“The hierarchy of the One Piece franchise is about to change” Well this film definitely pulled it off. Eventually every great franchise has its definitive movie. That one installment that you feel will never be surpassed. Some do this multiple times like Dragon Ball Z (Original Broly movie, Resurrection F, Dragon Ball Super: Broly) but most will at least do it once. Justice League Crisis on Two Earths, Bleach: Hell Verse, Avengers Infinity War, Spider-Man 3, the original Mortal Kombat, Transformers G1 the movie, etc. Well this has finally happened with One Piece as it’s hard to see this one going down. Film: Red delivers on every front from action to music and it gets a massive bump in the theatrical experience. It’s a film that you have to see as soon as possible and it’s relatively new audience friendly so you can jump in and have a blast.
The movie starts out with a bunch of people yelling for help and they’re sad because the world is going to the pits and nobody is there to help them. The world is in the great pirate era after all so villains are everywhere and the government is so completely corrupt that you can’t really count on them to help you out either. Well, one girl has a dream…a dream of world peace! Her name is Uta and this is her story. In the present she has invited all of her fans to an island so that they can see her sing in person. Throughout her career she has only sung virtually through the cameras so this is a big deal. Just about everyone has come to watch her songs and 70% of the entire planet will either be watching her on TV or on the island. She almost literally has the world at her grasp and now she can try to achieve her dream. Is the dream really possible though?
Luffy is glad to see her because they used to be childhood friends until she mysteriously vanished one day. There’s a lot of questions about where she went and why she vanished but there isn’t much time to ask her at the concert. Things take a turn though when she announces that the concert will never end and she’s not letting anyone off the island. Is it even possible to have a never ending concert and how will this bring about world peace? All Luffy knows is that he needs to stop Uta but it won’t be easy as she has grown tremendously powerful over to the years to the point where there are few on this planet who can challenge her. He will have to go full force because if he can’t defeat her then he will never become King of the Pirates!
Right off the bat I can say that the movie absolutely delivers on the big songs here. One of the things the movie was getting a lot of hype for was how many songs it was going to have. Instead of calling it part musical I’d call the film part concert. Even as the battles are going you will usually have some kind of song going. It really helps to pump up the scene. One of the villainous songs sounds like something out of Lost Song and then you’ve got a ton of really peppy songs like in Sword Art Online. Hearing these in the full Imax settings was excellent. My ears were still ringing long after the film had ended and I was back home. I don’t think I’ve heard a movie with such loud decibels before but it’s perfect for a concert film.
You really felt like you were in one and that’s why the theater experience is a good boost to the film so I recommend seeing it in that setting at least once. The songs will hold up even after that though and I look forward to finding them online to listen to. Meanwhile the animation is also the best that it’s been in the series. It’s not surprising as One Piece’s animation grew quite noticeably better during Wano. And if that’s how good the show looks you can only imagine how good the movie would appear. They didn’t hold anything back here and every scene really shines. The colors are bright and there is a ton of movement in the fights.
Everyone looks powerful here and it also helps to really show just how powerful Uta is with her being able to block so many hits. In general I also liked the way her powers worked. Yes it seems incredibly broken but why shouldn’t there be a Devil Fruit that is this good? Eventually someone needs to have the best fruit out there and why not have hers be the best one? Because I think it’s fair to say that no other fruit can compare. It does have its own weaknesses of course but in most scenarios you figure that she will be able to defeat her opponents without a problem. The power levels in the film were all handled really well so I don’t have any issues on that front. I did find it a little funny that some randoms would actually challenge Luffy though. He’s one of the emperors now, would they actually try to challenge Kaido or Shanks? I feel like Luffy doesn’t get a lot of respect right now, maybe he just looks too young?
People who start their One Piece experience with this film may find Luffy to appear a bit on the weaker side but he is holding back for almost the whole film so he doesn’t really get to cut loose. That’s probably one difference compared to the previous films which is that Luffy doesn’t get a lot of action. It helps the movie avoid the usual power level concerns though. Keep in mind that Luffy is already Top 10 in the verse by this film so if he was having trouble with anyone then that would be hard to really make sense of. This way that isn’t really messed with.
Luffy also looks great in general here. He handles things very maturely and also does his best to respect Uta’s wishes even if they disagree on things. When she starts talking about how she doesn’t like pirates and how he should stop being one, he just walks away instead of trying to talk her out of it. He’s just not planning on having an argument and is ready to walk away. Perhaps confronting her would be best but they’re both super determined characters so he probably realized that it wouldn’t amount to anything. He also just doesn’t want to fight her since they’re still friends.
Luffy will fight his friends if he has to like when he took Usopp down but for the most part ever since then he tries to handle things peacefully like when Sanji would try and attack him. So it’s a solid character moment here and Luffy ended up fighting when the time was right. His best film appearance is likely still in Stampede but overall he has looked great in quite a few of the movie and this one would be near the top as well.
Uta also looks great here and is an excellent film original character. Film original characters usually have had a negative rep over the years although recently it hasn’t been much of an issue. That’s because they tend to be rather annoying and hold the cast back but that isn’t the case here as Uta is close to being the main character and a lot of the film is about her dream. We get flashbacks scattered throughout the movie on her childhood and what led her down this path. It’s all really emotional stuff and her plan is actually a very interesting one.
Make no mistake, she is a villain here and has gone off the deep end, but I do appreciate films where the villain is following their own sense of justice. It’s much easier to follow a villain who is at least trying to do the right thing and has strong ideals than one who is just evil for no good reason. (There’s a place for those villains too of course) Uta can handle herself in a fight and also really thought things through here. She had a strong plan that was nearly unbreakable so you really can’t ask for much more than that. It’s fair to say that she was the greatest threat to the planet in terms of sheer numbers and I’m not sure any future One Piece villain will top that.
At the end of the day Uta was by herself for many years aside from the old guy at the kingdom and she never lost hope. She just kept fighting until she got to her own answer on how to achieve world peace. It wasn’t the right answer perhaps but at least it was one. Now the film got a lot of hype for Shanks showing up but of course you shouldn’t expect him to do a lot here. It’s a fairly small role for him but it’s still nice to see the guy. He does leave an impact in his few scenes and you can tell that he is powerful. I have my doubts on if he could really take on Luffy right now but either way he is in the upper ranks.
I did disagree with Shanks’ decision to leave Uta though. You can watch the film to see how that all plays out but at the end of the day I think he needed to trust Uta to choose her own future a bit more. He may have thought himself to be doing something noble but I did not agree with it. It was not the right thing to do imo. It’s also nice to see his crew even if they don’t look as impressive as the Strawhats. Personally I think Luffy’s crew is easily the most powerful in the series by this point.
They get their own subplot on finding out a way to try and stop Uta but for the most part they aren’t as big a focus. You get to see them get some action and all though so everyone uses their special abilities. Zoro continues to prove why he is Luffy’s strongest fighter during this as several characters even react when he does his ultimate attack. Even Yasopp was impressed and that guy has seen Shanks fight up close and personal. Zoro was also the first one to react when Luffy’s crew was attacked and I appreciate that. You have to defend them right away. I give Bartolomeo similar credit because he was the first one to step in and try to help Luffy when he was nearly captured while a lot of other characters just froze.
There are a lot of guest stars here so be on the lookout for them. Some like Katakuri should have gotten a bit more to do if you ask me though. You almost wondered what the point of Katakuri was here since he didn’t end up adding much to the fight. It was still nice to see him though. Oven and Brulee were some of the more random ones initially but it did help to make the film feel a bit more ambitious. Having the canon characters show up to fight will do that to a movie.
The film does ultimately resort to a giant CGI monster as the final boss though so that still seems to be a curse in the anime movie industry. Why can’t we end with a humanoid battle? So many of them love the giant monster at the end and it’s just not as exciting. The movie’s top notch animation makes the most of it but having Uta as the final boss herself would have been a lot of fun. I’d say that would have absolutely been the best way to go here.
This movie has a ton of replay value either way. The pacing is really fast, I remember being surprised when the film goes to the present and we see that Luffy and the gang are already at the concert. No time is spent on them travelling there or an opening montage to set up. They’re just ready right from the jump and we get into the singing. It probably happens within the opening 10 minutes and things just keep escalating from there. The film doesn’t take many breaks either. We get some lore and flashbacks but always very briefly until we jump to the next big scene. The film is just really high energy and that fits in with the series always being a colorful adventure.
Fans of the government/navy who have lasted this long will probably be fine but if you’re someone who was on the fence about if they were good guys or not will want to step back here. They look so evil that it’s almost funny. They basically figure at one point that they should sacrifice millions of people to take one character down and you can probably guess who. At that point it’s not even cracking a few eggs to make an omelet. You’re destroying the whole farm for one. They just have no justification at this point and seem to just be trying to murder people for no reason. Kizaru was ready to destroy people without a second thought and the pirates have to stop them. Yeah the government definitely appear to be the true enemies here which is why anyone working for them feels complicit after a while. Just look at how they serve the Celestial Dragons who are still as evil and petty as they come.
Overall, One Piece Film: Red is excellent and one of the top anime films. I’m confident that it will be remembered as a big game changer for a long time to come. The writing is just excellent and set up a really great rivalry/friendship with Uta and Luffy from the jump. They have a better dynamic than most of the Strawhats to be honest. I can see why she was an instant fan favorite in the franchise. They should really drop Brook off the crew and replace him with someone cool like Uta. I wasn’t a fan of the way the film ended which is the only sour spot there but it’s not a horrible ending or anything like that. (After all, that would have kept this from being the best One Piece film) It’s just not how I would have done things, I would have gone with a slightly different ending because all you need to change is one thing. The scene after the credits is pretty fun though as one character gets re-energized. If you haven’t seen the film yet then it’s definitely time to change that.