At the start of One Piece Season Four Voyage Five, Luffy, Zoro, Nami, and Chopper race after the Puffing Tom sea train that is carrying Robin to Enies Lobby and certain execution. Meanwhile, having stowed away aboard the Puffing Tom before its departure, Sanji frees Usopp and Franky and the trio make their way through cars filled with government agents, hoping to reach Robin and convince her to return to the crew. To no audience member’s surprise, Team Sanji fails and the Puffing Tom arrives at Enies Lobby with little incident.
For a story that is two hundred sixty episodes long so far, One Piece has done a pretty good job of keeping a story arc well paced when necessary. Season Four Voyage Five tosses that record out the window with a tedious string of episodes, each feeling like half an episode stretched over a full episode. The set’s first episode is entirely dedicated to finding the missing Luffy and Zoro, both whom were sent flying after their initial confrontation with Cipher Pol 9. The second episode concludes with those characters finally reunited with Nami and Chopper. The third and fourth episodes deal with the launching of the Rocketman and the Straw Hats allying with the Franky Family and Water Seven’s foremen. These first four episodes are a tedious train ride through two episodes’ worth of plot with nary a complimentary warm towel.
Alas, the towel-less-ness is not the pee in the pea soup. Sanji’s train heist attempt at rescuing Robin lasts a severe seven episodes. Fights with extraneous characters Wanze and Nero pilfer the set of advancement, offering nothing to the narrative that audiences are actually invested in: “what will become of Robin?” The Season Five hook lacks the satisfaction a pithy crescendo would have offered.
Due to Ootani Ikue’s maternity leave, Ikura Kazue takes over for as the voice of Chopper for episodes #254-263. It’s a surreal experience suddenly hearing a completely different performer and character coming from the Chopper model. The stark contrast between the more intense and energetic performance from Ootani and the softer-spoken Ikura both rattles and fascinates. A welcomed lack of importance for Chopper spares Voyage Five of any sense of loss. To Ikura’s credit, she fulfills the role as well as can be expected over such a sudden and brief stretch.
Two notable pieces of animation occur in this set of episodes. Veteran animator Tate Naoki provides several un-credited action cuts during episode #254, evolving his visual flair and breaking further from his teachings under his old Seigasha mentors. The sharper and more angular expressions Tate brings to Luffy in particular are a treat for the eye, providing a welcomed intensity to the character during a scene where the rubber man pushes apart two buildings he is stuck between. Prized animator Sushio contributes his first (and so far only) cuts to the One Piece television series in episode #256. Sushio’s key animation for the Rocketman launching from Water 7 down into the ocean sticks out amongst the usual flair, kindly giving the animation aficionado a reprieve from Animation Supervisor Ide Takeo’s dutiful allegiance to the series’ character models.
The extra content of the discs contain the usual FUNimation fare of English subtitles to go along with the episodes, a English dub, 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.
Despite being back on track, Voyage Five continues to compete for most turbulent cruise. If Season Five doesn’t light a fire under the coals it’ll be three strikes for One Piece.