One Piece Film: Red will debut in North American theaters on Nov. 4, 2022.
Shonen anime films are often formulaic one-off adventures. Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the main cast enters a new location. It’s revealed that the new location is home to a “famous,” extremely powerful character who has never been mentioned before. Shonen protagonist comes into conflict with said character, besting them with a new technique. The main cast leaves the location victorious. Everything ends hunky-dory. Blah. This formula generates snazzy clips but flattens stories into their most broadly appealing form. In short, it’s kind of boring. One Piece Film: Red, on the other hand, shakes things up by combining shonen tropes with musical elements, making for the best One Piece movie of the last decade. Unlike previous entries, Film: Red has holistically captured One Piece’s essence.
One Piece is, of course, about Monkey D. Luffy’s journey to becoming King of the Pirates. To achieve this goal, he and his crew, the Straw Hat Pirates, travel the sea to find a legendary treasure known as the One Piece. Along the way, the Straw Hats participate in action-packed shonen battles and an exceptional amount of hi-jinks. Those hi-jinks are what give One Piece its charm, with the series often leaning closer to an adventure comedy than a traditional shonen. Film: Red is one of the only movies to wholly embrace that idea. Jokes are made at inopportune times and, in moments that a lesser film would depend on action for, Film: Red opts to throw in another joke or a musical number. This movie understands One Piece.
In Film: Red, the Straw Hats attend a concert for a reclusive celebrity named Uta. Like many One Piece characters, she’s a triple threat. In addition to being a singer, Uta is also Luffy’s estranged childhood friend and daughter of the famous pirate Shanks. The film opens with Uta serenading a stadium and continues to dole out regularly scheduled earworms.
When you’re weaving in a character that’s specific to a standalone movie, there’s always a risk that they’ll feel shoe-horned in, but Uta’s inclusion is natural. In fact, it feels like Uta has always been part of the One Piece mythos, with the added bonus of giving more depth to Shanks and Luffy. It’s nice to have a character from Luffy’s past that viewed him as an equal, matching his competitive drive and childish idealism. In the main series, Luffy is often initially disregarded as too juvenile, but not so when it comes to Uta. It’s refreshing to see the idealistic part of him matched by another character.
All of Uta’s songs, meanwhile, have lyrics that reflect One Piece’s core ideals. For example, the main theme, New Genesis, is about the current era of oppression and strife being overturned. New Genesis also draws lyrics from the classic One Piece song Bink’s Sake. It’s a thoughtful choice that makes the whole movie feel authentic to the source material. Using music as a vehicle, Film: Red is able to include far more of One Piece’s tenets than its predecessors. The songs also act as easily digestible, catchy shorthand for Uta as a character, catching us up on her offscreen development. The trade-off is that the film does require viewers to have read the main series to understand some of the nuances of the songs. Many lyrics are laced with double meanings that might have larger implications for One Piece’s main story, and while that’s fun for hardcore fans, it might be less so for those who aren’t fully caught up.
One of Uta’s best qualities is her versatile singing voice, provided by Japanese pop star Ado. Each song has a completely different energy, which allows Ado to show off her fantastic tonal range. In New Genesis, she feels hopeful, as if the future is close and she can reach it. On the flip side, Ado’s tone can become clearly frustrated and taunting in songs like Fleeting Lullaby. Her voice is one of the most important aspects that heightens Film: Red to the best of the One Piece franchise.
In Film: Red, everyone is believably on the island for a reason, and appearances are designed by in-universe character choices.
Shanks was introduced in One Piece’s first chapter as Luffy’s idol and an early paternal figure. He’s one of the few pirates that has been around as long as Luffy himself. Despite that, he remains an elusive figure. Film: Red was marketed as potentially changing that, giving Shanks a larger role than he’s had in the past. It’s true that he has a presence, but it still doesn’t reveal all that much about him. It’s a supporting role that catalyzes Film: Red’s main events while teasing that there’s more to come. Obviously, they couldn’t give away a big mystery in a movie, but it would’ve been nice to get more information for one of One Piece’s most mysterious players.
The Straw Hat crew doesn’t get much screen time, which has been a consistent issue across the films. Crew members like Chopper and Robin get one-liners and little cool moments, but that’s about it. As usual, the focus feels more on Luffy than anyone else, but Film: Red is really exceptional in its supporting cast choices. Movies like One Piece Stampede and One Piece Film Gold sometimes felt like the cast was chosen by popularity; as a result, supporting characters seemed more like forced fan service than meaningful story choices. In Film: Red, everyone is believably on the island for a reason, and appearances are designed by in-universe character choices, rather than a committee looking to sell merch.
Uta – the most beloved singer in the world whose voice has been described as “otherworldly” – is renowned for concealing her own identity when performing. Now, for the first time ever, she will reveal herself to the world at a live concert.
With the Navy watching closely, the venue fills with Uta’s fans – including excited pirates and the Straw Hats led by Luffy, who simply came to enjoy her sonorous performance – all eagerly awaiting the voice that the whole world has been waiting for to resound. The story begins with the shocking revelation that she is the enigmatic Shanks’ daughter.