One Piece: Episode of East Blue is a television special that is an abridged retelling of the development of the five Straw Hat Pirates during the East Blue Saga.

One Piece: Episode of East Blue
Original Japanese airdate: August 26, 2017
Directed by: Takashi Otsuka
Runtime: 105 minutes

The special opens with the scene where the Straw Hats, on the Going Merry, are close to reaching the entrance to the Grand Line. It’s raining, and Sanji brings out a barrel. The Straw Hats gather around the barrel, and they each declare their dream.

After this, the special moves on to “Episode of Luffy,” which is a retelling of Luffy’s backstory of his childhood in Foosha Village. We see Luffy’s friendship with Red-Haired Shanks and his crew, and the incident involving Higuma and the mountain bandits. During this portion, we see Luffy eating the Gum-Gum Fruit, being kidnapped by Higuma after picking a fight, and being saved by Shanks and receiving the straw hat that Luffy now wears.

It was interesting to note that there was one scene that was depicted a little differently here than it was in the anime series. In the anime series, Shanks discovers Luffy ate the Devil Fruit by picking him up and seeing him stretch. In this telling, Shanks discovers Luffy’s rubber body when he grabs Luffy by the arm as he’s trying to walk away. I believe this version of the event more closely aligns with what was depicted in the original manga source material. Also, in the original anime telling, the Devil Fruit was sitting out in plain sight when Luffy grabs it and eats it. Here, while we see Luffy eating the fruit, one of Shanks’ crew members brings over a box and asks what happened to the devil fruit that had been inside it. I believe this is also much closer to the original manga telling of this story. Another interesting thing to note about “Episode of Luffy” is the fact that it depicts how Luffy got the scar under his eye. This section of the backstory was omitted in the anime series.

After Luffy’s backstory is done, we return briefly to the ship and see Zoro reiterate what his dream is before going into “Episode of Zoro.” In this distilled version, it starts off with Zoro already having been captured by Captain “Axe-Hand” Morgan, and the girl approaching with the rice balls. To me, this kind of felt like a choppy way to start, but I guess it was easier to start at this point than to show Zoro being captured.

“Episode of Zoro” is basically split into two parts: the first part is the scene of Luffy rescuing Zoro and convincing him to join his crew, and the second half focuses on Zoro’s fight with Dracule Mihawk, which ultimately brings about some humility for Zoro and for him to renew his oath to Luffy to become “the greatest swordsman in the world.” We also get to see Zoro’s flashback from his childhood when he made the promise to Kuina. Both sections of “Episode of Zoro” are important because they help to illustrate the character growth Zoro went through during the East Blue saga, but the way the production tried to include both sections felt a little choppy.

After Zoro’s backstory is done, we return to the ship to establish Usopp’s dream and then go into “Episode of Usopp.” To be honest, of the five backstories that appear in this special, it was seemed like nothing important was cut, and I didn’t really notice anything that was depicted differently between the anime series’ telling and this special’s telling of Usopp’s story. We get enough to establish that Usopp is the town’s liar who is disliked by the people of his village, his friendship with Kaya and Klahadore’s dislike of Usopp are firmly established, Usopp learns that Luffy knows his father, Klahadore’s true identity is revealed, we see enough of the fighting to establish Usopp’s change in attitude, and we see him join the Straw Hats. It should be noted that “Episode of Usopp” is the only section of the special that doesn’t include a flashback to a cast member’s childhood.

After this, we return to the Going Merry long enough to establish Sanji sharing his dream, and then going right into “Episode of Sanji.” It starts when Sanji gives Ghin food on the Baratie. While I understand why it starts here, it unfortunately makes the opening of this section feel a little choppy. We get the battle with Don Kreig on the Baratie, as well as Sanji’s flashback of the time he was stranded on an island with Zeff. This section ends with Sanji joining the crew and thanking Zeff for everything he had done for him.

It should be noted that the flashback portion of Sanji and Zeff on the island is depicted a little differently than it was in the anime series. In the anime series’ telling, Zeff cuts off his leg when it gets caught in wreckage while diving into the water to save Sanji. In the manga, it was implied that Zeff had eaten his leg in order to survive. In this telling of the story, it’s implied that Zeff ate his own leg, but Sanji leaves his question incomplete instead of explicitly asking Zeff about it.

When we return to the Going Merry, it’s Nami’s turn to declare her dream before the special moves on to “Episode of Nami.” We get to see a brief scene of Nami’s first encounter with Luffy, and then it jumps ahead to Nami’s story in the Arlong Park arc. Unfortunately, this feels a little choppy, since the audience never officially sees Nami joining the Straw Hats. I guess it was felt that the viewers watching this special would already know this from either seeing the anime series or from reading the manga. We see Nami trying to push the Straw Hats away, the Navy coming and taking the money she saved because Arlong tipped them off, Nami’s flashback to when Arlong arrived on the island and the death of her adopted mother, Bell-mere, the infamous scene of Nami asking Luffy for help, and Luffy’s fight against Arlong.

The flashback from Nami’s childhood was slightly choppy, because we don’t get the scene where Arlong discovers Nami’s sea charts. Without this scene, it makes the audience question why Arlong asked the young Nami to be part of his group. We know that Nami has joined up with Arlong, because she tells Nojiko at Bell-mere’s grave. But, there’s also something else notable about this telling of Nami’s childhood flashback: Bell-mere’s death scene is depicted the way it was in the manga (with Arlong shooting her in the head) instead of the anime series’ telling (with Arlong shooting her in the chest).

After “Episode of Nami,” we return to the exact scene that opened the special, and then it launches into the ending credits. One thing I liked about the ending credits is that we get still shots of characters who were introduced later (Chopper, Robin, Franky, Brook, Sabo, and Ace), and the still shots show what these characters would have been doing at the time that this special is taking place. I thought this was a great way to acknowledge these characters, since there was no way for them to appear in the actual special itself, since these characters wouldn’t have appeared in the story until after Luffy and the others entered the Grand Line.

I get the impression that the director went into this special with the intention of trying to depict the characters’ backstories in a way that are more faithful to Oda’s intent and vision than the anime series did, and I have to give a lot of credit for that. By making this choice, it also makes this special more interesting to viewers who know the anime series’ telling of these stories. Because of these changes, it’s also clear that most, if not all, of the special was reanimated. With the re-done animation and the changes made to align closer with the manga, it helps to make this special not feel quite like it’s simply a “rehash” of what viewers of the series had already seen.

Even though I do have the occasional complaint of “choppiness” in some of the stories, the way the director chose to break up the stories between the characters helped to make it feel less choppy than it could have been. I was afraid that this special would be more along the lines of the One Piece: The Desert Princess and the Pirates Adventures in Alabasta film, which tried to distill the Alabasta arc down to a movie-length story and introduced a lot of choppiness into the narrative. I was glad to see that my fears for this special didn’t come to pass.

If you’re a fan of One Piece but haven’t had the opportunity to see the One Piece: Episode of East Blue special, I would recommend trying to see it. While you may already be familiar with these stories from the anime series, it’s still worth it to see how they’re portrayed in this special.

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