I had a lot of problems with the pacing of the previous One Piece arc “Thriller Bark”.. Apparently Toei decided that in an effort to keep ratings from dropping during filler arcs (which are necessary to keep the anime from catching up to the manga), they would instead use padding so that one episode of the anime would roughly equate to one chapter of the manga. I’m not a fan of this decision as it results in fans getting an inferior product, but there’s a reason it’s called the entertainment business.
Luckily, a friend told me about a project called One Pace, which removes the padding so that the pacing of the anime more closely matches that of the manga. In the original anime, the “Sabaody Archipelago Arc” is 21 episodes adapted from 24 manga chapters, whereas the One Pace version is only 11 episodes. I haven’t watched the original anime version so I can’t compare the two, but for the most part, the One Pace version flowed very smoothly, and I certainly enjoyed it a lot more than I did the drawn out Toei version of “Thiller Bark”, so I’ll probably be sticking with it from now on.
As for the “Sabaody Archipelago Arc” itself, I found it incredibly enjoyable. Keimi is a great addition to the cast, and Hatchan was one of my favorite parts of the “Arlong Park Arc”, so it’s great to see him return. The twist in the opening fight with Duval is hilarious and the Sabaody Archipelago itself once again shows Oda’s talent for crafting inventive, magical worlds with packed full of detail to make them feel real.
The arc introduces a ton of new characters in a relatively short period of time, but even with the One Pace edits, it doesn’t feel rushed. Luffy’s rival rookie pirates have a ton of cool powers and I can’t wait to see more from them in the future, and Admiral Kizaru strikes a great balance between being likable and menacing. There’s also a lot of world-building with us learning more about the nature of the World Government as well as the truth behind Gold Roger’s death. With so much set-up and exposition, it would be easy for this arc to just be a boring infodump, but it’s entertaining from start to finish.
The final battle with Kizaru, the Pacifistas and Kumo is gripping as hell. One Piece is full of instances of the Straw Hats facing insurmountable odds and somehow winning the day, and seeing them be so soundly and quickly wiped out really raises the stakes. (The cut to bubbles popping as Kuma does away with each of the Straw Hats is a really nice touch.) I can’t wait to see where the story goes from here.
Final Rating: 4 out of 5