Review for One Piece Film: Red
Well this is a turn up for the books. To date, the home of One Piece on home video in the UK has been Manga Entertainment/Funimation/Crunchyroll, and they continue to release the series to this day. They’ve also release most of the movies, and some of the specials. But this time, All the Anime have picked up a One Piece movie to release in the UK, although given that it’s practically a musical anime movie, puts it into their anime movie wheelhouse (see Inu-Oh). But I have a conspiracy theory about this. For some time now in the US, the One Piece television series has been released by Crunchymation on BD/DVD combo packs. The TV series has been HD for quite a few hundred episodes at this point. But in the UK, Crunchyroll etc has remained committed to DVD only. The thing about the One Piece Film: Red movie is that as part of the extra features, it also offers the three television series episodes that feature the guest character. Now if Crunchyroll were to release this film here, people would be justified in asking why, if they can release these three episodes on Blu-ray, they can’t release the rest of the series that way too. But with All the Anime releasing the film, the question doesn’t even arise. Still, UK fans will get their first glimpse of One Piece TV on Blu-ray. Maybe that will plant a seed...
One Piece Film: Red is a two disc Blu-ray release in the UK, with the film on one disc and the extras on the other. It’s also getting the 4k UHD treatment here as well as good old DVD.
Since the passing of Gold Roger, the Age of the Pirates has reigned supreme for good or ill, with even the world government unable to keep pace. Not every pirate is like the Straw Hats, and the normal people can suffer under their depredations. They look for salvation, and find it in the voice of Uta, the most popular singer in the world. And for the first time, Uta is going to perform live, instead of streaming on the video transponder snails. The Straw Hats are attending of course, although his crewmates are surprised to learn that Luffy and Uta are close childhood friends. For Uta is the daughter of Luffy’s pirate mentor, Red-Haired Shanks. Learning of this, there are plenty of malicious pirates who want to capture Uta and use her as a hostage against Shanks, and they are at the concert too. Luffy’s quick to protect his friend, but Uta’s more than able to take care of herself... and she’s got a plan to establish a new age for the Grand Line.
One Piece Film: Red gets a 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer. It’s a good transfer of a recent film. The image is clear and sharp, colours are strong and consistent, and there is no sign of compression, aliasing or banding and the like. That’s to be expected with a film getting a disc to itself. The animation is excellent, rich and fluid and very detailed. I like the way the film begins with a subdued palette, and when Uta starts singing, the colours flood in. Her rich universe has the kind of imagination and fluid energy that I saw in the online world in Summer Wars.
The surround is excellent, rich and immersive, bringing across the action with ease, and more importantly, really doing the songs justice. But when it comes to the presentation on disc, what you get varies from acceptable to completely idiotic. And worse, the options are locked during playback, so you can’t fix anything. DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround Japanese with translated subtitles is fine, just what you need. Similarly, you can’t complain about the DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround English audio with signs only. However, you also can choose DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround Japanese with hard of hearing English subtitles. That seems wrong to me. You’d expect the dubtitles to be optional with the English dub. But downright stupid is the DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo Japanese audio with English audio description. What?! Audio description is for the visually impaired. You expect them to listen to the Japanese dialogue, and hear the film described? That would only work if they are visually impaired and bilingual. Just like the dubtitles, the audio description should be with the English dub.
There is a small problem with the subtitles, one or two minor typos (Shanks gets singularised to “Shank” on more than one occasion), but more importantly, like Manga’s release of the first few movies on DVD, the localisation of the subtitles is inconsistent with the majority perspective established by Funimation’s subtitles for the series. Here, Trafalgar Law’s ‘Shambles’ power is instead written as “Chambres”.
You get two discs in a BD Amaray style case, overlapping on one face of the case. Disc 1 boots to an animated menu.
The extras are on disc 2, beginning with the three One Piece episodes that feature Uta.
1029. A Faint Memory! Luffy and Red-Haired's Daughter Uta! (24:28)
1030. An Oath for the New Era! Luffy and Uta! (24:28)
Special Episode: The Captain’s Log of the Legend! Red-Haired Shanks! (24:28)
Yes, we’ve passed a thousand episodes of One Piece. These episodes really just expand on the flashback scenes in the movies, fleshing out details of Luffy’s first meeting with Uta (and coincidentally Shanks) and what happened when Uta left Shanks’ crew, although the special episode is really just a widescreen remake of the start of the show, reminding us of Luffy’s relationship with Shanks. But they do serve the purpose of making Uta canon in Luffy’s back-story. They are in 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p and Japanese with English subtitles only. According to Blu-ray.com, the US release from Crunchyroll also offers the English dub with these three episodes, so that might be an option if that is your preference.
We may not get an English dub for the bonus episodes, but we do get something that the US release from Crunchyroll didn’t get. That’s The Making of One Piece Film: Red. (23:45)
Finally there is the Trailer (1:36), and the Web Preview (0:43).
We have over a thousand TV episodes of One Piece, around 15 movies and associated shorts, and countless TV specials. You should know exactly what to get from a new story arc, a new movie at this point. The fan-base is established, and those expectations must be met. One Piece Film: Red does not disappoint. If you wanted more One Piece, you get it here. The Straw Hats are all present and correct, previously established characters from the series make an appearance. There is a guest character to establish sympathy for the audience. There is a villain who will present more of a challenge than ever before. There will be a plot twist or two to be had, and the film will end in an epic fight sequence, with Luffy levelling up once more. Apparently this film is where Gear Five debuts.
However if you think that you’re getting just another One Piece movie, you should think again. There is a lot that is different here. The obvious difference is that this is a proper musical. Given the setting of a pop concert, that is to be expected, but the songs are really well written, and on point given the story. They sound good enough to make you wonder why All the Anime didn’t bundle the soundtrack CD with their Collector’s Edition release of the film. The second thing is that the story does things a little different in that the guest character, Uta’s relationship with the film’s antagonist is an approach that the spin-off movies haven’t explored to this point. She’s not fond of the pirates, despite her background, and she wants to use her music to change the world, and end the Great Pirate era. Given that Luffy is a pirate, that instantly adds friction to their friendship, and she overreacts to his characteristic stubbornness.
The third thing is just how imaginative the story is, and how that translates to the film’s visuals. One Piece Film: Red plays with audience perceptions in a way that I haven’t seen from One Piece since the Mamoru Hosoda directed Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island (a film that really needs a Blu-ray). I’d go into detail, but that invites spoilers.
There is a cliché in these movie spin-offs from long running shonen action series, that the movies will invent an aspect of the main character’s past, which will be relevant, and emotionally affecting for the duration of the film, but will never be mentioned again in either the TV series or the never-ending manga. Suddenly Luffy has this ‘big sister’ role model from his childhood. That’s a big deal for the character, and I was fully expecting it to be totally forgotten as the end credits roll. But apparently Uta had a big enough impact with the fans for her to be ret-conned into Luffy’s back-story, hence the three bonus episodes with this release, where she appears in the series proper, albeit in flashback. I certainly liked the character enough to hope that she returns in the series going forward.
The film gets good-ish presentation on this Blu-ray. If you’re not visually or aurally impaired, it’s perfectly fine. But I need someone to explain to me the logic of adding English audio description to a Japanese audio track.
One Piece Film: Red is available direct from Anime Limited, from Anime on Line, United Publications, and all the usual mainstream outlets.