One Piece Eras and Lore
This film takes place in the post time skip era of One Piece. That means a lot of things happened in One Piece. The crew separated a little bit, got a lot stronger, had a larger connection with each other, and everything like that. The current Straw Hat crew is Luffy, Zoro, Robin, Nami, Sanji, Franky, Brook, Ussop, and Chopper right now. So that is a fun time and I really do like this cast. This also means that the world itself has grown since the time skip too. Everything has changed.
The fantasy adventure has changed a lot in the world of One Piece since the time skip and you can feel. The navy has a higher presence than ever before. That means the admirals themselves play a heavy part in it too. Especially former Admiral Aokiji after his fight with Akainu after fighting in what was called Punk Hazard. The world of One Piece can be felt throughout the film. I like that though, even if it felt somewhat busy at times. In general, I thought that was cool. I find Zephyr (or Z) himself pretty boring, but everything around the film was very good.
Starting with the former navy admiral’s attack on the navy’s facility on Fir’s Island, there is some real impact going on here. Zephyr is that admiral and he is leading the new navy. The Neo Navy. One that is supposed to crack down harder on pirates than ever before. Zephyr, with his henchmen Ain and Binz, do encounter admiral Kizaru and escape with dyna stones but are scattered throughout the ocean. Zephyr’s henchmen have the dyna stones, Super weapons that the navy was keeping under lock and key, while Zephyr himself finds himself on the Thousand Sunny.
So yeah, that is the general idea of the film. Zephyr learns that Luffy and his crew are pirates and defeats them before escaping. Zephyr is then picked up by his henchman and he gets away. Also, Robin, Brooks, and Nami are age reversed by Ain by 12 years which means Robin is 18, Nami is a pipsqueak, and Brook is brook. There is an all out war against the Straw Hats and Zephyr in the name of piracy to return the three of them back to normal. Also, Luffy wants to fight Zephyr for revenge. Somehow, the world is saved at the end of the film. No help from the navy at all like usual.
Similarities and Differences
If I had to mention any sorts of similarities between Z and Strong World, it’s the structure. The very classic structure of Luffy and the Straw Hats getting their asses handed to them in the first half, then working hard to barely defeat the bad guy at the end of the film. That is a very shallow similarity though. In terms of scope, the world, the characters, the tone, and everything else, Strong World and Z couldn’t be any more different than each other. Especially since Strong World and Z represent their eras they came out in One Piece in a single film.
Film Z is after the time skip and it feels like a bit less of an adventure now. Adventures still happen in One Piece, but its more political drama. The tone of Z is different because of how heavy the world of One Piece has become. It also means that there is much more for the film to dig into in order to make it feel like it belongs in the middle of the series. Admirals show up more including Garp because he knew Zephyr. Same with Aokiji showing up to help when he can because we know where he was after Punk Hazard. His appearance makes a lot of sense here. So many little elements that add up to the experience of the film.
Interrogating the Navy and Pirates relationship
The one thing I liked about One Piece films is how they like investigating or thinking about one aspect about One Piece’s world. In this case, it’s the relationship between pirates and the navy. Now, we already know about that relationship right? The pirates are for freedom while the navy in One Piece is a huge totalitarian group that wants the entire ocean underneath their thumb. So how do you push this relationship further? What about a super navy that neither side are friends with? Or a side that tries to carry the values of one while living the life of the other?
That’s what the Neo Navy is. It’s the navy that cracks down on pirates, but does it in a pirate kind of way outside of Navy control. For a film, the concept kind of works sort of? The problem is that Zephyr and the Neo Navy just do what the navy does. Same with them being involved in a shonen jump film on a limited time span that doesn’t get to actually get as fleshed out as they could be. But the effort was there and I value it for that.
If I Can Turn Back Time
The one thing that I like about the villain’s powers are that they are connected to the past or holding people into place. Zephyr himself doesn’t have a devil’s fruit power, but he has a mechanical arm made out of Seastone designed to stop Devil’s fruit users in their tracks. Ain is a woman who has the capability of de-aging people by 12 years. Binz looks like a clown that can hold people into place with his plant abilities. Abilities that are very creative and very thematically resonant throughout the whole film.
I’m just glad that the film itself wasn’t as creepy with the turn back powers or vine whips as they could be. Nami is a little kid that is still as intelligent as she was. Robin is now 18 and has been made fun of a bit since she was 30 beforehand. The film kind of does make fun of her for it once, though you can never tell she was put into the prime of her youth at all. It feels like the two villains did create a viable threat to the Straw Hats and had to be handled creatively, but once again not a concept that was fully realized as it could be. That’s fine, the film does a lot of cool things with its concepts and world when it has the time to do so.
Limits of a Shonen Jump Film
In terms of action, Z has all sorts of it. Some very cool environments, creative action scenes, and cool effects. They are definitely interesting character designs on the villain front with Zephyr, Ain, and Binz that the straw hats have to face. It does a wonderful job of not just being a shonen jump film, but also inserting itself into the One Piece weird in amazing ways. Yeah, on that front on all levels, Z is exceptional at doing a lot of what it set out to do there too. It is a full world traveled series with wonderful characters and interesting locations which makes the film feel so huge and involved with what it was trying to say.
But a lot of its thematic points don’t hit as hard as they could. I think Z tried too hard in these instances in trying to say something, but it ended up being not as interesting as it could be. I feel like Z’s story would be better told in a cour or so in the anime itself. This would easily fit into the world of One Piece and have something to say. Instead, we get a slightly more unique story and setting to have the shonen jump film happen over. That makes it more special. It wasn’t a by the numbers sort of shonen jump film, it was trying to do something ambitious and for that, it gets some extra points from me. Still a good film after all this time.