Luffy and the Straw Hat Crew are back in their 15th movie and this time it is a musical adventure. One Piece Film: Red is an action-packed spectacle with a surprising amount of heart that captures all the fun of One Piece.
One Piece Film Red Review
In One Piece Film Red, Uta (Kaori Nazuka; AmaLee), a famous singer is performing at her first ever live concert. Fans from all over the world are coming together to attend, including the Straw Hats and other notable pirate crews. Luffy (Mayumi Tanaka; Colleen Clinkenbeard) quickly realizes that this Uta is his childhood friend who also happens to be the only daughter of his idol Shanks (Shûichi Ikeda; Brandon Potter). The reunion quickly turns sour as Luffy learns Uta's real motives for holding this concert. Fed up with the destruction that pirates have caused, Uta vows to use her Devil Fruit powers to create a new world where everyone can find peace. As righteous as that may seem, her plan has terrible consequences that could destroy everything.
One Piece Film Red is an action-packed, musical adventure that captures the fun and heart of the One Piece franchise. Although it is the 15th theatrical feature for this anime, it stands out on its own with a different feel than previous One Piece films. Personal connections anchor this one-off adventure, giving weight to the emotional aspect of the plot. Plus the visuals are incredible. It is never a bad day when artists get a movie budget to truly show off what these characters can do.
Typically these types of standalone anime movies feature the main cast dropped off in a new location and/or facing a new threat. This newcomer is super powerful and proves to be a tough one to beat, but the heroes overcome them in the end and everyone goes back to their main storyline. Nothing super frilly about it, it's a template and it works more or less. One Piece Film: Red however breaks out of that mold by adding a personal connection between the protagonist and the antagonist. Uta might be a new character but she isn't new to Luffy. Flashbacks flesh out their past as children who grew up playing together. By establishing how close these two were and how they clearly still care about one another strengthens the emotional notes. By the time the inevitable ending occurs, all that relationship building pays off making Film: Red surprisingly moving.
Uta has a unique power that allows her singing to literally transform objects and people amongst other things. Japanese pop star Ado is the power behind Uta's singing voice. Each song encapsulates a different vibe for her character while also paying homage to the core of One Piece. New Genesis is a ballad where Uta pours her heart out about the past but with hope for the future. Fleeting Lullaby is the opposite, a more serious affair about pain. No matter the theme, Ado is flawless. New Genesis also uses lyrics from the classic One Piece song Blink's Sake which also works to make this adventure feel more related to the main timeline.
Musicals are able to move the story along quickly, allowing time for backstory without dragging down the pacing. Film: Red utilizes this to flesh out Uta's character and establish her presence in the world. The lyrics however do contain double meanings and callbacks so non-readers and newcomers to the fandom might not get everything they are trying to get across with these songs.
Having the setting for this film be a concert also means it doesn't feel like just fan service when different familiar faces pop up. The Straw Hat crew doesn't get a lot to do but it does seem they were each given a moment to shine. I would even argue that Usopp was the MVP of the final fight. But fans are really going to enjoy is Shanks. Shanks is essentially the Gandalf of the One Piece world, swooping in at the perfect moment, never staying too long, and never giving us (or Luffy) what we really want. In Film: Red we finally get to learn more about this mysterious pirate and his past. Ultimately, it still serves as a giant tease because there wasn't enough Shanks but I have to hope that is because a greater payoff is coming in the near future.
Director Gorô Taniguchi does not hold back in terms of the visuals. Each fight scene, the songs, everything pops with bright colors and clean animation. I screened this at home, but with the scope of each sequence, I can fully say this needs to be seen on the biggest screen possible. As with most anime films, the film ends with an epic brawl with everyone doing everything in their power to win. And this one is no acceptation. The scale of the fight is mind-blowing and will have fans wanting more.
One Piece Film: Red is an action-packed spectacle for Luffy and the Straw Hats punctuated with a killer soundtrack. Incredible visuals, familiar faces, and a surprisingly emotional story bring it all together and deliver a truly unique One Piece offering. Could it have used more Shanks? This redhead thinks so but at the end of the day Film: Red is a must watch for fans and newcomers alike.
One Piece Film: Red debuts in US theaters November 4, 2022. It is rated PG-13 for violence, suggestive material and language with a runtime of one hour 55 minutes.