The clue left by Gol D. Roger is solved in the film’s first act, not by a competing pirate but by circumstance, as an island – encased in a floating bubble – bursts from a lagoon and floats high in the sky. And so, the “lofty” part of “deep lofty darkness” reveals itself. From here, the story can really begin. And so it does; but this lackluster revelation foreshadows that the film’s plot is not a particularly groundbreaking one.
One Piece: Stampede Gallery
The fact that this is a story that’s both outside the canon and one that celebrates the legacy of One Piece is leaned into enormously throughout the film, and that’s what makes it such an intensely fun romp from beginning to end. What has kept One Piece so endearing to its audience is that it’s a ‘90s shōnen anime that has remained so faithfully ‘90s. Power levels that rise with the stakes; campy characters and wild world-building that embraces nonsense; decades-old sound effects as iconic as the Wilhelm scream; tasteful usage of CGI and sakuga – all of these elements help One Piece keep the blessed flame of ‘90s shōnen alive.
One Piece: Stampede introduces two main villains: Bullet, former member of Gol D. Roger’s crew (whose name is pronounced like mullet in the dub because, well, he has an enormous mullet), and the mystery mastermind behind the film’s events – no spoilers for their identity here but it isn’t hard to guess. This character proves to be a disappointing villain, but Bullet takes center stage as such an absurd embodiment of ‘90s shōnen strength-obsessed, power-raising muscle and rage that this can only be read as tongue-in-cheek. Bullet is strength personified. He’s a living challenge for Luffy and the other pirate captains to overcome.
Watch the English dub trailer for One Piece: Stampede below:
The success of this film — which sees One Piece creator Eiichiro Oda as its writer and creative supervisor — is in its pacing. The way that the action of this 100-minute movie escalates is masterful. From the celebratory opening scenes, and the reunion with old friends, to the shift up to the island and the insane brawls that follow – both one-on-one and team-up fights – there’s a constantly rising level of intensity and exhilaration. Not a single moment feels bloated or wasted, but neither is it rushed. Everything we need to know is spelled out clearly and with real emotional weight, even as the rising action and tension takes center stage.
The film also boasts a super-strong voice cast in both the sub and dub. If you choose to watch this subbed, then you know what to expect: the Japanese cast perfectly matches the campy mood and exaggerated thrills. And the English dub holds up fantastically, too, with Matthew Mercer (Attack on Titan’s Levi and Resident Evil 4’s Leon Kennedy) and Colleen Clinkenbeard (who has voiced Luffy flawlessly since ’07) really shining here. Clinkenbeard is a powerhouse of a voice actress, and she really proves it in this film.