The release of "One Piece The Movie 8 - The Desert Princess and the Pirates: Adventures in Alabasta" (let's see how much paragraph space I can waste just by typing that) is a significant release for fans of the hit Japanese TV show "One Piece," which is one of the biggest hits in Japan since "Dragon Ball Z." Here in America though it's the most popular series since "Shaman King," another series that is also less popular then it deserves to be. All things considered, "One Piece" should be more popular then it is. Ever since Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies were released, pirates have been the thing. So a series about pirates, even one that feels more Tex Avery then Johnny Depp, should have been a sure thing.
Though I don't want to get into the whole history of the show, it was basically bought by a company called 4Kids Entertainment (makers of "The Cabbage Patch Kids") and run through the editing machine so thoroughly, that it showed up on kids TV in a form that made it almost unrecognizable to it's fans. One of my friends calls "One Piece" his favorite show of all time, and this includes epic masterpieces like "Star Trek" and "Seinfield," and his reaction to the editing of the show was "I now know what a woman must feel like when she gets raped." Yeah, that comment may be extreme, but so were the changes to the show. Recently the rights of "One Piece" were given to a company called Funimation Productions, the most known (ironically enough) for making "Dragon Ball Z" popular in America.
Though the company had eight movies to pick from, they decided to start with "One Piece The Movie 8 - The Desert Princess and the Pirates: Adventures in Alabasta" over the first movie. I think the reasoning for this was more political then it was just because it was the latest movie to be made. People are watching Funimation, expecting their first release of "One Piece" to be nothing short of perfection. This movie is actually an odd duck of the movies. It's simply a retelling of one of the best arcs in the TV show, with better animation and music. Though intentions are good, this makes it feel pretty out of place. It's useless to newcomers who won't get whats going on, and fans of the show may appreciate the better animation, but will want to stick with the TV episodes for being more fleshed out.
For America though, this may be the release Funimation needed to show the fans what it was going to do differently. As chance would have it, the arc that this movie retells was one of the last arcs to air on 4Kids TV. It was also the worst edited, changing what was one of the emotional climaxes of the show into slush that would embarrass the writers of Barney. The final fight was especially noted for turning one of the shows most intense battles into nothing more then mindless chatter. "One Piece The Movie 8 - The Desert Princess and the Pirates: Adventures in Alabasta" takes what was already an intense story of the show and pumps up the intensity and the violence well above what could even be shown on Japanese TV.
In this sense, it releasing this movie would not only show how different Funimation's translation of "One Piece" is going to be, but it would also give people who may have only seen the edited TV showing something to compare it to. To prove this point even more, Funimation submitted the movie to the MPAA, where the movie received a PG-13 for "violence and some sexual content." And violent it is. People who have only seen "One Piece" on TV will notice a difference in the action right away. How much more intense it is. How much blood is spilt. How the characters not only get cut up, but how the comic relief character even gets his skull smashed in with a metal bat. The widescreen adds a bonus to the movie in that the fights are now given more depth and visuals, and it makes the action a highlight of the film.
That said, this is easily the worst "One Piece" film of the bunch. While most of the other "One Piece" movies are stand alone stories, taking one of the most loved story arcs of the TV show and dwindling it down to ninety minutes is a tragedy. The story and characters aren't developed enough to get emotionally connected to, and we are only truly entertained near the very end of the film, where Luffy has his epic fight with antagonist Crocodile. On top of the shallow condensing, the movie has this annoying habit of stopping the movie with oil painted frames of the same scene. Which...admittingly, looks cool, but comes off as utterly pointless none-the-less. Though I can't really recommend "One Piece The Movie 8 - The Desert Princess and the Pirates: Adventures in Alabasta," I don't think it ultimately matters.
And not because I feel people will say "Screw you, I'm going to buy this anyway," but because for all my complaints about the movie itself, it does what it sets out to do. That is, it gives us a glimpse at what the show will be like under the arms of a different company, cast, and director. And while the dub for this movie is by no means perfect, it's a BIG step up from what we've seen on TV! I feel "One Piece" fans will watch this with much joy, because they will be watching the show as it was supposed to be seen all this time. For some who've been watching it on TV, this will be a revelation to how much better the show should have been, and now looks to be. Once we get the new episodes and movies, I think the importance of this one will slowly disappear, but for now it does what it sets out to do.