“One Piece Film: Red” stars Mayumi Tanaka, Shuichi Ikeda, Kaori Nazuka, Kazuya Nakai, Akemi Okamura, Kappei Yamaguchi, Hiroaki Hirata, Ikue Ōtani, Yuriko Yamaguchi, Kazuki Yao, Chō, and Kenjiro Tsuda. Released in Japan on August 6, 2022, the film has Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates attending a live concert.
The film was directed by Gorō Taniguchi, who also directed "Jungle Taitei - Yuki ga Mirai o Kaeru" and "Code Geass Lelouch of the Re;surrection". It is based on the manga written and illustrated by Eiichiro Oda. Throughout the past several months, I experienced superheroes, demons, and even "Super Saiyans" from the world of anime on the big screen. While they're far from perfect, they generate plenty of fanfare for me and their fans to enjoy. This weekend sees me continuing this trek by visiting the realm of the pirates. Sadly, Jack Sparrow won't be joining me on this quest, but we do get someone better: a boy with an elastic body. It has been years since I discovered "One Piece", which is on its eye-popping 20th season as of this writing. How long will it take for this guy to accomplish his dream of becoming "king of the pirates"? I remember watching the 4Kids version of the show on television when I was in middle school. I can still recall its "Pirate Rap" song on the back of my head, for better or worse. After that, I eventually gave up on the show in favor of the ones that caught more of my attention. However, I did keep track of the franchise ever since the release of its 12th film, "One Piece Film: Z". I even got the chance to view some of the movies on Netflix recently in preparation for "Red". So maybe my experience with its new installment would give me the courage to revisit the franchise, mainly its films? With that said, let's set sail and see if this latest adventure can satisfy its fans and newcomers.
The story centers on Monkey D. Luffy (Tanaka), a young man with elastic abilities due to eating a devil fruit known as the Gum-Gum Fruit. He's also the leader of a crew of misfits known as the Straw Hat Pirates, with the members including Roronoa Zero (Nakai), Usopp (Yamaguchi), and Nami (Okamura). Their latest journey has them attending a special concert on the island of Elegia, where a famous singer named Uta (Nazuka) will reveal herself to the world for the first time. Uta is known for having a unique singing voice, which helps provide peace to humanity. More importantly, she's also the daughter of Red-Haired Shanks (Ikeda) and Luffy's childhood friend. When Uta's actual plan comes to fruition, Luffy and his crew band together to save the day.
With the story taking place during the "Wano Country" saga, "Red" has the task of winning over audiences outside of the fanbase. Unsurprisingly, the film will appeal to people who've been following the series since the beginning. However, some of them didn't even bother to get into the franchise, and I honestly don't blame them. Twenty seasons is a lot to unpack, even in more than one sitting. It's like Pokemon. The ride never ends as long as it maintains its popularity. So the film has to provide something in its plot to make it easily accessible for casual moviegoers. Other anime-based films like "Jujitsu Kaisen 0" and "Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero" did well in making their cinematic adventures easy to understand for audiences regarding their world-building. So I had high hopes that "Red" would do the same, and it did.
The story delivered exactly what you'd expect from "One Piece" regarding the energetic action and its world. But, more importantly, it's another accessible installment that doesn't require endless hours of recap for regular audiences. In other words, everyone can join in on the singing, dancing, and even some plundering if that's your thing. But the vital question that needs answering is how I feel about the plot. Well, it goes without saying that I enjoyed the heck out of it. It offered plenty of fun and colorful moments in the film's action, light-hearted humor, and soundtrack. However, it also delivers the sincerity of its message and characters to make it the most heartfelt installment in the long-running franchise.
Part of it is due to some of the characters' history, mainly Luffy, Uta, and Shanks, Luffy's childhood idol. Because of their shared history, the film provides a compelling chemistry that makes the story more than just an extended episode of the show. It also fits well with the movie's central theme of reality vs. fantasy, which is surprisingly well-timed with the events we're in now. The real world sucks regarding the depression caused by violence and cruelty, and we all wish we could live in a world full of never-ending happiness and freedom. However, no matter how much we want it, we can't deny the good moments that come with the bad in the real world. Dang, I didn't expect a show about a boy made out of rubber to have something this deep, and I haven't watched it in years. While there were specific moments that were far from fantastic, the storytelling is quite inspirational amid the franchise's usual anime shenanigans.
Then, there's Uta herself, who happens to be the film's main antagonist regarding her powerful ability and personal agenda. I've only seen a couple of "One Piece" movies so far that feature a villain doing many horrendous things that pose a risk to humanity or even something personal to the Straw Hat Pirates. Those villains tend to make me wish that they deserve no mercy. However, "Red" changed that part of the formula by making Uta more sympathetic. Uta is another character who believes they're doing something right for the people but winds up unintentionally bringing them more harm than good. What makes it better is that she has an understandable reason for her actions. Of course, there are also a couple of reasons why I really liked Uta as a character, including the soundtrack. Japanese singer Ado provides Uta's singing voice and performs seven songs in the movie, including "New Genesis", "Backlight", and "Tot Musica". Long story short, the songs were absolute bangers to listen to, whether they were energetic or heartwarming.
As usual, I decided to review the film with the English dub, like my previous experiences with other anime movies. Please don't ask me why I keep watching these dubs; my only answer is because I felt like it. Plus, I prefer to avoid being distracted by the subtitles when there's so much going on onscreen. The cast for the English dub did a decent job with their vocal performances, including Colleen Clinkenbeard as Luffy. Clinkenbeard has been voicing the character since the beginning, and I can understand why. She provides plenty of energy and range into Luffy's charming personality, whether he's excited, stubborn, or enraged. It might not impress those who've grown annoyed by his voice, but it'll likely satisfy his fans because of it. Amanda Lee also did pretty well with her own performance as Uta.
Finally, the film's piece of resistance is the animation. "One Piece" is another anime that's well-known for its visual appeal and matching the manga's detailed art style. The same should be said for its movies, where the animation is upgraded a bit to match their cinematic approaches. "One Piece Film: Red" is another anime movie that perfectly fits that description. The animation is a breathtaking sight filled with busy colors and imaginative details. The best uses of its style are not just the action sequences but also Uta's musical scenes. With its carefully-placed combination of 2D animation and CGI, these scenes are a never-ending blast of vibrancy and vitality. Although it can slowly turn into an eyesore after a while due to its runtime, that's close to two hours. Other than that, the movie further proves that the anime world remains a beast regarding its 2D animation.
Overall, "One Piece Film: Red" is a consistently entertaining and suitably heartfelt installment that'll have everyone's hearts singing with glee. It does run a bit too long regarding its runtime, and the story was far from a game-changer. However, it delivers a highly welcoming storyline that's as action-packed and funny as it is tender-hearted and dazzling. From its cast of characters to its vibrant animation, the movie showcases that the popular franchise isn't going to sink anytime soon. It's hard to say whether it's enough to make me rewatch the show or not (probably not), but I will point out that I was glad to experience this part of my childhood again with my adult eyes. If you're a fan of "One Piece" or enjoy watching anime movies, "One Piece Film: Red" is definitely the treasure worth seeking.