One of the longest-running and most iconic manga/anime franchises in the world, One Piece, created by Eiichiro Oda, has been running for over 1,000 episodes and counting. As a testament to One Piece’s enduring popularity, the franchise has released its 15th anime movie, One Piece Film: Red, in commemoration of the anime series hitting its landmark episode count. However, while longtime One Piece fans will find plenty to love in this new movie, Red may leave newer viewers down and out with its overlong runtime and multitude of intrusive musical sequences.
With the film evidently set some time after the “Wano Country” story arc in the manga and anime series, Red has Monkey D. Luffy, the leader of the Straw Hat Pirates, reuniting with his long-lost childhood friend Uta. Now an accomplished pop star with an adoring fan base, Uta stages a music festival on the devastated island of Elegia, hoping to unite the rival factions under a sonic banner of peace and harmony. This concert quickly goes awry as Luffy and his friends discover a surreal plot that could reshape their world forever while familiar friends and foes resurface for the star-studded event.
Where One Piece Film: Red succeeds is its fan-favorite characters coming together for another grand adventure and the resulting kinetic action set pieces. Red takes full advantage of bringing together the Straw Hat Pirates and their allies, the Red Hair Pirates, for an epic team-up that will bend the laws of space as they scramble to save the day. Featuring jaw-droppingly lush backgrounds and engaging fight sequences, One Piece still knows how to deliver a thrilling throwdown, and these set pieces are easily the highlight of the entire film.
Where One Piece Film: Red falls short is its decision to include a numbingly high number of musical sequences, to the point where the movie feels more like a musical that just happens to have One Piece characters in it. Performed by the real-life Japanese pop star Ado, there are certainly several rousing songs in the movie’s soundtrack, including its opening number, “New Genesis.” However, with eight songs included in the movie in total, these sequences throw off the story’s pacing and tend to blend together.
What makes this error more noticeable is that the song-and-dance numbers swell the film’s runtime to nearly two hours and often serve as a clumsy punctuation to dramatic and action scenes. This brings any sense of narrative momentum to a screeching halt as Uta launches into another extended, bubblegum pop-infused set piece. There are moments of brilliance and genuinely emotional character payoffs throughout Red, but they’re overshadowed by the rattle and hum of the movie’s omnipresent soundtrack and tendency to lean into over-articulated exposition to catch audiences up between songs.
With Uta and her connection to the Red Hair Pirates playing a major role in the film, One Piece Film: Red may inform how the future of the anime series proceeds accordingly. In the meantime, the movie is hardly required watching for more casual fans or curious viewers about the franchise. A mixed bag that obscures its strengths with oversaturated pop music and blinding lights, Red offers fans some great set pieces if they can weather the musical barrage. For those looking for an accessible point to catch One Piece at its best, Red, unfortunately, underutilizes the anime’s usual strengths.
Directed by Gorô Taniguchi, One Piece Film: Red opens in select North American theaters Nov. 4.