I’m not going to do the movies in order. Mostly because this one and Z were on Netflix and none of the others were. So… sorry if that bothers you.
When it comes to canon, the One Piece movies are strange. The events of the films themselves are not canon to the manga. But some aspects of them, such as the characters, are canon. Trying to fit them into the timeline is a confusing struggle.
Which is why I’m not going to bother with it and just enjoy watching a movie about my favorite pirate crew.
A legendary pirate from the days of Gold Roger, Shiki the Golden Lion, has made a dramatic return. His plan: to destroy the East Blue and claim his revenge against the former Pirate King. Before he can enact this plan, he has a chance encounter with the Straw Hats, during which Nami’s navigation skills catch his eyes, so he kidnaps her and scatters the Straw Hats across his Strong World, a series of flying islands that he rules as a tyrant. Now it’s up to Luffy and the crew to get Nami back and save their home sea!
So… it’s Arlong Park again. Only this time, the Grand Line Straw Hats are all here. This is fine.
As a villain, Shiki is… alright. His stiff and awkward attempts at being goofy are charming and his motivations at least make sense. Plus, his powers are pretty cool. But he isn’t particularly memorable or intimidating, despite the film’s best efforts to make him seem dangerous. Even when he’s completely wiping the floor with Luffy, he just never felt like much of a threat. Again, he’s not bad; he works just fine as the antagonist. He simply doesn’t meet the same standard as other One Piece baddies.
Strong World as a setting is pretty cool. The concept of forcing animals to hyper-evolve is awesome and makes for some really fun and exciting moments! From giant monsters to schools of man-eating fish, from deadly jungles to frozen wastelands, this one location is packed with all kinds of different flavors! And we get to spend enough time with the locals (Yay! More Sky people!) to become invested in their plight.
You know. In case you weren’t already invested enough in the Straw Hats saving one of their own. Yes, it is just Arlong Park again. But Luffy and the gang didn’t bust into Arlong’s house in suits with guns and shoot the place up like mobsters in Arlong Park. In this regard, Strong World is better.
On that subject: I love that Nami is basically the main character of this movie. Sure, the arc she’s presented with is just a repeat of her most iconic scenes from early in the manga. But it’s nice to see her step into the spotlight and actually take command of the narrative. Her scenes are easily the best parts of the movie.
Well, second best. Nothing can top Billy the electric duck.
In terms of presentation, Strong World is pretty strong. All of the character designs are fantastic, giving us some of my favorite Straw Hat outfits to date. The environments are all gorgeous and the creature designs are on-point. And of course, all of this is animated extremely well, giving us some of the most energetic and visually pleasing One Piece animation to date.
The music is really strong, too. A lot of the anime’s best tracks come from this movie. ‘Hangeki no Noroshi’ is my favorite track; of all the hype-building tunes in One Piece, this one stands near the top, right next to ‘Overtaken’ and ‘The Very Very Very Strongest’.
Overall, Strong World is a fun movie. It isn’t ground-breaking, nor is it a must-watch for any One Piece fan. But it’s a solid, enjoyable time with some stand-out moments and fantastic visuals. If you want something fun to watch on a Friday night, check this one out.
If nothing else, you get to see Luffy going wild with a gun. Which is a delight I never knew I needed until I got it.