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One Piece: [Collection 16]

The latest release in the long-running nautical Shonen Jump show picks up with the climax of the pivotal Thriller Bark arc. These episodes make up the 16th collection of Manga UK's One Piece releases and comprise episodes 371-393. They originally aired in Japan between September 2008 and March 2009.

The Thriller arc has proved to be one of the most entertaining in the series to date and we're pleased to say that it doesn't disappoint as it comes to a head. We're dropped right into the heat of battle, with a spectacular showdown between the Straw-hats and the warlord Gecko Moirah.  As if one Warlord Of The Sea wasn't enough though, they also have to contend with Kuma, a bear-like mountain of a man who has the powers of the Paw-Paw Fruit. Which is much more threatening and much less adorable than it sounds.

The Thriller Bark storyline is given a fitting send-off, with some satisfying conclusion for some of the new characters we met along the way. It's far from the end of the Thousand Sunny's voyage, of course. so it's soon time to off to new adventures for Luffy and his crew.

Rather than heading straight off into another major storyline, we instead are given a selection of shorter stories. Think of them as a pallet cleanser before we tuck into the next course.

Some of these stories are important character development, such as the episodes that probe further into Brook's backstory. For a show that deals with such larger-than-life, cartoonish characters, it continues to surprise how well it is able to add real pathos to its stories and emotional depth to its cast. Even by these high standards, Brook's story is particularly touching.

Other storylines here are less emotionally satisfying but are highly entertaining all the same. A brief stop-off for some rest and relaxation at a holiday resort takes an unexpected turn- that involves the unexpected return of a face from the past.

That, in fact turns out to be something of a recurring theme for the volume as a later storyline also features a returning character. This time, an unexpected encounter with a mermaid leads our heroes to launch a rescue mission... only to get a surprise when they discover who they are rescuing.

The later of these shorter storylines is particularly enjoyable. The new characters (Mermaid Camie and her Starfish friend) are instantly likeable and heaps of fun to spend time with. What really makes it memorable, however, is the villain.

There's nothing particularly new about the idea of a bad guy with a grudge against one of the main cast. When the truth is revealed though, the motivation behind this particular baddie is so inspired, so funny and so unexpected it's nothing short of brilliant.

So while the later proportion of the collection isn't quite as good at the height of the Thriller Bark arc, it's still as entertaining as ever. Full of crazy action, unexpected dramatic turns and plenty of laughs, this voyage is still showing no sign of going off course any time soon.

FORMATSDVD/Streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation Now [US only]
26 episodes