One Piece Film Red is the latest in the long history of One Piece movies but this one offers something different: it’s a musical and a pretty good one at that. While that may not appease those looking for a more traditional shounen adventure, One Piece Film Red is still a thrilling movie, with an interesting new character and a lot of good action.
To clarify: this will be a spoiler-free review of One Piece Film: RED. Most of the information that is discussed has already been displayed through trailers and other forms of promotion.
Welcome To Elegia Island
It’s clear that One Piece creator Eiichiro Oda really wanted to do something different with Film Red. It forgoes the traditional One Piece movie plot of “go to a new island, beat up some guys” (although that still happens) in favor of a story based around character drama.
The main star of the movie is Uta, Shanks’ daughter and Luffy’s childhood friend. In the past, Uta was a member of the Red-Haired Pirates and traveled with them until they landed on Elegia Island. Unfortunately, the island was attacked and Shanks decided to leave Uta. Why did he do that? You’ll have to watch the movie yourself to find out.
After being abandoned, Uta developed her talent for singing until she became the most famous singer in the world (who we’d never heard about before this movie). After all these years, she decides to hold her first-ever concert on Elegia, with the Straw Hats deciding to attend. Unfortunately, things don’t go quite as planned, with a dark entity stopping the audience from leaving.
It should also be noted that, unlike most Shounen anime movies, Film Red is at least partially canon to the main story of One Piece. The events of the film are not, but Uta’s character and background are confirmed canon. This gives the movie a greater sense of importance, rewarding longtime fans for watching it with greater world-building that tells us more about Luffy and Shanks as characters.
This will probably be the most divisive part of the movie. One Piece Film Red is very much Uta’s story as outside of Luffy, the straw hats very much feel like minor characters. Each member still gets a couple of small scenes to shine but this simply isn’t their arc so to speak. It doesn’t help that they also have to share screen time with a plethora of side characters like Koby, Helmeppo, Law, and a bunch of others who fans will like seeing by they don’t really have a lot of screen time individually.
The story also moves at an incredibly brisk pace. Right at the start, it’s established that Uta is the most popular singer in the world, and the Straw Hats are all huge fans of hers despite them never bringing her up prior to this (I’ll admit I’m not caught up with the current manga but I certainly never heard of her). This can make the story feel quite jarring, focusing on a brand new character that fans might not even like.
Thankfully, I really like Uta as a character. She’s got a fun upbeat personality with a lot of dimension behind her. Without going into spoilers she can be considered the protagonist, antagonist, and even a victim under different circumstances throughout the film and by the end, she feels like a fully fleshed out part of the One Piece world. Each scene sheds light on her past, reveals her tragic history, and gives context to her actions.
What stands out the most from RED is Oda and Toei Animation’s decision to make this movie a musical featuring 7 songs. Each song in the film was written by a different popular composer and they take the form of different genres like J-Pop, ballads, R&B, Hard Rock, and more. What is even more amazing is that Uta’s singing voice is managed by only one person, Ado.
While many may not like the idea of a number of songs interrupting their shounen fight scenes, I thought the musical numbers were the highlight of the film. When I heard Uta’s singing voice for the first time, I felt like I was transported to a concert. They were stylish, well animated and the tunes were damn catchy. I’ve never seen a spin-off movie with so much style and I respect how different it tries to be.
There were a couple of times they used a CGI model for Uta and it did stick out a little but that’s a rather minor complaint. When she is animated during the songs her choreography is brilliant, especially with how bright and fast the animation is.
The Sakuga animation is great
While the musicals are fun, the rest of the movie’s animation is no slouch either, in fact, I’d say this is one of the best-looking One Piece movies. Some of the best-animated scenes in the movie are roughly on par with the Onigashima episodes (example: One Piece ep 1033), and I’m surprised they managed to hide so many of the awesome sakuga parts from the trailers.
The climax fight in particular may be one of the highest quality points in One Piece anime. Every moment was a pure stunning spectacle and even managed to make a cynical grump like myself jump out of my seat in pure hype. There were so many different characters in motion at once, showing off their different attacks and with a decent chunk of fanservice for good measure.
Whether Film Red will become your favorite One Piece movie or not depends on how much you’re willing to accept the new unique ideas that Oda and Toei Animation put into it. The film takes a lot of risks focusing primarily on a brand new character and fusing its usual action with the light and sound of musical numbers.
Personally, I loved how unique it was with Uta’s story making for an interesting character drama and the music being very well sung. I can however see fans finding these same moments too intrusive on the action that they expect out of a shounen like One Piece. Then again, with a climax like that, I don’t know how anyone can complain about a lack of good action.
If One Piece is truly on its final arc and will be ending in the next few years, I have no doubt that Film Red will be seen as a highlight of the series’ cinematic arcs.
|Musical Scenes are spectacular||Not a lot of focus on the straw hats|
|Uta is a fun character and with a surprising amount of development||Some may find the songs too sudden and intrusive|
One Piece Red is currently airing at Golden Screen Cinemas in Malaysia.