Following the events of Heart of Gold, the Straw Hat crew follows a whiff of treasure they got at the end of that OVA to Gran Tesoro, a floating cruise ship the size of an island. This private nation-boat is ruled over by Gild Tesoro, one of the wealthiest men in the whole One Piece world. Once aboard, the Straw Hats are drawn in to the opulence and gambling of Gran Tesoro, until their luck turns and they find out what lies below the gilded surface of the golden city.
Gold is the latest movie for the ever-popular One Piece series. It is the 13th movie for the series and takes place some indeterminate time after the Dressrosa arc of the manga and anime finishes. Unlike some of the One Piece movies, it’s relatively clear where this one falls in the story. I say relatively, though, because it doesn’t quite fit perfectly after the end of Dressrosa (there is a distinct and unfortunate lack of Bartolomeo in this movie, in my opinion). That being said, compared to some of the earlier One Piece movies, it at least places itself relatively well in continuity.
This film is definitely one of the stronger entries into the One Piece movie collection. We have a villain, minions, and plot that feel very much in line with the series as a whole. As the Straw Hats explore Gran Tesoro, we meet both allies and enemies. Gild Tesoro is a fascinating enemy with some significant parallels to the recently defeated Doflamingo. We get to see a lot of him in this movie and he manages to acquit himself rather well as far as villain intimidation goes. With clever application of the Gol-Gol fruit, he is able to keep the entire city under his thumb and mostly neutralize any threat who enters through typical methods. We also get a few tantalizing hints of his backstory which give a good amount of context to his actions and motives, but never go so far as to absolve him. He is still portrayed as a monster, though one whose roots lie in the darker side of the World Government that we are slowly learning more about in the series. I personally didn’t feel that it was a problem to leave portions of his backstory ambiguous. We got enough, with his branding, the brief shot of the slaves escaping due to Fisher Tiger (you can actually see Boa Sandersonia escaping at the same time to place this in the timeline), and his later dealings with the underworld to give the impression of his past without spending an inordinate amount of time on it. It’s certainly more than a lot of the past movie villains got. Personally, I enjoyed the light touch on his background tying him in to several of the larger conflicts and story events without diving too deeply and losing the focus of the movie. His minions are amusing and have a fun bunch of powers for the other Straw Hat fights, but they’re not as interesting to me as Tesoro was. By and large, they’re amusing with their individual quirks, but they don’t stand much out beyond just being the required Quirky Miniboss Squad.
We also are introduced to Carina, an old friend/rival of Nami who we saw very briefly in Heart of Gold. We get a lot less of her than we do of Tesoro, but she’s a fun character as well. There’s fewer quirks to her, but I enjoyed her “rivalry” and friendship with Nami. It was presented well, with the flashbacks showing pieces of their shared history. It’s sometimes a little annoying when long-running series in things like this pull a “Hey, this is an old friend of a main character that hasn’t come up in the years we’ve been following them,” but I didn’t mind it so much here. Given their respective professions and how they last split, it’s somewhat understandable that we never heard of her before this.
The Straw Hats are, as always, a lot of fun. If you’re watching this movie, I certainly hope you’re familiar with the series. There’s brief snippets at the beginning to show the characters and some of their character traits, and them goofing off in the casino is a lot of fun. However, both in regards to the characters and the plot/world as a whole, the movie assumes a base level of knowledge. Personally, I think this is perfectly acceptable when dealing with a 13th movie of a 20-year-and-counting old series. We do get some fleshing out of things from the manga as well, which it will be interesting to see if they continue through to the manga as it continues.
Probably my biggest complaint about the movie is the inclusion, then complete underuse of other important characters from the series. Lucci, Spandam, Sabo, and Koala all make very brief appearances, but have little to no impact on the plot. The main inclusion of Sabo and Koala is to tie Raise Max in with the Revolutionaries, then fight Lucci off-screen. The main inclusion of Lucci and Spandam, meanwhile, is to have the Marines bombard Tesoro and the boat at the end, then get stopped by Sabo. Both of these could have been streamlined and/or removed. As exciting as it is to see all these characters included, they really felt superfluous to the plot. If we’re going to be tying in major characters from the series like this, I’d appreciate them having meatier roles.
The animation in the movie is wonderfully smooth and flowing. You can tell they put a lot of time and effort into making sure that all the details of the movie looked and moved beautifully. I personally never noticed anything about that to take me out of the film or to distract me from enjoying the story. I’m still used to the much earlier One Piece movies, where this was distinctly not the case. I haven’t had the opportunity to try watching the blu-ray on a 4k display, but on my personal TV, it looked great. I’m not a huge snob when it comes to video quality. I don’t necessarily go trying to pick out every little thing. Typically, if there’s nothing that’s glaringly there for problems, that’s enough for me.
I personally watched the movie with the Japanese language track. This is purely based off of personal preference. When I started watching the TV series so long ago, I got accustomed to the Japanese voices. There’s nothing particularly wrong with the English voice actors (Franky is the one who stands out to me as potentially the most dissimilar from the Japanese voice), but they’re just not the voices I associate with the characters in my head. I did go back and watch a few of the scenes involving the new characters for the movie and the voice acting for them in English is solidly done, so I do think a big aspect of me not necessarily clicking with the Straw Hat voices is just personally having a voice in my head for the character that doesn’t always mesh with a new voice being used in another language. The extras on the blu-ray were a bit sparse, but I also don’t necessarily know what I would have wanted there. There were no glaring omissions that I would have expected.
All in all, if you’re a One Piece fan, I highly recommend adding this movie to your collection!