One Piece Film: RED is the most emotional of the franchise since Episode of Chopper Plus: Bloom in Winter, Miracle Sakura, and its most visually stunning yet.
*The original Japanese version of One Piece Film: RED was screened for review.*
Before I begin, I’d like to say that my knowledge of Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece is slightly limited, having not seen the anime or read the manga. Though before watching One Piece Film: RED, I wanted to at least ensure that I had seen every single past film, to get an idea of who the characters were and what adventures they went to. Some of them have been terribly confusing (as expected with limited knowledge, but time prevented me from seeing the anime in its entirety). Still, many of them were terrific, especially Mamoru Hosoda’s Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island, Junji Shimizu’s Episode of Chopper Plus: Bloom in Winter, Miracle Sakura, and, most notably, Munehisa Sakai’s Strong World.
But what if I told you that the fifteenth (!!!) film in the One Piece saga is its best one yet? It didn’t take long for me to be swept away by One Piece Film: RED’s stunning animation and beautifully-written songs. However, it’s the core of the movie, which brilliantly explores Monkey D. Luffy’s (Mayumi Tanaka)’s backstory, that truly blew me away. None of the other movies tackled the King of Pirates’ past the way this movie does, establishing a relationship between him and the film’s primary antagonist, Uta (Kaori Nazuka & Ado), daughter of Red-Haired pirate Shanks (Shuichi Ideka).
It is revealed that Uta was planning to be Shanks’ successor, but was left by her father to pursue a career as a singer. After the two reunite, Uta reveals to Luffy that she plans to hold a concert that would last forever, and conjure a world of pure happiness through her song powers. The Straw Hat Pirates then get captured by Uta, who sets her plan into motion. However, Shanks returns to reunite with Uta, which puts her plan in shambles, alongside a hypnotized audience who want to return home.
I’ll admit that I did get lost when the movie reached its midpoint, with many characters dropping into the movie without any introduction. I assume they were introduced in the anime, but if you know who the core protagonists are, it shouldn’t be a problem. Still, this feels like a less accessible movie for light fans of the One Piece saga than movies like Episode of Chopper Plus, Strong World, or Z, which stand on their own as some of the best anime movies I’ve ever seen, while also expanding upon Eiichiro Oda’s world.
Many plotlines move too quickly, or are dropped after a few minutes, which only exacerbated my bemusement at some of the events occurring in the movie. But don’t let that deter you from not seeing it. Most of the film paints the beautifully tragic story of Uta, and the relationship she once had as a child with Monkey D. Luffy. The emotional aspect of the movie is handled amazingly, with each song representing Uta’s different emotional states, all of them as memorable as the last. I won’t lie–I shed a few tears during one of the film’s final moments, where Uta sings “The World’s Continuation,” the film’s best track.
It’s also One Piece’s most visually stunning movie yet, with many lively colors taking over the frame during the movie’s staggering action setpieces. For the color spectrum alone, it’s a must see in IMAX, but the action scenes will truly take your breath away, especially if your socks were blown off by Strong World or Z. I’ll go out on a limb and say that it’s even better than both films, and far more elaborate in its staging than these two films.
If you’re not a fan of One Piece, or have not seen any of the movies, you may have a hard time attaching yourself to One Piece Film: RED. But as someone who has at least seen the films, I found it to be a profoundly enjoyable and visually stunning piece of work that’s best experienced on the biggest screen possible. You’d do yourself a massive disservice if you’re not seeing this on an IMAX screen. It more than deserves its gargantuan scale, and it will make its poignant story between Luffy and Uta more emotional than seen anywhere else. Another movie is bound to come out, from the looks of its post-credit scene, giving me ample time to dive into the anime, which will hopefully be as incredible as some of the films were. RED is no exception, and if you are a fan of One Piece, go see it immediately.
One Piece Film: Red is out now globally in theaters.