One Piece Film: Red has finally landed in theaters in the U.S., just in time for the 25th anniversary of the manga. Spanning 1,000+ episodes and over 100 volumes of Manga, One Piece is a massive story that may intimidate those who have never read or watched it before. Thankfully, One Piece Film: Red is a (semi)friendly gateway to the world of Eiichiro Oda’s magnum opus. The film follows the Straw Hat pirates as they attend a concert by the enigmatic pop star Uta. The singer has never had a live performance before, so the eyes of the world are on this performance.
Unfortunately for everyone watching the concert, whether in-person or via snail transponder, Uta’s melodic voice transports them into her dream world. A world without suffering or piracy, supposedly free from worry. Here, Film Red turns dark as Luffy and crew attempt to escape Uta’s world and stop her from potentially destroying the real world. Director Gorō Taniguchi crafts a heartfelt tale with incredible action and stunning visuals.
For those familiar with One Piece, expect everything you already love about the Straw Hats and then some. Luffy’s dynamics with the crew are put on the back burner to allow more interaction with the original characters made for the film. For those unfamiliar with One Piece, the manic energy and pacing of the film can feel jarring at first. However, once you get settled and slightly familiar with the rules of the world and the characters in play, it becomes entertaining.
As for the character at the center of the film, Uta is compelling enough. Hinted at being the daughter of the famous pirate Red-Haired Shanks (who gave Luffy his signature Straw Hat), Uta’s tragic story is told through flashbacks from multiple perspectives. Screenwriter Tsutomu Kuroiwa cleverly weaves the flashbacks and shifting perspectives to tell a tragic tale. The structure and pacing save the otherwise cliche villain origin story.
As for the musical performances, Uta is voiced by famous Japanese singer Ado. Every major story beat is accompanied by a musical performance from Uta, making One Piece Film: Red a pseudo-musical. The soundtrack for the film is phenomenal, with the opening “New Genesis” song being one of the film’s standouts. Every performance features a mixture of different animation styles, making One Piece Film: Red one of the more experimental films in the One Piece series.
The film also has plenty of fan service moments for long-time fans. Particularly with the pirate Shanks, who has hardly been given as much screen time and character development as he does in this film. It’s a shame that One Piece Film: Red isn’t canon because some of the action featuring Shanks and Luffy is some of the best that the entire series offers.
Arti director Hiroshi Katō outdoes himself with Film Red. The animation style used is crisp and clear-cut, making the character animation and actions feel fluid. Luffy’s physicality and fight scenes are the film’s highlights, with other secondary characters like Trafalgar D. Law getting some unexpected time to shine. Everything in Uta’s dream world and One Piece’s real-world combine into one final climactic fight that doesn’t feel as much earned as it is contrived.
However, Shonen animes aren’t exactly known for their subtlety or intricate storytelling. One Piece Film: Red does enough to justify its explosive and colorful third-act fight. The animation on display is impeccable, serving as an incredibly entertaining time for One Piece fans, both old and new. The music is catchy and well-made, and the moments that hype up One Piece veterans also excite newcomers with stunning and stylistic animation choices. While the story stumbles and is archetypical at times, the creative team behind Film Red put enough heart into this story to make it interesting and fun. Luffy’s boundless optimism and creative powerset never seem to fail, and while this film ends on a melancholic note, it is an interesting departure from usual One Piece adventures. – Ernesto Valenzuela
One Piece Film: Red is Now Playing in Theaters
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