As most of you would know, One Piece is a very popular manga and anime series. The main character is Monkey D. Luffy, the leader of a group of pirates known as the Straw Hats. Luffy’s dream is to find One Piece, the world’s greatest treasure, and become a pirate king. There have been a number of movies based on the manga/anime, Adventures in Alabasta being one of them. As the title suggests, it tells the story of the Straw Hats’ adventure in Alabasta, and is actually a retelling of the related episodes from the anime series.
When the movie begins, Vivi is shown as one of the Straw Hats. It is revealed soon after that Vivi is a princess of the desert island Alasbasta. So when Alasbasta comes under the threat of a civil war, Luffy and the other Straw Hats pirates are determined to help Vivi stop the war. It turns out that the imminent war is deliberately set up by the evil pirate Crocodile, who hopes to benefit from the conflict. In order for the Straw Hats to save Alasbasta, they must first defeat the evil pirate. But Crocodile is not an easy enemy to take on, as Luffy very soon finds out…
The technical aspects of the movie are great, and it scores big points in the visual department. The backgrounds are beautifully drawn. In particular, the scenes set in the desert look stunning and are simply outstanding. The audience can really feel the sandy environment, as well as the fluid movement of the sand, in some of the fight scenes.
This leads us onto the action, which is the strongest thing about the film. Some of the fighting scenes are hilarious, others are cool, and a couple are spectacular. Highlights are the various encounters and battles between Luffy and Crocodile, which are both exciting and entertaining. It is a joyful experience to see Luffy unleash his attacks of Gum Gum Pistol, Bazooka and Gatling one after another, in his fight against an enemy who appears invincible.
Unfortunately, the film is let down by its story-telling in a major way. While the main story line is easy enough to follow, many of the fine details are terribly confusing. A large part of the problem may be that the filmmakers assume too much prior knowledge of the manga/anime. No attempts are made to recap the main events relevant to the story. For example, how did Vivi come to join the Straw Hats? What adventures did they go through together that led to such strong friendships? What’s life like for the people in Alasbasta? A lack of these details certainly detracts from the viewing experience, and as a result, the audience may not care about any of the characters or even the fate of Alabasta.
Another major drawback of the movie is that the story is terribly predictable. You kind of know what the outcome is going to be right from the beginning. This should not be a big issue for the younger viewers, but more mature audiences may find the story, at least the way it is presented in the movie, uninteresting.
If you are a fan of the anime series, you will probably enjoy One Piece the Movie: Adventures in Alabasta quite a bit. On the other hand, if you are not that familiar with or fond of Monkey D. and his friends to start with, you are better off staying away from the film. As for me, I think there is some fun to be had, but it only comes in infrequent bursts, and the enjoyment is too short-lived for me to simply overlook the weaknesses of this film.