After manga creator Eiichiro Oda’s story contribution on “One Piece Film: Strong World” (2009), he’s back once again via “One Piece Film: Z”, this time, to oversee the overall production of the twelfth feature film from his long-running and fastest-selling manga in Japan – One Piece. The movie which revolves around the main antagonist, “Z” (also known as “Black Arm Zephyr”) and dubbed as the strongest opponent yet is non-canonical, meaning to say, this is a stand-alone story arc so everyone who hasn’t been following the manga journey can have a grasp of the story and will need not to worry.
The premise is simple. Former Marine Admiral Zephyr with the aide of his henchmen Ain and Binz want to destroy the world by blowing up three volcanic islands identified as the “End Points” with the help of stolen “Dyna Stones” – thought to be comparable to ancient weapons and are the marine’s “trump card”. But every story has a hero – The Straw Hat Team: meet Luffy, Zoro, Nami, Usopp, Sanji, Chopper, Robin, Franky and Brook.
For me, the opening fight scenes between Z and Kizaru set the mood of the whole movie and I kind of hoped that it won’t disappoint me until the very end because some movies tend to have this rich and amazing opening scenes but the story-telling dwindles and got lost along the way. While I found the cherry blossoms party screen time a bit long, I think it’s necessary to show to the new audiences how close are they to each other and as a group – and also to validate Luffy’s action towards the end of the film.
I’m not quite convinced though why blowing up three volcanoes would lead to destruction of planet Earth. But other than that, I like the film and totally bought the whole Z’s back story. I felt the justification on his character as a good-hearted navy man who worked so hard to protect the government he trusts; turned into an exact opposite of himself when his wife and son was killed by a pirate which leads to his creation of Neo Marines organization. Oda incredibly managed to put a huge amount of depth on Z’s characterization that I actually developed an emotional attachment with Z given that he is the villain of this story. Need I say more why the film was titled after him?
As for the other characters like Nami, Robin, Brook and Chopper, they are basically there for the comic relief while Sanji, Zoro and Luffy had their moments on their respective climactic battles. On the animation part – it’s technically flawless, the camera angles, and the fight scenes; as expected from Toei. They did a really good job back there and you’ll immediately notice it on the opening scene, the texture, and the tone, kudos to the art director of this film.
The last few minutes where Z fights to his death and eventually came to his senses is just tear-jerking while showing a series of flashback from his childhood, where he plays the role of “Hero of Justice Z” – his own creation of a super hero. It’s a bitter-sweet but a fitting ending to bring closure to Z’s character.
To summarize, the movie isn’t about saving the world from volcanic eruptions; it’s about: your dreams versus principles – doing what you want, no matter what anyone says.
With an enjoyable battle and a well-done exposition, I’ll give this movie a 9/10 rating!
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