in Japan on July 23rd, the film has become the second highest grossing film of the One Piece franchise, earning approximately $10.87 million it's opening weekend and capping out at $48.8 million. Not long after the film's profound success, Funimation announced that they would be dubbing the film with their trademark cast and would be releasing the film for a limited time screening between January 10-17 of 2017.

The Straw Hat crew takes to the casinos in style.

Though I have long admitted to being a fan of the quirky yet adventurous romp that is Eiichiro Oda's One Piece, I have never been very enthused to be a part of the Straw Hat's trips onto the big screen. Like most films tied to an ongoing anime series, One Piece movies act as stand-alone stories set in the ongoing narrative. As a result, the films can seem somewhat formulaic or, dare I say it, fan fiction like with narratives that do little to expand the world or develop the main cast (since they can never show it in the series proper). It wasn't until the sixth film of the franchise, Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island (directed by Mamoru Hosoda), that I realized how good these stand-alone stories can be and how even despite these movies limitations, they can still deliver a fun, even suspenseful adventure film. In fact, it was the knowledge that the sixth film's assistant director would be sitting in the director's chair and the excellent Funimation trailer that encouraged me to see the film on the big screen.

And I am pleased to report that the film's evident popularity in Japan is well deserved.

The gamblers paradise, Gran Tesoro, is one of the most visually appealing
locales presented in the One Piece world to date.

From the very minute the film starts, with a grand entrance of the main antagonist and establishing shots of the film's setting, you feel like you've been transported to an elaborate Las Vegas show. Complete with jazzy music, bright colors and visual spectacle of some really on point animation. Though it was clear that computer generated animation was used for certain scenes, it was used just enough to get the point across but also add extra flair to the character movements.  

Gran Tesoro itself is a marvel, with a Las Vegas-inspired design but just enough quirky technology and visuals to remind you that this is still the world of One Piece. With marvels at every corner of the screen, it's easy to be drawn into the setting as much as the film's heroes.

I had expected, once the Straw Hat's had settled into their new digs, that it would be a string of antics and intrigue that would lead them to uncover their host's slimy nature underneath his generous facade. However, much to my surprise, the film did not waste any time getting to the meat of story. Leaving the rest of the movie to turn into a sort of fantasy heist film, with Zoro and Gild Tesoro's fortune as the crew's prize. To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure why it took this long to explore this type of scenario with the Straw Hat crew since it almost seems tailor made for them. Though Luffy and the crew are somewhat atypical pirates in that they don't pillage or plunder, they are still by their very definition thieves of the sea. Thus the idea of putting them in a position to steal something back that was wrongfully taken, on such a grand scale, is as fun as it is thrilling. The main cast continues to work off each other beautifully, with Nami (Luci Christian) sharing the stage with main star Luffy (Colleen Clinkenbeard) due to her background as a cat burglar.

Beware the man with the Midas touch. Gild Tesoro proves to
be a menacing foe to the Straw Hat Pirates.
They say a movie is only as good as its villain, and for what it's worth, Gild Tesoro (Keith Silverstein) fills those shoes rather well. He may not come close to matching some of the better villains that have been in the series thus far (such as Crocodile or Don Flamingo), but his devil fruit powers and how he uses them demonstrates why he is a man to be feared. There is an attempt to humanize him at a few points, but they never really hit home due to his cruel and downright gruesome actions throughout the movie.

One of the few drawbacks of the movie, at least for a casual fan, would be the cameos of several side characters from the main series. While not exactly terrible or out of place, they do seem a bit forced. These characters only get a few moments on screen in order to remind the viewer that there is still an ongoing power struggle between the World Government, the Pirates and the mysterious Rebellion. The only other nitpick I had with my screening of the movie was due to varying sound quality. There were quite a few moments in the climax where the music would build and as a result drown out the characters lines. Again, I'm not sure if this was more of a problem with the film itself or the theater where I saw the movie, but either way it effectively took me out of the experience.

NEVER get between Luffy and his crew, you WILL regret it.
Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island may still be my favorite film tied to the One Piece franchise, but One Piece: Gold definitely gave it a run for its money. With great world building, an exhilarating setup and a spectacular setting, Gold will definitely satisfy both diehard and casual One Piece fans the world over.

One Piece Film: Gold will be available on DVD via Funimation later in 2017.