One Piece: Stampede Review: A worthy 20th Anniversary film that will satisfy any fan of the Straw Hats
With 2019 marking the 20th Anniversary of anime’s favorite band of pirates, Toei Animation has brought the always delightful Monkey D. Luffy and the rest of the Straw Hats back to the big screen for an absolutely fantastical adventure that’s an instant fan pleaser.
Now, to be completely transparent, there’s a lot of One Piece that I’m not super familiar with and haven’t seen. That’s not to say that I’m not familiar with a good chunk of the Straw Hats and other pirates in the One Piece world, but I’m definitely no expert and that felt a little apparent watching the 20th Anniversary film – One Piece: Stampede. Stampede definitely heavily favors fans of the series and has a good amount of moments that won’t resonate with more casual fans or those experience One Piece for the first time. It definitely doesn’t try to give any kind origins or too much lead up for its new characters, like in Dragon Ball Super: Broly, so there’re definitely some moments and characters that won’t leave the same impact on newcomers.
However, Stampede being mostly for die-hard fans is what makes it so great. Honestly, when you’re making a 20th Anniversary film, there’s no real need to pander to fans that don’t know you and instead the film should give fans a big screen experience that they’ll never forget. Stampede does this in spades and even for someone who doesn’t know everything about One Piece, I quickly found myself swept into the film’s good-hearted humor and invested in the Straw Hat’s fight against a formidable new enemy.
When the crew hears news about Pirate Fest, a large gathering organized by the mysterious Buena Festa (voiced by Mick Wingert), they head straight to Delta Island. Upon arriving, Buena Festa summons an island that supposedly holds the treasure of the Pirate King, Gol D. Roger (voiced by Sean Hennigan). With the Straw Hats having plenty of strong-armed competition, they enter into one of the toughest fights they’ll have to get just a little big closer to Laugh Tale, the home of the unimaginable treasure known as One Piece – especially when a former member of Roger’s crew, the tough as nails Douglass Bullet (voiced by Daman Mills), comes back to take on Roger’s legacy as the Pirate King.
The second the Thousand Sunny comes into frame, you immediately get a smile on your face as it feels as if you are reuniting with friends. Zoro (voiced by Christopher R. Sabat) is looking as badass as ever, Usopp (voiced by Sonny Strait) and Brook (Ian Sinclair) are perfectly funny and zany, and Luffy’s (voiced by Colleen Clinkenbeard) sense of adventure is the pure driving force of the entire crew. Frankly, what’s made One Piece such a special anime is the Straw Hat’s infectiously fun personalities and the chemistry they all share. Even outside of the Straw Hat crew, the film does a great job showcasing the other crews that sail the high seas. Every scene with Buggy the Clown (voiced by Mike McFarland) made me laugh, the way Boa Hancock (voiced by Lydia Mackay) becomes madly in love with Luffy the second she seems him was hilarious, and I actually didn’t know anything about the Barto Club and now I just want to see more about them. There’s also a great scene where the other pirate clans are introduced in hilarious fashion and it’s a great way to introduce newcomers to the world of pirates outside of the Straw Hats and reunite fans with some of their favorites.
The story, as a whole, is great with a lot of opportunities taken to surprise fans with some returning characters and the film does a great job handling its incredible amount of characters. There’s definitely a lot going on throughout the film with everyone on different parts of the island doing different things, but between all of the epic fighting and new characters that randomly pop up, Stampede never completely unravels to the point where you don’t know what’s going on. In terms of Bullet and his desire to defeat all of the other pirates to become the strongest, it leads to some of the coolest fight scenes you’ll see this year. With every pirate taking on Bullet, nothing is off the table and Bullet is actually quite a daunting foe. Personally, I like how simple and brutish his plan is as it fits with his more aggressive personality and revenge-heavy mind. It’s the kind of story where you’re always rooting Luffy to take Bullet down and there’s a surprisingly strong story arc for Usopp and Luffy. Overall, Stampede is full of emotion and has the fighting spirit that will surely invest anyone into what’s happening onscreen.
The animation is also stunning and evokes the anime’s original look with some modernized tweaks. The character designs and color palette evoke some great summer vibes, which I enjoyed a lot considering the gloomy fall season that we’re in, and there’s a uniqueness to each character that just isn’t seen in animation like it is here. I will say that there are times where it seems like they used more 3-D computer animation in more group action sequences that looked very distracting. The fight scenes are still animated beautifully, though, with a creative mindset that will constantly wow audiences and have them roaring with excitement.
As the credits rolled, I heard to my left a fan, fitted with his own shirt with Luffy on it, say “that was everything I could’ve wanted,” and that perfectly encompasses how great Stampede is. I’ll never forget the gasps and atmosphere of excitement filled up the theater throughout the film and even if you’ve never seen the Straw Hats in action, they’ll quickly have your heart with their unrelenting sense of adventure.