Filler, thy name is disc one of One Piece season two. So begins a few paragraphs of grand disparagement then, right? Maybe if we were talking about a lesser series, but One Piece even manages to make the additives taste fairly fresh, and the filler presented in episodes 54-60 doesn’t veer far enough off the path of the main journey to distract for long.
It still seems just a little odd for the characters to take a detour right before entering the Grand Line—a goal they’ve all been sweating and bleeding for since the very beginning— but Luffy can’t resist helping poor young Apis, a mysterious girl found fleeing from the Marines. As it turns out, they’re not so much after her as they are the rich hide of her thousand-year dragon friend. Luffy and his crew assist her in escorting the dragon back to its lost island home, taking them well out of their way in the name of a good cause.
One of the reasons this doesn’t come off as completely inappropriate nonsense is simply because it’s a well-developed mini-arc that fits naturally within the established universe of One Piece. Someone who hasn’t read the manga or wasn’t told that this was filler in advance would be hard pressed to call it out as such. As much as I love good ol’ faithful storytelling, when these little side-quests are done well, they serve as a welcome break from what is otherwise a meticulous recreation of the source material through which many of us have already traveled.
Once that’s out of the way, we finally get a taste of the Grand Line, and it isn’t long before we learn why its notoriety is universal. Compasses don’t even work in these waters, making a substitution known as a Log Pose one of the most crucial necessities. Rather than orienting the crew as to whether they’re traveling north, south, east or west, the Log Pose works by recording the magnetic wave of an island, and uses that information to point toward the next. The catch, however, is that while it could take mere minutes to record the information of one location, each island varies, so it could take days or much more on another.
What this really provides, aside from adding another interesting item to the series’ lore, is a convenient plot device to keep the crew on an island no matter the inherent danger. Take their first official stop along the Grand Line (after a brief stay inside the belly of a mammoth whale, that is): a town famed for welcoming pirates with open arms. Contrary to the way they’re typically greeted, the people of Whiskey Peak claim to love seafaring dogs, and treat them like kings. Things aren’t as they seem, however, and the rest of this collection gets right back into action while setting up some major things to come.
The only real complaint with this set is the teasing duration. While it’s a little silly to moan about getting “only” fourteen episodes, One Piece is an incredibly long series, and the episodes really fly by on top of that. (I think I went through this set in one or two sittings, tops.) I can’t even imagine what my shelf is going to look like when it’s even further along, but the size of these volumes isn’t ultimately going to deter me from continuing the journey; a series like this doesn’t exactly come around that often.
© 1999 Toei Animation Co., Ltd., Japan.