One Piece: Red (ワンピース フィルム レッド) is the fifteenth feature film in the Straw Hat Pirate franchise, released on August 6, 2022. A great success, it already comes behind the feature film “Demon Slayer: The Infinity Train”. in terms of admissions to Japan. Does this film live up to this success? SmallThings went to see him at the Grand Rex.
Warning, this review contains many spoilers, including the ending of the film.
Luffy and his crew go to the island of Elegie to attend a concert by the singer “Uta”, the one whose voice will change the world. It is not by chance that her name is Uta, this word meaning “song” in Japanese. Luffy is happy to find her, because she is none other than the daughter of Shanks himself. They even knew each other during childhood. This already fits with difficulty in the lore of One Piece, because it is never mentioned in the main manga… But its disappearance is better justified later, we will come back to it.
The story of One Piece Red, which was intended to be a simple shonen at its core, tends to get lost along the way. Uta is finally completely “yandere” (a very violent type of girl in manga who wants to control everything, including the people she loves) and decides to capture Luffy’s entire crew. She does the same with her audience, so that they will never be unhappy again. She wants to create a new era, rid of pirates: and she blames Luffy for being one, precisely. What she refuses to see is that Luffy is not a pirate like the others, eager for looting and violence: he is the one who will restore peace and establish a new era. But Uta never listens to anything, which is quite frustrating.
This is the whole problem of One Piece Red: where has the shonen spirit gone? Where are the fights, the strategies, the strong friendships, the chivalrous spirit? All we see is a hysterical kid who treats everyone around her like her toys, even if it means breaking them, “all because she feels lonely, poor thing, you know, it’s for that’s why she wants to keep everyone prisoner”. Yeah. I did not subscribe to this delirium at all, as did the public in the hall of the Grand Rex. A lot of people were confused about this direction the story was taking. Admittedly, you need antagonists, but we didn’t expect the main opponent to be Uta, which is already a big disappointment…
The scenario goes way too far in the WTF
Okay, Uta held everyone prisoner with the powers of her voice. She certainly ate a devil fruit, which would explain why she is so powerful. Except we learn… that none of this happened. The multicolored concerts, the special effects, Uta’s powers… all of this is fake. In reality, she sings all alone on an abandoned island, with a deeply asleep audience. Like the only fairy awake in Sleeping Beauty, she controls the spectators’ dreams and keeps them in an illusory world where everything is candy pink, where misfortune cannot exist. A bit like in Matrixthe Straw Hat Crew will have to find a way to escape the virtual world. And it continues to go wrong when Uta gets more and more angry like a kid and decides to turn everyone into teddy bears to better control them. Alright… I still think that wasn’t a good idea. Luckily, our heroes aren’t sitting around doing nothing: Robin goes to study in the ruins to learn more about this mysterious island. We learn that Uta, in his anger, could awaken ‘Tot Musica’, a music demon capable of destroying everything… but also creating an escape from this virtual world.
Shanks saves the script
In reality, our heroes can’t do anything because they are asleep. Uta decided to commit suicide by refusing to sleep, and when she dies, no one will be able to wake up. The Navy intervenes, without much success, but luckily Shanks is there to bring his daughter back to her senses! And it’s a relief because it’s well after more than an hour of boring songs and frustrating pranks that dad Shanks is finally here! Do you think Shanks’ presence will calm his daughter down? Noooooonnnnn! She is even more furious to have been abandoned in the past and she wants to summon Tot Musica! (facepalm)
And this is where OUF the One Piece Red scenario picks up a bit. Brandon, the one who took in Uta on the island when she was little, tells her everything. Shanks had brought her to the island of Elegie more than ten years ago to bring her to a music academy, in view of her obvious talent. But she had invoked Tot Musica for the first time by accident. The demon having awakened, it was he who destroyed the whole island. Shanks and Brandon had agreed that it would be Shanks taking all the guilt on him while fleeing with his crew, making the whole world believe that the island had been ravaged by his fault. Because of pirates. It was a beautiful moment, because finally, the spirit of the shonen had returned to the film: Shanks, Luffy’s mentor, showed a chivalrous spirit by sparing his daughter from the reproach. It’s a very good idea, and we better understand Uta’s loneliness and distress.
But Uta reacts like this, which has bothered us all: “I already knew all that! But I want to destroy everything anyway! »… Why… Just why? It’s just pure hysteria at this point. Nothing is logical : she still wants pirates when nothing is their fault! She just wants to stay in her self-destruction, even if it means taking as many people as possible with her. So it’s true that she takes drugs with “insomnia” mushrooms so as not to sleep and that they have the effect of making her lose her mind, but that’s just getting ridiculous. The spectator no longer adheres at all. If the character had been better written, with more nuances and depth, we might have understood, but there, it doesn’t take.
A review of Idols in Japan?
This feature film is all the more disconcerting that One Piece does not want to make One Piece. At the end, when “Tot Musica” is summoned, I couldn’t help but think of “Sis Puella Madoka Magica”, a 12-episode anime released in 2011, which showed magical girls who, when they go evil, are transformed into gigantic monsters with a universe of their own, the “witches”. “Tot Musica” reminds me strongly of a witch who very well symbolizes Uta’s sadness, loneliness and self-destruction. Only, in “Madoka”, these witches are much better written: a magical-girl does not become a witch overnight. This happens after a long descent into hell, and every detail exists for a specific purpose: the witch symbolizes the unease of the magical girl, she is the image of her despair. The main characters are nuanced, and above all, they recognize that it is partly their fault. Like Sayaka, a young girl who has agreed to become magical-girl to save the love of her life, and who sinks into amorous spite when she sees that he is no longer interested in her.
But as already said, Uta is not a sufficiently well-written character for the viewer to adhere to his pain… The film is too long and at the same time rushed. Worse still, she is only the adopted daughter of Shanks (we suspected a little) and nothing is explained about her origins. Who are his real parents? Why was she abandoned? What does the devil fruit she ate look like? Stranger still, we see flashbacks to her childhood where she is surrounded by starving peasant women who beg her to do something about the pirates. Who are these people ? We know nothing about anything, we are left with unanswered questions.
But this feature film may have more meaning than we think. Wouldn’t it be a critique of the “Idol” craze in Japan? The Idols are young singers who become stars, but it’s much more extreme: they are subjected to a busy schedule until they are exhausted, they are not allowed to have a boyfriend, and they are often followed by hordes of mostly very extreme otakus, the “hikikomoris” who rarely leave their homes. I caricature a lot, but when you see Uta selling dreams until her audience escapes the real world, you can ask yourself questions. The otaku is deluded until he forgets to live, and the idol remains unhappy because she is alone and sometimes harassed by unscrupulous fans. Moreover, it is quite striking how Uta takes himself for a god in his own world of illusions, and prevents his audience from having any freedom. We can’t help but think of the guru of a cult, and there are many very destructive sects in Japan. Perhaps this feature film denounced the failings of the Land of the Rising Sun, but alas, it does so less well than the end ofevangelion…
One Piece is no longer One Piece
At the exit of the cinema: what a disappointment! One Piece is no longer One Piece: the shonen spirit was largely set aside, all that to show a pretty hysterical idol on the edges who just demands a little attention. It’s very frustrating and we’re disconcerted: what did the screenwriters want to do? Certainly, we see a lot of interesting characters, but I never felt that Luffy was the hero of the story, in favor of a bland and insubstantial Uta. There were fight scenes at the end against Tot Musica (and fortunately, otherwise there would have been nothing) but it was very little compared to what we are used to seeing. Stampede was so much better next door! Action in all directions, Luffy going on a treasure hunt… That’s what we want to see! There, there were TOO many songs, it became unbearable. There were 3 songs too many, including the last one. Uta is saved, but there she is still singing! The whole public reacted by being exasperated. And there was enough. The set gives the impression of an empty shell without flavor, all with many disappointments.
And last worrying thing, it is overflows in cinemaslike what happened in Marseille. This refers to a bad image of manga fans in France, and this is not good news. In the meantime, let’s dive back into the manga which is coming to an end, and which is much better than this accident film.