“While One Piece Film: Red’s anime film formula doesn’t quite stand out in a crowded field, it’s a visual showstopper and a loving extension of Eiichiro Oda’s rich world.”
Eye-catching art direction and animation
A welcome spotlight on Red-Haired Shanks’ history
An interesting new point of view
A bit formal
Musical numbers suffer from unevenness
Not many long-time genre fans could have accurately predicted how big a global and mainstream juggernaut anime would become, and the imminent success of director Gorō Taniguchi and Toei Company’s One Piece Movie: Red is another colorful example of why that is. It’s one of the most anticipated remaining anime of 2022, and for franchise creator and mangaka Eiichiro Oda, this is just one more notch in his and the expansive pirate odyssey world. One Piece all in all.
This is the 15th anime film adaptation in the series, and while all the entries before Red falls under the umbrella term of non-canon, certain elements of this latest endeavor make continuity a bit more of a gray area, and in places allows its story to make some refreshing additions to the formula. Putting some focus on a fan-favorite character, Red-Haired Shanks, and the original Uta – along with musical numbers she injects into the film – are some examples of this. It ultimately caters to an overly familiar “anime movie” formula that won’t exactly grip initiated fans, but it’s a generally loving expansion of Oda’s pirate universe.
A lively feast for the eyes
Long-running anime and One Piece fans have been waiting for this film for a number of reasons, one of which – unsurprisingly – is what the animation studio at the helm would do in the film’s visual department. And, as expected, Toei Animation does not disappoint here.
While some of the high-octane action sequences can feel colorfully overwhelming, the film is an unfiltered and vibrant dose of eye candy that should appeal to longtime fans and newcomers alike. This shouldn’t come as a surprise for an IP as massive as that One Pieceespecially since the studios on the TV side of these properties often tend to take control of the film adaptations as well.
Other anime movies released this year viz Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero and Jujutsu Kaisen 0have upped their respective games in expanding the potential of animation as a medium, but One Piece Movie: Red can comfortably and proudly stand beside them with the studio’s achievements.
The entire universe of this franchise can be succinctly described as “colorful” and “vibrant”, but the expanded scope in Red absolutely shows, including in the art direction and character design. Elegia – the musical island where the story mainly takes place – feels about as unique as any of the settings found in the manga source material or TV anime adaptation, which is as high a compliment as any for a semi-out-of-continuity original story.
Oda was credited with being very closely involved in the production of the film compared to previous entries, and it certainly shows in the character designs as well. This applies to the various flashy wardrobes, the main and supporting cast throughout the film, but, more importantly, to the film’s new star attraction in the form of Uta.
Nevertheless, nothing and no one goes unnoticed no matter how long (or briefly) they appear.
Welcome new character spotlights
Eiichiro Oda has since assured fans One Pieceits beginnings that the Straw Hat Pirates would be universally loved, but the biggest selling points to Red are Red-haired Shanks and the aforementioned Uta. The former has generally been elusive in the world of the source material, so getting some kind of focused attention in a feature film was always a plus.
However, Uta is mostly the star of the show in this film, and Grand Line’s resident J-Pop idol is as fittingly larger-than-life as longtime fans want to see in a fresh face in One Piece world.
And in a somewhat refreshing change of pace for the movies, the story does a decent job of presenting a plot that has a bit more emotional resonance with the lead cast than normal. That’s what partly paves the way for the film’s most inventive aspect: the musical numbers.
It’s a fun way to work in an otherwise atypical subgenre for action shounen anime, and Uta’s voice for the song segments – Ado – does an excellent job of performing the various upbeat songs in the film.
Although for some this may give mixed results. As endlessly and wonderfully bizarre as this universe is, these musical numbers hold back the pace of the action a bit. It’s not a dealbreaker, but as much as anime fans take to the music used in anime openings and endings, the frequency and length of the numbers give the story a stop-and-go pace in places.
An admittedly formulaic structure
Even with crowd pleasers like Shanks and Uta, though, Red doesn’t exactly have too much that makes it stand out in an already crowded crowd of big budget anime movies.
It’s great to see anime movies, in addition to the primary television medium, getting more international box office recognition, but it’s hard not to admit that film adaptations of major anime IPs (such as Dragon Ball) follows the plot structure fairly by the numbers.
The emotional investment between the main cast makes things a bit more interesting than normal, but it still doesn’t escape the template of the almost nonsensical, high-stakes climax that it’s hard to invest too much in, knowing that the conflicts in these films are almost always self-contained. Likewise, the biggest acts in these kinds of movies always cram in more characters than the screen can handle just to sell everyone’s favorite side characters five seconds of fame.
Nonetheless, Red is a generally good and entertaining anime romp that will satisfy longtime fans even if it’s nothing groundbreaking, and is also pretty safe for potential fans curious to see what this sprawling pirate fantasy is all about.
Toei Company’s One Piece Movie: Red now playing in cinemas.
The editors’ recommendations