Director: Katsumi Tokoro
Writer: Hirohiko Kamisaka
Runtime: 106 Minutes
Time for another frigging special that retells with the new animation older story arcs.
In this instance, it’s…not even based on a person, but this is One Piece, so of course the ship itself ends up being a character, important enough to warrant crucial conflict over it, to say without spoiling some surprises for fans that have not yet made their way up to Enies Lobby’s conclusion.
It is the crux of some of the fondest memories for the main characters and i mean, it really speaks of how profoundly One Piece romanticize piracy from the age of conquest. Also, there’s the plain fact of the Going Merry having actually been ranking fairly high in characters popularity polls for the series, heck, even in the most recent one (held from January 3 through February 2021, on a worlwide scale) it ranked 32th, just below Whitebeard and above Silvers Rayleigh. Amazing.
The special starts with the crew (sporting the costumes seen in the Glorious Island OVA, itself set before the events of One Piece Film Z) chilling on the Thousand Sunny in one of the adventure-free quiet moments. Usop, Chopper and Brook decide to go on a stroll in the nearby ocean using the Mini Merry II, and Brook – as he joined them after they changed ship for the Thousand Sunny – asks the others about the Merry. This is the framing for the main course, an abridged retelling of the crew first helming the ship from Syrup Village until the conclusion of the Water 7 and Enies Lobby arcs, where the Merry meets its end, one of the more emotional moments of the series, no joke.
Obviously, as this is an abridged recap of many arcs, it’s not an extensive overview, nor it means to be, but there are some odd choices to be found, aside from using or remaking old themes or intros, and events regarding the Galley-La, Franky Family and Franky himself being fairly glossed over, as in this case it makes sense, since Franky didn’t appear before Water 7 and didn’t have any kind of history or involvement with the Going Merry to begin with, at least at that point in the story.
The most noticeable is the scene depicting the first encounter with Aokiji for the Straw Hats (as he warns them about having Robin on their side), because it happens on the island of Long Ring Long Land (just after the conclusion of the small Davy Back Fight arc) as it originally happens in the manga, instead of a normal, non-descript island as seen in the television series.
Noticeable because this special also re-animates events from non-canonical, anime-only filler arcs, which is a bit odd since for these “recap specials” you’ve gotta cut a lot of material to fit the runtime, and this special actually tries to cover a lot more ground than Episode Of Nami… but it doesn’t really matter since these re-animated anime-only scenes are shown very briefly as 3 seconds flashbacks each, so i really can’t claim their inclusion really changes anything drastically for better or worse. Heck, even the aforementioned scene with Aokiji takes 3 seconds of screentime, so…
It is know the special was rushed, completed just days before airing, leaving for many animation or drawing inconstincies, most of which were later fixed for the release on home video. And it easy to see, since some of the newly drawn frames have some weirdly looking characters (like the Robin with the oversized left cheek), even if they are mostly one-off errors, you still notice often some characters having strangely drawn faces in some sequences, not even in long distance shots.
Sometimes it’s not even due to the faces have strange proportions, anatomy or angle, sometimes they look “correct” but they just feel kinda weird and “off” regardless. Animation isn’t stellar either, but despite thing special indeed being and feeling somewhat rushed, it speaks volumes about Toei animators’ ability and hard work how it still looks pretty good by most standards. Huge respect.