Wednesday, August 12, 2020

REVIEW: One Piece Movie: The Desert Princess and the Pirates: Adventures in Alabasta (anime movie)

One Piece Movie: The Desert Princess and the Pirates: Adventures in Alabasta is a fantasy action movie, part of the wider One Piece franchise. I bought my copy new, albeit from a bargain bin.

This review includes spoilers.


When the Straw Hat Pirates rescue a cross-dresser named Mr. 2 Bon Clay, most of them are surprised and amazed by his ability to take on the appearance of anyone he touches with his left hand. However, Vivi is shocked and horrified, because she recognized him and one of the appearances he used in his demonstrations - he works with a villain named Crocodile, and the appearance he took on was that of Vivi's father, Cobra, the king of Alabasta.

Vivi and the Straw Hat Pirates travel to Alabasta and learn that Crocodile is setting the stage for the kingdom to destroy itself. He's using a special powder to mess with the area's weather and make it look like Cobra is stealing neighboring areas' rain, and he's using Cobra's face (with Mr. 2 Bon Clay's help) to fuel a rebellion against the king. Meanwhile, the real Cobra thinks a group of his own people (the rebels) are attacking for no reason. Vivi wants to clear everything up, but the situation is so messy and tense that no one's willing to listen. Plus, Crocodile has other plans up his sleeve.

I'll start by saying that I'm not a fan of One Piece. I've seen a few episodes here and there and I've read some of the manga, but I find the character designs and animation so off-putting that I've never been able to get into it. So why did I get this movie? The only answer I've got is: the lure of the clearance bin.

There are generally two types of movies, when it comes to long running shounen series: filler movies, which are specifically designed not to have any effect on the main series, and recap movies. I went into this thinking that it was a filler movie, but its ending and overall weird pacing made me doubt that, so I looked it up and it turns out it's actually a recap movie of events from Season 9 of the series. I have absolutely no clue what the original episodes were like, but I assume the battles, at least, were better in the series than they were in this movie.

Since this was a recap movie, it wasn't bound by the usual filler rules, and certain things could happen that would never have been able to happen in a filler movie. It was kind of nice to see characters getting to make decisions that would definitely have to be incorporated in the series storyline (because they were originally part of the series storyline, but whatever).

That said, there was a lot crammed into this movie, and not much time to lay the groundwork for most of it. For example, one character's fate was handled as well as could be expected but would probably have been more emotional if he'd had more than a couple minutes worth of screentime. And certain parts probably would have made more sense if there had been time for more than a quick "blink and you missed it" explanatory flashback. I'm still not sure how Luffy made it through the whole mummification and quicksand attack - it looked like all Nico Robin did was give him his hat before he was buried.

The various smaller fight scenes in Alabasta were hastily done and probably much more exciting (and a good deal longer) in the TV series. As far as the characters went, the most disappointing of the bunch was Nami, who mostly existed in this movie as a pair of boobs to be ogled (by Sanji, a camel, and a giant crab).

The story reminded me a lot of Fullmetal Alchemist - specifically the Father Cornello storyline, as well as Envy's efforts to get the Ishbalan people exterminated. Which made me wish I were rewatching one of the Fullmetal Alchemist shows instead - the character designs, animation, jokes, and emotional beats just work better for me. So yeah, I wasn't at all the intended audience for this movie.

This might have worked better for a fan of the series, but I imagine a fan of the series would prefer to rewatch the corresponding episodes. I can at least say it had more of an emotional impact than the average filler movie, but its status as a recap movie was clear in its pacing and the way the battles were handled.

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