One Piece: Stampede is the latest and 14th movie of the series. This standalone film is an all-out pirate battle, an epic milestone in the global search for Gol D. Roger’s treasure, and more characters (and surprise cameos) than you can possibly keep track of in one sitting. I’m happy to say it delivers on all counts and then some.
One Piece: Stampede brings anime’s favorite pirates, Marines, and revolutionaries back to the big screen in a unique story that blends action, humor, and heart. Under the creative supervision of original series creator Eiichiro Oda, the film reunites many of the series’ most beloved characters as Monkey D. Luffy and his Straw Hat pirate crew compete for treasure at the Pirate Festival. It’s an absolute blast tailor-made for fans of the acclaimed series.
When the Straw Hat crew receives an invitation to the Pirate Festival, we are deluged with exposition about Buena Festa, host of the event, and about the event itself. Some crew members dance and sing and wax lyrical about all the festivities they’ve heard so much about, while others ponder what kind of traps might be lying in wait. The exposition is awkward, but not anything out of the ordinary for a shōnen anime. It also serves as a great catch-up for those concerned they might be lost. This minor reintroduction to Luffy and his crew is a welcome one, and it invites us into their fun – they’re excited, and they want us to be excited, too.
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.
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.
One Piece: Stampede introduces two main villains: Bullet, former member of Gol D. Roger’s crew , and Buena Festa, the Master of Festivities. Festa 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.
One Piece: Stampede is a standalone story, meaning anything that happens here doesn’t necessarily have any impact on the greater arcs of One Piece. Somehow that doesn’t prevent the narrative from having quite the powerful punch, whether it’s from lead heroes like Luffy flinging himself into glorious battle against impossible odds or supporting characters like Usopp getting into the mix in his own special way. Many of your favorites from over the years–some of whom may surprise you–pop up, even if it’s just for a moment, while newcomers like the main antagonist Douglas Bullet the Demon Heir make one hell of an impression. And they’re all gathered together for one reason: To beat each other to a pulp in the hopes of getting their hands on a piece of Gol D. Rogers’ ultimate treasure.
But it’s not long before a grave threat arises to put an end to all the fun, fisticuffs, and frivolity. Luckily the Straw Hat pirates and their allies are up to the task of taking on Bullet, who’s quite imposing even without the aid of his Devil Fruit powers. And while the usual team-ups get shaken up a little bit–leading to some crazy temporary partnerships you won’t see coming–in the end, the victory will come down to Luffy’s innate ability to form friendships rather than his Conqueror’s Haki or Gomu-Gomu techniques. There’s still quite a lot of fighting put on display during nearly every minute of the 1 hour and 41 minute runtime, but the story’s a worthy one as well.
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.
Be sure to stick around after the battle’s over and the smoke clears because there are not only some awesome scenes during the credits but a post-credits scene, too. It clarifies some of the decisions made by Luffy during the course of the movie and, if you haven’t been paying attention to the manga or the anime, reveals some close-knit relationships in the process. It also nicely wraps up the events of Stampede and allows the pirates, Marines, and revolutionaries spread all over the world’s oceans to continue their adventures unfettered.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10