“One Piece” is a juggernaut. It’s the best-selling manga series in history, an adventure story spanning over 100 volumes that has continuously broken records and won popular acclaim since its publication in 1997. There are “One Piece” video games, “One Piece” podcasts, and an upcoming live-action series on Netflix that has the fandom on tenterhooks. Let’s not forget the ongoing anime adaptation, which just aired its 1000th episode on November 21st, 2021. On that day, the 15th “One Piece” movie was announced, titled “One Piece Film: Red.” Like the past few “One Piece” films, series creator Eiichiro Oda is credited as producer, keeping the hold he’s had on the films since “One Piece: Strong World.” But other members of the staff have hinted at a shake-up. Could we be in for the weirdest “One Piece” film since the infamous “Baron Omatsuri’s Mysterious Island?” It’s unlikely, but who knows! The stark red poster background and scarred title logo are certainly striking.
“One Piece Film: Red” is set to release in Japanese theaters on August 6th, 2022. At the moment, though, there has been no news as to when it might be available to English-speaking fans. In the pre-Covid era, limited anime screenings were able to find success in theaters via programs such as Fathom Events. With the astronomical success of “One Piece” abroad, its growing acceptance in the United States and the global popularity of the home of “One Piece,” Shounen Jump, theater screenings are certainly possible. Whether or not they’ll exceed the numbers of the recent smash hit “Demon Slayer: Mugen Train” is anyone’s guess.
Speaking of “Demon Slayer,” Funimation notably uploaded the film to their streaming platform for paying subscribers in 2021. It’s possible that someone might try the same trick this year with “One Piece Film: Red,” betting that the show’s loyal fans will reward the gesture handsomely. With streaming sites racing to shovel anime series and movies into the mouths of ravenous fans (for better and worse) I’d imagine just about anything is on the table. But for now, it’s likely that “One Piece Film: Red” will be released in theaters before it is made available to English speakers digitally (and legally.)
At the moment, we only know a handful of things about “One Piece Film: Red.” The first is that the film will feature Shanks, a character whose notable scars can be found on the film’s title logo. Shanks is the man who gave Luffy, the hero of the series, his iconic straw hat. He’s a strong fighter and leader who’s appeared a number of times throughout the series, and he’s personally involved with many of the biggest movers and shakers in the world of “One Piece.” But since Luffy promised as a child to return his hat once he became a great pirate, Shanks has been content to remain in the shadows, keeping an eye on the progress of his protege.
It’s possible that “One Piece Film: Red” will feature the long-awaited encounter between Shanks and Luffy, a meeting that is decades in the making. On the other hand, it is also possible that Oda would prefer that meeting happen in the pages of the manga, rather than a film he has less control over. Either way, I’ll be excited if we receive any new and juicy tidbits about Shanks and his past in this film.
The marketing for “One Piece Film: Red” also suggests a female character who will play an important role in the film’s story. According to a report at Anime News Network, Oda demanded this specifically while the film was early in production. The number of battle-ready male pirates in “One Piece” massively outnumber the women, so at first glance a film revolving around a cool and important female pirate sounds promising.
But “One Piece” fans know by this point to expect the worst when it comes to the comic’s female cast. A recent piece on Anime Feminist highlights the contradiction between Oda’s ability to write fun and likable female characters and his stubborn insistence that women are weaker than men in any way that matters; an insistence that has taken on increasing significance in the comic itself as Oda has repeatedly come under fire by fans. With Oda being heavily involved in the film’s production, I doubt that “One Piece Film: Red” will escape his frustrating biases.
Besides requesting an important female character, Oda additionally asked for the involvement of a director outside the “One Piece” anime stable. Goro Taniguchi, the director of the “One Piece Film: Red,” is certainly an unusual choice.
Taniguchi broke into the industry storyboarding episodes for hotblooded robot shows like “Mobile Fighter G Gundam” and “GaoGaiGar: King of the Braves.” He really came into his own in the late 90s and early 2000s, directing the “Lord of the Flies” in space drama “Infinite Ryvius” and the low-key science fiction series “Planetes.” Biggest of all though was “Code Geass,” a mash-up of every popular anime trope under the sun that eventually collapsed under the weight of its own audacity, but not before becoming a runaway hit. Since then, though, Taniguchi’s work has been hit or miss, alternating between charmless sci-fi dramas like “Revisions” and small-scale cult classics like “Back Arrow” and “Maria the Virgin Witch.”
Most notably, though, Goro Taniguchi directed the very first animated version of “One Piece,” a short film titled “One Piece: Defeat the Pirate Ganzack!” that was commissioned for the 1998 Jump Super Anime Tour. For that reason alone, Taniguchi’s presence in this film is noteworthy. Of course, he isn’t the director that he was back in 1998. Taniguchi’s work demonstrates an obsession with CG action that consistently failed to bear fruit until the exciting duels in “Back Arrow.”
Oda’s involvement with this film might at least keep it grounded within the “One Piece” aesthetic and universe, although that brings dangers mentioned earlier in this article. Without further information to go on, my feelings going into this film are cautious optimism. I’m expecting something that’s at least competent, but a film worthy of Taniguchi’s early pedigree would be a surprise. If it’s a disaster, well, you can’t win’em all.