Lots of action with a nice undertone.
The glittering Gran Tesoro, a city of entertainment beyond the laws of the government, is a sanctuary for the world’s most infamous pirates, Marines, and filthy rich millionaires. Drawn by dreams of hitting the jackpot, Captain Luffy and his crew sail straight for the gold. But behind the gilded curtains lies a powerful king whose deep pockets and deeper ambitions spell disaster for the Straw Hats and the New World alike.
Director Hiroaki Miyamoto does his best to mix deep undertones, including gambling addiction and class warfare, into the basis of what should be a cash-grab anime story. It’s quite impressive how well the writing is in this movie, as it is very thoughtful in its bluntness to deliver real concerns that reflect the world we’re living in today. Again, this is more than just another anime.
In addition, the film also does a good job of showing off Miyamoto’s artists animated talents at every given chance. Gold is an extraordinarily beautiful film that in its weak points and once-in-awhile dull moments, shines brightly through its colorful animation and overblown action sequences that distribute a good amount of goosebumps up a viewer’s arm. It’s really a visually stunning film that I would watch again, if given the chance, simply for the eye candy. The visuals help to balance out the story and its characters, which help to sell the undertone messages.
Now, specifically for the story side of the equation, what comes out of this film is a wonderful balance of familiar faces doing their ‘usual’ thing, which consists of fighting, yelling, over-the-top action, but also accompanying that with a deeper than usual story the stretches its creativity to a level beyond merely another anime film.
That said, let’s break it down.
The first act has our favorite Straw Hat pirates making their way to a neutral entertainment site on the ocean called Gran Tesoro. A rich Las Vegas-like community that thrives off the plunder of pirates passing and caters to their need for more money, as well as their need for fun and excitement. Led by Gild Tesoro, a gold loving diva, all fun intentions he might hold for the gang are soon swept aside and replaced with debt and despair. Gambling away their winnings, the gang find themselves in it deep with Tesoro when they lose $300 million in a high stakes game of chance with dice. Thinking they can ‘pirate’ their way out of the city, Luffy and crew find out that Tesoro isn’t one to be messed with, especially after Roronoa Zoro tries to take him out, but fails and ends up stuck in a pile of gold controlled by Tesoro. Tesoro holds Zoro hostage, while the Straw Hat crew try to find a way to pay their large debt in 24 hours. If they don’t pay it off in the allotted time, Zoro dies.
The setup is actually pretty extensive in the first act. The opening scene alone gets you excited about the new villain’s possibility and starts the movie out on a positive, fun note that sucks you into the story just as the Straw Hat pirates get sucked into the magic of Gran Tesoro. It’s all very breathtaking and really starts the adventure off on the right note. It’s also quick setup, which is uncommon for an an anime. Typically anime take a long time to develop what they want to do with the story, making sure each character gets a bit of screen time before really laying into the main plot points. One Piece Film: Gold isn’t like that at all. It knows what you want and it knows how to deliver it to you, and it does all of it quick, but fun. The opening act doesn’t waste time with reminding you of the familiar faces, it just throws you into the mix and tells you what is up on the way to the main adventure. This along makes the opening act such an addictive piece of art.
The second act begins with the crew trying to find a solution to stopping Tesoro, or at least find a way to pay back their debt and get the hell out of the now ‘un-fun’ island. Trying to find the money, the group attempts to get it via stealing, but that ends up going awry, which also ends up breaking up the group and putting them in more peril. In addition, Luffy and Franky tumble into a giant gold cavern, and have to find their way back with a solution to stop Tesoro’s terror. While trying to sort things out, they find that the residents of Gran Tesoro aren’t what they seem. Everyone is a bit uptight, tense and far from jubilant, a persona placed on them from the opening act. Everyone is also in debt to Tesoro and serving him, which is why the residents haven’t departed either. It’s a sad situation that continually finds a new level of deep despair as it continues, but towards the end of the second act everyone makes it topside and prepares for an ultimate battle with Tesoro and his soldiers.
The second act One Piece Film: Gold, which is typically a place where a typical anime journey is stretched out and trying to fill time, seems competent and well thought out in this One Piece film. We get to see everyone in serious situations and actually feel the despair of a nearly impossible solution to put Tesoro’s reign of terror to an end. The act is incredibly balanced with good plot points and transitions between them. The peaks and valleys are properly placed. The scope of the group’s dire situation is magnified over and over again, while the story holds its cards close to its chest, determined to wait until the last minute to reveal its way out of the predicament. It’s not at all a boring second act. Nothing feels forced. It’s a fun, yet dramatic second act for an anime. Props to good writing and solid acting for ensuring its competence.
The third act is just packed with action. You’ve come for some great fights and the last act gives them to you over and over again. While I’m not going tell you how it goes, because why would you see the film then, I will say that it plays on the edge of too much, but never crosses that line. You will be mentally exhausted by the end of the third act, but the exhaustion will pay off with how entertained you feel. It’s quite brilliant and well done. You won’t be disappointed with how everything wraps.