While the question of the greatest anime may be up for debate, One Piece is certainly more prolific than most of its competition. With over 1,000 Manga chapters and over 1,000 episodes on television, it is simply the Shonen that keeps on chugging along. To put that in perspective, that’s more television episodes than The Simpsons by a considerable margin, despite the latter having a 10-year head start. Of course, that doesn’t even count the closing-in-on 20 movies, which brings us to Red. The 15th feature film in the franchise, Red, has been a major hit globally but is only now primed for its official North American release. Nevertheless, the genre has been performing well – it was earlier this year that Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero showcased a strong opening weekend box office, despite the sub version being available for months prior to the dubbed debut. Similarly, My Hero Academia has shown solid hauls in recent years, with the release of Heroes Rising and World Heroes’ Mission (these anime movies sure love the word ‘hero’).
However, Red has loftier goals for success – it has already surpassed the international gross of 2018’s gargantuan success: Dragon Ball Super: Broly. So what does that mean for its North American prospects? Could it surpass the recent success of Dragon Ball and push past that $30 million threshold? Whatever’s in store, it’s just gravy for a movie that is already well-reviewed and has more than made its money back. I bring all this up to illustrate just how insanely popular One Piece continues to be, despite an ongoing story that has entertained millions since the late 90s. Adventurous, exciting, thrilling, and often times silly and irreverent, the series is one of our great action comedies, fueled by a singular premise – the Mr. Fantastic like Übermensch Monkey D Luffy, and his quest to find the coveted treasure that will make him the King of Pirates. Luffy and his crew, the Straw Hat Pirates (full of swashbucklers, brutal warriors, resourceful strategists, and goofballs aplenty), traverse the seas in search of the One Piece. Still, inevitably their journey is often sidetracked by various adventures on newly found islands and communities, leading to the zany events of the series.
It’s a simple formula that creator Eiichiro Oda has perfected and streamlined into one of the most successful properties in entertainment history. Oda could construct an arc about swordsman Roronoa losing his weapon and the gang having to retrieve it from a witch doctor who has an army of demon pumpkins, but not before the village has a Saki party for the Straw Hat’s pleasures because why the hell not, and the fans would eat that up for as many chapters as possible. So then, just what the hell is One Piece Film: Red about? Perhaps the trailer will answer that question…
Uh, OK, that didn’t really help much. That was mostly just a tornado of out-of-context scenes. So how about we whip up the official synopsis:
Uta is the most beloved singer in the world. Renowned for concealing her own identity when performing, her voice has come to be described as “otherworldly.” For the first time, Uta will reveal herself to the world at a live concert. As the venue fills with all kinds of Uta fans—excited pirates, the Navy watching closely, and the Straw Hats led by Luffy, who came to enjoy her sonorous performance—the voice that the whole world has been waiting for is about to resound. The story begins with a shocking fact when Luffy reveals that she is Red-Haired Shanks’ “daughter” and his childhood friend.
So One Piece has gone full Hannah Montana. The idea of this world-famous singer being the offspring of Red-Haired Shanks is an intriguing story thread. Shanks’ presence has been felt in the franchise since its inception. He was Luffy’s inspiration and mentor. He’s who gave Luffy that iconic hat. He’s the pirate who Luffy swears by, whose footsteps he continues to follow. So an examination of what relationship Luffy and Uta have may prove to be an emotional punch, adding depth to the movie’s narrative. There are also similarities to various other anime movies, namely Belle, released earlier this year and also centering on a pop star with a secret identity. But for the purposes of Shonen anime, I can’t help but think of Naruto, the Movie: Ninja Clash in the Land of Snow (2004). In that film, Naruto is infatuated with a famous movie star and is ecstatic when Team 7 is assigned as her bodyguards. Yet, he later finds that she’s not quite as sweet and inviting as he initially assumed, causing him to learn what happens when you meet your heroes.
Both the aforementioned Naruto movie and Belle dealt heavily with the impact celebrity has, not only on its fans but the very individuals responsible for those images getting out into the world. It will be interesting to see what Red has to add to that theme and if there’s more to the character of Uta than we know from the promotional material. But also, we can gladly expect an array of creative and intense fight scenes, along with a strong dash of humor and slapstick, as only One Piece can bring us. No matter how the world changes, it seems we can always count on this old reliable.
One Piece Film: Red finally hits U.S. theaters on November 4th.