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by Richard Eisenbeis,

One Piece Film Red

One Piece Film Red
Taking a break from their usual adventures, the Straw Hat pirates decide to attend the first ever concert of the world's most popular singer, Uta. But no sooner does the concert start than Luffy rushes the stage, announcing not only that he and Uta are childhood friends but also that she is the daughter of the infamous pirate "Red-Haired" Shanks. Yet, little does Luffy know that Uta is far from the girl she was when they were kids—and that her concert has the potential to upset the current world order.

I'll be the first to admit, I know very little about One Piece overall—and with over 1000 episodes out, I've long since given up on ever starting it (much less catching up). At this point, the entirety of my knowledge on the subject comes from playing the first two Pirate Warriors games, general cultural osmosis, and seeing the 9th movie back in 2008 (and let me tell you, I've never seen so many people in a theater crying at once).

However, with One Piece Film Red being a big hit here in Japan, I decided to check it out despite my ignorance. And while there are literally dozens of characters in the film, each with their own unique superpowers that I didn't understand, the movie itself was not only understandable to a newcomer like me, but also enjoyable. This is mainly because it's not really a film about any of the myriad of previously established characters—it's about a new one created for this film alone: Uta.

Uta is the core of the film; everything is centered around her character development and back story. She is the film's protagonist, antagonist, and victim all in one. Each act of the film digs a bit deeper into her past, building tragic revelation upon tragic revelation—each time redefining her actions with newly-gleaned context.

Uta's “evil plan” revolves around the fact that the world of One Piece would suck to live in for the general populace. While it is a world full of exciting adventures if you're one of the numerous superpowered pirates, it's a horrible place for normal civilians just trying to get by. At any moment, some superpowered asshole could wipe out your village, enslave you and your family, or just take all your food leaving you to starve. Meanwhile the closest thing to a police force, the Marines, seem to care more about defeating pirates than the civilians caught in the crossfire. Simply put, the entire world order is a disaster and massive change is needed. Uta can singlehandedly bring this change.

Without going into spoilery specifics, Uta has the power to create a new world—one free of violence and hunger where people can basically party and have fun every day. Those who try to upset this new order—i.e., pirates—are basically put into time out and are forced to watch as everyone else has fun. Uta doesn't want to kill anyone—her sole goal is to make everyone happy. Even pirates who give up on being pirates are welcome in her new world. This makes her an interesting antagonist for our usual heroes to be pit against because her goals are so non-violent and pure.

Of course, the villainous aspect of her plan is that it doesn't allow for individual agency. She wants to force as many as possible into her new world whether they would want to live there or not. Yet, at the same time, it's clear that if she were to be fully transparent about her goals and simply allow people to join her out of their own free will, there's no doubt that the forces at the top of the One Piece world would move to stop her. (After all, if all the disenfranchised are gone from the world, who would the powerful lord over?) Through Uta, the film posits the question: “What is more important, living in paradise or having free will?”—and allows the viewer to come up with their own answer through Uta's tragic story. And make no mistake, this film is one full of despair—perhaps too much so. In fact, taken as a whole, I would hesitate to even call it bittersweet in the end.

While there's no doubt that Uta herself drives the plot of the film, it's only half of the One Piece Film Red experience; the other half is the music. One Piece Film Red is basically a musical. Uta is a singer and her world-creating powers come from her songs. She sings constantly throughout the film, and her songs background both the peaceful scenes and the film's numerous fights.

Each of the film's original songs is written by a different popular Japanese composer. The songs vary wildly in genre—from J-Pop and slow ballads to R&B and Hard Rock—and are expertly utilized in scenes that match the tone of the song. What's even more incredible is that Uta has only a single singing voice actor—Ado—and she gives the performance of a lifetime. She nails every musical style perfectly in a tour de force that makes the film worth watching just for the soundtrack alone. The animation is likewise at a high level and tailored to fit the music, to the point where several scenes of the film might as well be music videos.

All in all, One Piece Film Red is a surprisingly deep and emotionally affecting movie. Even if you've never seen an episode of the TV show, the film gives you all you need to connect with the core of the film—i.e., Uta—and those who are important to her. The film itself explores themes of free will and suffering while delivering tons of action set to an absolutely amazing soundtrack. Just don't expect to come out of it feeling good about the world.

Overall : A-
Story : A-
Animation : B
Art : B+
Music : A+

+ A fantastic and nuanced central character that makes the film accessible to even those who know nothing about One Piece. A soundtrack that will almost certainly rank among the best of the year.
Perhaps a bit too tragic for its own good.

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Production Info:
Director: Goro Taniguchi
Screenplay: Tsutomu Kuroiwa
Storyboard: Goro Taniguchi
Unit Director:
Koji Kawasaki
Wataru Matsumi
Yūichi Tsuzuki
Music: Yasutaka Nakata
Original creator: Eiichiro Oda
Character Design: Masayuki Satō
Art Director: Hiroshi Katō
Chief Animation Director: Masayuki Satō
Animation Director:
Issei Aragaki
Kohei Ashiya
Mitsuko Baba
Junichi Hayama
Yuki Hayashi
Hiromi Ishigami
Yūsuke Isōchi
Yumi Kobayashi
Tomoko Kusuki
Saori Nakashiki
Tetsurō Nireki
Kenichi Ōnuki
Toshiaki Satō
Hiroshi Shimizu
Shigefumi Shingaki
Aiko Sonobe
Yūya Takahashi
Naoki Tate
Yong Ce Tu
Takumi Yamamoto
Mamoru Yokota
Kenji Yokoyama
Cgi Director: Kentaro Kawasaki
Director of Photography: Tsunetaka Ema
Executive producer:
Keisuke Furusawa
Yoshihisa Heishi
Yasuo Miyakawa
Hidenobu Muramatsu
Mitsuyuki Nakamura
Takahiro Noda
Toru Ota
Katsuhiro Takagi
Kei Kajimoto
Hiroaki Shibata
Licensed by: Crunchyroll

Full encyclopedia details about
One Piece Film Red (movie 15)

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