One Piece Film: Z is a hard act to follow. It was an excellent shounen movie that was very popular in the One Piece fandom, so it only makes sense that Gold would be compared to it. The big question going in is always going to be “is it as good as Z?” The short answer: not quite, but that doesn’t really matter. Gold may not be quite as good as Z, but it’s still an excellent movie.
The film begins with the Strawhats arriving at an island-sized ship called Gran Tesoro. Ruled by the incredibly wealthy Gild Tesoro, Gran Tesoro is acknowledged as a sovereign nation by the World Government and is known as the world’s largest entertainment city. The city is filled with various shows and casinos where both pirates and Marines go to gamble. The Strawhats have fun at first, but then Tesoro cheats them and captures Zoro. He gives them one day to earn enough money to free Zoro before he is executed.
The plot is basically divided into three parts. The first is just Luffy and the Strawhats wandering around Gran Tesoro and participating in various games there. This section doesn’t have much to do with the actual plot, but it’s still a lot of fun to watch. The Strawhats have great chemistry and it’s sometimes fun to just watch them goofing around. Most of the humor is concentrated here, but the film still plenty of hilarious gags even during the more serious parts. It gets more serious in the second half, where it turns into a heist movie. The Strawhats, with the help of Nami’s old frenemy Carina, work out a plan to steal the money they need and outsmart Tesoro. The main plot really gets started here, and it’s fun to see the Strawhats use their unique abilities in a heist plotline, which One Piece has never done before. The final part is the final battle against Tesoro and his subordinates that happens in every One Piece movie. It requires a few plot contrivances to get there, but it’s worth it for how entertaining it is. All of the Strawhats get something to do here, although Luffy gets most of the film’s attention and his fight is easily the best in the entire movie. There’s plenty of great battles with clever ways to use different abilities. One Piece has always excelled at making seemingly useless abilities surprisingly powerful. You wouldn’t think powers like manipulating luck or controlling gold would be particularly useful in battle, but the film is smart about using them and demonstrates the same creativity as the main series. The film also makes good, if brief, use of Luffy’s Gear Fourth (this sounds like a spoiler, but it was in the trailers). Fan favorites Sabo and Rob Lucci are also in the movie, as advertised, but their roles are limited to brief cameos and could have been left out of the film without affecting the plot at all.
One of the best parts of Film Gold is Gran Tesoro itself. The city/island’s design is clearly inspired by Las Vegas, but feels more like an idealized version of it. The buildings are all made of gold, cars (powered by turtles) fill the streets and people in fancy clothes walk to and from the casinos there. The entire city just exudes personality and feels almost like a character itself. The city fits the story so well that it’s really hard to imagine the film taking place anywhere else.
Tesoro himself is also one of the best parts. His obsession with controlling everything through money and his Devil Fruit power makes him a great villain and contrasts well with Luffy’s belief in freedom. Tesoro is also charismatic enough that you can see why he’s so famous and runs such a powerful kingdom. His backstory and the reason he’s so obsessed with money and control is touched on, but the film treats it as more of an afterthought. It was apparently shown in more detail in Volume 777, but that was only given away to people seeing the film in Japan and is only in Japanese. Tesoro isn’t a particularly complex character like Z and parts of his personality are an amalgamation of previous villains, but he makes up for it in just how entertaining he is and how much you want Luffy to take him down by the end.
The animation in Film Gold is mostly excellent, with bright colors and slick movements throughout, including quite a bit of camera movement that you don’t usually see in anime. There’s a bit of CGI, but it was relatively brief and not too distracting. The soundtrack is made up of fast paced jazz that fits the setting perfectly and even fits in with the usual One Piece soundtrack. The dub is mostly the same as the series and the film-original characters generally sound good. Keith Silverstein did a great job as Tesoro by giving him just the right mix of charm and evil. It’s hard to imagine Tesoro voiced by anyone else, which is one of the signs of a great performance.
Overall, Film Gold doesn’t have the same depth or character writing as Film Z, but excels in other ways. It’s consistently fun, has a great villain and plenty of great battles. Even if it isn’t as good as Z, it’s still a ton of fun and a great shounen movie. To quote Tesoro: “now that’s what I call entertainment!”
One Piece Film Gold has been licensed by Funimation, but hasn’t yet been released outside of theaters.
Final Score: 9/10