One Piece Film: Red – red alert

One Piece Film: Red released on November 4, 2022, and quickly reached the top of the charts. It’s the highest grossing One Piece film ever by a landslide, the highest grossing movie in Japan for the year, and the ninth highest-grossing anime film of all time in Japan at the time of writing. It also currently stands as the tenth highest-grossing Japanese film worldwide.

While the movie intended to touch the hearts of its audience and has evidently done so for the most part, it will not be for everyone. This is because from my own perception and takeaway from the movie, One Piece Film: Red is one of the most flawed films to have come out of the series, and with that, it’s quite surprising to see its overwhelming success. Here’s our of it to better express what our issues are with it.

Before we go any further, do keep in mind that you will want to be caught up with the One Piece manga to avoid spoilers, at least after the Wano arc — but we won’t be spoiling the film itself.

All about that music (and singer) once again

One Piece Film: Red

Oda was the executive producer, script revisor and character designer of the film, and Shinji Shimizu, its producer, went on record to say that this was the most involved Oda has ever been in a One Piece movie. Furthermore, its script was discussed, processed and produced by the joint efforts of Oda, director Goro Taniguchi and screenplay author Tsutomu Kuroiwa for over two years, and it is truly unfortunate that the fruits of their collaboration turned out to be as disappointing as it is.

Recently, anime movies with a focus on bringing music video segments interwoven into the narrative have been popular, but ultimately only brought demise to the product in question. Both BELLE and Bubble completely fumbled in this way, and One Piece Film: Red is no different. One Piece Film: Red is just as disconnected as these other examples, with bits of lore brought up mid-conversation in a poor attempt to explain the movie’s newly introduced continent and characters exclusive to the film, usually right after central character Uta finishes one of her songs.

The formula is rinsed and repeated until it ends, and the seven songs shoved in throughout the movie are ostensibly present to portray the emotions and feelings of Uta herself during the events of the movie. Where I take such great issue with this is how it connects to Uta’s character development. It is the messiest part of the entire movie, and considering it is supposed to be one of the film’s core elements, it’s shockingly shallow and poor in execution.

One Piece Film: Red

Uta’s motivations are initially understandable… until they’re not, when she acknowledges the truth about her origins. Her end goals appear initially acceptable when we know her as being lonely and existing in an isolated state, with a sense of warped perception in forcing happiness onto others. But as the movie progresses, she’s continuously fighting her own demons, and is too misguided to correct the path she’s chosen.

It’s all well and good on paper, but in practice with how the movie presents her development, it feels like it’s all over the place. The pacing is disastrous, and Uta’s feelings are a car crash of nauseating music video insertions. With all the shoehorning in of the seven songs she sings and dances to, there’s a truly bizarre sense of uncanniness about it all. And, perhaps worst of all, this is a One Piece movie where all the visuals accompanying Uta’s songs and performances take away attention from the fights.

Furthermore, when the movie demands it so, Uta will shred her idol persona and go full “yandere” during some of these music video segments, pulling the oddest faces and expressions to indicate her declining mental state. It’s really difficult to watch, and is made doubly painful when the movie attempts to pull off an emotional climax for the events and her character.

One Piece Film: Red

None of it works when we have moments of Uta singing as a child with Ado’s voice that take you out of any sense of immersion, and her powers seemingly evolving on a whim despite how they were originally explained. What was shown to us as a fruit that can transport people’s consciousness into a virtual space is later able to imitate Sugar’s power of turning people into toys – not to her standard, but it is very reminiscent of it.

Overall, Uta herself is neither memorable nor appealing, and her behaviour throughout the movie makes her simply tiresome. Her songs, as one might expect, encompass a selection of different genres to form an EP of sorts, and this choice is meant to complement and match Uta’s ever-changing and rapidly whiplashing emotions within the plotline.

But as a character drama quite unlike the other One Piece movies, Film: Red notably focusing on the movie-exclusive character Uta is both the main attraction and worst element of the feature. Everything about her characterisation and development was contrived, forced and underwhelming.

Don’t forget about the other characters

One Piece Film: Red

The fanservice in Film: Red comes in the form of the smallest of cameos that feel contrived in their inclusion. Bepo makes the same joke three times at one point, Katakuri appears vaguely in one scene to indicate that he will join in on the action in the end – which was for only one attack when the big bad appears, and then he exits just as quickly as he entered – and the CP9 remind us that they still exist in a couple of shots.

The fights involving the Straw Hats that do get some screentime feature the same basic design of the enemies Uta creates through her Devil Fruit ability. It’s beyond uninspiring, what with the endless possibilities at her disposal, for her to conjure up nothing more than a floating CG piano.

It’s just disappointing when the sky was the limit, but I should at least offer thanks for using a few seconds of screentime to show Zoro using Sanji’s shoulder as a boost up during a fight. It was my favourite moment, other than Usopp and Yasopp having a moment together.

For the rest of the supporting characters, though, when they were being literally stuck out of sight to keep the narrative focus on Uta, they were only ever seen using their signature battle moves when they had a brief “moment to shine”.

One Piece Film: Red

To vaguely mention the elephant in the room, that of Shanks, the movie manages to disappoint and impress me in how it went about involving him. Despite appearing alongside Luffy in its marketing, especially on posters and other key advertising boards, there is very little Shanks to be seen throughout the movie. It comes across as being little more than a marketing scheme, especially with “Red” being in the title. On the other hand, the trailer does a fantastic job of steering audiences away from what the story is actually about.

The supposed conflict revolving around Uta could not be any more of a red herring, so where its narrative goes was very interesting to say the least. This all comes crashing down once we get the ham-fisted twist about her origin story; it does more harm than good, as it further confuses her character development from its already shaky position.


One Piece Film: Red is Daddy Issues: The One Piece Movie. For me, it ranks as the worst from the series’ movies, despite its success. How it bumped Jujutsu Kaisen 0 off from the top of this year’s highest grossing anime movies is beyond me, and feels like the very definition of injustice.

While One Piece Film: Red’s core themes could have most definitely been interesting, bringing something truly impactful to its exclusive characters and narrative, the story as a whole missed the mark completely. At least we can expect to see chibi Bepo toys hitting shelves, which I now strongly believe was its goal all along.

At the very least the movie did wonders for Ado’s music career following her debut in 2020. She not only broke records on the Oricon charts by being the only artist to rank for four consecutive weeks in the tracker’s digital rankings, but she also signed to Geffen Records in late 2022.

Other music in the movie involves Yasutaka Nakata, Mrs. Green Apple, Vaundy, Fake Type., Hiroyuki Sawano, Yuta Orisaka and Motohiro Hata, but Ado is, of course, the main attraction. She’s vocal perfection here, and I’m pleased that she’s getting more attention and praise. It should go without saying that if nothing else, the music for One Piece Film: Red is worth a listen — even if, for me, the movie itself didn’t hit the mark.

One Piece Film: Red is still being shown in Cinemas in the UK as of writing this.

Lilia Hellal
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