One Piece: Episode of Alabasta is the eighth animated movie based on Eiichiro Oda’s popular manga series. The film sees rubber man Luffy journey to the desert kingdom of Alabasta, which is presently suffering from a mysterious drought. As always Luffy is joined by his crew of Straw Hat pirates whose roster includes a shape shifting reindeer, a flirtatious chef who literally kicks ass and a bandana wearing blade master who fights with a sword lodged between his teeth. This eighth feature film sees the Straw Hats tackle a nasty chap named Crocodile who is plotting to plunge the region into civil war. Hurry up Luffy! Defeat Crocodile and make it “snappy.”
If the above-mentioned synopsis sounds familiar it should because Episode of Alabasta is a retelling of the Alabasta story arc, which has previously been covered in the One Piece anime series. It’s disappointing to see the animators squander a movie budget on re-treading old ground and the decision is all the more perplexing when you realize that the Alabasta saga ran for almost forty episodes. Condensing so much material into a ninety-minute flick simply doesn’t work, with the end result feeling like a disjointed series of clips. Although the filler saturated One Piece series could certainly benefit from the services of a good editor, exorcising so much content is going from one extreme to another.
Things get hilariously bad when characters that have previously not been introduced randomly appear onscreen. One such example has the Straw Hats travelling across Alabasta’s sandy dunes atop a gigantic crab. The oversized crustacean is lending them aid as he is the acquaintance of a camel that is travelling with the group. Who is this camel I speak of? He’s a comic relief character that featured in the series, but up till that point he was completely absent from the movie adaptation. Anyone watching the film with no prior knowledge of the source material will be left scratching their heads… if they weren’t already at the prospect of how a desert animal and sea creature could be friends.
Perhaps the biggest travesty of all is that the show’s exciting action has been butchered in order to squeeze the narrative into a ninety-minute feature. For me, the highlight of the Alabasta story was seeing the Straw Hats take on Crocodile’s henchmen. Each of the antagonist’s lackeys has a special ability that the heroes have to overcome. It was cool seeing the good guys suss out their opponents’ weaknesses in order to turn the tide of battle. Alas most of that is missing from this movie as the action scenes jump straight into the middle of a fight. We see the Straw Hats battered and bruised, with no idea of how they sustained their injuries, before another time skip takes us to the end of the duel. It’s more anticlimactic than a WWE pay per view.
My rating for One Piece: Episode of Alabasta is a one out of five. I honestly have no idea why this movie exists. Who is the target audience for this film? One Piece fans would surely prefer to re-watch the series over settling for this abridged flop. Perhaps the idea was to give viewers unfamiliar with One Piece the opportunity to dip their toes with something that isn’t a huge time sink? If so Episode of Alabasta fails because the choppy storytelling will leave anyone unacquainted with the franchise totally confused. There’s little to recommend here unless you like watching Luffy yell terrible dialogue at a Sandman clone. Don’t bother buying this Blu Ray. If you really must watch this movie then (Straw Hat) pirate it instead.