Anime Film Review: One Piece Film: Z

One Piece Film: Z is the 12th anime film in the One Piece franchise.

One Piece Film: Z
Directed by: Tatsuya Nagamine
Written by: Osamu Suzuki
Starring: Mayumi Tanaka, Kazuya Nakai, Akemi Okamura, Kappei Yamaguchi, Hiroaki Hirata, Ikue Ohtani, Yuriko Yamaguchi, Kazuki Yao, Yuichi Nagashima, Hochu Otsuka, Ryoko Shinohara, Teruyuki Kagawa, Takehito Koyasu, Unsho Ishizuka, Fumihiko Tachiki, Hiroshi Naka, Takko Ishimori, Mika Doi, Koichi Nagano, and Minori Matsushima
Run Time: 108 minutes

The One Piece television anime series had four episodes that made up a filler arc that had a connection to this film. The Neo Marines, as well as Ain (one of the characters from One Piece Film: Z) make an appearance during this filler arc. Z also shows up right near the end, and his appearance sets the stage for the beginning of One Piece Film: Z. From where this filler arc is placed, the film would be set between when the Straw Hats leave Fishman Island and when they arrive at Punk Hazard.

The film opens with Z, his subordinates Ain and Binz, and the Neo Marines arriving at Firs Island to grab the Dyna Stones, which are said to be comparable to the Ancient Weapons and are the Marines’ trump card. Admiral Kizaru arrives and begins blowing away the Neo Marines’ ships, but Z steps in and the two battle it out. It’s revealed in the film that Z (formerly known as Zephyr), is a former Marine Admiral who trained many of the Marines that the viewers have come to know during One Piece. But because he’s a former Marine Admiral who’s now causing trouble, Z’s enemies include both pirates and the Marines.

Z uses one of the Dyna Stones in his battle with Kizaru, and the blast engulfs the entire island. It turns out the island is one of the three mythical “End Points,” and Z is out to destroy them in order to stop the pirates and to destroy the New World. Kizaru gets away, but it appears that Z is lost.

Meanwhile, the Straw Hats are goofing off and having a fun time until volcanic ash starts falling. Around the same time, they see someone floating in the water. They rescue this person, who turns out to be Z. When Z awakens and finds out that Luffy and the others are pirates, he begins attacking. Ain and Binz arrive with the Neo Marines, and Ain and Binz use their powers against some of the Straw Hats. Ain has an ability to make a person become younger by 12 years by touching them, and she manages to touch Nami, Chopper, Robin, and Brook. Binz, meanwhile, can summon vines and uses them to subdue most of the others. Luffy, however, tries to fight with Z, but Z’s mechanical arm is made from sea prism stone, which affects Devil Fruit users. With some help, Franky is freed and uses the Coup de Burst to escape. Unfortunately, the Thousand Sunny is damaged from the Neo Marines’ cannon attacks.

The Straw Hats end up going to Secon Island, where Franky starts to fix the Thousand Sunny. It’s a small island, but there’s not much there. After learning about a nearby island from the family that owns the shipyard, the Straw Hats (except Franky) go on the sea train in order to try to find out information about Z and the Neo Marines. They need to find them so they can get Nami, Chopper, Robin, and Brook back to normal. It was kind of amusing to see what Usopp, Nami, Robin, and Chopper end up doing as they are trying to gather information.

Meanwhile, the other Staw Hats have a surprise reunion with Aokiji, who has left the Navy is now out on his own. They learn that Aokiji has a connection with Z, since Z had been one of his teachers. While Aokiji is willing to help out the Straw Hats, he also takes it upon himself to try to reach out to Z as well. Aokiji knows what Z is up to and wants to find some way to stop it.

It turns out the island the Straw Hats and Aokiji are at is the second of the three “End Points,” so of course Z is there. There’s another battle between the Straw Hats and Z’s forces, as well as another fight between Luffy and Z. This time, Z takes Luffy’s straw hat and flees, along with his forces, before the Dyna Stones placed on the island explode. The Straw Hats manage to flee from the island after a harrowing and chaotic escape from moving lava, and they return to Secon Island.

There is also some time spent in the film with Garp telling Coby and Helmeppo about Z and his backstory. If you couldn’t guess, a tragic backstory has led Z to where he is now. Normally, I can sympathize with characters after hearing this kind of a backstory, but I had a hard time with this when it came to Z. With how he had been portrayed up to that point, Z came across as being full of himself and was kind of annoying. While I appreciated getting the backstory, I found that I had a hard time seeing him in a more sympathetic light afterward. Perhaps if this story had been told over a longer runtime (an arc that lasted for several episodes that allowed for more character development), then perhaps I might have been more affected by Z’s backstory.

Aokiji provides the Straw Hats with the final bit of information they need in order to find Z and his Neo Marines, which leads to a climax between the Straw Hats, Z’s forces, and the Marines.

Even though I had a hard time sympathizing with Z, I still did enjoy One Piece Film: Z. The story itself was riveting enough, and I appreciated getting to see some characters I really hadn’t seen in a while (such as Aokiji and Kizaru). I also liked the shrunk down versions of Nami and Chopper. Chopper’s smaller version was especially amusing near the end of the film during one of the battles, because when he goes into some of his other forms, they look more chibi than usual. He can still fight effectively in these smaller versions, but they looked so cute and a lot less intimidating. Many of the character interactions in this film were on point, and it almost felt like this story could have fit in with the canon material. However, knowing that this is an original story, I knew that at the end, the story would have to do the typical shonen anime trope of “resetting to zero” so it wouldn’t affect the continuity of the canon storyline from the manga.

If you’re a fan of the One Piece franchise and haven’t watched this film yet, I would recommend it. Of the One Piece anime films that I’ve seen at the time I’m writing this review, this is by far the strongest one.

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