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Thursday, 29 September 2016

One Piece: Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island.

One Piece: Baron Omatsuri and the
Secret Island.

Full disclosure: This is the only One Piece thing I've ever watched. In all likelihood, it's the only One Piece thing I will watch in my entire life, and I'm primarily doing it to cap off the Mamoru Hosoda series, because while it's all very well to talk about his tie-in work in series that I know, it's also worth looking at his tie-in work in series that I don't. Still, I recognise that I am a very long way from the intended audience for this film.

In spite of that, I did actually quite enjoy it.

The film follows main character Luffy and his pirate crew as they follow a mysterious invitation that promises unparalleled festivities on a secret island. When they arrive and meet the island's owner, Baron Omatsuri, however, they discover that they must go through his Trials of Hell before they can enjoy the island. While the Baron and his trials initially seem light-hearted and ridiculous, both become more sinister as time goes on, and it slowly becomes apparent that there is a dark secret to the island, centered around the Baron and a mysterious flower, the Lily Carnation. As more and more of Luffy's crew members go missing, Luffy must face off against the Baron and unravel the island's mystery.

The main cast.

I've seen people compare this film to Our War Game, and in all honesty, while the animation style is certainly superficially similar, toting Hosoda's quite distinctive thick-outlines-and-flat-colours aesthetic, the five year difference, and the different source material, really shows in how he approaches the details: Our War Game was a film characterised by long moments of stillness and  brief periods of frenetic energy; Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island is all frenetic energy all the time, with nearly every scene involving very deliberately over-the-top action. It's all beautifully animated, and Hosoda makes sure that all that action is very visually interesting, which is good, because wacky hijinks-filled action is very nearly in every scene.

Nearly. While Our War Game tries to highlight its quicker, busier, more action oriented moments by contrasting them with a film that is predominantly character interaction oriented, Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island instead keeps its stiller moments few and far between, utilising them primarily to increase the feeling of dread that pervades the entire film.

(That's actually a pretty neat feat, as far as setting tone and atmosphere goes -- managing to have a film which is simultaneously full of zany, over-the-top action sequences and also consistently sinister and full of dread.)

Not creepy at all.

One nice callback to Our War Game, though, was when the Lily Carnation assumed its true form, with its lines done in the same reddish-orange that Diablomon had. Possibly a reference, maybe just how Hosoda likes drawing villains, who can say.

As is the case with a lot of Hosoda's work, the pacing could use some adjustment, but interestingly, this actually isn't because of his usual problem of being a slow starter: The film has a very fast, well-paced start, and instead it lags somewhere around the middle, where the mystery hasn't yet reached a head and the Trials haven't yet become overtly sinister. There;s a period in the film where the pacing doesn't quite slow to a crawl -- after all, there's still a lot of sharp, well-animated action scenes to keep us interested -- but it does start to stall a little, only to then eventually pick up for the final half an hour.

Other than that, the writing is pretty strong -- I got a good sense of all of the characters pretty quickly, despite the fact that it's a film very clearly marketed towards people who are already fans; and despite only being vaguely familiar with the cast or the world, I never felt like I couldn't keep up with what was going on. The writing is concise, interesting, occasionally even pretty touching, and it plays with the idea of friendship in an interesting way -- not a unique way, certainly, because 'guy loses his friends/crew/people and becomes obsessed with keeping facsimiles of them alive' is not a remotely new plot, but nevertheless an interesting one.

See? Thick lines, flat colours. I'm not crazy. You're crazy.

Covering other technical stuff quickly: The OST is fine but, in all honesty, nothing special. The opening and ending theme are, you know, fine but won't stick in my memory for longer than a few hours. 

The voice-acting is pretty great across the board -- Hiroaki Hirata is much in evidence, playing Sanji with exactly the same voice that he plays Tiger from Tiger and Bunny with (or -- possibly he plays Tiger with his Sanji voice), and Yuriko Yamaguchi also does a standout job as Robin. Mayumi Tanaka plays Luffy with the same voice she uses for every shounen protagonist -- god knows she has enough practice with it by now -- but I don't think anybody could claim it doesn't fit the character, or that she doesn't manage to imbue it with a fairly impressive range of emotions.

I quite enjoyed this film -- enough so that it almost made me want to look up One Piece and watch it. Almost. If I ever find myself with the free time and energy necessary to watch however many hundreds of episodes are in this series, maybe I'll consider it, but I probably won't.

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