3D2Y: Overcome Ace’s Death! Luffy’s Vow to his Friends
The first One Piece TV special, Adventure in the Ocean’s Navel, aired fourteen years ago, but it was only recently with the 2012 premiere of Episode of Nami: Tears of a Navigator and the Bonds of Friends that the series started a new trend. The special before Episode of Nami was The Detective Memoirs of Chief Straw Hat Luffy, which aired five years prior to it; but now we’re effectively seeing a new TV special every year at most. What else distinguishes the recent specials are of course their re-tellings of the TV anime series’s previously covered canonical arcs. Besides their time-duration, it is in this sense that the TV specials resemble One Piece‘s movie productions most of all (at this point, between the movies and the TV specials, both are two-for-two for re-adapted character arcs). 3D2Y isn’t the only one of the newer TV specials to break this formula (Episode of Luffy: Adventure on Hand Island), but it does break the established “Episode of” nomenclature. When I first found news of 3D2Y, I was thoroughly disappointed that Toei wasn’t planning onto continuing the pattern of re-adaptations by re-animating the Marineford arc, one that undeniably needed a restoration much more so than the previously re-covered Water 7/Enies Lobby arc.
I found myself going into the episode skeptical of how good, not even great, it could possibly be. The opening sequences that recapped the Marineford Arc were exactly what I wanted to see from the entirety of the episode, so I was ecstatic to be able to revisit the highlights of the war in far greater art and animation quality. Though, it soon became obvious how rushed the episode was to simply use this material as an exposition for the episode’s actual narrative; the part where Luffy makes his heroic and glorious entrance before the three admirals paled in comparison to the original rendition, and the anticipated scene where Ace is finally freed being immediately cut to his death was anticlimactic, upsetting, and somewhat sadistic, to say the least. Nonetheless, albeit short-lasting, some beautiful character portraits that took part in the fast-paced montage of shocked reactions were enough to illustrate a glimpse of raw emotion that should have impacted the original adaptation.
The recap of the war ends when Luffy awakens from his nightmare, and we are then graced with an equally emotion-stirring run-through of each of the Straw Hats’ character arcs in which they join the crew. It may not have the same shock value as Ace’s execution, but for me it supersedes in nostalgic value enough to bring about some tears. Proceeding further along the episode, I’m still critical of the screen-time that is lost to filler content, raving about how Rayleigh should just go in Luffy’s stead to end the dispute with episode big bad Byrnndi World by kicking his ass in mere seconds and this and that. However, at some point, whoever was in charge of the episode’s script has secured my attention. (I’m still waiting for credits of the production staff to be published online.) Whoever he or she is, with his (or her) all-around writing, he managed to bring in a handful of fan-favorite characters, such as Mihawk, Perona, and Hancock,; as well as newer character rather unfamiliar to the limelight of the series, such as Akainu (because he’s definitely going to get it later while Luffy’s kicking his ass); as well as arguably the most nostalgic character and first antagonist apart of an actual arc, Buggy; and integrate them into quite the flu id plot, as opposed to teasing us with a slew of cameos which end up lasting no more than a few seconds. The MVP award of course goes to Hancock just for the amount of secured screen-time she gets wherein she is not only showcasing her unique fighting abilities, but also is showing her personality more than ever. It’s been so long since she has been apart of the story; and at the times when she was, I don’t think I ever got over my first impression of her being one shallow-ass broad. But I have forthrightly dropped all such judgment and am even emboldened to say her best performance as a character in the series is in this very arc. Not only am I reminded of the great cast that One Piece has, thanks to Oda’s creative and thorough imagination in conceiving varied characters, through Hancock, but every instance of her fawning over Luffy has become utterly charming enough for me to consider her one of my favorite female characters now. On the cute side of her spectrum: the way she caringly delivers food to Luffy, monologues her concern of Luffy cheating on her, and faints at the thought of Luffy protecting her; and on the femme fatale side of her spectrum: the control she has over men and women alike, the nerving way her voice-actress says lines such as “Pistol Kiss!”, and of course, the unrestrained fan-service that her wardrobe malfunction delivers. While Luffy gets his ass handed to him for the good first half, or maybe even two-thirds, of the episode (that being probably the most out-of-character occurrence in this episode), Hancock is kicking ass and taking names the whole time. She’s awesome, she’s adorable, and she’s beautiful. On the other side of the attractive spectrum is Buggy with his protruding red nose, intimidating face make-up, and constancy towards using others for his own reputation’s gain. Despite all of the above, he is written into the narrative to a degree that I never could have imagined; it even eventually has him facing off against one of the main antagonists with the help of Galdino and the rest of his crew, which of course includes the good ol’ Cabaji and Mohji. They were idling in the background for the most part, but I was eagerly waiting for them to utter at least one line; and then they did, and I was satisfied with just that really (it can definitely be considered a victory over some other episodes’ speechless cameos).
Not only does the writing do well in involving established characters of the series, but the antagonist in Byrnndi World is nearly flawless in execution. Oda is well-known for his un-imitatable characters (in appearance, quirks, laughs, and so much more), no doubt, but the cockamamie quirks of the two antagonists he created for Strong World and Film Z (one of them literally resembling a cock) are out-shined by one Byrnndi World. Frankly speaking, World was the perfect villain for Luffy to encounter in this chronology relative to his inner psychological conflict concerning Ace’s death. Not only did World’s callous personality deliver Luffy a significant defeat in the same vein as his first dramatic loss of the series against Crocodile, but World’s back-story and relationship with his own elder brother, Byojack, served as a sweet conceptual parallel to Luffy’s relationship with Ace. As a part of World’s back-story the writers add an extra touch of ingenuity by drawing from the series’s lore with the Cipher Pol organization. Their presence in the matters of World’s past definitely give his tragedy a darker touch; but he may have not needed it to begin with. In his mad descent, the antagonist expresses rage quite like any other; the death-glares he relentlessly directs at just about every other character in the episode make previous movie villains seem like wimps in comparison. By the end of it all, his character is not only aggressive and terrifying but also quite profound, something perhaps best described by his “last” words to his brother, “I’ve been sleeping in ice this whole time! To me, it was just like yesterday. As if I will ever forget.” (Not to mention what Byojack says to World in the end sounds like it came straight out of the ending to Of Mice and Men and we never really find out what happens to them; knowing Akainu, death would not be unexpecting.) In mentioning the Cipher Pol connection, I can’t help but make even more parallels to the introduction arc of Cipher Pol, Water 7/Enies Lobby, which the legendary Luffy versus Rob Lucci fight occurred, a fight that is widely accepted as one of One Piece‘s best fights, if not the best fight, ever. In Luffy and World’s face-off, I can definitely point my ear confidently and say that at least two of the background music-tracks used for Luffy versus Rob Lucci were re-utilized here. Furthermore, if it wasn’t for the wonderfully done inclusion and clarification of Luffy’s newly ordained Red Hawk attack, World would have very well been defeated by a Gomu Gomu no Gatling in the same vein as Lucci. Bravo.
In the end, I can’t say 3D2Y really delivered what it teased through its title, seeing as it only recounted a couple of days out of the two year period, in which Luffy didn’t really go great lengths in his training at all; but what it gave was something better and something that I feel no movie or special has done before. The feature had traces of nostalgia of the series’s former glory, superb art and animation quality, a great selection of characters, great story-writing, a great integration of said character into the story, entertaining fights and showdowns, hell, it even has its own theme song; and to be honest, it probably only needed half of those to best One Piece‘s TV anime standard nowadays. And if that isn’t enough to convince you of that, consider this (spoiler ahoy):
THEY FUCKING SHOWED SABO BEFORE THE TV ANIME DID.