Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
One Piece 3D2Y: Overcoming Ace's Death! Luffy's Pledge to His Friends
After the death of his brother Ace, Luffy tells the Straw Hats to meet again in two years after they've all gotten stronger. Luffy ends up training under Raleigh to use a special skill known as “haki,” but his nearly-completed training is interrupted when two of Boa Hancock's Amazons from Amazon Lily are kidnapped by the World Pirates. Can Luffy and Boa, with a little help from some familiar faces who have escaped Impel Down, defeat the villains and save the Amazons?
The One Piece TV specials are interesting animals in that they don't necessarily come chronologically in terms of what's currently airing and they aren't strictly all-new material. In the case of this particular entry, One Piece 3D2Y: Overcoming Ace's Death! Luffy's Pledge to His Friends, the action is a combination of new and old, with at least one of the flashbacks to what's come previously in the TV series getting reworked to more closely resemble Eiichiro Oda's source manga. Given that that piece is the death of Luffy's brother Ace, that's fairly important, especially since Ace is one of the few major good guy characters to be actually killed, a fate not even assigned to many of the most hideous villains in the series. On the other hand, the manga version is a fair bit more upsetting than the original anime adaptation, so if you didn't want to relive the moment before, you really may not want to now.
In any event, Ace's death is basically the framing device for the action of this special. The majority of it takes place during the final months of the two years Luffy allotted for he and his crew to grow strong enough that they'll never have to live through the death of a loved one again, and Luffy has spent those years with Raleigh, an older man who has been teaching him the skill known as “haki.” (If it makes you think of Jojo's Bizarre Adventures' hamon, that's probably intentional.) Luffy's training has put him in proximity with the island of Amazon Lily, home of Warlord Boa Hancock and her Amazons, and so when the World Pirates kidnap two of her warriors, Luffy takes it upon himself to help Boa to rescue them. Story wise, it's a great chance for Luffy to get some real-world experience with his new powers, even if Wonder Woman or Greek mythology fans may balk at the idea of Amazons needing someone to rescue them.
Those people are also likely to find Boa a bit hard to take, although that certainly isn't limited to this TV movie's depiction of her. She's one of the most difficult of One Piece's many female characters, and in some ways is symptomatic of the way the women in the series have moved more into the backseat as the story has gone on. At one point Boa is told by one of her Amazons to “stop acting like a silly schoolgirl and start acting like a warlord,” and this essentially sums up the problem with her specifically in this special: there's nothing that says a strong woman (or an Amazon) can't fall in love, but to make it the sum total of her character is to reduce her from one of the most powerful pirates in the world to someone more concerned about pleasing her man. The two don't need to be mutually exclusive, so why reduce her to nothing more than a 1950s stereotype? On a similar note, many of the Amazons are given more masculine voices, which also feels like a statement about how they can be women or warriors, but not both at once.
Potential overanalysis aside, the more interesting aspect of the special is the parallel it attempts to set up between Luffy and Ace and the two brothers who lead the World Pirates. Unlike the “D” brothers, these two have had lengthy pirating careers; in fact, the whole crew looks a bit like Terry Pratchett's Silver Horde from his Discworld novels. The two have been fairly successful, but their relationship has become difficult over time, suggesting that perhaps they might have been too close to truly make for good crewmates. Given that several of the Straw Hats have siblings, it is worth noting that none of those brothers and sisters have joined the crew; Luffy and Ace in particular were on different ships. Whether or not we see this as a relevant point or just something to note, the closeness of the two World Pirate brothers and the way they interact does make for an interesting statement on Luffy and Ace's relationship, giving us the space to wonder if things might not have turned out differently if the two had sailed together.
The art and animation for this piece aren't quite as good-looking as they might have been. The opening scenes flashing back to Ace's death look washed out in terms of the colors used, and Luffy doesn't look quite muscular enough throughout the film – he appears skinny rather than wiry. There are also some very sad attempts at perspective, with scenes of people sitting being particular problems; one shot of Boa makes her look like she has a calf too small to support her massive thigh, and that's even accounting for the peculiarities of Oda's art style. There are a couple of scenes that use 3D animation, one of the first times the series as a whole has done so, but generally speaking this is artistically underwhelming.
With a bit more infodumping than action in places and lackluster visuals, this particular One Piece TV special is decent, but not great. The redone scenes of Ace's death may be the chief draw, but otherwise unless you're a completist, really missing Buggy and Mr. 3, or are a big fan of Boa and Luffy together, this isn't on the One Piece must-see list.
Overall (dub) : C
Overall (sub) : C
Story : C
Animation : C+
Art : C-
Music : C
+ Redone scenes to be closer to the manga, interesting parallels between two sets of brothers, lots of cameos from cast members
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