Anime fans will likely enjoy “One Piece Film Red,” the latest feature-length expansion to manga artist Eiichiro Oda’s popular comic book series and, to date, the highest-grossing Japanese film of the year. . Everyone will likely struggle with this particular action fantasy, as most of its singularly appealing qualities – its J-pop score, appealing character designs, and impressive computer graphics – get bogged down in the nature of the project so as the 15th film adaptation of a manga series that began 25 years ago.
An “original story” introductory credit for Oda makes it clear that pre-existing fans are the perfect audience for “One Piece Film Red,” which continues the adventures of carefree pirate Luffy (voiced by Mayumi Tanaka) and his misfit gang. spellcasting sailors. Luckily, this new “One Piece” movie, which is mostly about a super-powered pop singer and her misguided plan to destroy all the pirates, might also appeal to newcomers thanks to an easy-to-follow backstory and some propulsive action scenes. .
The first half of “One Piece Film Red” comprehensively lays out the basic plot details of that specific film and its immediate circumstances. “The world is in the midst of the Great Pirate Age,” according to a voiceover narrator, and Luffy and his crew have sailed to Elegia, the Island of Music, to catch a rare concert by Uta (Kaori Nazuka ), a reclusive pop singer who casts a magic spell on her audience.
Luffy immediately recognizes Uta, a childhood friend he hasn’t seen in years. Unfortunately, Uta soon tries to force Luffy and his friends to stay with her forever in a music-themed fantasy world. They try to decline Uta’s offer, but she traps them and the rest of her spectators on Elegia. Meanwhile, a battalion of ships circles the island, some of which represent the World Government Navy, and at least one of which hosts the red-haired Shanks (Shuichi Ikeda), Uta’s ruthless pirate father. Luckily, Uta’s music casts a spell thanks to pop singer Ado’s charming vocals and some catchy power-pop arrangements from composer Yasutaka Nakata.
Much of “One Piece Film Red” serves as an overloaded showcase for its characters, most of whom are introduced as legendary rock stars but only selectively reappear to say their catchphrases or special moves. To be fair, Oda’s manga features some genuinely distinctive character designs, so it makes sense that the show’s creators find excuses to highlight members of, say, the Big Mom Pirates or the Big Heart Pirates.
A few catchphrases and signature moves also quickly establish the appeal of fan favorites like Bepo, a clumsy polar bear/anthropoid mink hybrid, or Blueno, a sour-faced former villain turned fair-weather ally. These characters can also show off their signature spells and superpowers during action scenes, whose sugar rush energy often matches the rest of the film’s relentlessly upbeat energy.
Unfortunately, Uta’s overall story turns out to be the most disappointing part of “One Piece Film Red.” Some flashbacks establish how Luffy and Uta are united by their complicated feelings for red-haired Shanks, a notorious pirate who abandoned Uta when she was young.
Fans know that Shanks gave Luffy his signature straw hat, but Uta’s connection to Shanks never seems so consequential. She sings and raves a lot about how she wants to end the pirate era – “I am Uta, the woman who will create a new era” – but there is not much to understand d a character who monotonously reminds viewers that she is cheerful, overpowered, and vindictive. There’s a stuck-on backstory regarding Tot Musica, a music-themed demon, but it’s never quite as interesting or as well-developed as the film’s stack of cheerfully messy allusions to more characters and events. old.
Ado and Nakata’s music, however, makes Uta sound like a real pop star, unlike the polite but underwhelming songs used in other music-themed anime features this year, like “Belle” or “Inu-Oh.” Ado and Nakata’s score not only establishes Uta’s true works as a cult pop favorite, but also injects much-needed energy into the film’s hugely expansive narrative, which often lacks dramatic urgency.
Again, “One Piece Film Red” features much of what fans have come to expect from “One Piece,” especially its breathless pace and generally high energy. There are also welcome, if not always substantial or effective, attempts to entice newcomers by explaining who everyone is and how they relate, which goes a long way in a story that features small but key interactions with, for example. example, a celestial dragon. named Saint Charloss (Chafurin), or members of Cipher Pol, the World Government’s spy agency. These annotations give “One Piece Film Red” a slight edge over other recent anime features based on popular decades-old manga, like “Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero” and “Jujutsu Kaisen 0”, but only in this specific regard.
If you’re at all curious about ‘One Piece’, you might enjoy ‘One Piece Film Red’, as it’s a better-than-average highlight reel for Oda’s insinuating and vividly realized characters. Don’t feel bad if you leave the theater feeling confused and a little dissatisfied; this new feature is more like an oversized sampling tray than a full meal.
“One Piece Film Red” opens in US theaters November 4 via Crunchyroll.