One Piece Film: Red Review: Rich style and story make for another strong cinematic adventure with the Straw Hats
One Piece, one of the most iconic anime franchises of all-time, returns to the big screen for another epic adventure with One Piece Film: Red, which sees the iconic Straw Hats jump into a vibrant battle against a new foe who’s both visually and narratively strong.
The film takes fans onto Elegia, a once thriving island filled with music that was snuffed out and left desolate after a fiery tragedy, as the Straw Hats attend a concert headlined by Uta (voiced by Kaori Nazuka/Amanda Lee), a world-renowned singer. While Uta’s concert seems innocent at first, her voice carries a power that causes all those to hear it to slip into a fake utopian reality. Now, if Luffy (voiced by Mayumi Tanaka/Colleen Clinkenbeard) and his crew are unable to stop Uta before time runs out, they’ll all be trapped in this version of Elegia forever.
With Uta being a more musically driven antagonist, One Piece Film: Red can kind of have a musical vibe to it that’s totally unexpected. It’s not to the point where Luffy and other pirates are breaking out in a song and dance, but there’s definitely a pretty robust soundtrack and musical moments, which is pretty different for a more action-packed anime like One Piece. However, it’s a unique element that works really well for making Uta and the storytelling memorable. The songs have these incredible visuals around them that make them eye-dazzling on the big screen and the genre shifts that happen as Uta becomes a little darker are awesome. It’s a little weird to have the English dub have Japanese vocals, but Ado’s singing voice for Uta is superb and these song sequences give the film great energy in between the more actiony moments and help with the film’s storytelling.
The story of One Piece Film: Red is actually really strong with their being some great narrative breadcrumbs throughout and some excellent character moments. Often, the film presents something that seems innocuous or unimportant that plays a more relevant role. Things like details about Uta’s powers or the real story behind the tragedy that befell Elegia are subtly hinted at and then revealed in a deeper fashion making for not only some memorably big turns in the story, but also some good breadcrumbs worth finding in a repeat watch. Everything is paced nicely and really feels like its building up its characters and Uta’s story to a climactic finale. The only real issues come from the film just kind of ending suddenly and a sudden cutback to the Straw Hat crew after leaving them in the background for a while.
The real strength of One Piece Film: Red’s story though is its wide cast of characters as they all come together incredibly well, and the film has a surprisingly emotional story for Uta. Uta’s motivations are fleshed out excellently as the story unfolds and more of her backstory is unveiled. Her story has some deep emotion to it that connects well with Luffy since they grew up together and the legendary Red-Haired Shanks (voiced by Shuichi Ikeda/Brandon Potter) since she is his adoptive daughter. The emotion of One Piece Film: Red reaches new heights once Red becomes a more prevalent part of the film and the flashbacks to Elegia and that evolving story really help build this strong narrative. Plus, there are plenty of characters that help provide some good humor and balanced light-heartedness to make it a highly entertaining experience.
Of course, though, when talking about a One Piece movie, the action is one of the biggest highlights since it provides some great cinema-quality fun. Uta’s every move is visually stunning and with a wide cast of characters, the film easily provides some great action that’s varied and endlessly fun to watch. The finale is an undeniably epic final fight that gets everyone involved, literally, and delivers some jaw-dropping blows that are even more wild to see on the big screen. It’s all beautifully animated and bursting with color and style, a staple to some great One Piece action.
One Piece Film: Red gives fans and newcomers a great cinematic experience full of rich style, storytelling, and surprising emotion making it another great time to experience another great adventure on the big screen with the Straw Hats.