By Owen Glancy Staff Writer
“One Piece” is often considered one of the most influential anime series of all time, with it still airing nearly 25 years after its debut in 1999. “One Piece Film: Red” is the latest film entry into the franchise, releasing in Japan Aug. 6 and finally reaching American audiences Nov. 4.
The film follows Monkey D. Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates as they attend a concert held by the famous singer Uta, a childhood friend of Luffy’s. Uta’s concert takes place on the island of Elegia, and aside from brief glimpses of other locations, the movie takes place on this one island.
This may seem like a downside, but it allows the film to have a faster pace and a more focused narrative. Uta is an excellent new addition to the world of “One Piece” and adds more depth to both Luffy and Shanks’ characters.
Shanks has always been a polarizing character in “One Piece,” acting as a mentor for Luffy, yet very rarely appearing in the show or manga at all. Seeing more of him, even if it was mostly through Uta’s flashbacks, was great and his voice actor really shines with the increase in screen time.
While the overall cast may be smaller than the previous film, “One Piece Film: Stampede,” it means that the characters we do get are far more compelling. Law and Bartolomeo are as fun as ever, and the unexpected importance of Coby and Oven is incredible.
The animation is inconsistent. During many of the film’s musical numbers and action scenes, it is incredible. However, some action scenes and many moments of tranquility pale in comparison to the show’s steady increase in animation quality.
The action scenes can feel hard to follow, often focusing on flashy animation and characters yelling attack names rather than a coherent fight. Even the excellently done final confrontation among Uta, Luffy, and Shanks falls into this trap, even if it is emotionally compelling.
Uta being a villain is probably the least surprising twist I’ve seen in a while, but it still works as it occurs early in the film, allowing her some breathing room to be evil. Uta’s powers are confusing, but flashy enough to distract the audience from the obvious plot holes that they cause.
Uta’s musical performances are the most divisive part of the movie among the fanbase, with many claiming they ruined the film for them. However, these people could not be more wrong.
The songs sung by Ado are excellent and lend a ton of character development and fun moments to the film. These musical segments also had the best animation in the entire film, making it feel like a music video at times.
While these song numbers are great, they do derail the plot. Many of these songs take nearly five minutes to perform and in a two-hour movie, you really start to notice just how much of it is singing.
The film starts off slow, but really finds its stride once Shanks makes his appearance as more and more characters show up to stop Uta.
The final confrontation among Uta, Luffy, and Shanks is emotional and memorable. Uta’s hatred for her father Shanks and Luffy’s worship of him offer an interesting dilemma for the audience, letting them choose who they think is in the right.
This moral ambiguity does lose some of its luster when it’s revealed that Uta’s hatred for Shanks spawns from a misunderstanding, but it doesn’t make any of what was discussed earlier in the film any less impactful.
At the very end of the film, Luffy and Shanks are preparing to take down Uta with a joint attack. It is here that anime-only viewers are spoiled on a major plot point in the manga that has yet to be animated. While it doesn’t take anything away from the film, it still feels weird to see something so important spoiled for those who are only watching the anime adaptation.
“One Piece Film: Red” is a very uneven movie, with lots of ups and downs. However, the highs are some of the highest in “One Piece” history and is a super great time from beginning to end. Set sail to your local theater and give “One Piece Film: Red” a watch.
Rating B, The best “One Piece” film yet