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One Piece Collection 17 [Episodes 397- 421]

When their new mermaid friend Camie was fishnapped and taken to a human auction, Luffy and the Straw-Hat Pirates quickly found themselves in another battle. Taking on the Celestial Dragons inevitably draws the attention of the Marines, accompanied by an army of cyborg 'Pacifistas'. Despite their name though, there's nothing peaceful about these fearsome 'bots and they soon send our heroes flying.

One Piece's 17th collection includes episodes from the show's 11th and 12th seasons, that were originally broadcast and streamed between April and September of  2009.

It's been quite a while since Manga UK's last One Piece release, and it's great to have the Straw-Hats back. As always, the story picks up right where the previous volume left off and drops us straight into the action. And that action is as entertaining and over-the-top as ever. The series' set-pieces are like no other, with a combination of the more dramatic conventional shonen-style and an almost Looney Tunes cartoonishness. It's undoubtedly impressive that 400 episodes in, the series still manages to keep finding new ways to make each fight, each new threat, feel likes something different and not just as if it's repeating itself again and again.

The crew get separated, and we spend the bulk of this volume following Luffy as he crash lands on the island of Amazon Lilly. The hidden island is populated only by women, and the inhabitants are not quite sure what to make of Luffy.  The idea of an island with an all-female population is a pretty standard trope in fiction (perhaps most famously featured in Wonder Woman's origin). However, One Piece still manages to put its own twist on the idea. It's refreshing that the Islanders are of all shapes and sizes (some of them are even giants) and that they don't all instantly swoon at their first sight of a human male. Still, they manage to mine the premise for its comic potential, and if you've ever wondered if every part of Luffy's body is stretchy, you'll finally get the answer.

Amazon Lilly introduces us to some fun new characters, starting with the bumbling trio that first stumbles upon Luffy. The island also turns out to be home to Boa Hancock, "The Pirate Empress".  The ruler of the island and one of the Seven Warlords, she's often described as the most beautiful woman in the world, inspiring adoration in men and women alike. That's not much comfort to Luffy, however, as the laws of Amazon Lilly say any man found on the island must be put to death- and Hancock is determined to carry out the sentence. And even worse.. she's got a Devil Fruit power of her own!

That's not all, as there's also a handful of episodes outside these two major stories. At the tail-end of the volume, we get a chance to catch up with where Luffy's crewmates ended up while he was on the island. There's also a two-part sides-story, where we make a return visit to the alternate history, where all the characters are recast as inhabitants of feudal Japan. These episodes might not have any bearing on the ongoing plot, but they're entertaining enough in their own rights.

At this point, it's clear that the weakest part of One Piece is the animation itself. The pressure of producing a year-round series takes its toll, and the animation quality is up and down like a skeleton fiddler's elbow. It's a great shame, as Eiichiro Oda's original comic art is so full of life and character.

What the series lacks in looks, however, it more than makes up for in personality. This is a jam-packed volume full of the action, comedy and drama that makes the series such an enduring favourite.

FORMATSDVD/Streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation Now [US only]
 12 [UK]

24 Episodes 

IN A NUTSHELL: Funny thrilling and full of heart, One Piece is as addictive as ever.