Simply calling One Piece a great franchise is a bit of an understatement. Japanese manga has been around since 1997, and in 25 years, creator Eiichiro Oda has drawn and written no less than 104 tankobon (manga) about Monkey D. Luffy and his crew in his quest to become the Pirate King. With over 516 million books sold worldwide, an anime series containing over 1,000 episodes, and a franchise with total sales of over $14 billion, it is undoubtedly one of the most great entertainment franchises ever made. What’s most impressive though is how the show still maintains such a high standard and continues to surprise and entertain, even 25 years after its humble beginnings.
Many Europeans might still think of an outfit reminiscent of a skinned Teletubby upon hearing the words One Piece, but more and more are seeing the light as interest in manga and anime continues to rise in our part of the world. As a result, more animated films not associated with the famed Studio Ghibli are showing in our theaters, including Your Name, Weathering with You, Demon Slayer: Mugen Train, and Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero. Now One Piece joins that happy roster with its latest film, One Piece Film: Red, the 15th of its kind featuring Luffy in one of his adventures along the Grand Line.
This time, Luffy and his team traveled to the island of Elegia, where they received tickets for the first live concert with the latest pop sensation, Uta, the singer who took the world by storm during of the last two years. With a spectacular show, heavy beats and unparalleled charisma, everything is set for the greatest musical performance of all time, but it doesn’t take long before the situation changes. When Uta’s abilities and background fall into the spotlight, Luffy must team up with old friends and foes to save the day.
Given that the film’s new main character is a music diva, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the film puts a lot of emphasis on her music. What’s surprising, however, is how much there actually is, not to mention how well produced it is with a surprisingly wide range of genres and styles. Some typical J-pop tunes are par for the course, but some of the other songs are much darker and heavier than you’d expect from these franchise-related movies. The audiovisual production is undoubtedly the main canon of the film, and the superb soundtrack matches the visuals quite well. The latter doesn’t break any new barriers for anime, but it’s a step up for the One Piece movies, and many scenes are filled with visual effects showing the production team have gone into full guns. fire on it.
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That’s why it’s a shame to tell you that even if the film tries to blow your mind, the end result is without any explosive force. The main reason for this is the story, which ends up being cacophonous nonsense with no consistency or substance. One Piece is a series known for its long story arcs, which of course makes creating a story limited to just 115 minutes quite a challenge. Still, this story would have been better served as a longer feature or even as a filler arc in the anime, as here we’re thrown from plot to plot without the necessary transitions or logical connections between scenes. . The film thus loses the impact it could have had, which is what One Piece itself is so known and loved for.
The film’s biggest mistake is always to lean so heavily on its characters. One Piece is famous for its massive roster of characters, big and small, and the filmmakers decided they wanted to try and include as many of them as possible from the entire lifespan of the series. You need to have a good understanding of all the characters and their powers to know what’s going on here, which makes this movie inaccessible to newcomers. Throwing so many characters on screen at the same time limits their time in the spotlight and their ability to make a lasting impression, which we know can be avoided for films with a huge roster if the screening time is more long and tight storyline, like Avengers: Endgame.
To make matters worse, the film throws new characters on the sidelines all the time. One Piece has never shied away from using the deus ex machina as a narrative tool, but here it’s used so much that its impact and value diminishes each time, causing even worse inflation than we see in our own society today. today. The result is unapologetic fanservice that’ll get a few cheers when some fan favorites show up and do something cool (even this reviewer had a few “Yes!” moments during the screening), but where it’s just trying to cover up the lack of substance and basic quality of the film.
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One Piece Film: Red has a few scenes and appearances that will give fans something to smile about, and the musical production alone is almost worth a trip to the cinema to experience it on a great sound system. Still, that’s not enough to save the movie as a whole. The story is too all over the place with its unstructured chaos, and having a giant cast cast almost on a whim throughout the film only makes this mess even bigger. We can appreciate the fact that a One Piece movie is finally coming to our shores, but the content itself is certainly disappointing.