Anime Film Review: One Piece Movie: The Desert Princess and the Pirates: Adventures in Alabasta

One Piece Movie: The Desert Princess and the Pirates: Adventures in Alabasta is the eighth anime film in the One Piece franchise.

One Piece Movie: The Desert Princess and the Pirates: Adventures in Alabasta
Directed by: Takahiro Imamura
Written by: Hirohiko Kamisaka
Starring: Mayumi Tanaka, Kazuya Nakai, Akemi Okamura, Kappei Yamaguchi, Hiroaki Hirata, Ikue Otani, Misa Watanabe, and Yuriko Yamaguchi

This film is another telling of the Alabasta arc, and it condenses the story down to 90 minutes in length. Obviously, not everything from the original telling can be included in a condensed version, but if you haven’t either read the arc in the manga or seen this arc in the anime series before watching this film, there’s a lot here that isn’t going to make a lot of sense. For example, it’s said that Vivi had a connection with Crocodile and his group, but the name for Crocodile’s group is never mentioned in the dialogue. Because of this, when there’s a visual cue that some members of the royal army are actually members of Crocodile’s group, this cue will be missed by viewers who aren’t aware that Crocodile’s group is named “Baroque Works.”

The film opens with Vivi having a flashback to when she was a little girl, riding on Pell and having a conversation with him. We then see Vivi is aboard the Going Merry and waking up from a nap. Mr. 2 (aka Bon Clay) makes his appearance and shows off his devil fruit power, which allows him to assume the form and voice of anyone his hand has touched. When he shows off who’s in his memory bank, Vivi sees her father’s face. After Bon Clay is rescued by his crew, Vivi reveals what she saw, and figures out he used the power to trick her people to help Crocodile launch a plan to cause a conflict between the royal family and the rebels. With this information, Luffy is determined to help Vivi make it to Alubarna and stop what’s happening.

The first half of the film focuses on some of the incidents and conflicts they have on their way to Alubarna. Unfortunately, this section of the film feels very jumpy, rather than feeling like it’s a naturally flowing narrative. Once the Straw Hats make it to Alubarna and we get to the confrontation with Crocodile, it feels like a natural narrative.

Overall, I think the animation looked very good for this feature film. The only exception I would have to this would be some of the CG animation that was used for animating large groups. These were usually long shots, but the CG just stood out too much in comparison to the background and the other animation in the film. These occasional CG shots could be a little jarring and distracting at times. Another thing that kind of bothered me was at the end of various fights, a shot would suddenly freeze, and the footage would become tinted. This would cause a pause in the film before moving on to the next scene. With how often this was happening, it became annoying and it felt like it was disrupting the flow of the second half of the film a little too much.

While I think a condensed version of the Alabasta arc could have worked and been an interesting viewing experience, I don’t think how it was ultimately done for this film was the best way to go about it. At the very least, the audience could have been given a brief flashback of Vivi during her time with Baroque Works (and mentioning the group by name) and how she ultimately came to travel with the Straw Hats. This right there would have given an audience who is unfamiliar with the story some much needed information and background for Vivi. My guess is that the writer and director went into making this movie assuming that only fans of the One Piece franchise, who would already be familiar with the story, would be the ones watching this film.

I wouldn’t say that One Piece Movie: The Desert Princess and the Pirates: Adventures in Alabasta is necessarily a bad film, but I think it could have been better. If the writer and/or the director had just made a small handful of different choices, I believe that this could have been a much stronger film. There was potential for this movie, but I think that potential was wasted.

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