[Review] “One Piece Film: Red” is a love letter to “One Piece” fans


Olivia Mendoza

One Piece Film: Red takes all of the elements that worked in previous movies and compounds it into this movie to bring an exciting experience that feels organic and grounded to the mainstream story of the series.

Adel El Assal and Joshua Wong

One Piece Film: Red was released in Japan on August 6, 2022, it was later released to U.S theaters on November 4, 2022. Film Red is the latest installment to the One Piece film series, based on the best selling and record breaking manga by Eiichiro Oda. One Piece revolves around our protagonist Monkey D. Luffy and his journey to becoming the pirate king. To achieve this status, he and his crew, the Straw Hat Pirates must find the legendary treasure known as the “One Piece”.

One Piece Film: Red follows the Straw Hats as they attend a music festival at Island Elegia. Pirates, marines and people from all over the world gather to watch the lead performer Uta sing. The Straw Hats come to learn the truth about the Island.

This film’s primary focus revolves around Luffy, his crew, and a new character, except this time there is a new spin on things. It turns out that Luffy and Uta have a connection since they were childhood friends. Being the fifteenth movie in the franchise, there was always the risk of having Uta’s character feel shoehorned in the story since she wasn’t previously included in the canon story. Uta’s inclusion felt natural and it felt that Uta had always been a part of the story and her friendship with Luffy felt organic. One Piece creator Eiichiro Oda confirmed that Uta is indeed a canon character however the events that transpired at Uta’s concert in the movie are non canon. 

The movie also takes a risk with its musical performances. There is a higher emphasis on music in this movie since it shapes Uta’s character. The musical sequences always felt fresh and exciting, the visuals were magnificent and bright leaving a dazzling impression on the audience. Uta is played masterfully by Kaori Nazuka, a Japanese voice actress. The songs sung by Uta were not sung by Kaori Nazuka, but by Ado, a Japanese singer who made the songs previous to the film’s release. What Ado can do is incredible. She holds a lot of range with her voice, and her vocal singing is charming and magnificent, the songs never dragged. Uta’s songs reflect One Piece’s core ideals, for example the opening song of the movie New Genesis is about the current era of oppression and the desire to create a new path and change the future, this coincides with Luffy’s character in regards to his goal to becoming pirate king and his desire to live in a world where he holds freedom and frees others from adversity.

A plethora of characters make an appearance, different villains reprise their roles and even side characters from different mainstream One Piece arcs have an appearance. The downside of having all these characters is that they don’t fully get to shine until the final spectacular third act of the movie. Those expecting screen time from Shanks may be disappointed, Shanks is still a mysterious character and Oda is saving his character for the main series so this movie could not get away with revealing too much of his character, luckily he shows up towards the final act of the movie. 

Spoilers discussed below

This movie starts out extremely strong with the introduction of Uta’s character and her songs. The movie does lose a bit of steam towards the second act where it becomes more story centric focusing on the lore of the island, although it is still entertaining. Luckily it picks up right up again in the final act. With Uta revealed to be the main villain as she is trying to convince people to stay in her island of utopia, she takes extreme measures to combat against the broader world for her hatred of pirates it is up to Luffy, his crew, and the other characters to stop Uta. Shanks shows up towards the end to stop Uta’s maniacal schemes and we get a glimpse of Shank’s power.

Luffy and everyone at the music concert is revealed to be trapped in a realm created by Uta’s power from her devil fruit (one of the power systems in the One Piece world) and everyone who arrived at the concert later on like the admirals and Shanks were on the outside of the music world, they belong in the real world. The filmmakers choose to include two separate worlds probably to make the separation between Luffy and Shanks character since they could not have them reunite since that moment is being saved for the mainstream series. Everybody from the two worlds works together to take down Tot Musica (Music monster summoned by Uta) from their end. The most breathtaking scene of the fight was when Luffy uses Gear 5 to damage the music monster, this marked the first animated debut of Gear 5. This film does risk spoiling anime only watchers on certain canon elements that have not yet been revealed in the anime with the most prominent example being Luffy’s Gear 5 and Usopp’s power reveal in the form of haki ( another power system in One Piece besides devil fruits). The final fight ends with Luffy and Shanks landing the final blow on Tot Musica in order to free everybody from the music spirit realm.

This film is a love letter and must watch for all One Piece fans. Oda was an executive producer who helped write this movie and it shows. The plot twists were meaningful and the story was engaging unlike any other One Piece film that came before it. Once again, Oda and his team managed to craft an astonishing film that heightens Film Red to be one of the best of the One Piece franchise. One Piece Film: Red takes all of the elements that worked in previous movies and compounds it into this movie to bring an exciting experience that feels organic and grounded to the mainstream story of the series.