Note: This movie is available in “Subtitled” (Japanese with English subtitles) and “Dubbed” (English spoken with no subtitles) versions. This review is based on the Subbed version.
This past weekend was a slow, rough one at the domestic box office. With the surefire hit of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” next weekend, many new releases weren’t eager to step up and do well for just one weekend before being wiped out. “Black Adam” continued its reign at the #1 spot, while horror movies dropped like a rock in Charlie Brown’s bag of trick-or-treating when Halloween rolled around. Things were so bad that the niche anime “One Piece Film: Red” was able to come in at a relatively strong #2. Unlike that “Dragon Ball” movie a few months ago, I had never heard of this franchise when I found out it was getting a wide release. And unlike that “Jujutsu Kaisen” movie from earlier this year, I’m not particularly happy about being introduced to it.
The film takes place in a world full of pirates. The government and the military have promised to wipe out pirates, but otherwise they do nothing to help the suffering citizens. Pop star Utale has agreed to hold a free concert to free everyone from pirates and misery after listening to people’s complaints. Good-hearted pirate Luffy and his crew attend the concert, and discover that Uta and Luffy grew up together, advised by the wise pirate “Red-Hair” Shanks. Uta is happy to see Luffy again after all these years, but he’s still not happy about being a pirate, good or otherwise. Furthermore, he plans to ensure that everyone can enjoy concerts forever and never have to worry about piracy, corruption, work, school, or suffering. Of course, anyone who wants to save the world from such a life would be a villain.
Uta’s plan is basically to trap the population in a dream world while their unconscious bodies wither and die. It’s up to Luffy and his crew, and later Shanks, to stop him. The government could also intervene by blowing up the entire concert, but hopefully that won’t come to that. Maybe Uta can be convinced to break out of her deformity, as we learn more about her motivations and tragic past. One thing’s for sure, though, we’re going to get a lot of confusing anime-style combat where effects and damage are randomly assigned.
There were things I loved about “One Piece: Red.” Uta is a sympathetic character and her songs are beautiful. Villain songs are usually my favorites in Disney musicals, and here we get at least two, maybe if you count the early songs retrospectively before Uta’s heel turn became official. And some comedy acts, in that manic-anime-energy way.
But there is one biggest downside to the film, which is that it is very confusing. The cast is top-heavy on characters, Uta’s plan is convoluted, and the action is nearly impossible to follow. At the end I couldn’t even tell if a certain character was alive or dead. Nor do I know why this film is called “One Piece Film: Raid”. I think the “red” refers to Shanks and his hair, and it’s undeniably a film, but otherwise I don’t have the foggiest. Yes, I’m coming into this movie with no knowledge of “one piece film”, and established fans will probably get more out of this movie than I did, but I can’t say that I love this movie. An effective entry point to this series. There’s an effort being made here, but for a non-fan like me, there’s a quality of headache that the film can never quite shake.
“One Piece Film: Red” is rated PG-13 for violence, suggestive content and language. Its running time is 115 minutes.
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