Ever since a special episode called ‘Episode of Sabo’ was announced back in June, there have been many questions in regards to how TOEI was going to fill +90min with a character that we don’t really know that much about. The episode ended up being what many pessimists expected: flashbacks and a recap of Dressrosa.
WARNING: This review contains spoilers for the episode
Don’t get me wrong. The special wasn’t bad. It was actually quite enjoyable (but maybe that’s just me, I’m a sucker for ASL stuff). Given that everything we know about Sabo is his past with Ace and Luffy, the fact that he was with the Revolutionary Army and some glimpses in Dressrosa, TOEI tried to fill some of the gaps of what he could have be doing in Dressrosa: why Koala and him were there (featuring a new scene in which he ate Spanish food and proved that, just like Ace and Luffy, he hasn’t lost his eating habits), Sabo going undercover in the Colisseum and investigating what was wrong with the country and later finding out that that man called Lucy fighting Don Chinjao was actually his little brother Luffy. I was very grateful for these scenes because we got to see Sabo’s point of view.
Given that they couldn’t show much about Sabo’s present or his latest years of life, it was clear that they had to show scenes of ASL as kids. All the flashbacks were re-animated and some scenes were even slightly changed. But they still gave us all the feels. However, it seemed like they didn’t really know where to place the flashbacks as they appeared very randomly.
I do believe that maybe they should have waited a bit to know more about the character like, for instance, what he has been donig with the Revolutionary Army and how he went from being a kid that Dragon rescued to being Dragon’s second in command. I can only guess that TOEI asked Oda on how much they could say and Oda told them that we woudln’t be knowing much more about Sabo for a while. Perhaps Oda is saving Sabo’s adventures with Koala, Ivankov and company for later in the story. On the other hand, given the animation and pacing problems that TOEI is having with Dressrosa, I was hoping for a future release of a movie of Dressrosa just like they did with Alabasta, or even a recap episode like Episode of Merry. Not so sure we are going to get that after watching this special.
The recap of Dressrosa was mainly the Colisseum which gave us the chance to watch some scenes that were made way better than the anime: Luffy vs Don Chinjao was incredibly epic, Sabo vs Diamante was longer and more entertaining and Sabo and Luffy’s reunion was made much more emotional considering that this time we actually knew what they were saying (and we also got to see Sabo’s eyes!).
On the negative side, the episode contains a mild-spoiler for anime-only watchers in the first scenes, something that I can’t believe TOEI didn’t see (or care for). I also don’t recommend watching the ending credits due to more spoilers from the manga. Aside from that, there were some inconsistencies and pacing issues. Some scenes were stretched out while others were shown incredibly rushed. At one point I thought they just fit about 20 episodes worth of material in over 5 minutes of the special.
Although many will say that the highlight of the special was what came after it (the announcment of a new movie comming out in summer 2016), to me it was the ending scene with Sabo’s final Fire First in which he asked Ace to watch him and promised him to “save Luffy’s life that you saved with you life”. This is where Ace’s “I’m not gonna die” takes on a whole new meaning .He did in fact die, but his will didn’t. It is Sabo and Luffy’s job to inherit and carry on his will. Sabo and Luffy’s eyes when Doflamingo was talking about Ace’s death in Marineford and the Mera Mera no Mi showed me that these two brothers will do everything they can to defeat the World Government and bring justice to his brother’s death.