Throughout its +20 years of serialization, One Piece has had in its collection of extras some of the greatest movies and OVAs, but, of course, there is always room for some trash. The trend of episodes, a weird hybrid that resides between an OVA/Special in nature and a movie with its lengthy spanning where they go down their road into recapping certain story arcs, a very financially effective method of making money while still receiving minimal complaints from the fans. We all have our own favorite story arcs in One Piece, and having it the massive weekly shounen it is, the animation quality isn't always the best and thus making us beg for remakes of several moments of the story, that's what these specials were good for, however, they are not always satisfying, and at times, they only create more controversy that nobody wants.
One Piece: Episode of Merry - Mou Hitori no Nakama no Monogatari is one of those special episodes that happens to cover up the events of Water 7 and Enies Lobby, two of the greatest and most beloved story arcs of One Piece, praised by many fans to be the greatest in the series, and you know when something is about to ruin a crucial part of a story you love, it's riot time.
- Story (7.5/10):
It was just another sunny day in the new world where Brook, Usopp, and Chopper decided to go for a stroll in the mini Merry when suddenly Usopp decided it was story time, and so the retelling of the Water 7 saga began for the purpose of letting Brook know more about the Going Merry, the ship that held the Straw Hats into the grand line that far, the ship that he missed upon as a crew member.
In term of the pacing, it was just incredible, no extra splashed unwanted filler or nothing of that nature, very concise and straight to the point, it lets you focus on what's important, on how the Merry was played in the center of all the drama that was going on at the time. They obviously had some considerable amount of flashbacks, not only is the special based on one, they even went ahead and pull off an episode one to water 7 recap, trying to remind us of how the Merry was cherished and cared for, and how beat downs it had to go through in order to carry its beloved crew sailors.
Some dialogue has been slightly altered which led to a different vibe from some big moments, like the Luffy and Usopp's fight it still had that same impact of sorrow and defeat but also felt a bit less intense as the original adaptation.
- Art (8/10):
Probably the most expected thing about this kind of animation is the updated animation and art style, all the fans know this already, the Water 7 saga had probably one of if not the best animation quality in the entire series (In my opinion, second only to Thriller Bark), and as we say in the world of development, if it compiles, don't touch it. The animation in term of fluidity was just as good, but the general look of characters and their design still felt a lot odd and overdone. Like, for instance, all the characters had this weird plastic-ish feel on their skin, so smooth it reflects light more so than a mirror, you could swear they had the characters take an ice bucket challenge, the only twist being it was soap instead of ice, for me, that was a big turn off, like you'd get Franky exposed to some great scale explosion and still keep his skin intact, as smooth as any crappy overplayed skin-care product commercial.
One other big thing that many people disagree with, including me, is the over-exaggerated sexual references, let's be honest, no woman with hips as thin as those can maintain her balance with those gigantic melons holding her chest down, Toei, go easy on us, please.
- Sound (8.2/10):
I really don't have to go any deeper in this category, I feel like One Piece, more than any other long-running weekly shounen has always had the most dedicated voice acing team, with an amazing quality performance during its +20 years in production, if there was anything lacking in terms of animation, the audio makes up for it, for the most part.
Not only that, but the killer classic soundtracks are also of great presence, almost a character of their own. One of the highlights was probably the showcase of a more updated version of Memories (the first ending theme song) at the end.
- Character (8/10):
Water 7 was a great step for One Piece as a series, not only it was the peak of its hype at the time, but the characters have had major upgrades aside from their syncing powerups. There was Robin deciding to believe in her crew member, Luffy taking bigger responsibilities and making gamer changing decisions as a captain, and Usopp facing up his cowardly side and accepting the fact that he has to move on. A lot of other great moments for Sanji, Nami, Zoro... and Merry. Yes, she was always a character.
Spandam managed to remind us of just how much of a scumbag he really was, playing that role and being that convincing is tough.
Of course, we get to see some more CP9 action, with the iconic Lucci showdown at the end.
- Enjoyment (8.5/10):
I would differently confirm this to be the best special episode that's currently in One Piece's wide collection of entertaining content, it really managed to live up to the hype unlike a lot of other similar animations.
All the fights have been remastered, it was a great reminder of how powerful CP9 was, it seems that lately with all of the crazy power levels the entire crew has had, looking back on the much simpler times really shows how much they've grown.
- Overall (8.04/10):
If anything, out of all the other special episodes, this is the one with the greatest value of re-watch-ability for what quality it packs up, I really encourage the fans especially to give this a spare of a couple of hours, it's both a great recap of a past great arc and a new experience to behold, the fights still were the same, but the new animation added so much.