Everybody has a dream. That specials something that they strive for with all of their heart. The self proclaimed goal of their life. But what happens when dreams clash? People are not alone in the world and as a result desires overlap, contradict in the most unwanted ways and threaten to cease. So what do you do when faced with such an antithesis? Do you spare yourself the pain and give in? Or do you throw all of your faith into your own strength, and fight to the bitter end?
For as long as One Piece has existed, Marines and Pirates have opposed each other. The ultimate battle between unbridled freedom and respectful adherence to the law. But what of those that fall between these sides? How do those who do not believe wholeheartedly in either side act? Well, in Z’s case it’s violently…very, very violently. Driven to extremism through a series of traumatic events, Z stands as the self appointed head of the Neo Marines, a group with one simple goal: the eradication of all pirates. All of them. Utilising the secrets divulged to him during his Naval tenure, Z procures some incomparably powerful explosive devices, all of which shall be utilised to destroy the New World. Thus it is not only pirates who will be annihilated by Z’s plan, but everyone who calls the New World home…and that’s a lot of people.
After a less than fortuitous meeting, the Straw Hat Pirates come across a battle weary Z and decide to tend to his injuries, mainly because of Chopper’s insistence. Of course, the fact that he had an epic robot arm didn’t hurt his image in the eyes of Luffy, Usopp or Brook. Once awake, Z is presented as a very grateful patient and sincerely thanks his saviours for all they have done…then he finds out that they’re pirates. *Cue character establishing beatdown* In a matter of moments, Z and his two top lieutenants take down the entire Straw Hat crew and do major damage to the Thousand Sunny, something very few have even come close to in the past. And so begins the Straw Hat’s conflict with the Neo Marines. Not one born of a sense of duty to stop this bringer of the apocalypse, but out of a selfish desire to defeat the ones who attacked them. But, as we have heard from Luffy himself, he is not a hero, nor does he want to be. Heroes give, Pirates take. That is the difference and inherent self awareness that sets the cast of One Piece apart in the world of so many anime.
Despite the grand nature of the plot, Film Z is an intensely personal story. With what is revealed about Z’s past throughout the story, we come to learn why he has chosen such a destructive path. Moreover, we see just how these action affect those who knew Z before he turned his back on the Marines. Though it is admittedly far from the core of the film, this fact alone warrants looking into this movie, as it provides a very rare glimpse into the emotional range of the Naval Admirals. Z’s former position also allows one to immediately quantify his power and connect him to the world of One Piece. It is for this reason that Z can be so readily accepted as an antagonist, as he doesn’t seem as separate from core series as most of the movie villains are.
This film looks amazing. As one might expect from the larger budget dedicated to it, animation was intricate, fluid and, perhaps most importantly of all, consistent. Not only in the sense that it did not dip in quality, but also that of continuous action, with very few cuts disrupting fight sequences. Apart from looking awesome, this really helped the film keep it pacing and a necessary sense of flow and bolster the impact of the dialogue. That being said, there is one brief moment that particularly stood out to me. Towards the end of the film, one shot depicts Luffy in a shaky cam style, as if viewed from far away. Combined with the determined, albeit slow, pace he had adopted during this battle, there is something awe inspiring about this scene. It’s as if, for the first time I can recall, we see Luffy as the world sees him. Not those who can rival him in power, not those who know of his good hearted nature, but those who’s only insight rises from rumour and propaganda. And so we see the reason so many are terrified of a boy in a straw hat.
Whilst it may not be the first thing most think of in regards to audio, but this film knew when to be quiet. During the climactic confrontation between Luffy and Z, there is a complete absence of any musical backing. It is through this that the sequence is able to stand on its own for what it is, as any ancillary sound would have been little more than a distraction. On the other end of the spectrum however, comes the credit songs, both of which are sung by Avril Lavigne. Before you judge the choice of singer and song however, I recommend listening first. Whilst Nickelback’s “This Is How You Remind Me” might not strike you as an anime theme song, it is not entirely out of place in Film Z, as the lyrics themselves are quite relevant given the information revealed throughout the film. “Bad Reputation”, the next song in the credits, also serves as a pretty accurate backtrack for the pirate lifestyle. The fact that said tune is overlayed by images of many pirate characters as children only helps this cement point.
One Piece Film: Z is an awesome film. Taking a marketably less humourous approach than most One Piece material, Z’s storyline stands out as one of the more intense experiences for the Straw Hat Pirates. Rather than saving the drama for the final battle, the film is littered with sombre moments that drive the story forward. In fact, Luffy and Z’s final clash stands out as one of the more subdued fights in the entire franchise, involving fewer elements typical of the shonen genre. That isn’t to say that the film doesn’t possess the series classic humour, just that it is by no means the focus. Film Z shows exactly how powerful One Piece can be and what message lies at its core: dreams. Possessing the strength of conviction to follow your dream until the end, even if the world stands against you. Yet also to not let your dream twist your purpose, lest you lose your way and find yourself the villain in your own life.
View the climactic clash over on Madman. Not because I said so, but because you want to. That’s the pirate way.