This is the kind of thing a sexually frustrated cabin boy might dream up after six months shipwrecked on an all-seawater and manga diet: a power-crazed Japanese piratical fantasy that lands with all the subtlety of a 100-minute guitar solo. The world’s buccaneers all turn up to Delta Island for Pirate Fest and a chance to hunt for renowned outlaw Gol D Roger’s booty. But they’ve been hoodwinked: festival MC Buena Festa has teamed up with the grudgeful Douglas Bullet, a peanut-headed, musclebound brute with Michael Bolton hair, to lure them all into a trap to usher in a new pirate era.
What starts off like cosplay Wacky Races soon snowballs into non-stop battle royale. The various pirate crews are a stupendously imaginative carnival, careering into the melee proclaiming their chosen power-move in gairaigo (ie, loanwords). These names have surreal brilliance: Gum-Gum Kong Gun, Zeus Breeze Tempest, Blade of Beauty … St Exupéry (WTF?). Dialogue is decipherable only by One Piece connoisseurs (not as much of a problem as might appear – this is the 14th film based on what is apparently the all-time bestselling manga series). Characterisation is as profound as a skeleton privateer laughing at his own farts.
Every time you think director Takashi Otsuka has hit a ceiling for either ridiculousness or destructiveness, he effortlessly busts through both. “Go be the strongest somewhere else,” yells the masochistic hero Monkey D Luffy (voiced by Mayumi Takana and Colleen Clinkenbeard) after yet another beating by Bullet. The character animation is rough-hewn and spirited, all the better to capture One Piece’s scurvy rabble, and contrasts well with the digitally invoked mayhem, like Bullet’s purple crystal tsunamis. All the destruction does get a bit wearing, but it seems churlish to complain: this makes Pirates of the Caribbean look like Swallows and Amazons.
• One Piece: Stampede is released in the UK on 2 February.
Source: The Guardian