One Piece has grown into one of the fundamental franchises of modern anime. The original anime — based on the manga of the same name — began in 1999, with Funimation providing the English language dub for over 850 episodes. Even as it continues to draw attention to the episodic adventures of Monkey D. Luffy and his pirate crew, the characters are also blowing up the big screen with their fifteenth feature-length film, One Piece Film: Red — which is already one of the biggest films in the history of Japanese cinema even before its full global release.
CBR took part in a red carpet event to celebrate the release of One Piece Film: Red before its American premiere on Nov. 4, getting the chance to speak with stars AmaLee, Sonny Strait, Stephanie Young, Ian Sinclair, and Rachel Robinson, the film’s ADR Anthony Bowling, and One Piece veteran Christopher Bevins. The group dove into the film’s unique place in the franchise and what it means to see the series continue to grow even as the dub for the long-running series approaches its 1000th episode.
CBR: You’ve been in One Piece before, albeit not in such a quietly important role. What was it like coming back?
AmaLee: I voiced Queen Otohime in the Fish-Man Island arc a long time ago, so I’m really happy to be back. I love this series; it brings a lot of good memories. So I mean, I had seen art for Uta, and I had kind of seen some music and stuff. So when I got the email or the phone call that was like, “We’d like to have you as Uta,” I was like, “Oh my god, are you sure?” I love her so much. I think she’s my favorite One Piece character. I’m not even saying that because I’ve played her. I just love her so much. I feel like fans are just gonna be enamored by her when they come see the movie.
It was super fun. Sadly, we didn’t get to dub the songs, but it was super fun to hear them and to be able to play off of them for the scenes. I’m just really happy to be a part of it. I think it’s interesting. I think it’s good to have all the characters being brought together in a huge movie. There are so many characters in this movie, and I think fans are going to be able to find someone that they love in every single shot. I think that’s really amazing, and the music just ties it all together. I think it’s a really amazing feat that they pulled together really well.
What excited you the most about bringing this chapter in the One Piece saga to fans in places like the United States?
Anthony Bowling: This has been… I know people say this all the time. It sounds like a trope, but it truly is a labor of love. Adapting One Piece Film: Red, bringing this version to English audiences, working with this cast and crew — I’ve gotten to work with them on the series — it’s a joy… going from that and seeing the radical change, it’s absolutely what we’ve said. It is unlike anything you’ve seen before. It wasn’t just us… We’re literally getting such a beautiful character in Uta that is so different from some of these other villains.
Getting to put our thumbprint on that and making our mark, getting to be a part of this… If I could tell my younger self, who used to watch anime, that you’d get to be influencing one of the best, longest-running shows… I wouldn’t believe you. I’m gushing now, but it’s unreal. I love that we were able to bring this to western audiences. I am excited to see how it does here. I know that American and English-speaking fans are waiting for the dub. I’m just excited for One Piece fans to get to see this. It’s just a visual feast. You want to just take it all in.
As veterans of this franchise, what excited you the most about this experience?
Sonny Strait: Well, I love the fact that we get to learn more about Luffy… but also, the animation on this was just a step above. It was great seeing it. One Piece has always been liked by a lot of fans, but recently, some people have been telling me because of the pandemic, people needed content to watch. There’s a lot more people I get so much love from for One Piece. Everywhere I go now, it’s amazing… It just keeps coming and coming. My father told me recently, “You need to enjoy this. Take the time to enjoy it because when you’re old, you want to look back on this.” I said, “Dad, I’m going to be old recording the show. I won’t be looking back on it. I’ll be still doing it.”
Stephanie Young: The music in the film is incredible, and it’s wonderful to see how that’s a part of a central character throughout. Then, you know, we got Gustav with his dad, [and] Robin digging back into her skills as an archaeologist. It’s nice when she actually gets to use her smarts. So it was nice voicing her, to see that moment happen, but the animation is gorgeous. Anytime that we get together and work on something like this, it’s exciting. We love each other… It’s just incredible. The fans that love the show and have loved us, we feel it. We get to go to conventions and events like this… that is amazing. I think we’re all so thankful to be a part of it.
Ian Sinclair: It’s like a concert show! It’s like a musical you get to go and see it in a theater with the full sound and everything. It is incredible. You get to see some characters come back that you haven’t seen for a while, and if you’re anything like me, you will lose it because it was great to hear them again. It’s a high point for something that we’ve been doing for [so many episodes].
Rachel Robinson: Anytime you get to be in a show at all, it’s… Like I was saying to someone earlier, what’s our favorite job? The next job. Someone tells me I get to work again, [and] I’m so happy, but to get to be part of [One Piece] on several occasions? I played Kikyo a number of years ago on the Amazon Lilly arc. Then Anthony said, “I want you to play [Charlotte Brûlée].” I was like, “Cool, let’s check her out,” and she was so much fun! I worked on it for long enough that I got kind of spoiled, that got kind of used to it, and then I was done. But then he’s like, “Hey, there’s a movie!” I suspect [One Piece] will go on a really long time because they never stop coming up with stories, and they never stop coming up with characters. I love how it all gets connected together.
What has surprised you the most about the way One Piece has evolved and grown over the years?
Christopher Bevins: Yeah, it’s mind-blowing to me. Many, many years ago, I remember Mike McFarland and I sequestering ourselves in his hotel room at an anime convention because we had to pick the original cast for the Straw Hats. We had to do the casting for that, and just to think how far it’s come since then, those days of getting to pick the crew for this awesome show that we love so much, and now, we have this Hollywood premiere, it just blows my mind to be even small part of… I’ve played a couple of characters in the show, but I’m not even in this movie. So I had no idea what to expect. After 20+ years, where do you go? You got to do something fun and different, and take the shot. It was really, really fun.
One Piece Film: Red comes to U.S. theaters Nov. 4.