Review: "One Piece Season Four Voyage Four" - Plot Drowned by Backstory
At the start of One Piece Season Four Voyage Four, Cipher Pol 9, a secret taskforce that executes the World Government’s dirty work, has framed the Straw Hat Pirates for the attempted murder of Water Seven’s mayor, Iceberg. What’s worse, Straw Hat archeologist Nico Robin appears to have joined them. Down two crew members with no sea-worthy vessel and an entire city of tough-as-nails dockworkers on their trail, the Straw Hats must prove their good name and finally learn Robin’s mysterious past.
While character underlies most of the story for Voyage Four, the clear focus is the plot. This set indulges in mostly uninteresting back-story exposition for the bulk of its twelve episodes, at the expense of the story. The history of the sea trains is explored, as is how Water Seven grew from a town near collapse to a bustling metropolis. Characters unrelated to the main cast (namely ruffian shipwright Franky and the town mayor, Iceberg) receive the lion’s share of character development. World building is a major part of One Piece’s modus operandi, but the sudden shift from the Robin and Cipher Pol 9 storyline to a multi-episode flashback for minor characters is an unsightly lack of foresight.
The main story advances at a trickle throughout Voyage Four. After 250 episodes, the fun and games are over thanks to the fresh aura of antagonists CP9. Previous major antagonists like Crocodile or Eneru have been leaders of their own small armies, with emphasis on “small.” CP9 leader Rob Lucci has the might of “the World” behind his words. This renewed sense of reverence for the government’s name brings the story back to its primary themes: law, order, and liberty and how the three balance in contrast.
As with arc antagonist forces before, CP9 has a clear head that comes into conflict with Luffy. In contrast, Rob Lucci is perhaps the most no-nonsense villain One Piece has seen. Dedicated to his idea of justice, Lucci doesn’t have much in the way of pride. Dedicated to his duty as he may be, Lucci is no fool, nor is he a machine. Lucci is the perfect agent: smart, loyal, dedicated, and able to lead. The purity of confidence exuded by veteran voice actor Seki Tomokazu cements these attributes very well, adding perhaps a hint of cruelness on occasion, despite the character’s overall professional and detached conduct.
Unfortunately, Toei Animation does not provide much in the way of interesting animation for episodes #242-252. Few, if any, real battles take place and the character animation executed is characteristic of an attempt to pinch drawings.
The extra content of the discs contain the usual FUNimation faire of English subtitles to go along with the episodes, English dub audio tracks, a dub cast commentary, interviews with two FUNimation actors, text-less opening and ending animations, and trailers for their other properties. Each episode is edited to include English language text in place of the original credits and title cards as well as a replaced series logo. The credits translation is only partially done, with animators and other crew positions omitted to make room for FUNimation’s own dub production staff.
Voyage Four covers a lot of ground, perhaps playing against good taste. Casting a wide net, One Piece tests viewer patience with its dual story format. Building a mythology is good, but not at the cost of one’s primary cast.